15 things no one told me about moving to new york city.
Anyone who has interacted with me personally probably is aware of my obsessive planning tendencies. That said, it may come as no surprise that I spent the majority of last summer researching articles about absolutely everything I would need to know about New York City residency. It's been over a year since I graduated from high school and started researching what my new life would be like. However, experience trumps research in a lot of ways, so here I am, a year older and more enlightened, telling you what I was utterly unaware of until I moved.
Disclaimer: I am still new to the city, at least relatively. I decided to do "things no one told me" instead of "tips" because 1) it's a little more interesting and 2) I am not seasoned enough of a New York resident (not calling myself a New Yorker, too controversial) to feel like I have the authority to give tips. Only the occasional food rec. So take this all with a grain of salt, I am not claiming whatsoever to be an expert! In fact, this is me embracing my status as a NYC novice. Hey, you're only new to a city once!
(if you're looking for an article with tips, here's a great one from Man Repeller: http://www.manrepeller.com/2016/06/moving-to-new-york-advice.html#manrepeller)
Much love to Nhoa, Gussie, and Juliet for helping me to brainstorm ideas for this post!
1 - your body will change.
Naturally, your body goes through some changes after going through such a drastic move. I came from living in Raleigh, North Carolina, a city that is dominated by cars, to Manhattan, a place where walking is paramount. After walking essentially everywhere for a month or so, I reached back to put my hand in my pocket and noticed that my butt was GONE. My friend Ama warned me about this and told me to do squats while I still had something to work with. My feet also became callus central. Unless you're a super workoutaholic or have a super consistent figure, the city will mold your body based on your behavior. Kind of a nice perk for your legs and a disadvantage in other areas depending on how you look at it.
2 - people are nice.
The big misconception about New York is that people are mean. I found this to be completely false. I can say that not once has someone gone out of their way to be cruel to me this past year. This misconception probably stems from tourists coming to the city, standing in the middle of the sidewalk/walking slow, and annoying locals trying to go about their days. I am a fast walker so I have never had this problem. Strangers have been so nice and accommodating during my time in the city. A man at the post office didn't charge me for shipping. A guy on the subway track gave me directions when I was confused about a MTA weekend travel change. A stranger on the 8th Ave local train pushed me out of the way of clear vomit. A woman in Williamsburg gave me free Frye boots. The people I work with are some of the nicest people I've ever met. With the exception of a choice few, people in NYC are only rude when they have reason to be, just like how it is in the rest of the world. When visiting, just remember that it is a fast-paced and work-centric environment. People generally have something urgent to do, so it's best not to stand in the middle of the sidewalk/in front of a subway entrance/on a street corner while the walk sign is up. If you need to use your phone or something, step to the side out of the way of foot traffic. It will make your life much easier! Pretty much just common sense stuff to make everyone's lives happy and less stressful.
3 - the dating scene is atrocious.
Before I moved to New York, I was single. People always would say "you're going to meet the best guys there!!!". When I started dating Jordan again right before I moved, my friends were cautionary. There's an urban myth that there are 6 straight women for every 1 straight man in New York, and that appears to be true. I read on TimeOut New York (field guide to the happenings of the city, you can get issues for free on Wednesdays all over or access the content online) that 40% of people in New York have cheated on their partner. I go to a school with few straight men, and even the few that do exist are not necessarily upstanding moral characters. Most of my friends use Tinder and have Tinder horror stories. There are cute couples EVERYWHERE in the city, but not a lot of cute, straight, committed, moral, educated men on the market. Also, being 30 in New York is a lot different from being 30 in North Carolina. In NC, it's pretty much a guarantee that by 30 an adult will have a spouse, kids, and mortgage. In NYC, many 30 year olds are not dating and have no intention of getting married any time soon, and probably don't feel the pressure to either. It's a much more relaxed environment in that way. However, I do know a few friends that got into great relationships in our first year. So don't lose all hope! (Note: this is from a heterosexual, cisgendered female perspective. I can't speak much to the dating scene in regards to the LGBTQ+ community)
4 - promoters are your friend (probably).
A few months before school started, I started getting these messages on Facebook from various men and women, asking if I was interested in getting into the "hottest clubs in NYC" and "drinking/eating for free." At first, I was perplexed by this. Why would a person I've never met want to spend money on me? After attending school for a few weeks, it started to make sense. Promoters are big in NYC. They get paid by clubs and brands to bring "attractive women" to the best clubs in the city. This allows clubs to have reputations of having attractive girls there, which drives more traffic. Promoters prowl the FIT Accepted Students page (and other colleges I'm sure) over the summer for new recruits to take out with them. As crazy as this sounds, there is truly no ulterior motive and you DO NOT have to pay ANYTHING. You get a free entertaining night, they get ca$h. I don't drink, so I never took advantage of this, but many of my friends have had great experiences with promoters. There is no place like New York if you like having a good time!
