How to Feel Like You Belong in New York

I’m a nester by nature. I just want to belong. An apartment’s not home until all the boxes are unpacked; a new block’s not mine until I have a local coffee shop; a party’s not fun unless I have someone to peruse it with (I’m also a clinger). Nothing fills me with more peace than arriving somewhere and being told to “settle in and call me in an hour.” I love settling in!!!

In New York, though, my eagerness to feel like I belong has required more patience. New cities aren’t hotel rooms; you have to do more than unpack your bags to get the lay of the land. Sprawling metropolitans especially make you work for it. But “to belong” is kind of an abstract concept anyway, isn’t it? It can be hard to pin down what precipitates it or recreate it on a timeline.

I’m two years into my stay in New York, and the city feels both like home and like a strange land. Traversing this in-between has meant getting comfortable with feeling different ways about it on a near-daily basis. More importantly, it’s meant learning to give myself time — to build a network, to know my spots, to point north. Below are 18 New Yorkers who’ve already done this whole dance. I asked them to recall when they felt like they “belonged.” Was it a moment? An era? A nebulous shift in attitude?

“It was the first time I invested in a real piece of furniture. Three years ago I had a dining table custom-made upstate, and I felt like I was an adult.”

Natalie, 36, 15 years in New York

“When I saw my old favorite restaurants close, and then their replacements close, too. Also, when I finally moved to Brooklyn six years ago and realized I should have done it years earlier.”

Rebecca, 36, 14 years in New York

“I grew up 60 minutes north of New York City and, as a teen, I was there once a week. When I was 21, I was living in Hell’s Kitchen and walking across town to Hunter College. It was one of those perfectly beautiful spring days and I was just bopping along, feeling good. Several people stopped to ask me for directions, and I knew exactly how to get them where they wanted to go. I felt like I must have looked like New Yorker, and floated all the way to 68th Street.”

Sheila, 59, 10 years in New York

“There are days when I feel like this city was molded around me – like the streets were paved around the crevices of my body, the buildings extensions of my limbs, the soul of New York an extension of my own. But there are other days where no matter where I am – be it on the block I’ve lived for 18 years or a new, undiscovered corner – I feel I don’t belong. I feel small, insignificant, lost. I feel alone – the strangers on the street don’t see me, the buildings swallow me, the sounds drown out my voice. I feel like an outsider in my own home.

But then I find comfort in my small community, my hometown: the cluster of blocks nestled in the heart of Manhattan. Because New York is really just a bunch of small towns coming together, you just need to find your own. You find your pizza joint where the guys greet you by name, your coffee shop where they know your order. You see the same people on the streets when you walk your dog, you begin to wave. You become familiar with the smells and sounds — the wafts of the halal cart on your corner, the subway whoosh escaping from the grate, your neighbor’s dog that scratches on the hardwood floor above you. You have your space, your community, within a city of millions. And that’s when New York becomes truly magical.”

Sydney, 22, born and raised in New York

“It took that first day. I got my keys out and looked down at this heavy silver thing that said my home was nowhere else but here. I walked past tourists with my key in hand and smugly told them in my head, ‘I get to stay!’ Sure, other shifts came along the way (not being surprised at anything I saw in the subway, being at the ready to tell someone off if confronted, increased sophistication in diet), but that exhilaration of not going home to anywhere but here was instant. I once heard somewhere say that the quintessential New Yorker isn’t from New York. This place is unique — not being from here can actually make you feel ‘belonging’ even harder and faster.”

Nichole, 45, 10 years in New York

“I felt like I belonged immediately, and still it’s never felt permanent.”

Amanda, 30, 9 years in New York

“Born and raised in Manhattan, now living in Brooklyn. I feel most strongly that I am a ‘true’ New Yorker when I travel — my sense of belonging feels most powerful when I leave my city. It pulls me back. I love the deeply unique pace, spirit and energy of New York. I feel out of sync anywhere else. It’s a special kind of homesickness.”

Megan, 23, born and raised in New York

“It definitely took me two years. The first year was about getting my bearings, figuring out the city and trying to find a job. But by my second year I had managed to make real friends, had a job and had moved to my own studio apartment. The shift really came with developing a network here. It’s so hard when you move to the city with almost no contacts. I built that network through work relationships, first in the restaurant industry, then in publishing.”

