Are you thinking about relocating to New York City? The first thing you should know is that it's a city of extremes.
Although New York City is home to more billionaires than any other city, over 60,000 people are homeless here. You can get a slice of pizza for $1 in many places, but an apartment might cost you around $3,000 a month. because it's vital for industries such as media, finance etc., getting a job can be difficult due to the high competition.
Although geographically small, New York holds more people than any other city in the United States—a whopping 8.6 million. If you're coming from a smaller place, living here might feel both overwhelming and exciting.
New York City living isn't for everyone—but it's often an thrilling experience. As you get to know the city and its quirks, secrets, and charm become more apparent. If you're considering a move here, review this list of 19 things to better understand what life in NYC is really like.
1. New York is more than Times Square and tourist traps.
You've undoubtedly heard the cliches about New Yorkers: we're gruff, we despise tourists and new transplants, we're insanely ambitious, and we walk too quickly. While there is some truth to all of these statements (especially the last one), the city—as well as its inhabitants—is considerably more nuanced than any images you've seen in pop culture suggest.
New York is home to many people who were born outside of the United States—nearly half, in fact. It's a melting pot in every sense of the word, as clichéd as that phrase may be. And that impoliteness? It's a mix of aggressiveness and brusqueness. Here, things move fast—not like Los Angeles, which is a languid city (yes, that also applies to walking).
But you could also find yourself sobbing on the street one day—hey, it happens—and someone will offer you a tissue. Or maybe you're trying to carry a stroller up subway steps and someone offers to assist. Every day, New Yorkers show kindness for each other in little ways; live in this city long enough and you'll develop both the tough exterior and squishy marshmallow center that are distinct to New Yorkers.
2. The neighborhood you choose to live in will determine how much you like living here.
New York isn't really huge—it's believed to cover around 300 square miles—but it has hundreds of communities scattered across five distinct boroughs. And, in the end, returning to your apartment in a neighborhood that genuinely feels like home will make a significant difference in your quality of life. Don't choose a location based on preconceived notions of where you think you should live; instead, spend some time getting to know the boroughs and communities, determining your priorities, and the ideal spot will surely find you.
3. It's crucial to be aware of the history of where you live.
If you want to become a true New Yorker, it's important to not only be aware of the changes that are constantly happening in every neighborhood, but also to understand and respect the history of each area.
If you end up moving to a gentrifying community, your rental costs will most likely rise. Many of New York's historically low-income neighborhoods have seen significant changes in a short time period, with the long-term residents often suffering as a result. (For example, rents are outpacing the neighborhood median income and affordable businesses are closing; see: businesses attempting to capitalize on an area's previously negative reputation.) It's easy to seek out your own economic benefit once you've moved in, but learning about the region you're living in, treating the people who have lived there for years with respect, and committing to being a good neighbor can go a long way toward making your new home feel like home.
4. Walking is not only beneficial for joint health but also helps you lose weight and improves your overall circulation. Your walking speed will increase, even if it feels uncomfortable at first.
If you're moving to New York City, make sure to invest in a few pairs of good walking shoes. Unless you have the luxury of living closeby a subway stop on both ends of your commute, you'll be using them quite often. For most New Yorkers, walking a mile or more is just part of our daily routine. (In case you were wondering, one mile is equal to approximately 20 north-south city blocks.)
5. The city never sleeps.
New York is truly deserving of its reputation as the "city that never sleeps." Bars are allowed to open at 7 a.m. and close at 4 a.m., which means there are lots of options available to you if you need them. You'll always be able to locate a bodega or drugstore that's still open into the early hours in case you need toilet paper or Gatorade at 2 a.m., and you'll discover plenty of unnecessary services—gyms, restaurants, spas, and more—that are accessible 24 hours each day, seven days a week.
6. You'll have to get used to the smell of garbage.
Did you know that the highest natural peak on the eastern seaboard (anyway) is in Staten Island? Or that a section of ancient-growth forest, with trees that are hundreds of years old, may be found in the Bronx? Or that ziplining and bouldering are available in Queens?
