Telling someone you’re moving to New York City is like telling someone you’re unsure of who you’re voting for in the upcoming presidential election.
Prepare yourself. The unsolicited advice is coming.
Although most of the advice I received was good-natured (some of it even useful), for the most part, it generally stunk.
“You’ll do so much walking there! You won’t even have to work out, and you can eat all that greasy street food and takeout.”
This is the most atrocious lie of all. My 12 double chins when I flip my camera phone forward accidentally would tell you otherwise.
“You should live in Jersey! You’d save a ton of money!”
Right. ‘Cause I’m going to move across the country to tell my future grandchildren that I lived in Jersey at one point. Yuck.
The best counsel I received, not surprisingly, was from people who live (or have lived) in the city. Sadly, that advice excluded these 15 monumentally important (but somehow completely neglected) things I wish someone would have goddamn told me before I landed in New York City.
1. Don’t expect to be on time for anything.
Even with traffic, I could calculate—to the minute—the exact time it required for me to get to work in the back in the small town I am from in Arizona. Here in New York, that commute time isn’t so precise. I’ve left my apartment at the same time and have shown up to work 10 minutes early—and an hour late.
NYC transit claims that the train delays are caused by over-congestion and rising popularity. I claim it’s because they hate us and want us all to get fired.
2. If the subway car is empty, there’s a reason.
If an empty subway car seems too good to be true, it probably is. While the first thing you’ll notice upon entry is an agonizing, putrid fume that is reminiscent of farty death, the second thing you’ll probably spot is a hobo passed out on the car floor defecating himself.
3. Service people are mean (but it’s because we’re mean).
One of the stranger oddities I noticed after moving here was the downright rudeness of service staff (waiters, checkout people, subway workers). Although I was initially confused as to why these people were so angry, I learned very quickly that it was just a reflection of the patrons. New Yorkers are snobby, entitled, and disinterested in saying hello to just about anyone they don’t know (for the most part).
4. You should probably just give all of your heeled shoes to Goodwill.
For the first couple of weeks commuting, I wore a cute heeled boot (a tiny heel, mind you). Big mistake. Now I understand why there are so many women fully clad in dresses, pencil skirts, and work-friendly blouses—and also in their Nike running shoes.
Hidden bonus: It gave me the chance to finally grow up and ditch the mega heels. I am not a stripper—there is no reason I should own more than two pairs of 4- to 5-inch heels.
5. Mother Nature is a finicky temptress.
One day, she showers you with warmth, no wind and 70-degree sunshine, and the very next day (no exaggeration—this happened in March) she will dump slushy, mucky snow all over your happiness.
I also very quickly learned that not having an umbrella in my purse, even on seemingly sunny days, is a rookie mistake.
6. Tourists are insufferable.
This quintessential New Yorker mantra is something I’ve only recently come to understand. Although I’m still just as enamored with the glittering skyscrapers and signage as I was when I first arrived, I’ve learned how to move throughout the city more efficiently.
Step 1: No aimless wandering—walk with conviction.
Step 2: Put the goddamn phone down.
Step 3: If you’re walking with someone, be conscientious of how much space you’re taking up on the sidewalk.
Quickest way to spot a tourist? Remove Steps 1, 2 & 3.
7. Making friends is actually really, really hard.
Another lie that was beaten to a pump before moving here: “There are so many people in New York! You’ll find your circle in no time.”
False. Very few people in New York have a plethora of extra time to spare, so it makes sense that those precious moments socializing are spent with close friends and significant others.
One silver lining? I’ve grown more socially in the last couple of months than I have in the past couple of years. I’ve had to learn—and am continuing to learn—how to be the aggressor in friendships, something that doesn’t come naturally to me.
8. There are kitties that live in and outside of convenience stores that just chill all day.
Okay, most people probably were already aware of this. But the first time I saw a real NYC bodega cat I lost my shit.
“LIL’ MEOW-MEOW! Are you lost? Where is your mum or dad?!”
I probably took more photos of him than most tourists take of the Statue of Liberty.
9. There’s no shame in asking people for help.
Although I said earlier that New Yorkers were snobby and entitled, that’s not entirely true. I rely heavily on my iPhone to get me around, which really isn’t always accurate. The best navigators in the city are, hands down, the city dwellers themselves. On top of most always being polite when asked, they’re also particularly handy when trains are down for construction—something Google Maps lacks.
10. Pizza Rat is real, and it’s not like the cute meme.
I haven’t seen the elusive P.R. himself, but I can almost guarantee I’ve had run- ins with his extended family. Before moving here, I was never really perturbed by rodents—they don’t invade your personal space unless you invade theirs. In New York, your walking space, your cubicle, your BED—those are fair game for rats and other heebie-jeebies.
Although my rat sightings have been limited to the streets and subways, I’m nervously waiting for the moment Jeeves (my cat) plops a bloody, writhing one on my chest in the middle of the night—as sweet of a gesture as that would be.
11. Don’t expect to have a good night’s sleep ever again.
On top of my ability to hear street conversations, the pitter-patter of dog feet and pigeons cooing, I’ve also become (unwillingly) part of my apartment’s built-in reality show, thanks to thin walls and floors. The guy above me plays the accordion every day at noon. The two girls next to me smoke pot and laugh hysterically at movies that really aren’t that funny. A little old Irish lady talks to herself the entire way up the stairwell. I wonder what they think I’m doing.
12. Don’t make eye contact on the subway.
Also, if someone’s offering you their seat, expect to be hounded for your digits. Overall, the subway is a no-go zone for human interaction, unless you’re willing to subject yourself to unwarranted flirting from creepy strangers.
13. Tip your super.
You won’t regret sliding him that $100 bill when your sinks are clogged, oven stops working, or you forgot your keys in your apartment. Sorry about that last one at 2AM, Cesar!
14. Don’t let your broker or realtor be creepy to you.
I learned this one the hard way. If he asks you to meet him for coffee, touches your leg and tells you he “won’t hold the apartment for you just because you’re a cute girl,” GTFO and ABORT MISSION NOW.
There are loads of creepy, slimy brokers prowling the streets of NYC looking for doe-eyed new (and naïve) New Yorkers. Don’t be one of them. And remember, ‘no-fee’ is your best friend.
15. New York City really isn’t as scary as people think.
New York as a scary place was a lie I believed more than anyone. For some reason, the city has garnered this stereotype that it houses a bunch of hardened asshole egomaniacs that wouldn’t throw you a piece of bread if you were starving on the side of the road. What’s more, the city’s criminal past—rampant in the 70s and 80s—still seems to define it, which is unfortunate.
Aggressive hobos, psychopaths and celebrities aside, most people here seem to be like me: scared shitless, wanderlust-ing millennials trying to figure out who they are—but figure New York City’s a pretty good place to start looking.