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10 New Yorkers Give Advice to New York Transplants

Don’t sleep on the city that never does.

06.30.16

Looking for more advice? These women can help you get your shit together and this guy will help you get your love life in order.

“Moving to New York.”

The words somehow look right sitting next to each other, don’t they? They roll off the tongue and, together, feel almost as iconic as the latter two words on their own. Okay, barely. But there are a lot of us doing it! And we’ve been spending a lot of our time navigating subway stations very poorly. So I asked 10 people who in some way embody New York — you know, New Yorkers — to impart their wisdom.

They say you have to live in New York for 10 years before you can really call yourself a New Yorker. That puts our cutoff at 2006, which means these people danced to “Money Maker” by Ludacris in a New York club and saw ads on the subway for the Microsoft Zune. And they all made the move themselves and remember what it’s like to be new in New York, to wander these streets with eyes as wide and dazzled as they are confused. And so we asked them: what advice do you have for those of us in the thick of it?

The result is above, and there’s more New York romance nestled into this slideshow than a Woody Allen movie. Whether you’re old here, new here or want to be here, I have a feeling you’re going to like this one.

Illustrations by Laura Supnik, follow her on Instagram @laurasupnik.

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  • Cay

    If a subway pulls into the station and one car is completely empty, do not go in. Just. Do not. It is empty for a reason.

    Also, New Yorkers are actually some of the nicest people, we just have a bad rep because you have to be a little protective of yourself to live here. So don’t be intimidated.

    • Leandra Medine

      Can you elaborate on this advice!? those are my favorite cars and they’re usually at the front of the train because people are too lazy to walk all the way to the end of the platofmr, which IIII am not!

      • Because they REAK! I’ve seen the same stinky man sleep on the train a few times.

      • I’m with Cay! I’ve noticed most of the empty ones lately all have a broken A/C, and then you’re stuck hopping cars or sweating until your stop.

      • Cay

        Oh, no, you have it right with staying towards the front/back of the train to get the least crowded cars.

        But if it’s a rush hour train and one car is COMPLETELY EMPTY while the others are packed, it’s definitely because someone threw up in it/smells bad/various other terrible things.

      • Nichole

        those cars are usually the ones that 1. have an air conditioning problem and its 500 degrees inside, 2. have a malodorous homeless person in there, or 3. have something really foul or disgusting going on. usually when i’ve went into the empty car, it was because the AC was broken which i prefer, but I have been in a few with a funky smelling person who clears out the car…

    • Jolie

      Accurate. I always give this advice but sometimes get cocky and go into that empty car anyway. Almost 90% of the times I’ve done that, HUMAN SHIT has been the reason for its emptiness. I mean actual poop.

  • This was great! As an aspiring writer in the fashion world, I feel like I HAVE to move to NY, but I’ve been scared. Growing up in the Poconos in PA, NY seemed too close at times and too far away others.

    Dark alleys and catcalling can be a big deterrent. Is it really like that?

    • I lived in the Poconos for four years (Cresco, I attended Pocono Mountain East) and that was enough for me to run as fast as I could to NYC. Yes, there is cat calling, but I never had a serious issue in 9 years. In my personal experience, I felt far more unsafe in the Poconos than NYC. In PA I’ve had men follow me in their cars while walking home from my activity bus stop and I knew no one would hear me scream.

      • Emma

        I agree with Adrianna–there is catcalling everywhere, unfortunately, but when I was in the city, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was in my college town. I totally understand where you’re coming from, but as long as you have some common sense street smarts (i.e. don’t walk around alone at 2 a.m. in a not so nice part of town), you’ll do great!

      • Small world! I was at Eastburg South!

        That is a really good way of looking at it. I guess I just have to pull up my big girl pants, purchase some mace and do it!

        • Ah, my mother and I used to go to East Stroudsburg to attend Polish mass at St Lukes every week.

          I moved to NYC to attend NYU, and I have no clue how I’d move here otherwise. I wish I had moved here with previous waitressing/barista experience. That is the cliche job for when you’re unemployed and pursing creative endeavors, but not super easy to acquire. I worked retail all through college and even Whole Foods turned me town three years ago.

          And there is nothing wrong with moving to NYC, concluding that it’s not for you, and leaving. NYC is great, but there are negatives.

    • Cay

      New York actually doesn’t really have alleys, dark or otherwise. It’s like the #1 thing that people who live in other cities like Chicago comment about, because we put our trash on the street side (hence the bad smells people comment on during the summer). There’s definitely catcalling sometimes, but that happens in regular towns or small cities too.

      NYC has been cleaned up a lot in the past two decades (some, myself included, would say that it has bee sanitized a little too much, at the expense of the arts and culture). As long as you have common sense, you will be fine.

    • The Fluffy Owl

      I’ve grown up here, I was cat called once while walking around the city, it’s really not that bad, no dark alleys either and don’t be afraid to ask anyone for help or directions, we’ll get you to where you need to go! Best advice is to just keep up with the pace when your walking or crossing the street, and keep your head up and not down on your phone!

