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20 Things You Should Know Before Moving to New York City

Thinking about moving to New York City? Here are 20 things you things you should keep in mind before you put down stakes in the Big Apple.

David Cross

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1. Honking Horns are a New Yorker’s Ambien

At first, you’ll move to New York City and the sound of traffic will keep you up. But then, a strange thing happens: The traffic begins to soothe you. “It’s like the ocean, no?” you’ll explain to your bewildered mother. Then, when you go visit your parents in the ‘burbs, the sound of silence will literally freak you out. “Am I about to get murdered?” you’ll lie awake thinking—as you count the hours until you’re back in the city.

2. Stars: They’re Just Like Us! (Really, We Mean It, Just Pretend They’re a Nobody!)

Don’t stare at them, don’t smile knowingly at them, don’t even quickly glimpse at them—and for God’s sake don’t ask for their autograph. You’re a New Yorker: You don’t freak out over star power.

3. This is What $1,600 a Month Gets You (No, Really!)

For the privilege of living in the Upper East Side, you’ll pay $1,600 for this room with just a twin bed and fax machine.

4. “Cozy” Means You Can Reach Your Fridge From Your Bed

Ads for an apartment on Craigslist often say “cozy.” At first, you’ll think this means a nice little one-bedroom, maybe with some exposed brick or a fireplace. Nope: It means you can probably touch your fridge from your bed. Seriously, there are hundreds of apartments in this city that are 200 to 300 square feet. Sometimes you’ll have to shower in your kitchen or store your clothes in the oven. And many of them cost upwards of $1,000 a month.

5. This is Your Outdoor Space

If you want a patch of grass to call your very own in NYC, expect to pay at least $400 per month more in rent. Meet your new “private outdoor space,” the fire escape.

6. Tuesday is the New Friday

In New York your job is your life—10 hour days are the norm (even if you’re just an assistant). This means that by Tuesday, you’re exhausted and in need of a cocktail (or seven). The good news for you is that NYC has one of the best bar scenes on Earth (we have a cocktail named after our most famous borough, Manhattan)—and you never have to worry about drunken driving (woot subway!).

7. Your Bodega Guy Doubles as Your Therapist

Without a car, going to the grocery store is a hassle.So New Yorkers get almost everything they eat and drink from their corner bodega. This means your bodega guys sees it all—that 3 a.m. bottle of cheap Chardonnay you’re using to console yourself after another bad date, your affinity for Chubby Hubby and Cool Ranch Doritos after a long day at work. It won’t take long before the two of you are on a first name basis—and it won’t take long after that ‘til you start to dish on your problems. After all, with the rent you’re paying, it’s not like you can afford a real therapist.

8. You Will Never Eat a Bagel Anywhere Else Again

Sure, pizza in NYC is incredible, but there are (albeit only a few) better slices in America (ahem, New Haven). But when it comes to bagels, we rule. Soft on the inside, crusty on the outside, and slathered in cream cheese, mmmm.

9. You’ll Never Set Foot in the DMV Again… Because You’ll Forgot How to Drive

Driving in NYC is best left to the taxi drivers. The traffic is insane, no one obeys traffic lanes and you can forget about parking for less than about $20. You’ll take the subway or taxis everywhere—and pretty soon, you’ll come to love it (just read on your iPad and chill until you’re deposited at your destination). Years go by, and almost by accident, you wonder if you’ve forgotten how to drive—but you don’t really care.

10. You Will Eat Whatever You Want—and Not Gain Weight

NYC has some of the best food on earth—at all price points. You can easily spend $500 at Per Se for one of the best French meals of your life or $2 for a slice of pizza that will blow your mind. And you can get pretty much any type of food delivered anytime you like. You’d think all these delicious eats would make the pack on the pounds, but they won’t—you literally burn them off because New Yorkers walk everywhere (that restaurant’s one mile away—no problem!). Oh, and thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, you’ll be forced to look at the calories on menus of any chain restaurant, so you can forget about your appetite after that!

11. Black is the New Black

We follow fashion like Anna Wintour is looking over our shoulder (because she literally is), but no matter what “new” colors hit the runway, black will always be our first love. We cheat with the occasional pink or red or blue, but we always go back to black.

12. Manhattan is Simply “The City” (There Are No Other Cities!)

To everyone from the rich bankers to the cab drivers, Manhattan is “The City.” No explanation needed.

13. You Won’t Blink at Paying $30 for a Spin Class…

Spinning, yoga, Pilates—the notoriously thin New York woman takes these calorie-torching, body-buffing courses seriously. So not only can you expect to pay $20 to $30 per class—you can expect to get waitlisted for the class.