The goal is to provide visitors with a taste of New York City gems rather than just the most popular attractions and communities that are being marketed as the future hotspots. Spend some time in locations like Staten Island's Little Sri Lanka, located around Tompkinsville and Stapleton; or Queens' Forest Hills, which was an early planned community with beautiful Tudor homes, and you'll have a tough time believing you're in New York City at all.
One of the best things about residing in New York is that it never fails to challenge your preconceived notions of what the city is. You only need be willing to explore every nook and cranny.
7. You will frequently experience FOMO.
New York has a long history of being recognized as a cultural center, and it is still known for this reputation. The possibilities are endless, and they're incredibly diverse: you can go to see a Broadway production or one of NYC's many alternative theater companies on the Lower East Side. Musicians perform at stadiums (Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center), historical sites (Apollo Theater, Village Vanguard), and DIY spaces all over the city every day. From the enormous (the Met! MoMA!) to the tiny and unheralded (have you been to Harlem's trash museum?), there are hundreds of museums all over the world. Carnegie Hall is one of New York City's most famous landmarks, as is Snug Harbor Cultural Center. El Museo del Barrio, a prominent Latino institution in New York City, was founded by Rubén Torres in 1970. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts attracts some seriously big names like Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Barbra Streisand. The Empire State Building? For Pete's sake!
New York is a great place for those who love to experience new things and have cool adventures. However, with so much going on, it can be easy to feel like you're missing out. The best way to handle this feeling is by reminding yourself that there's always time to check everything off your list. Once you're in the city, take some time to fully enjoy all that it has to offer.
8. While NYC's economy is stronger than most, it doesn't benefit everyone equally.
In many ways, New York City has recovered from its post-9/11 and post-Great Recession economic instability: The jobless rate in the city is around 4 percent, personal income is increasing, and our GDP is the greatest in the country. However, New York state also has the highest income inequality in the United States, with the gap between rich and poor people in New York City continuing to widen.
9. It's difficult to live in New York City. Living expenses are exorbitant.
New York is consistently near the top of the list for the most costly cities in the United States (typically behind San Francisco), and a recent poll revealed that living here is 22 percent more expensive than average. In order to live economically—that is, not spending more than 50% of your income on necessities like housing and food—you'll need to make nearly $87,000 each year according to a 2017 survey of urban living expenses.
Of course, there are always affordable areas and neighborhoods with monthly rents that won't decimate your bank account (like the Bronx, for example). But unless you have a lot of money, you'll end up spending a good portion of it on necessary things like rent, food, and transportation-- so be sure to manage your expectations accordingly. Otherwise, you'll have to sacrifice some luxuries.
10. The majority of New Yorkers cannot afford to purchase a home.
According to Zillow, the median price for a house in New York City is $674,000—a far higher sum than the $200,000 necessary to buy a home anywhere else in the United States. And that's just the median price: In Manhattan, the average price for a home is $1.6 million. It's no wonder, then, that only 37 percent of city residents own their homes, while the rest of us are relegated to renting (and praying our leases don't get too expensively renewed).
11. You will never have enough time to do everything you want in New York City.
There's always something new to do in New York City, which can be both exhilarating and exhausting. It can feel like you're constantly missing out on something—whether it's a new restaurant that everyone's talking about, the latest Broadway show, or an exhibit at one of the many museums. The best way to deal with this is by learning to accept that you won't be able to do everything, and that's okay. Just focus on enjoying the things that you are able to do.
12. Beauty is everywhere, but it is less conventional.
Although New York City doesn't have the mountains and beaches of Los Angeles or San Francisco's view of the bay area, it has its own unique beauty. For example, Grand Central Terminal has a ceiling smudge that is a fascinating little reminder of how much grit was once above you. Another great sight are Bedford-Stuyvesant's brownstones with their iconic stoops during golden hour. And if you're feeling adventurous, take a ride on NYC Ferry to see Midtown's skyscrapers from the East River! Coney Island at night, the skyline when you fly back into town, kids playing in fountains during summertime - all of this and more will amaze you on a daily basis.
13. Although we have many public transit options, getting from place to place can still be difficult.
There's no need to own a car if you live in New York City. For most of us, it wouldn't be worth the extra effort; not when we have access to so many other types of transportation. In addition to the subway system—the largest and only 24-hour transit system in America—New Yorkers can rely on buses that go to every borough, a thriving bike-share program, multiple ferry services, commuter rail lines, yellow taxis, and ride-hailing services.