Leslie, 36, 10+ years in New York

“I moved to NYC after graduate school for theatre and felt at home right away. I lived in the West Village, but all my friends lived on the Upper West Side and couldn’t understand what I was doing all the way downtown. I didn’t know either, but I knew I liked it there. I played the piano and earned my living as a vocal coach and played auditions for Broadway shows. It was a real education in musical theatre and how Broadway works. I musical directed a couple of shows, and I remember feeling upset when I didn’t get a show that I really wanted (I had foolishly told all my friends and  family it was a sure bet!). A good dancer friend cheered me up by telling me, ‘Hey, don’t be embarrassed. There’s four billion people on this planet who don’t give a f*ck!’ It worked.

When my daughter Amelia was born, I had been offered a full-time teaching job at a university in New Jersey, and her mom — a native New Yorker who had been more than patient being married to a freelance musician like me — said, ‘Maybe it’s time to buy a house and go get tenure.’ Prior to that, New Jersey always seemed as far away as Kansas, but her mom was right: We moved and I took to teaching right away. It’s 30 years later and I’m still enjoying it all. I guess I’m very lucky; I live close to the city and now my daughter lives in the West Village. I think she loves it even more than I did. The city does that to you: Whatever you do — music, fashion, business — you feel like you’re in the very center of the universe. And you know what? I think maybe you are.”

Eric, 65, 11 years in New York

“I felt like I belonged in New York right away. Coming from a very conservative Latin American society that I never identified with, arriving to NYC, a city where people are unapologetically themselves, made me feel like I found my place.”

Valeria, 34, 17 years in New York

“I’ve been here 7 years and sort of feel like I belong, but it took me going on a trip to Austin to discover that. It took a stranger in Austin telling me I’m ‘very Brooklyn’ to realize I actually might be the babe I still look around and think I’m not! Inclusion in this city is crazy, I am still searching for community regardless of the fact that my friends are here. But what sucks is I don’t know how to change that. I keep thinking the location is the problem, that if I lived in a bigger apartment or in a different neighborhood, then I’d feel at home. But then I wonder if home is where there’s love and sun and instead I’m living in a city where people are more self-centric and winter is six months long. Sometimes I wonder if this is just an ‘it is what it is’ situation and I should either cope or leave.”

Missy, 27, 7 years in New York

“I was born and raised in Queens. I’ve noticed that I feel a little bitterness toward those who move to New York from other states. To this day I work in gentrified areas that I never would dare be in if it wasn’t for all of the ‘others’ moving in. It truly conflicts me — on one hand, there’s so much art, culture and life that stems from this gentrification, and on the other hand, there’s a feeling of resentment. Why can’t I afford a one bedroom in Manhattan with my boyfriend? My conflict goes deep because I myself am a native New Yorker. I pride myself on being so, and I also scoff at those who are so not New Yorkers. But, am I really doing anything by caring? I have always felt that I belong, a feeling of belongingness that sort of makes me feel that I deserve it more than others.”

Priscilla, 24, born and raised in New York

“It took me three years to begin to feel that I belong here. It’s been a gradual shift and each year I feel more and more at home. It took a lot of time, effort and patience to create the life I want to live here — finding the right neighborhood, job, friends and creative identity has been a constant work in progress full of mixed emotions. I felt lost, alienated, determined, and excited to find my way here.”

Sara, 29, 7 years in New York

“I’ve lived in New York since moving here for college in 2006, and I felt like I belonged once I intuitively knew how to navigate the city without a map, four or five years in, i.e. I could hop off a delayed train and immediately run across an avenue and hop another line. I also can ‘bushwhack’ through the city and still wind up exactly where I intended to be. You belong in the city as soon as you know how to travel it purely on instinct.”

Liz, 29, 12 years in New York

“I grew up in New York (Brooklyn + Staten island) and I still don’t feel like I belong. But working and living here you realize that while New York is pretty rough around the edges, people don’t suck as much as New Yorkers do in the movies. It’s a place where you can literally be whoever you want and people won’t look at you twice; probably because they don’t care.”

Angela, 26, born and raised in New York

“I felt like I belonged when tourists would stop and ask me for directions. This started happening about five years in. I carried myself with more confidence and looked older. I could easily direct people without giving it a second thought.”