    • Jolie

      There are no alleys here, actually. But catcalling and empty streets are real, unfortunately. It happens, but it’s not as scary as it used to be!

    • Alex

      I know this is a delayed response to this comment but I feel so shocked, I can’t not say something. I am an aspiring writer as well and am so timid to take the leap up in NY as my resources are limited and I am supporting a family.
      My mother grew up in the Poconos and I find that 98% of people I talk to have zero idea of what that even means. I usually just get a response of, “Oh! I’m from Pittsburgh.” or something of the sort. My mother grew up in a quaint little village in Shawnee on the Delaware. She attended Notre Dame. Beautiful community. Amazing people. River Road. There’s no place in the world like it there. I miss it dearly.

      Wishing you the best of luck in your endeavors. 🙂

  • Sarah Hassan

    All the advice from this wonderful cast of New York characters is spot-on. I recently moved from New York – home sweet home! – to Atlanta and while I do love my new life south of the Mason Dixon, there truly is no place like the city that never sleeps. I think New York is such an incredible place to live at least once because you truly figure out both sides of what you ‘don’t want’ while you are there and what will remain forever and important to you. It also pushes you like no place else. Thank goodness I’m only a 90 minute plane ride away! And thank you, MR. <3

  • Aydan

    oh gosh the advice about keeping a journal and pasting things into it is an incredible idea! I did this but separately when I moved to London. I wrote in a journal but kept a bunch of these random bits of paper from concerts, movies, theatre, etc. etc. and ended up making some beautiful collages that I framed and now have hanging up in my apartment!

  • ETA 5 weeks, thanks guys.

    But also I lol’d @ ‘be prepared for the cold,’ I’m coming partially because it is quite a bit milder and winter is shorter than gd Canada

    • Jolie

      That’s awesome that you’re moving here! Yes, the winters are definitely milder than Canada, BUT the difference here is that you really feel the winter. My bf moved here after living in a much colder (close to Canada!) climate and has said that NYC winters are the worst he’s ever experienced. It’s because here, you have to walk everywhere, whether it’s 3 blocks to the subway or a mile to a restaurant. You’re just always exposed and it sucks. Definitely take heed! Lol.

      • Also that wind chill is no joke. Sometimes you turn the corner and get BLASTED by a wall of fast moving freezing air that will promptly shrivel all your nether regions.

  • Rebecca

    I funnily disagree with the advice to always say yes to invites. The city can be super overwhelming and can really suck your energy (especially if you’re an introvert like me!). I think it’s wonderful to make plans but also to know your limits and take the time you need to sit alone in your apartment with some takeout, no FOMO needed.

  • The Fluffy Owl

    If you’re thinking of moving to NY, don’t unless you have a lucrative job. I’ve been living here my entire life, finally looking to move out of state, cost of living keeps going up and salaries stay the same. Unless of course you want to work 3 jobs to keep the tiny apartment you’re never home to use because you’re working to afford it or you’re living upstate and not in the city or Long Island. But maybe that’s just me…

  • Yana

    I recommend checking out Sari Botton’s collection of stories from writers living in (and sometimes leaving) New York: Goodbye To All That (inspired by that Joan Didion essay), and Never Can Say Goodbye.

    I’ve only visited New York a couple of times, but boy do these make one dream about moving there – not a lot of practical advice but really inspiring!

  • PCE

    I agree with 99% of the advice given (and was really bummed out by that Bill Schultz guy, what a Debbie downer!)… Except the advice about not getting a dog. OF
    COURSE, make sure you can afford a dog (affording a dog is NOT just food and toys, it’s vet costs too!). But to wait for an apartment with outdoor space is a ridiculous notion because most of us can’t afford that and frankly, it’s not necessary with all the beautiful parks and neighborhoods in this city! Stupid advice like this just scares off people who would otherwise be gung-ho about adopting a dog who desperately needs a home. I adopted my Alfie three years ago and it’s the best decision I made since moving here, and no, I don’t have an “outdoor space” with my apt. I take him to the park down the street and the dog runs in my neighborhood and elsewhere, and he’s a perfectly happy and healthy little guy (who would otherwise be in a shelter or – heaven forbid – euthanized by now if I took this person’s advice).

    AND also, if you can’t afford a car, it doesn’t mean you can’t afford a dog. Maybe you can’t afford a purebred showdog champion, but you can rescue a dog for a few hundred dollars donated to a shelter. What a snob!

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Hi PCE! I totally hear you and just wanted to clarify a couple things! I didn’t mean you shouldn’t get a dog until you *had* those things, just that you could theoretically afford them. Because owning a dog is an investment–vet bills, a dog walker, boarding if you travel. And it’s not about paying a breeder either. One of my dogs is a puppy mill rescue so I am vehemently pro adoption and anti breeder. But as dogs get old, their vet bills get higher, so I just think it’s important that people consider the unexpected costs. Thanks for reading and thank you for the feedback! I’d hate for my advice to be misconstrued.

