There is nothing quite like living in the Big Apple, but if you’re a new transplant to the city, it can be a little overwhelming.
It’s been four months since I uprooted myself from Washington, DC, on a quest to see if I had what it takes to make it in Gotham. Though it took some time, I have grown acclimated to my new surroundings. However, the transition would have been markedly easier had I known a few things about life in Manhattan prior to setting up camp.
Whether you are considering moving to NYC for work or a pursuit of an incredible, new adventure, here are 15 pieces of advice that will prepare you for life in “The City That Never Sleeps”:
1. Learn to Love the Sound of Honking Horns
Silence is perhaps the most elusive commodity in New York. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the city belts out a relentless chorus of blaring car horns, unruly pedestrians shouting at the top of their lungs, and the echo of jackhammers breaking through pavement.
While you’ll miss the sound of chirping birds and crickets singing in the evening, you’ll eventually grow to appreciate the city’s unique ambience. However, if you do find yourself suffering from sensory overload and on the verge of going mad, invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.
That, or adopt George Costanza’s mantra and scream “serenity now!” whenever it becomes a bit overwhelming.
2. There’s No Such Thing as Living on a Budget
If you plan to set aside a portion of your paycheck for savings or paying back school loans, you can toss that idea out the window. Unless you plan to starve yourself and spend each night locked away in your apartment, saving money while living in Manhattan isn’t usually a viable option.
Each time you leave the grocery store and realize that you’ve spent $80 on five items thanks to an egregiously high sales tax (8.88 percent) or find yourself stuck with a $15 tab for one Miller Lite at some dive bar, expect to shed a tiny tear for your bank account as it slowly withers away.
But there are worse things than going broke while living in the city. Trust me, the cost of the experience is well worth it. In the end, take solace in the knowledge that you can replenish those savings when you eventually move to the suburbs. Just enjoy yourself while you’re here. As Lil Wayne puts it, “money coming, money going, ain’t like you can take it with you.”
3. A Trip on the Subway is Better than Any Show on Broadway
Who doesn’t enjoy a rousing game of people watching? While the city is rife with oddballs and nonconformists, New York’s most fascinating creatures converge en masse in the subway system.
It’s not unusual to find yourself captivated by a shockingly off-key rendition of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” belted out by a 60-year-old man dressed in drag during your morning commute to work on the 6 train.
Whether it’s delicately sidestepping a man freely urinating on a crowded subway platform or chatting with a Buddhist monk about the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama in Grand Central Station, each time you descend into the MTA tunnels, you’ll be treated to some of NYC’s most unique offerings.
4. No Need to Join a Gym. You’ll Burn Plenty of Calories Walking.
Distance in the city is measured by blocks, not miles. And you’ll discover that trekking across dozens of them each day.
Invest in a solid pair of shoes with thick soles. And then another pair, because you’ll wear through the bottoms of the first in a matter of weeks.
On the bright side, you’ll never again have to feel guilty about scarfing down a plate of cheesy nachos at 3:00 am. You’ll easily burn off those 1,500 calories on the walk home.
5. Seamless Is Your Best Friend/Worst Enemy
For those who haven’t heard of Seamless, it’s a wonderful/horrible app that allows you to order food from basically every restaurant in the city.
It’s wonderful in the sense that in a matter of minutes, you can have a succulent filet mignon delivered to your doorstep, prepared for you to enjoy in the comfort of your bed. It’s horrible in the sense that in a matter of minutes, you can have a succulent filet mignon delivered to your doorstep, prepared for you to enjoy in the comfort of your bed.
Though convenient, Seamless can put you on the fast-track to insolvency. Don’t fall into the routine of ordering in every night. Commit to cooking once in a while. Your wallet will appreciate it.
6. It’s Pronounced House-Ton, Not Houston
The quickest way to be labeled an outsider is to mispronounce Houston Street. Don’t fall into the trap of pronouncing it like the city in Texas.
While it might seem trivial, Houston Street is a crucial point of reference when traveling through the city. You have likely heard references to SoHo, which refers to the area south of Houston Street, while NoHo encompasses the area just north of the road.
7. Avoid Times Square at All Costs
Times Square is meant exclusively for tourists, and therefore, it should be avoided whenever possible.
Yes, the bright lights and street performances might seem appealing, but don’t be fooled. After you’ve been accosted by a Vietnamese man dressed as Elmo who refuses to release you from his death grip hug until you hand over a $20 bill, you’ll take steps to avoid the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue.
8. Get out of the City Once in a While
While city living is endlessly exciting, it can be exhausting. For the sake of maintaining your sanity, escape to Long Island or Upstate New York periodically for some revitalizing R&R. Your frenetic life will be waiting for you when you get back, but take advantage of the opportunity to refresh.
9. There’s No Such Thing As Personal Space
When walking down the street, expect at least seven people to crash into you. This should not be viewed as a hostile or aggressive act. Rather, trick yourself into believing that it’s a friendly gesture and go about the rest of your day.
Whether you’re pressed nose-deep in the armpit of a fellow subway rider who’s never heard of deodorant or swapping sweat with a hoard of portly individuals surrounding you in a packed club, you’ll discover that no one in Manhattan pays any mind to the idea of personal space.
10. The Pizza Lives Up to The Hype
You’ll forever remember the first time that you dab off the grease on a massive slice of NY pizza and sink your teeth into its heavenly goodness. While pizza shops throughout the country will tout their New York style pies, nothing quite lives up to the real deal. And with many locations charging $1 a slice, it’s the best and most satisfying bargain you’ll find in the city.
11. You Don’t Have to Root for the Yankees or Knicks
But you do have to root for the Brooklyn Nets. Only kidding.
Seriously though, just because you’re moving to New York doesn’t mean that you have to root for the local franchises and relinquish all allegiances to your hometown teams. You can quickly find a bar that serves as the unofficial meeting spot for natives of Alabama, Wisconsin or wherever that will broadcast live coverage of your favorite team’s games.
12. A Bedroom Where You Can’t Touch Both Walls at the Same Time is Considered Spacious
Forget finding an apartment with ample square footage. Consider yourself lucky and living in the lap of luxury if you’re able to stretch out your arms to either side without slamming your knuckles into the wall.
Just be grateful that you’re able to stand fully upright in your bedroom. Asking for anything more is asking too much.
13. If Someone Offers you a Seat on the Subway, You’re Dating
It occurs about as frequently as a solar eclipse. However, if you are a woman who finds herself in the rare position of being offered a seat on the subway, understand that it is not likely an act of chivalry.
Rather, you might be expected to return the favor with your cell phone number. Be prepared to ward off this advance, or accept it, depending on your prerogative.
14. Embrace the Local Wildlife
Find yourself a pet pigeon, rat or cockroach. There are plenty to go around.
Waking up face-to-face with a 5-inch roach that climbed your cozy bed during the night might be jarring, but you’ll be better off if you consider it a friendly visitor rather than a pest. Unfortunately, there aren’t many opportunities to connect with nature in the city, so learn to love even the most unsightly and shiver-inducing creatures in Manhattan’s animal kingdom.
15. Choose Your Neighborhood Wisely
Each neighborhood in Manhattan is distinctly different, each with its own unique subculture. This is something to keep in mind when you’re considering where you would like to live. And because commuting across the city is difficult, everyone pretty much orients their social lives to one side or another.
Families and individuals seeking a quieter environment generally gravitate towards the Upper West Side, while for the most part, young people flock towards East Village, Murray Hill, Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and Greenwich Village.
Whatever you choose, expect to be categorized by others as an East Sider or a West Sider. It will inevitably come to define your very existence.