There is no doubt that New York City has its fair share of criminal elements, which has made it a magnet for crime. But even though the city may be perceived to be dangerous, there are areas where you can feel perfectly safe. There are entire swaths of the city that are subway deserts; however, bus service is often slow and unreliable, and congestion is an ongoing problem. Subway stations have a significant accessibility barrier. While cycling as a whole has improved in many aspects, in certain ways, the city is still failing cyclists. (We didn't mislead you when we said it was a city of extremes.)
14. The subway is a double-edged sword.
New York's subway crisis is, as you might know, due to many years of neglect. Outdated technology and an ineffective governing body have made taking the train less than enjoyable in recent years. You can often find yourself packed into a too-crowded car underground or waiting on a sweaty, hot platform for a train that never arrives during summer months.
The subway is one of the most essential parts of New York City, running 24 hours a day (reliably or not). For a low price, you can get to any corner of the city. If you want to explore and people-watch, taking the subway is one of the best ways to do both those things.
15. It's not a peaceful city, but there are pockets of calm.
Yes, New York is loud, fast-paced, and crowded, but you can find peaceful spots if you look for them; they just might not be the ones you anticipate. Some of the finest quiet places are found inside the city's busiest areas—for example, Greenacre Park or the Ford Foundation's atrium.
16. It's a great place to raise kids!
Unless you're independently wealthy, finding affordable housing and a great school will be tough (sign up for every affordable housing lottery and bookmark the independent public school review website InsideSchools.org). But who needs a backyard when NYC has massive, landscaped parks in every borough (14 percent of the city is green space)? We don't just offer a first-rate education; we also provide an excellent cultural experience for children. In addition, our world-class museums (some with suggested admission fees for locals), diverse theater scene (including cutting-edge shows for young audiences), and numerous free public libraries (three separate systems with 143 branches combined) are all important elements of a New York City kid's education.
A great thing about living in New York City is that kids become independent at a younger age than those who live in more spread out areas. Thanks to our expansive and often confusing public transportation system, children can get around the city on their own starting in middle school. This allows them the freedom to go to the beach or sledding hills during summer and winter break, and commute to school without a parent or guardian. (Once you get over your initial fear, it’s actually quite liberating.)
17. You never know what might happen, so it's important to be prepared for anything.
While commuting, your cell phone might die and you'll be stuck in a subway car for an hour. (Remember to charge it before your next commute!) A pigeon might poop on your head while walking down Fifth Avenue. (Carry tissues or hand sanitizer with you from now on.) Your upstairs neighbors might have a 2-year-old who constantly flushes toys down their toilet, causing damage to your ceiling. (Be sure to have your super's number saved and extra towels just in case.) Youmight, horror of horrors, get bedbugs.
Let's be honest: New York City is tough. You'll have to confront homelessness, exploitative landlords, and street harassment on a regular basis. However, you'll learn how to handle the difficult moments—and there will definitely be some of those—which will only make the good moments that much sweeter.
18. It might take some time to fall in love with New York.
It's similar to having a relationship with someone else: It's exciting at first, but the glow may soon fade. Keeping the flame burning will require some time and effort. You might not even fall in love with New York City right away—and that's fine. But there'll come a time when you realize you call it home. The thrill of seeing the city for the first time is unique to each person; it may occur while standing next to the Empire State Building or taking the 7 train from Queens into Manhattan and spotting the skyline in the distance. You might be sitting downtown on a park bench eating lunch during your lunch break at work. But eventually, you'll realize: This is just how New York should be experienced.
19. And once you do, you will feel as if you can make anything happen here.
New York has long been known as the destination of choice for those young, scrappy, and hungry (as a famous musical by a bonafide New Yorker put it). While it's gotten harder to make a living in the city if you're not already established - see what we said about the cost of living and competition in many fields - there's something about New York that draws people in every year.
There's a famous Dorothy Parker quote that says, "London is content, Paris is resigned, but New York is never disappointed. It thinks that something great is about to happen and must race to meet it." It's because of this attitude—one of optimism and ambition; the notion that anything is possible—that this city is worth dealing with, even with its flaws and oddities.