Laura, 33, 11 years in New York

“The shift for me happened when I was living in the pitch dark for a week during Hurricane Sandy in the West Village. The daytime involved walking uptown to jump on the first spare outlet you could find, but at night, restaurant and venue owners in the village tried to keep spirits up. From shucking $1 oysters at Mary’s Fish Camp by candlelight (with Mary herself) to an intimate concert at Smalls Jazz Club, I felt that we collectively turned a struggle into something fun. Living in New York, you hit a lot of road bumps — what makes you a New Yorker is your ability to translate the rough patches into unique, memorable experiences.”

Lev, 29, 7 years in New York

“Not sure if it counts that I was born here but I definitely started to feel more like a real New Yorker when I was finally allowed to walk places by myself. I felt that I reached ‘fully-formed New Yorker’ when I figured out how to navigate the subway system on my own. I guess it was in these moments that I started to feel like I wasn’t just a child of New Yorkers, but was one myself.”

Gillian, 20, born and raised in New York

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  • patyof

    SHEILA!!!!!! Me too girl. I lived in Harlem instead of Hell’s Kitchen when I went to Hunter but sometimes if the day was too too nice, I’d take the C down and walk across the park. Or if the evening was nice I’d take the 6 up and walk across 125th street to get home. Nobody was asking for directions on 125th but every once in a while some tourists in the park would need help and it felt very very “real New Yorker” to direct them. (Although my sister always had way better park direction sense than me, I’m still a little jealous of her for that!) Also I just really miss being able to just walk and walk and walk, endlessly.

  • Julie

    Love the simplicity of Valeria’s response.

    I grew up in Seattle, which is a relatively chilled-out, quiet, slow city (so, kinda the opposite of NYC), but I always felt like I was itching beneath to skin for everyone to just…be a little louder, less apologetic, and just go THE F after what they want. Moving to NYC last year made me feel like I was finally matching my external context with my insides and it’s been just the best decision.

    Can definitely relate to the whole feeling-like-I-belonged-immediately thing. It’s why I moved here in the first place!

    • Aleda Johnson

      I had the same feeling! Except I grew up in rural PA about an hour from NYC. I was always thinking, “Why can’t you be a little louder? A little faster? A little less camo?” Now I live in Jersey and work in Manhattan, and I finally have people moving and thinking like me.

      • Julie

        HA “a little less camo.” In the Seattle case, it’s “a little less Patagonia fleece”.


  • Adrianna

    I moved to NYC to attend NYU in 2007, and I felt like I “belonged” the minute I figured out that I can keep track of where I am in relation to the Empire State building. I especially felt rooted here after I found my first non-dorm home, in 2009. It’s been almost 11 years, and sometimes I still don’t know how or why I ended up here.

    I also feel most like a “New Yorker” when I travel outside of NYC. It’s odd how many people feel compelled to tell me that they could never live here. (Could you imagine if I said the same thing about their home? I’d be an “elitist.”) A lot of people seem to project their insecurities onto NYC, but I guess this city can be a mirror in some respects.

    • Paige Kay

      LOL As a native NYer myself, I could not disagree with you more. There is a definitely a difference between NATIVE New Yorkers and transplants, and there is a difference between immigrants to NY and transplants. Transplants are BK hipsters and trust funders who try to “BE” New York. They gentrify neighborhoods, push out locals, destroy local flair, and generally ruin the city. Immigrants obviously immigrate here, struggle and bleed here, and that blood builds up the fabric of this filthy, beautiful city. This truly unique melting pot of cultures is what makes this city so great. That said, if some wasn’t born here and raised here….they’re not a native, and never will be, and yes we are different lol. Anyone is welcome here, quite obviously, and all are welcome to feel like they belong and make it home, but there is a special pride in being a native to this great city, to ANY great city, and no one who moves here, with all due respect to you, gets to try to diminish that or take away our pride in being a LOCAL.

      • Adrianna

        Some of my closest friends were born in NYC and grew up in neighborhoods like Bushwick, Brownsville, and Sheepshead Bay, so I’m very aware of gentrification. But it’s not productive to generalize groups of people as “BK hipsters and trust funders who try to “BE” New York.” It sounds like you haven’t actually developed many relationships with people who moved here. I hope you open up your heart to others.

      • ErikBaard

        I was born here. It seems DMC’s mom might have been my neonatal nurse. But I didn’t earn that. I see no point in being proud of being a native any more than proud of being part of a race or other unearned circumstance of birth.

      • Jolie

        Completely agree!