5 - you're not going to have a friend group like FRIENDS.
At least not right away. From every NY-based movie and TV show, one would think that it is the simplest thing in the world to make friends in New York. I was subconsciously under the impression that I would have a large solid group of friends by the end of first semester. I was completely wrong. First semester went by, and I had only one true friend. Second semester I was able to branch out more and found people I love to hang out with, but I still don't have a fun mix of girls and guys to spend all of my time with at our cheap but miraculously well-located apartments (HA. television.). Maybe one day, but don't expect this right away. It can be lonely at first, but you'll find your place.
6 - SAMPLE SALES ARE HEAVEN.
In NYC, there are sample sales all of the time. A sample sale is a limited time sale set up by major brands to get rid of merchandise from last season. The merchandise can be marked up to 90% off. These usually are based in small warehouses or pop-up shops around the city. If you're interested, check out racked.com, they post the monthly sales coming up and a review of each one so you know what's worth your money and time. This is the best place to find deals on clothes and this is how many New Yorkers are able to be dressed in the most expensive brands. I've gotten some great items for unbelievable prices. Another place I've heard to look for good deals is Century21, but I didn't make it out there this year.
7 - there are free things all the time.
There are a lot of perks of living in New York, one of which is that companies use NYC residents as their personal marketing guinea pigs. NYC is full of influencers, so companies are quick to hand out free food and gifts, hoping that the items will grace the social media page of a major NY blogger or be recommended by word of mouth. Some of my favorite free events this year were the San Pellegrino pop-up garden in Madison Square Park, Glade's Museum of Feelings at Brookfield Place, and Nike's workout series for Margo vs. Lily. This year, I've received free ice cream, free clothes, free food, free lip balm, and even more. Oftentimes you just stumble upon it, but social media can help spread the word about these freebies! Keep your eyes peeled while you're walking around outside. I will say that in Madison Square Park there are pop-ups pretty much all the time, it's a great place to look!
8 - you will spend a lot of time waiting in lines.
For every viral video of some NYC food, there are probably 400 people waiting in line the next day for a few hours just to get that treat. I got to try a lot of great food this year, but I definitely had to wait for a lot of it. I had to wait the longest for a waffle sundae from Wowfulls at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. Ama and I waited for an hour and a half. A lot of times it is worth it! But just be sure if you're about to head out for a Black Tap shake, rainbow bagel, or the latest viral trend, to allot a lot of time for waiting. A lot of it is strategy, too. When my friends and I caved and decided to try a Black Tap shake (those outrageous ones made famous by InsiderFood), we called the restaurant to find out how long the line was. Most days/nights the milkshake line is upwards of 4 hours, but when we went on a rainy Wednesday night, there was no wait. I waited in no line for the "rainbow bagel" either because we got up at 6am to get there when the store opened. Think oppositely of how most people do and don't be afraid to call. You will find success and eat all of the calories you could ever want. And yes, I know InsiderFood is lame and these trends are fleeting but I am a "foodie" as the kids say these days and I am very persistent about trying new foods. If you could not care less about these crazy treats, you already have most of New York beat. Congratulations, you win!
9 - cat calling is constant and unavoidable.
I'm a woman and proud feminist. One of the main detractions of New York is that cat calling is a major problem. Men of all economic statuses, races, and backgrounds all feel that it is acceptable for them to say whatever they want to women they've never met. You will come to notice that most women walk around with headphones on because that way they can't hear the harassment. I've been on the subway and a man has touched my thigh repeatedly and continually asked me to come to a party with him. Men have cornered me and pestered me for my information. It's not "hey beautiful" most of the time, it is usually vulgar, rude, and uncalled for. What I recommend for women is to be very aware of your surroundings and to come up with a fake identity and phone number. It is honestly unavoidable, every woman I've met in New York experiences it all the time and has a horror story about it. You learn to live with it, but it is definitely my biggest and pretty much only gripe about New York.
10 - you will cry in public.
I used to never, ever cry in public. It was a serious fear of mine. No one likes to display that kind of vulnerability to the world. However, after moving to New York, I have cried in public on numerous occasions. I've cried in restaurants, on the train, walking around, in cabs, etc. Sometimes some circumstances can get to you, and there is not really a quiet place to get it all out. No one is judgmental about it, and you will see other people doing the same thing. It's kind of a rite of passage.
11 - winter is a state of mind.
