Things They Don’t Tell You About New York Before You Get Here

The mythology surrounding New York City, for the most part, is as true as it is compelling. Neurosis is common and endearing. 20-somethings live sitcom-esque lives. Dating is a bitch. Concrete jungle where dreams are made. If you can make it here you can make it anywhere. Yep—New York is a city full of clichés to the foreigner, and those clichés become all the more real when you touch down in New York for the first time and actually begin living them. However, in my experience, New York City carries certain traits and expectations outside of the aforementioned elements that no one tells you about before you get here.

There’s a lot of yoga going on

No, really. Everyone does yoga, all of the time. It’s all about yoga. If you don’t do yoga you’re not a real New Yorker. If yoga was an Olympic sport New York would win. You can never do too much yoga in New York. You’ll probably try to avoid yoga for as long as possible but you’ll succumb eventually. I used to practice very casually in Australia, but as a New Yorker I’ve joined the yoga militants. Yeah, I’m one of those wankers walking down the street with a yoga matt strapped across my back, but mark my words—you can try and fight it as much as you want, soon you’re going to be shopping for yoga accessories on Amazon and floating around talking about your downward dog.

New Yorkers have sponges for brains

Everyone knows everything about everything, all the time. Everyone has seen that obscure new art house film, oh and that Jennifer Aniston blockbuster, which wasn’t actually so bad. Everyone has seen every relevant TV show and Youtube clip. Everyone has read all the most important contemporary literature in fiction and non-fiction books and magazines. Everyone has a timely understanding of the news and politics and opinions to go with it. Everyone knows all the events happening in New York and attends gallery exhibitions and gigs constantly. New York is a mishmash of high and low culture, and you’re going to need to find a way to fit it all inside your tiny foreign brain or you’ll find yourself nodding and smiling at parties as everyone around you talks about the latest episode of Game Of Thrones or some obscure art gallery you need a password to get into (note: this will make you feel like an idiot but chances are you’re not. I swear these people carry around flash cards or something).

It really is the city that never sleeps

I think everyone is sort of like, “Hah, Frank! You rapscallion, you! Fooling us with your exaggerated notions of New York City!” BUT FRANK IS NOT EXAGGERATING. NEW YORK DOES NOT SLEEP AND NEITHER WILL YOU. When you first arrive you’ll probably be introduced to the 48-hour day—the one where you go out for a ‘quiet drink’ on Monday evening only to find yourself at a party in some stranger’s loft on the Bowery at 5am, at which point you quietly bow out, sneak home for a shower before creeping off to work feeling very, very sorry for yourself. The novelty of partying all night quickly wears off, but the theory applies to other things as well, including trains (New Yorker, I know this seems like a no brainer, but most major cities I’ve been to close their subway around midnight), food, and even haircuts. You want it, you got it—New York is open for you 24/7.

It’s not that dangerous

Before you get to New York City you sort of expect that you’re going to get mugged all the time, but in my experience, the city isn’t as dangerous as it’s made out to be. In fact, I’ve been more afraid after dark in cities like Melbourne, Sydney, London and Paris. Sure, New York has its bad areas, but even the nice areas in other cities have a tendency to get very scary after night falls and a few drinks are passed around. New York, by comparison, is quite tame. I’ve been here for almost a year and haven’t seen one bar fight or felt uncomfortable walking home alone after midnight—which is more than I can say for other cities I’ve been to or lived in.

There is no Central Perk

Friends wasn’t even filmed in New York. I always knew that it was filmed on sets—but I still assumed they were in New York. The disappointment of learning this harsh truth was synonymous to realizing the truth about Santa. It hurt, dammit.

It’s cheaper than it looks

Again, coming from cities like Melbourne and London, the cost of living is somewhat of a dream in New York. Rent is still cheap enough if you’re willing to live somewhere other than Bedford Avenue or the East Village. Groceries are abundant and affordable (again, if you avoid obviously overpriced places like the Brooklyn Natural) and drinking/ partying is offensively cheap. Even nice dinners are about half the price they are in Australia, including tip and tax! On a writer’s wage, New York has been the most pleasantly affordable city I’ve ever lived in, although before I got here all I heard was how expensive it would be. LIES AND SLANDER.

