A Guide For When You’re New To New York

image - Thomas Leuthard
image – Thomas Leuthard

First things first: know how to cross the street.

We all understand that tourists have absolutely no idea what’s going on. If you’re trying to get through Times Square in a hurry, then your lateness is your own fault. Tourists are not the type to cross on “Do Not Walk”, but as a recent addition to one of the five boroughs, you are now the type to throw caution to the wind and to cross the street whenever you feel you’ve got an opportunity, orange hand be damned. Tourists will not do this unless they’ve got a reservation at Bubba Gump that they’re late for, mostly they’re going to be distracted by buildings and soaking in every second of their visit. Which brings me to my second point…

Be nice to people who need your help.

You’re probably going to have to ask “which way is downtown?” More often than you’ll admit to your fellow interns or temps, but it’s just how things work here. In order to pay it forward, you’re going to need to be kind and help out new arrivals once you’ve got directions under control, especially tourists. What most people don’t like to admit is that this city is reliant on tourism, and if you don’t feel like being kind (you don’t have to be their best friend) then move to LA.

To avoid all of this, stay out of touristy areas.

These include:

  • Tourist Square: A block of midtown consisting of 8th Avenue to Lexington Avenue, 59th Street to 34th Street.
  • The Museums on the Upper East Side (The Met, The Guggenheim, The Whitney)
  • And anywhere around WTC One.
  • OH MY GOD AND SOHO ON THE WEEKEND LIKE ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

By avoiding these areas, you’ll be able to not speak to anyone at all and the all-black outfit you’re rocking will be appropriate for your current attitude.

Speaking of fashion:

Remember that New York City is not a fashion capital because we’re all wearing sweatshirts from high school and baggy shorts on the train. Also, there are certain types of dress appropriate for certain areas, and you’re probably like “oh my god Josh, what the fuck?” But really.

Things that look good in Brooklyn, for instance, may not look as good in Manhattan, unless you stick to sister neighborhoods like the Lower East Side for Williamsburg, or Brooklyn Heights for the FiDi. Be prepared to be judged. To avoid this, we just always wear black because it just works everywhere. Ahah! Now you get it.

But where did you get that outfit?

Brands may matter to the deluded Blair Waldorf that you’re channeling today, but you’ll learn that no matter who is carrying the Louis bag, we’re assuming it is fake. As long as you rock what you’re wearing and you dress appropriately for your body, you’re going to be somebody’s wet dream on your morning commute.

However, not everything is meant to be donned by you, the all important new to New York-er. For a list of things banned collectively by all of us, just take a trip down memory lane to your local mall. Not necessarily the nice mall, more like the shitty mall that you hung out at because it was closest and had the cheap movie theatre and the Sears.

Things you shouldn’t wear, first and foremost:

  • Abercrombie/Hollister/Aeropostale anything. You just got here and want to be taken seriously as an actor/future art director/executive and your job is to toss those distressed threads into the East River.

Also:

  • Jeans with embellishments.
  • Jeans with flared bottoms.
  • Patchwork Jeans.
  • Jeans that make your ass look flat.
  • Jeans that don’t fit anymore.

Carpenter pockets, unless you’re a carrying a screwdriver in there because you’re actually a carpenter.

Okay, any jeans besides something that fits you.

(This is why we all have gym memberships.)

Comfortable but ugly sneakers have to go, sorry but really I’m truly not sorry at all.

If your entire wardrobe is now  floating it’s way into the Atlantic, see if you can find a place in your neighborhood to pick up some new threads:

You are now a part of the success of that part of town.

Yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

Get as much as you can in your neighborhood. Buy your basics at a no-name department store and your running shoes from your local retailer. I assure you, the Kmart at Astor Place and the Foot Locker in Midtown have thousands of customer paying their bills. Your business is a part of the life of your neighborhood businesses. Further, try that restaurant you’re living above or the new place that just opened on the next corner, go to the dive bar up the block. Due to you, these businesses will have a better chance at succeeding, and as an added bonus, you might make new friends that live around you.

But remember: the people you meet within your first month in the city will most likely not be your friends a few months or years from then.

Consider your time in high school. Your proximity to, and the fact that you had a common denominator, brought you and the friends you had together for about twelve years or so. After high school, do you remember realizing that you didn’t actually have much in common with the people you met? Yes. You do. Of course you do. Well, in the world of adults we truly come to understand that people do not become friends for life because they talked to the person at the next table at brunch. When a person grows apart from you, when you’ve got no time to see them and they have no time to care, let them go. There will be less stress if you let it fade, and you both knew what this was anyway, you were both lonely because all you have here are an extended relative and some random person from college who moved here also.

In terms of apartments:

If you’re moving into a roommate situation with strangers, always, always, always opt to sublet before you decide to sign a lease with someone from Craigslist. I am not condemning Craigslist as a prime resource for figuratively everything you need and they may be another normal person with no options, but do not sign a lease with this person.

You’re going to get so irritated with this person after about six months at the most, you’re going to be homesick and tired and poor and you’re going to hate them. By subletting, you give yourself time to figure things out. Also, subletting is usually less costly. Stay in your sublet and start looking for a place that is perfect for you as soon as you get off that plane. Nobody stays where they start. Whether in a dorm room or a dangerous neighborhood, we’ve all been there.

In terms of leases: do not feel you are obligated to leave your apartment just because your lease is up. There’s some debate surrounding this subject in New York, but don’t listen to those that say you’re “free to find something better.” No. It’s awful. I don’t care if it’s fifty dollars cheaper or it’s right off of The Bowery. You can’t be shelling out thousands of dollars every summer for deposit, first and last month, and broker’s fee. Moving in July or January is awful. It is awful. Do not do it if you do not have to. You will hate yourself when you hand over four thousand dollars.

If you need anything else, Google it, because I don’t even know how I found the time to do this. That’s your last lesson. You will have no time for anything, ever. And even if you think you do, you’ll decide to take a nap because you’re getting four to six hours of sleep.

Good luck. TC mark

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