As a southerner, born and raised in lower Alabama, I dreamt of leaving the south and moving to a big city. Now I’m a firm believer in the old saying “go big or go home” so the smaller southern cities like Atlanta and New Orleans (though I certainly love both places) weren’t going to cut it for me. Oh no, I dreamt of a Carrie Bradshaw life in the Big Apple. I have lived in Manhattan for nearly two years now and I have decided to give a New Yorker’s perspective of what one can expect upon moving and living here in NYC.
1. It’s cold.
For about 8 months out of the year it is chilly. And, for about 3 months it’s just plain miserable. Spring typically doesn’t arrive until May and fall arrives in November. While scarves are a cute accessory in warmer places they are a necessity here. As are snow boots, rain boots, down coats, earmuffs, hand warmers, and gloves.
2. It’s expensive.
If you have visited NYC before you probably noticed how much more expensive the Times Square Olive Garden was than that of the one in your hometown. New Yorkers often complain about just how high the cost of living is because well…it is! While one can argue that “it all evens out” because New Yorkers do get paid more than those working in other job markets and most New Yorkers do not own a car (therefore eliminating car and gas expenses), paying $1,000 a month for a small studio still isn’t fun!
3. It’s safe.
One thing that amused me when I told my southern friends that I was moving to NYC was how most of them immediately responded by saying “But, isn’t NY dangerous?” Like any city there are areas that are “sketchy” but generally speaking Manhattan is a very safe city. With one of the largest police forces in the country, you can find a police officer on almost every block at any given time. As a petite, young woman I haven’t had any problem walking home late, etc. Now don’t be stupid. You should always keep an eye on your surroundings and belongings, but the rule of thumb in NYC is to mind your own business and most of your fellow New Yorkers will do the same.
4. You see celebrities everywhere. And, no it’s not a big deal.
Since moving to New York City, I have seen and/or met a handful of celebrities including Liza Minnelli, Anderson Cooper, and Debra Messing. John Lithgow lives on the same street as me and Kristen Chenoweth frequents the restaurant I work at. Is it cool? Of course! But, you will never catch me approaching them for an autograph. One of the beautiful things about this city is the ability to remain anonymous amongst millions of people. The same rule applies to celebrities.
5. Times Square is not New York City.
Let me explain; Times Square is in New York City but contrary to popular belief it does not represent what life is actually like in the city. Times Square is a tourist trap. Most of the restaurants and stores in this iconic hot spot can be found in any small town anywhere else in the country. I always tell tourists to venture out of Times Square! It’s crowded, obnoxious, and noisy. If you’ve been there once you probably won’t have any desire to return-unless you have family in town and they beg to visit the Hershey’s store!
6. Central Park really is as amazing as they say it is.
I live two blocks away from the renowned park and you couldn’t pay me to leave my neighborhood. No matter how many times I visit the 800-acre play ground I always discover something new. With Strawberry Fields, Sheep’s Meadow, Tavern on the Green, the reservoir, and the skating rinks, one could live in Manhattan for years and still not see all of the wonderful things Central Park has to offer!
7. Apartments really are that tiny.
I always thought it was a joke when New Yorkers complained about their tiny living spaces and then I moved into a studio loft. If you plan on moving to New York City do not bring more than you have to. I moved here with two suitcases of clothes and I still had trouble fitting it all into my “twin sized” bedroom! You should also accept the fact that you will not have a living room, washing machine, or dishwasher in your apartment. And, you are lucky if you a have only one of those!
8. Speaking of apartments…signing a lease on a NYC apartment is one of the most stressful things you will ever do.
First month’s rent, last month’s rent, a broker’s fee, and a security deposit are usually required in order to move into and sign a lease on an apartment in Manhattan. It’s nearly impossible to find an apartment without a broker, you will need a guarantor or co-signer who makes 40x the rent, and someone may take an apartment within hours of the apartment being posted on a listing website. If you are moving to New York City it would be wiser to sublease an apartment for a few months until you have an idea of your finances. Another rule of thumb is the closer you are to midtown (the Times Square/Grand Central area of Manhattan) the more expensive apartments are. The further west, east, and north you go of midtown the cheaper apartments become. The boroughs (Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island) are typically much cheaper than Manhattan.
9. You can walk everywhere.
One of the coolest things about New York City is that you can walk just about everywhere. Now while you probably don’t want to walk 20 blocks to work, you can do it. I have a grocery store, pharmacy, movie theatre, and a plethora of bars within walking distance of my apartment. It’s a beautiful thing.
10. Come here and be prepared to work.
If you are moving here as a recent graduate, a performer, or anything else remotely artistic be prepared to have at least two jobs! Because New York City is as expensive as it is you will not be able to pay your rent off of freelance acting and writing jobs (unless you’re lucky!). Ideally try to have a job already lined up before you make the big move. If you don’t, I suggest bartending or waiting tables. Unlike most places in the U.S. you can make a fairly decent living here working in the service industry. But, be prepared to work and work hard. Always remember this: regardless of what your “day job” is if you aren’t perfect at it employers will have no problem letting you know because there is always someone else who wants your job, and who may be more qualified than you are!
11. Online dating is perfectly normal here.
While online dating is slowly catching on in smaller, less urban areas here in NYC most young singles live on Match.com or OKCupid. Nobody wants to do it and no it’s not fun. But, in a city of 8 million people it is actually very difficult to meet and stay in touch with people. So, create than online profile, upload that cute headshot, and start swiping!
12. The shopping is fantastic.
Almost every brand and/or chain has a flagship store in NYC. Just take a walk down 5th Avenue and you will pass Tiffany’s, Louis Vuitton, H&M, Hollister, and Coach. The shopping is wonderful and you can find just about anything your heart desires. But, that doesn’t mean you will be able to afford it. You will master the art of window-shopping.
13. Be prepared to cry. A lot.
City life is hard. It’s not fun carrying ten pounds of groceries up three flights of stairs and walking to the subway in -10 degree weather will never become any easier. Unless you grew up in a city, nothing can prepare you for the drastic lifestyle change you will experience when you move here. Allow yourself at least six months before you start to feel “at home.” Don’t be afraid to cry and understand that New York City is not for everyone. If you move and live here for a year and then decide that you don’t like it, then leave. Don’t beat yourself up for not “making it” in NYC -instead congratulate yourself for working up the courage to move to one of the world’s most iconic cities.
14. There is always someone dressed cooler than you.
I don’t care how beautiful, chic, creative, or talented you are…there is always someone who is more beautiful, dressed more chic, more creative, and more talented than you. And, while that may sound terrible it is true and it will inspire you to be an even better version of yourself. As a New Yorker you learn to take inspiration from your surroundings and you always want to improve yourself-whether it means dressing better, learning a new craft, eating healthier, exercising more…whatever the case may be you can do it. And, why not do it in New York?
15. Living in NYC is not going to be as you imagined it.
You can imagine what life is like living in NYC but no matter how many times you visit or how many books you read until you live here you do not know. Your NYC life isn’t going to be how you imagined it. It may be worse. It may be better. But, it’s New York and it’s beautiful, stressful, amazing, and scary all at the same time. You just have to come and experience it for yourself.