Everyone is really, really nice

The generally accepted perception of New Yorkers by foreigners is that they’re all assholes. You’re told that the rudest, meannest, most obnoxious people in the world inhabit this city, but when you arrive you find it’s quite the opposite. People are helpful, jovial and kind. Of course, you encounter the odd dickhead, it happens everywhere, but the city is generally full of very accommodating, happy people—overwhelmingly so. People are more than willing to go out of their way to help you when you’re lost, to give you advice or to befriend you when you’re trying to make your start. And even after you arrive, almost a year later, New Yorkers never fail to disappoint with their generosity, smiles and openness.

Time is irrelevant

Time does not exist in New York. You have to do your job, go to yoga, watch, read and know lots of relevant things, socialize, party, get a mani-pedi, date, visit galleries and museums… and there are no excuses. Living in New York, you have to learn to maximize every single second of every single day. They don’t tell you how irrelevant time is before you get here—you think that 2pm means three hours until you knock off work, but it doesn’t, not in New York at least. To the New Yorker, it means NOTHING. Work must be finished. People must be met. Things must be seen and done. It doesn’t matter what time it is or how much time is left in the day, TIME DOES NOT EXIST IN NEW YORK CITY. TC mark

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How To Talk About It
  • Asdf

    I love New York City. I visited earlier this year and I fell in love with the city. Everything you wrote here is so, so, so, sooooooooooooo true. I’m not certain about living there, though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5251812 Teddy Wilkins

    there may be no central perk in ny but there is a central perk. proof: https://s-hphotos-sjc1.fbcdn.net/181993_10100489648582163_5251812_67332824_5375046_n.jpg

  • Derpina

    New Yorkers are indeed nice when they are in New York; but, I swear to god, it’s some sort of location-based spell; you transplant them ANYWHERE else and they are nothing but ego and whining.

    • spinflux

      Definitely more difficult to go from a city to a town than the other way around. Townies look at moving to the city, any big city, as an adventure. City people are utterly lost in suburbia or worse, rural America. It stinks.

    • spinflux

      Definitely more difficult to go from a city to a town than the other way around. Townies look at moving to the city, any big city, as an adventure. City people are utterly lost in suburbia or worse, rural America. It stinks.

    • spinflux

      Definitely more difficult to go from a city to a town than the other way around. Townies look at moving to the city, any big city, as an adventure. City people are utterly lost in suburbia or worse, rural America. It stinks.

    • spinflux

      Definitely more difficult to go from a city to a town than the other way around. Townies look at moving to the city, any big city, as an adventure. City people are utterly lost in suburbia or worse, rural America. It stinks.

    • spinflux

      Definitely more difficult to go from a city to a town than the other way around. Townies look at moving to the city, any big city, as an adventure. City people are utterly lost in suburbia or worse, rural America. It stinks.

      • Derpina

        I’m not even talking about New York –> suburbia, which I could attempt to understand (though I feel does not excuse unending whining or cultural snobbery). I live in another relatively sizable United States city. it is not New York, and things close. But there is a great fringe culture, there is always something going on, and still many (not all, but MANY) of my New York friends spend excessive amounts of time whining, and comparing everything to “h0w it is in The City” (“you’re in a city.” “I mean New York. it’s the only one that counts. duh.”) when in their natural habitat, they are happy as clams, and great company; but you put them in another city and they can’t go a DAY without bitching. I do love them. they’re fun to be around (sometimes). but their attitudes are a consequence of being spoiled rotten with overstimulation.  it will probably kill me to do so, but if I ever have children, I’m going to raise them in suburbia so that when they get over their inevitable suburban angsty phases, they will never lose their sense of wonder and appreciation for the different kinds of lifestyles and paces there are.

      • Liz

        Maybe you should just get better friends.

      • Liz

        Maybe you should just get better friends.

