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I'm looking for either a word or phrase which describes the situation of being in a strange place and feeling disoriented, and you're just looking around for basic clues as to where you are, or what's there, or what kind of place it is.

Example sentence:

Fred walked around the benches, still looking around left and right, trying to absorb what he could from the surrounding buildings and other street furniture.

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  • 1
    Doesn't 'disoriented' sum this feeling best? And you'd be reconnoitering the surroundings. Nov 28, 2015 at 12:21
  • 1
    You've already used the word, but in its negative form. "Wait a minute, I need to orientate myself"
    – 7caifyi
    Nov 28, 2015 at 14:28

7 Answers 7

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One may scan the environment.

Definition: to look at (something) carefully, usually in order to find someone or something; to minutely examine the particulars or points of ; scrutinize.

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scanning the vicinity
getting one's bearings

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"Getting the lay of the land", which is not usually applied to an actual physical location or territory, but rather to a social, situational, or circumstantial change of scene. Metaphorically the person getting is doing the work of a pioneer or surveyor.

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Fred did a recce (about 1660 results in Google Books)

recce - informal term for reconnaissance (OxfordDictionaries)
reconnaissance -a preliminary survey to gain information (Merriam-Webster)

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  • Possibly, but this gives the feel of moving around to different places in order to look; maybe because of a broader / wider area. I'm looking for what would apply to your immediate surroundings.
    – Stewart
    Apr 13, 2016 at 15:42
  • @Stewart: OP's description includes walked around the benches. Apr 13, 2016 at 15:51
  • "Did a recce" seems to be British-only slang. In the US there's "did a recon", (which has military connotations), but it's not widespread.
    – agc
    Apr 13, 2016 at 17:05
  • The verb is reconnoiter.
    – Drew
    Apr 13, 2016 at 19:26
  • @FumbleFingers Then I guess it comes down to how far apart the benches are :)
    – Stewart
    Apr 13, 2016 at 21:52
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One may scout the surroundings.

scout

: to explore in order to gain information.

M-W

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  • Possibly, but this gives the feel of moving around to different places in order to look; maybe because of a broader / wider area. I'm looking for what would apply to your immediate surroundings.
    – Stewart
    Apr 13, 2016 at 15:41
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Of course, if you are disoriented, you may orient yourself.

Definition, from Oxford Dictionaries: find one's position in relation to new and strange surroundings.

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  • I added the source of your definition, and the link to the source. A quotation should always include the source, and it is helpful to have a link, if the source is online.
    – ab2
    Apr 13, 2016 at 18:57
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Look for landmarks - http://www.thefreedictionary.com/landmark

In the close environment that you describe landmark would work.

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  • Could be, if "landmark" also includes features which are familiar to the person, not just famous in general.
    – Stewart
    Apr 13, 2016 at 21:54

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