20 Things You Should Know Before You Move To New York City


As a long-standing transplant New Yorker there are numerous things I wish I had known before moving to this endlessly fascinating, yet often frustrating, city. In celebration of the hordes of you likely planning to move here upon graduating from college/getting sick of LA/moving to start a new job/moving on from that ex that just kicked you out, here are the top 20 practical advice items that everyone coming to NYC should know about what before they get here (life hacks people, pay attention!)

1. Headphones. Bring them everywhere. 

No, seriously, there will be times you need to evade people or pretend you’re not paying attention. Also those subways get loud underground–Union Square I’m looking at you!!

2. You will go through several incarnations of friends.

It can be sad at times, but you gotta just keep with it and understand that awesome people are moving away but also moving into your circle as well.

3. People will be rude to you, sometimes in close quarters. For no reason. 

Guess what? It’s a big city. With many different kinds of people. Some are rude as hell. However, you also get people who a)will help you retrieve an erstwhile hat on a windy day b)tell you when things fall from your bag c)kvetch with you about late trains… Basically, take the good with the bad.

4. The ratio of probability of taking cabs is directly related to your age and/or financial circumstances. 

It becomes completely acceptable to take cabs short distances as you age and move on up like the Jefferson’s. Don’t distance guilt yourself. Even if it’s, like, 4 blocks and totally sunny out. You’ve earned it.

5. Don’t block entrances or exits.

Period. For anything. Just Don’t.

6. Learn how to complain in an entertaining way.  

You’ll be complaining A LOT in this City. It’s basically an art form for New Yorkers, and you will be judged on how well you complain in social situations. So get on it.

7. Learn your subways. 

Your knowledge of this basic canon of urban life will be judged. Mercilessly.

8. Find a good website with local news. 

Kind of doesn’t need stating, right? But do it anyway… gothamist, bushwick daily, even time out ny.. know what’s happening in your city/boro/’hood. Being updated on local events is crucial for small talk and in a City this size, you truly never know what is going to happen or what happened 5 seconds ago (Jay-Z’s filming right now on a rooftop in Williamsburg????)

9. Have friends who live all over the city.

Don’t just get stuck in your neighborhood or you’re going to wind up as that guy who after living here beaucoup years just winds up telling friends back home about all the spanish bodegas on every block where you lived in NYC. Which is fine, you know, until you meet someone else who lives/has lived in NYC and can actually talk about it. Then you’re screwed. Make friends in other neighborhoods and -actually- go visit them (I’m looking at you, Brooklyn and Manhattan residents!!)

10. Walk through parks. 

Underestimate not the power of a walk in the park. On a nice Saturday. After brunch. With your dog. Contemplating Grey’s Papaya…wait, didn’t you just eat??

11. Make friends who work in different fields than you.

The City can become a networking trap. Don’t fall for it–meet people and establish contacts in other fields. It’s fun. You’ll do things you wouldn’t if you had only stuck with other brokers/project managers/copywriters/designers. This should be a general life principle and opens you up to the world beyond your day-to-day (and sometimes juicy gossip as well! This is the City.)

12. Always have some cash.

Because the MTA is the MTA. And there’s always that one machine that only takes cash for metro cards. And it’s always open.

13. Invest in chic, well soled shoes.

Arguably this is the only investment that should be required by NYC law. I’d trade this for ‘no dancing in bars’ any day.

14. Never judge someone by their looks or habits just because it reminds you of “someone back home.” 

Tbh, this is kind of a general ‘don’t be an asshole’ rule. But I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you’re not an asshole. So be careful on judging new people based on old ideas from your small-town, backwoods home. (Trust me–I almost missed out on a great friendship based on this simple misunderstanding my first week here.)

15. Keep one fierce outfit in your closet, clean and ready to go, at all times. 

For that surprise last minute party you totally forgot about. Or a last minute meetup with a new romance (or former flame!)

16. Keep as many everyday items you carry as multipurpose as possible. 

Like a swiss army lifestyle, your life in the City will demand flexibility and adaptability available in as small a package as possible. In general: get one of those cellphone/metrocard holders–it’s a lifesaver when the train is about to take off without you. For my ladies: instead of carrying a compact separate from eye makeup in a makeup bag, just get a mirror/makeup/brush kit all in one. There is no time for fumbling in the City.

17. Leave the city once a month. 

Get out. Ya gotta get out! Gotta get outta there (to paraphrase Carrie Brownstein in Portlandia) Seriously though, if you can get out of the City for a whole day once a month, you will come back with a new perspective on that crazy fresh stale air and charmingly grimy subway platforms. And the fact that you can walk 2 blocks and eat in 5 different countries.

18. Make time for yourself. 

This is the hidden gem. I almost didn’t want to give this advice away–it’s potent so share it sparingly. You will have a million commitments in a city of millions of people. If you don’t edit your schedule for your own sanity, it is a slippery, slippery slope to mind-numbing chaos.

19. Don’t hate on the outer boroughs. 

Or Long Island. Or Jersey. Or Connecticut. Even if your native New Yorker friends do. Staten Island can be a ton of fun (it even has a hidden Himalayan museum! Does your hometown have that?) and not all Jersey girls have a hair pouf. Oh, and Natalie Portman lived both in CT and out on Long Island. So shut up before you start.

…one caveat: Everyone can hate on Philly. It’s far enough away. Even if their cheesesteaks are The Manna from Heaven.


20. Don’t condescend to newbs once you’ve lived here a while. 

It will be tempting. There will be eye rolls. Unspoken passive-aggressive body language. Sighs of impatience.

You were once there too. Take it as a ‘young padawan’ situation. Moving here’s not easy, so play nice. Everyone had to start somewhere.

image – Goran Bogicevic / Shutterstock.com