      • Lkjjk

         I hope you’re joking about doing that to your kids. Raise them in a city—another city with less stimulation and cars—and they’ll some of the suburbia angst without the relentless boredom that drives kids in the burbs to burn stuff for fun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeffrey-Moore/677652869 Jeffrey Moore

    All the dickish ones must have been kicked out, and moved to NC. No wonder the pop has doubled since 2000.

  • Mary

    All true EXCEPT the never sleeping thing. Much to my dismay, I have discovered that, SHIT CLOSES! Except for the subway and deli’s. I CANNOT drunkenly go to H&M at 3 in the morning to try and buy the exact same outfit that the girl who just stole my date was wearing…they close at 9pm.

    • http://twitter.com/melvinismad Melvin Alvarez

      the mannequins need their beauty rest!

  • http://twitter.com/geology_rocks Haley F

    I’ve been here a year and a half and feel this is a perfect description of New York. Except the thing about bar fights. Living in the Lower East Side I once bore witness to a full on drag queen brawl in front of Lucky Chengs.

  • a.

    I still prefer my beloved LA.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EUL6B7WZUNAHGMO5KRCKZTGP54 Damen Handle

      I still prefer my beloved Chicago. and Boston.

  • http://dallianceswithsuitsandskirts.blogspot.com/ blue roses

    new yorkers are sweet and endearing people, characters at times, but yes, indeed, friendly and super nice. if ever i am on the wrong street, someone is more than willing to direct me somewhere (hopefully where i want to go, but they are so nice they even will offer slightly ambiguous or misguided directions).

    tourists tend to be the meanies.

  • http://twitter.com/galette_rois Julian Galette

    I’ve always had a strange longing for NYC ever since my family ferreted us away from Long Island to Philly when I was a kid. I always imagined NYC would be the place I would spend my weekends during my teenage years, would move to for college.

    I think the thing I play up the most about it in my mind is still the way that it never sleeps. It’s so ridiculous that all the bars here close at 2:30 but the subway/rails stop running at 12:30. 

  • JoJa

    Can’t agree with you on the inexpensive thing. Especially rent. I suppose it depends on your definition of cheap.

  • kaylee

    god why can’t people stop writing about new york? I’m a continent away but if I ever go there, pretty sure I’ll be set with knowledge I’ve gained based purely off tc articles. I am bored

    • http://mannaarie.tumblr.com/ Manna Arie

      God don’t be such a doo-doo mama about it. New York is in the title, so don’t click on it then. Fuck.

      • Customconcern

        Yeah, Kaylee, don’t come in here and do something as totally shocking and worthless as give your opinion on something that bugs you! Wow. 

      • http://mannaarie.tumblr.com/ Manna Arie

        You are really fucking stupid. That’s my really valuable honest opinion though.

      • Customconcern

        Next time you see my name, you can just not read the comment. Fuck. 

      • kaylee

        lol, everyone needs to chiiill. I mostly clicked on this article so I could write a comment about how I’m sick of sifting through all the new york stuff in the titles. not mad, just bored, as previously stated. Though I did read the article to be fair. 

      • Guesty

        You’re a cunt bitch

  • fakeboobs

    true except LA wins for yoga

  • http://twitter.com/RVLouie Rick Louie

    Don’t shop at Brooklyn Natural, true enough. 

  • munchimaid

    Agree with everything except for the rent. It depends on where you go for it to be cheap. I live in Brooklyn on Parkside. Still little shady here and there but the prices are deffinately going up fast.  Usually goes up when more white people move in lol.  

  • http://twitter.com/DaisyReh Regan Hiatt

    No one tells you how often shit will drip from the sky as you walk about the city. One can only hope the drops originate from an air conditioner, as this is the second best alternative to rain but not necessarily the most likely. 

    • Kennyetta Dillon

      What about the mutant insects?!?!

    • Kennyetta Dillon

      What about the mutant insects?!?!

  • Gunther

    Oddly enough, there’s a Central Perk in Geneva, Switzerland. I’ve lived in NY my entire life and it took going abroad to find a coffee shop with that lovely insignia.