      • PCE

        Thanks for clarifying! I still disagree about equating being able to afford an apartment with outdoor space to owning a dog, mostly because the cost of apartments with outdoor space in this city are outrageous and not in line with the cost of a dog, especially when things like pet insurance (which I highly recommend, esp for rescues where you have no idea what their medical background really is) can make unexpected vet bills a lot easier to handle. I definitely do agree with you that there are lots of unexpected costs that come with owning a dog that a lot of people don’t realize at first, and each person should really examine his or her budget to make sure that they can afford to handle any major doggy expense that comes along…I just think it’s a matter for each person to figure out on their own. I’ll likely not be able to afford an apartment with an outdoor space or buy a new car for another few years at least (oh hey student loan debt, nice to see you again), but those are also things I forego so I can have my dog and other things and still save a little money.

      • I second your advice. My boyfriend got his first dog when he was 20 thinking he’ll always have friends to take care of his dog when he needed – but those friends got married and moved away. He also didn’t know any better – young people wanted a puppy to baby, and he spent a lot of money in a pet store. He was too young to understand how to train his dog properly, and there are a lot of issues seven years later.

        Boarding in NYC is incredibly expensive, the hours are shorter than you think, and some places are selective. We once realized we needed a boarder last minute, but they wouldn’t take new dogs without a supervised trial. Most people don’t realize just how much you need to walk a dog (even on a Friday night. Every Friday night.) This gets complicated when you work in Manhattan but live in Brooklyn.

        More importantly, we don’t anticipate how many hours we’ll have to work at some point in our careers. My boyfriend worked up to 7 days a week for start ups for two years. His solution was to bring his dog with him to work. His dog developed serious behavioral and abandonment issues when he got a new job. Now my boyfriend has to spend a lot of money on boarding because his dog can’t handle being alone during the work day.

        In other words, don’t get a dog before age 25 or even older. You might think you know what you’re doing, but you don’t.

  • Jolie

    I really loved this article and the advice given. I laughed so hard @ sleeping in for 20 extra minutes because you’ll get to work at the same time anyway — so true. Also, like a few people stressed, be nice to everyone because you really never know who they might be.

    Although all these contributors are undoubtedly New Yorkers, I would’ve liked if you guys had included advice from some native New Yorkers (like Leandra!) as well, because I think their perspective is worth reading.

    • Leandra Medine

      I feel like…my advice might not be constructive or relatable by simple virtue of the fact that I have nothing to compare it to. I can give advice on living here, but wouldn’t be able to expound upon how it’s different from another place and I don’t actually believe that my emotional relationship with that element of Sinatrian “if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere” is as profound as a transplant’s. That said, I’m happy to divulge anything if you have any questions

  • Perfect insight for those of us who dream of living in New York one day!

  • Zoe Penina Baker

    You’ve got no lifelong New Yorkers here! Leandra- you were born n raised here, no? Very surprised and honestly disappointed by the lack of diversity and really real New Yorker’s opinions in this piece.

    • Leandra Medine

      We explicitly only got advice from New Yorkers who are not from here, but have been here at least ten years! That’s the most authentic wisdom to give to someone who, in a similar position, is coming from someone else, but plans to become one of THEM (us?)

  • kellymcd

    “Talk to strangers. The person standing next to you might be a world famous artist, an eighties rock goddess or your next boss. (All three have happened to me.)”

    I NEED MORE DEETS ON THIS KEVIN

  • 6 year New Yorker here, about to move to London in two months time! Any chance we could get a similar guide set up for UK? I plan on blogging (more for myself, really) my experience as a transplant, but would love to get the dish as all of the advice above had me nodding in agreement (still wish I had gotten a dog – I know all the names of the pups in my building, their owners not so much as my brain gets sensory overload around doggies). This city certainly makes you more gritty – encounters with perverts, rude drunk people, bad neighbors – but overall the positives outweigh the negatives. also, don’t live in budget denial. that credit card debt WILL catch up with you if you’re not careful!

  • MW

    Gabby’s was the most useless (how long have you even lived here, seriously…?); Bill’s was the most pointlessly negative (hey, here’s an idea — leave and make room for someone who belongs here!); and Cannon’s was the best and most true.

  • Jill

    Loved this. Will likely never live in NY for various reasons but ahhh, NYC, what a dream!

    — Destined for DC

  • Kathleen

    I can relate to the tip on being prepared for winter in the city. In my case, I recommend you buy the bulky puffer coat that covers your butt. Not only will it keep you warm, but you’ll bounce down the subway steps after slipping on slush instead of actually hurting yourself. True story.

  • Svenja

    ‘Venturing forth without your phone is the closest you will come to time travel.’

    -Fantastic concept, will try!

  • Marty Funkhouser

    Move to LA.

  • lola-pacifica

    Could you do one of these for SF? So many new folks moving/living here and not fully prepped for what to expect. It is so much tougher in some ways than people think.