Psych 101: The Ways New Yorkers Cope With Weather

You have to be a bit of a masochist to move to New York. At minimum, you have to be the type of person who enjoys having an endless rash of things to complain about. Prices! Traffic! Smells! Subways! Neighbors! Taxis! New Yorkers basically face sensory, psychological and sometimes physical assault every time we walk out the door. Yet, we brag endlessly about living here, encourage others to try it and scorn those who leave for not being able to “handle it.” As a somewhat rational person who participates in this back and forth, I had to find a way to explain it.

Spoiler alert – I’m not a psychologist- but this seems like a picture perfect demonstration of cognitive dissonance. For those of you who didn’t take Psych 101 your freshman year, cognitive dissonance is the ability to hold conflicting ideas simultaneously. If you want an instant, clear demonstration of how New Yorkers demonstrate this, look at how they address one subject: the weather.

The cycle tends to go like this: mid-winter when we’re clad head-to-toe in black, wading around in the grey slushy that has been thrown Glee-style in the face of our city; all we can do is long for the long days of summer. We talk about it extensively—how great outdoor patios will be, how we’ll dance in skimpy tank tops in parks, watch movies on rooftops and how we’re going to eat every lobster roll at every pop-up gourmet artisan food truck festival.

Yet, the first time the temperature spikes 90 degrees, count the number of times you hear a random person complain about the heat around you. If you had a dollar for every time you heard it, you wouldn’t have to sleep on a bunk bed in Bushwick anymore. Our bodies are forced to constantly recalibrate our internal temperatures as we go from the walk-in freezer we call the office to the suffocating oven known as the street. This is pleasant for a minute, like receiving a deceptively warm hug before you realize someone is actually trying to shut your head in an oven. Suddenly, people are talking about how pretty the city is when it snows and how nice it would be to be sitting in a warm bar on a cold day in front of a fire place.

You know how there is the old wives’ tale that women immediately forget the pain of child birth after labor? It’s a coping mechanism, and it’s the same one New Yorkers use to deal with the seasons. We immediately forget everything we hated about winter the first day we find ourselves sweating profusely on the way to work and similarly dream of summer during the months when we’re shuffling around buried under layers of clothing. But at the same time, it’s nice to know you’ll never run out of things to complain about with the bodega guy. TC mark


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  • ylrac

    …..thought catalog is really getting annoying lately. CONFLICTING FEELINGS ABOUT THE WEATHER IS NOT A NEW YORK THING!

  • Joyce Er

    Uh I think the forgetting about the pain of child labour bit is kind of more like dissociation than cognitive dissonance…

    • Duke Holland of Gishmale

      You, Ma’am, are an idiot–she wasn’t referring to cognitive dissonance in that instance– and a douche–you just as well have commented with “Uh, let me try to discredit you regarding something I didn’t understand all the while showing off that I know an unimpressive Psychology term.” 

  • Eliot Rose

    I completely identify and have often mulled over this same phenomenon.  You should write a little series of these!

    • Sally Jenkins


  • Smith

    You just described every city/town/place that experiences both winter and summer – so, half of the United States, all of Canada, the majority of Europe and beyond. So…yeah. This is not a New York thing.

    • Sally Jenkins

      if TC publishes another article about how New York is special, I’m going to disable my own access to this site.
      unless that article is about how new york is not that interesting except that the buildings are closer together and people think it’s gritty and dangerous when it hasn’t been either for about 20 years.

  • JV

    Ha. How is this a phenomenon exclusive to New York? Chicagoans do the same thing, but the city has a higher annual temperature range, higher average relative humidity, and averages 10 inches more snowfall. And what about Buffalo? Kansas City? DC?

    • guest

      it gets fucking COLD in KC

      • JV

        I’m well aware. Brutal humidity, too.

      • guest

        I was only there for a week in January but it blew my mind.  Coldest I have ever been, puts New England winters to shame.

    • Guest

      Perhaps the author never lived in Chicago, Buffalo, Kansas City, or DC. Write what you know… 

      • Brosancro

        Ironically, the author grew up in KC. she’s just writing about what she currently experiences…relax people.

    • Michael Koh

      I. Fucking. Hate. Buffalo. Winters. 

      Syracuse is awful during winter too.

    • Michael Koh

      I. Fucking. Hate. Buffalo. Winters. 

      Syracuse is awful during winter too.

  • Megan

    “You have to be a bit of a masochist to move to New York.” I’ve read this line too many times on TC

  • coffeeandinternets

    I’m just trying to figure out how many dissatisfied comments I have to read before I can really, truly appreciate the idea that conflicted emotions over weather is not something that happens only in New York.

  • me

    I disagree with all of you. The difference between every other city in America and NY is that people drive everywhere else at least some of the time. They are not walking around freezing or sweating. They are not forced to be packed like sardines on a subway car. This article was awesome.

    • ilovermont

      Ah yes! I forgot that NYC is the only city where people walk.  How foolish of me to think that walking outdoors is something we all do.

      • Anon

        Shut up, logic! SHUT UP!

  • Abbey

    Almost more predictable than articles about New York on TC are the “New York is not that special!!!!” comments such articles receive. 

    • guest

      only almost, though

  • Nixter_doodle

    Chicago is so much worse.

  • Marianna Elvira

    It doesn’t even snow where I live, and we still experience this.

  • eileen

    this is ON POINT

  • Michael Koh


  • Michael Koh


  • Sara

    you are my guru. ;)

  • Jazzy

    Not unique to New York.

  • Leslie Horn

    Marion Brewer is a golden goddess. 

    • Leslie Horn

      Hey haters, I sense some projecting going on here. 

  • Bree

    I like winter, and New York :)

  • Guest

    congratulations on writing something that 5 year olds realize.

  • detected

    It’s not just New Yorkers… people all over the world experience this!
    People are people they live in New York or somewhere else :D

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