14. …or at Paying $14 for a Cocktail

The cocktail will come with organic juice or special ice or a sprig or something or another—and that’ll make you rationalize that $14. Seriously, the price tag will barely even register. Because compared to your dinner tab, it’s really nothing.

15. Seamless is Your New BFF

Seamless, an online service that will deliver you food from one of a zillion restaurants (you do it all online! you don’t even have to talk to anyone!), is every New Yorker’s BFF. Seriously, there are days (too hot, too cold, too rainy) when you will order both lunch and dinner from there. (It’s OK, we all do it.)

16. You’ll Learn to Make Your Job Sound a Lot Better Than it Actually is

Go to a party, bar, event (or just leave the house) and the first question anyone will ask is “what do you do?” Most likely, you have some boring job in finance or law that will literally make the other party’s eyes glaze over. So you’ll “enhance” what you do so it seems like you get paid handsomely to save lives or launch businesses or whatever. They’ll do the same.

17. You’ll Begin Judging People Who Pronounce Houston Street Wrong

There are eight million people living in NYC, and we’re literally living on top of one another. So sometimes we just don’t want to see another tourist. And one of the surest signs you’re a tourist (other than the usual suspects like wandering with a map around Times Square or taking the “Sex & The City” bus tour) is that you pronounce Houston Street like the city in Texas. It’s pronounced HOUSE-ton. This may seem trivial to you now, but give it a few months.

18. You’ll Start Reading the Tabloids

You may not be a fan of the national tabloids, but move to NYC and you will start reading the New York Post or the New York Daily News. No seriously, you will try to resist buying a copy with your morning coffee, but it will be impossible. Who can resist those crazy headlines?

19. Brooklyn is the New Manhattan

It used to be that Manhattanizes scoffed at the thought of “going over the bridge.” And yes, there are still some who do. But Brooklyn is having its moment; it offers some of the best restaurants in the five boroughs (seriously, just try getting a ressie at Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare), its art scene is world class (hello Williamsburg), and plenty of celebs call it home (Maggie Gyllenhal, Solange Knowles and Michelle Williams, to name a few). How times have changed: Some Brooklynites scoff at the thought of “going over the bridge.”

20. We Complain (A Lot), But Wouldn’t Live Anywhere Else

NYC has got arts, culture, music, and restaurants that rival anywhere on Earth, but it’s expensive (the cost of living is 70 percent above average), smelly (it’s possible that a solid quarter of New Yorkers refuse to wear deodorant on the subway), and if it starts raining you can’t get a cab and flimsy umbrellas at the bodega will suddenly cost $15. And we New Yorkers complain about all—but we wouldn’t have it any other way.


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posted on: June 6, 2013
87,271 views, 18 comments

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  1. Den


  2. Brad

    You can have it… People living in a city that gives them nothing and cost them everything… Y
    ou should also add:
    - Come in youthful and full of life, leave spent and weathered.
    - Everything is the same, so much so people are moving to NJ to get some newness…
    - Zero happy people and they get more angry when they see what life gives them outside of ny.
    - Everything is old
    - Wrost dressed city, just stop and look around….
    - Frumpy, sad little people pretending to be happy
    And yes go for a visit but don’t be fooled

    • John in response to Brad

      Too funny. I wouldnt live anywhere else. NYC is where people like you are laughed at. Want to know what we laugh at. We know that your life is meaningless and ours is fantastic. Now go brush those two teeth you have left in your mouth hikbilly.

      • Anon in response to John

        Man, NY sounds like it’s full of pretentious assholes. I guess people like you are why huh?

  3. Undergraduate

    Thank you David for this article, these insights are so spirited, exciting and refreshing. It brings me such delight, and serves as a reminder why NYC is the city of dreams! One day I aspire to call this city my own, once I finish university, pay off student loans, and work in my respective field a while, watch out! University in Toronto, ON is great but I am looking towards something much greater!

    Also, to address the negative comment above. Please don’t bring your poor attitude here, this is an article addressing those entering their new home or hoping to. It is truly up to them how they evaluate their city, I do not know who rained on your parade but your comment is both unkind and self-serving.

  4. Chris

    When was this article posted? I mean, 200-300 sq ft apartment for less than $1000?! That would be called extremely cheap in a major city in Sweden or Norway. I always thought NYC would be super-expensive, but if that is a normal rate and drinks costs less than $15, it’s cheaper than living in the northern parts of Europe. Many apartments in Stockholm are 100-200 sq ft and would prob cost more than that…my dream still is to live in NYC and having just visited the impressions are still strong…me wanna go there again…love it!