  • Julie Farina

    I somewhat agree about the cost of living. Growing up in PA, everyone said NYC was super expensive. Then I moved to Washington, DC and rent prices are almost the same (if not the same.) The worst part is, in DC there are much fewer desirable areas to choose from when looking for a place to live, so finding a half-decent affordable apartment is near impossible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jesperdahl Jesper Dahl

    “I’ve been here for almost a year and haven’t seen one bar fight or felt uncomfortable walking home alone after midnight”

    I have been in NYC for two years and I have seen bar fights, guns, knives and felt uncomfortable on my way home. I have also seen fights, guns and knives during the same subway ride within about 10 minutes of each other.

    I assume that you are doing something very wrong or very right depending on how you see it.

    • Anonymous

      Hmm, interesting. I’ve been here 3 years now and have not witnessed any of those things (or felt uncomfortable walking home). I’m curious to know why there’s such a huge difference between everyone’s experiences.

      • Peter D

        I think this really depends on where you live and where you hang out. New York is… big… IMO

      • http://www.facebook.com/jesperdahl Jesper Dahl

        I used to be a Mars Bar regular, though. That does fuck with the odds.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jesperdahl Jesper Dahl

      And also; New York sleeps a lot more than a lot of cities, especially with all bars closing at 4.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jesperdahl Jesper Dahl

    “I’ve been here for almost a year and haven’t seen one bar fight or felt uncomfortable walking home alone after midnight”

    I have been in NYC for two years and I have seen bar fights, guns, knives and felt uncomfortable on my way home. I have also seen fights, guns and knives during the same subway ride within about 10 minutes of each other.

    I assume that you are doing something very wrong or very right depending on how you see it.

  • Aussie

    Kat, as a fellow Aussie who has been in the city for a year, I absolutely agree. I’m from Sydney and have felt safer in NY after midnight than I ever did at home. I have been saying everything you wrote about to all my friends back home. And I do think that New Yorkers are lovely. I think it’s other people who want try to be the stereotype “New Yorker” that gives the people in the city a bad name. :)

  • http://profiles.google.com/mcblaloc Meghan Blalock

    Thank you! All true, especially the bit about NYers being friendly and helpful. I have found this to be true… but maybe that’s because you and I are friendly/helpful people and so that’s the sorts of people we encounter. What you put out into the universe, you get back. (Yes, I do yoga. Lots of it.)

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    Of all these truths, only the yoga thing drives me crazy.

  • Guestropod

    NYC is really fucking expensive and I was fucking drowning there.  Maybe I should have done yoga.  Fuck New York.  

  • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

    “Concrete jungle where dreams are made.”

    Sorry, that phrase makes no sense without the final preposition, “of”.

    • earlybirdchirp

      Wrong. “Of” would only make sense if it said “concrete jungle THAT dreams are made [of].” The phrase is correct as is.

      • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

        NO.

        WAY.

        REALLY.

  • Anonymous

    It is true that New York has a lot of free/cheap activities, but the rent is fucking insane. I lived in a tiny studio apartment in Crown Heights across from the largest homeless shelter in the city for $950/month (and people constantly were amazed how little I paid). Now I live in a decent neighborhood in Chicago in a sweet 2 bedroom apartment about five times the size for $750.

    • CausticWit

      Chicago is pretty expensive now. My last apartment was a tiny one bedroom for $900. :(

      • Alex

        ….was it in Gold Coast?? I pay $900 for an 1100 sq ft two-bedroom that’s 5 minutes from the red line. This city is dirt cheap.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EUL6B7WZUNAHGMO5KRCKZTGP54 Damen Handle

        Chicago has gotten more expensive in the past decade, as the city’s demographics are changing. Less old-world ethnics and blue collar folk; more yuppies, hispters, and transplants. That said, you can still get great deals. I’m paying 650 a month in UK Village for a 2 bed 1 beth w/ rommate. Its nice, affordable, and plenty of culture and nightlife.

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