That most people come here from somewhere else is a local rule-of-thumb. The last census revealed that nearly 60 percent of people in the Washington metropolitan area were born elsewhere.

In the past, little recognition was given to the stress a family undergoes by being uprooted from one community and having to settle into another. Employers closed their eyes.

Now, two innovative programs have emerged to help newcomers adjust to moving here.

"Ninety-six percent of corporate moves are made for a man's job, but it is the corporate wife who has often been the corporate casualty," says Judith Portugal, who with two other women created Neighborhood Networks Inc., a 6-month-old company that helps families smooth problems of corporate relocation to this area.

"The wife has to start all over again, decorating the house, finding new schools for children, new doctors, new stores, new friends, all of which can be overwhelming.

"Washington is seen as an especially difficult move to make: high cost, big and very impersonal."

Working under contract to local corporations, Neighborhood Networks beginns by sending the wife a detailed questionnarie to help her get vital information before the move. Even before the family arrives, the company will round up and fill out registration forms, line up schools for children, enroll family members in courses and arrange telephone, gas and electric services for the new house, it necessary.

When the family arrives, Networks will take them on a tour of their neighborhood and continue to provide concrete services and information until they are settled. The process may take more than six months.

Sometimes a man arrives months before his family can join him. "He is expected to become a storehouse of information about the city while simultaneously learning a new job and coping with loneliness," says Regina Frank, a co-founder of the company. "We will do the information groundwork for him."

The relocation company features workshops for new arrivals on such topics as coping with the first month (subtitled, "Let's have breakfast as soon as we find the toaster"), reducing stress for children and elderly people making the move, making your house your home ("Even if it's rented"), finding employment, volunteer work and cultural involvements in the Washington area.

One workshop even covers the Washington climate. "We found, for instance, that Midwesterners don't expect school to close when it starts snowing," says Portugal.

Says Carole Kaminsky, third cofounder of the company, "It costs as much as $25,000 to move a family to this area. And that sum doesn't include the human costs of a displaced family, stressed marriage, and the unhappy employe whose home life is unsettled, chaotic or depressed. On a cost-effective basis, an employe is simply more productive when his personal life is smooth.

"Our total fee," she adds, " $30 an hour for a 40-hour sequence, is less than 5 percent of the usual total cost for moving, relocating and training."

A second new program dealing with problems of relocation is a series of group meetings for 8 to 10 women organized and led by licensed Bethesda psychiatric social worker Joy Turover Friedman. Cost is $50 for six, 1 1/2-hour sessions.

"Women didn't realize that it is perfectly normal to feel a strong sense of loss when they move. It surprises people to learn that you actually go through a period of emotional mourning in order to give up your previous way of life and start a new one elsewhere.

"A wife may feel deeply angry at her husband for uprooting the family but be unable to admit it to herself. Women typically will help their family members adjust, but will shove aside their own needs and feelings.

"Women face a special problem because their credentials of coummunity ties and involvement are not transferable.

"Sometimes people are catapulted to Washington from small towns, and think that everyone here is leading a glamorous, sophisticated life," observes Friedman. "It can be very reassuring to realize that you can make any sort of life you want to, even a quiet one.