    Then it’s just the small matter of getting a US Green Card and finding a job ;)

  5. Nicole

    How ironic Chris. I’m torn between moving to Norway or New York. I’d prefer to live in a country that takes care of it’s people and has a 3% unemployment plus North Korea isn’t trying to bomb it BUT getting a work permit and all that in a foreign country isn’t easy. I like the city and I like the country side so either one doesn’t bother me just as long as I can get a good paying job. I hate driving and that’s really why I was considering NY. I do have one question that wasn’t addressed in this article. How much money should one have to move to NY if they have a job lined up? Can you still get an apartment even though you don’t have an income yet but will be starting a job? Oh and I saw on the news about 2 weeks ago or so the average rent in “the city” is no less than 2,000 now. Not sure what that consists of tho.

    • Chas in response to Nicole

      I don’t mean to be rude, but one of the points you made between the moves of Norway and New York was N. Korea isn’t trying to bomb the latter? First, you’ll find comfort in the fact that N. Korea has no where near the military capabilities of the U.S. Their last nuclear bomb test had a similar pattern to a bottle rocket without a stick! Either way, I’d hope you choose whatever fulfills you’re happiness! Good luck!

  6. Brianna

    To Nicole, I’ve asked to same thing to many New Yorker’s when I had visited last year for my summer break and most had said to save up to about 5 months worth of rent. I’m hell bent on moving there as soon as I finish school here in Miami, so moving to NY probably wont be that much of a change, but it will be more expensive and a lot bigger. I’m actually planning to go back up there this upcoming summer after I graduate.

  7. Jack Brandon Cousins

    I think N.y. is probably the center of the universe.

  8. Sean

    Author sounds like a tourist in #20 when he goes against his own rule from #12. Nice.

  9. James

    Ugh.. I’ve been stuck living here in NYC for nearly 4yrs now. I’d love to get outta here n back to civilization but can’t cuz it’s too expensive to try n save anything. And as far as food is concerned, idk what places he’s talking abt cuz I’m totally disappointed in the food here. I’d much rather go to the store, get groceries, n cook it myself. Don’t have the time? I make the time. But #20 is most definitely true. NYers r the worst complainers yet do nuthin abt it. A contradiction to themselves n their bottom 25% education rating.

  10. timdawg

    I think hollywood sold NYC as ‘the city’. It’s like every young girl’s dream is to move to NYC and live some fantasy life that last about a month. I really don’t even understand what a good life you can get from concrete and expensive entertainment. If you can’t find the best life in nature, friends and family, then you are doing it wrong. I really think NYC living is a status symbol or a dream. The reality is dissappointing.

    Why is it awesome to be ripped off with real estate? Let’s even start there.. I mean if you had to start questioning this whole NYC omg omg I gotta live there crap why not ask yourself.. what intelligent person would pay most of their income on rent? So they can spend more of their income on over priced food, drinks and getting pushed around in big crowds of people looking at neon signs? I really don’t get that. Of course it is in america where common sense very common to start with.

    Every decent 1st world city has bars, shows and lights. why spend twice as much to see all that in a place with 20 times more people. I mean how lonely are you that you need to be around that many suckers? if I got asked what i did as a profession by everyone i met I would tell them to get a life themselves. what a stupid question. oh yeah, i wanna live in a city of 8 million stupid materialistic people. wow great idea. NOT

    • Eric in response to timdawg

      I think that’s called “hitting the nail on the head”, timdawg. That’s coming from a native New Yorker

    • Josh in response to timdawg

      Timdawg, it’s quite possible that new Yorkers overpay for real estate as well as other things that other cities have. However NYC has an energy, a pulse that no other city has. it’s an amazing city, and it just might not be for you. If you don’t like the city how did you even end up reading this article, and why insult the city and its inhabitants, which include myself. By the way, NOT is something people said in the 80′s. please move on from the 80′s.

  11. Drea

    New York offers great opportunities—only at a great cost. It’s one of the Fashion capitals, the Financial Capital and the city boasts of unique art, culture and scenes that can never be replaced or duplicated.

  12. Kim

    Funny article with much truth to it.

    You can add Point 21 – Real estate brokers, a necessary evil in the City! New York is the only city on this planet where brokers charge a 15% commission of the annual rent for helping you find an apartment to rent. And all this for virtually no service. Anyways, once you move in, you do tend to forget about all the inconvenience:)


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