Everyone warned me about the harsh NYC winters, but it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. However, people hold onto their puffy winter coats FOREVER. I've lived in the South for the past 10 years, so as soon as it was above 60 degrees, I had a mini skirt on, ready to take on the world with my beloved pale-as-paper thighs. This was not the case with most other people, who pulled their winter coats a little tighter to their chests as my legs blinded them. Winter was not nearly as bad as I was warned it would be, which is due at least partially to climate change. There was only one weekend (Valentine's Day weekend) where it was unbearable to be outside. De Blasio issued a warning and we spent the weekend in cabs and on the subway, it all ended up being just fine. If you have a heavy coat, scarf, a hat, gloves, and snow boots, you're all set. Most of the time you won't even need all that!
12 - Trader Joe's is a lifestyle.
What are your current feelings on Trader Joe's? Before I moved, I was pretty neutral to the place. In NYC, Trader Joe's is the end all and be all of grocery stores. There is one in Chelsea, one on the Upper West Side, one in the East Village, one in Harlem, and one in Brooklyn. People trek from all over the city for the cheap prices and high quality food. I've become a fan of so many of their products, and I reliably walked there every week from my dorm with my reusable bags to pick up groceries. The line wraps around the entire store, but moves quickly. I recommend having a shopping list because it is so crowded in there that it is hard to gather your thoughts. People sometimes have to wait outside because the store is full to capacity. The best time to go is Sunday mornings when they open - it is virtually empty. Another option is to order groceries from FreshDirect. They often have good coupon codes. I did it once when I had a lot of food I needed and it was snowing, but for every day groceries, I found that Trader Joe's was best for me.
Whole Foods was 2 blocks from my school, but that place is a robbery. Only time I recommend going in there is for specialty items or to celeb spot. I saw Louis CK in there once, and have heard of people seeing Ryan Gosling. The building above houses Katie Holmes and Nick Jonas. Additionally, a lot of attractive people shop at that Whole Foods, so if you're looking for a significant other, maybe just roam the aisles for awhile in hopes of finding someone with a mutual love of avocados.
13 - brunch is an institution.
There is no other meal like brunch in New York City. The city is full of hard workers, so often the only time they have to socialize is over one long meal with friends on weekend mornings/afternoons. Brunch waits can be VERY long. I've had the best luck showing up to a brunch place right when it opens to beat the hungover crowds filing in around 12pm. Most likely you will fall in love with the meal and be looking forward to your next brunch outing every week. There is no better way to distract from a boring lecture class than scouring Yelp and Instagram for the next best brunch place (don't worry, I still made the Dean's List both semesters and you can too. It'll be ok). The energy is electric and it feels like a holiday. I'm a brunch devotee and probably always will be.
14 - the real estate market is unlike anywhere else.
I remember hearing about friends from home who signed leases for their sophomore year houses back in the fall of their freshman year and being very confused/in awe. In NYC, everyone knows apartments are expensive. What people don't know is how last minute the housing market is. I am moving into an apartment August 15th, and I am going back to the city to look for it on August 1st. That confuses people and makes people panic, but that is absolutely how the market is. The vacancy rate in NYC is under 10%, so apartments go FAST. Landlords don't want vacancies because it is a loss of money for them. That means you can't sign a lease until right before you are planning to move in. That also means that landlords and architects can get away with some pretty ludicrous things. Many NYC apartments are behind the curve amenities-wise. It is considered a luxury for an apartment to have a dishwasher and laundry in the unit. Many places are walk-ups, meaning that you enter a tiny, hardly marked door and walk up many flights of stairs to get to your place. Oftentimes, in the places students (like me) can afford, there are some odd quirks about the place, such as a window wall in the shower, oddly shaped rooms, or a stripper-esque pole in the middle of the kitchen. Yes, these are all things I've seen before on Naked Apartments and StreetEasy.
Another reality of the NYC real estate market is BROKERS. NYC apartment brokers can be good if you know the right ones and do your research. You should do that, because they usually charge 15% of your yearly rent as payment for their services. Moving in a lot of cities is expensive, but in NYC, you have to pay the broker fee, first and last month's rent, a security deposit, and pay to move and for new furniture if needed. There is a LOT to do, which is why I am super excited and nervous to move in a couple months into my first place.
15 - it absolutely is the greatest place in the world, and you will make it your own.
NYC can feel as big or as small as you let it. You may feel like an outsider for a month or two, but sooner or later you'll know what subway stop will take you to your favorite shop in Soho and to see your friend on the Upper East Side. You'll begin to learn the best $1 slice near you and your favorite thing to do on a rainy day. NYC is huge, yes, and there are millions of people, but you will make your corner of it yours. and you will absolutely fall in love with your new life.
I wish everyone the best of luck, whether you're reading this just for fun or are moving for real. I am still learning!! If you have questions about recommendations, feel free to message me in the comments or using the "TALK" tab up at the top. Or if you have tips for me, please share!
cheers, and best of luck on your new adventures.