    • Kate

      Pretty much yes to everything, but especially your LAST paragraph. “I could never live there!” is like, all anybody who doesn’t live here says. To which I’m like, good, nobody’s asking you to….?

      • Adrianna

        “nobody’s asking you to….?” LOL yes

  • Aleda Johnson

    I have this weird struggle where because I live in Jersey (no, not in Hoboken) and work in Manhattan, I don’t belong either place. It’s tough making friends like that too, and so far I’ve been out of luck.

  • Such an interesting question, such good answers!
    I’m trying to think of what I would answer as an inhabitant of Paris. And what would my friends living in London answer?
    All these cities are rough and not always easy to settle in or navigate.
    Somehow I feel that after 20 years here, and now finally owning my place I am really a Parisian, but still, the feeling of being foreign remains sometimes.
    What is sure is that for me New-York feels like the modern twin city of Paris, they share the same witty spirit.

  • Paige Kay

    There is a definitely a difference between NATIVE New Yorkers and transplants, and there is a difference between immigrants to NY and transplants. Transplants are BK hipsters and trust funders who try to “BE” New York. They gentrify neighborhoods, push out locals, have attitude problems, destroy local flair, are seemingly ALWAYS underdressed, are SUPER entitled, and generally ruin this great city. Immigrants obviously immigrate here, struggle and bleed here, and that blood builds up the fabric of this filthy, beautiful city. This truly unique melting pot of cultures is what makes this city so great. That said, if some wasn’t born here and raised here….they’re not a native, and never will be, and yes we are different lol. There is a hierarchy lolol

    Anyone is welcome here, quite obviously, and all are welcome to feel like they belong and make it home, but there is a special pride in being a native to this great city, or to ANY great city or place, and no one who moves here gets to try to diminish that or take away a native’s pride in being a LOCAL, a true Native. We locals, we bleed blue and gray, we celebrate the Labor Day parade and jouvert, we park on alternate sides for all Jewish holidays, we grew up eating beef patties, pierogies, pizza, baconeggandceese, fried chicken, yang chow, and lo mein, and know, most of all, to NEVER, EVER block the path to the subway lolol

    • Cate

      “Transplants are BK hipsters and trust funders who try to “BE” New York.”

      There are plenty of transplants to NYC who are not immigrants who work to make this city great.

      I don’t think that the point of this article is to take away from native New Yorkers. And speaking as a native and fourth generation NYer, I have a lot of pride in my city and the fact that I came of age here, but the level of defensiveness that comes up when a non-native tries to say that they love this place and belong here has always baffled me. Part of the magic of NYC has always been that the best of the best move here to make it.

      I can guarantee you that everyone above knows not to block someone on the way to the subway, given that most have been here for many years.

    • Adrianna

      It’s “pierogi”

    • CM


    • ByeBeckz

      I think this is a really unfortunate line of thinking: “The city is great bc its a melting pot…but if you weren’t born AND raised here you’re not a native, never will be, and there’s a hierarchy”.

      I think your attitude is shared by a lot of native NYers (those I’ve met at least) and it’s one of the most stressful parts about moving to the city. I want to move there to establish a future and home, and am not digging the thought of being forever shunned because I’m not native enough. When I have kids and they’re raised in the city, will they be native? I don’t think anyone is trying to take away from your pride in moving to your hometown, they’re just trying to establish their own, new hometown. What makes NY great, to me, is the incredibly international aspect of it, and that wouldn’t be there without the non-natives who made it and continue to make it what it is.

      • Adrianna

        I’ve met people like this too, within the last couple months! All I said was ‘hi nice to meet you’ and ‘oh, I live in Brooklyn’ and suddenly I had to listen to who she thought I was (transplant who watched sex and the city? Is that even a relevant reference anymore?) and why she was demanding to know what my rent is. (‘I’m a New Yorker. I’m asking New Yorker is a questions. Do you know what rent stabilized is? I’m a New Yorker.’) It all came off super bitter and sad.

      • Jolie

        Trust me, no one in New York is going to “shun” you for not being a native. Really? Almost no one in this city is a native.

      • Cate

        You won’t be shunned. Most native NYers are fine with newcomers and, TBH, a native New Yorker is a rare unicorn these days.

    • Ophelia

      I’ve moved cities a lot in my twenties, and I’m proud to have had the endurance to start in new places again and again, as it’s not easy. Born and raised and still living in that same place, one would just not know of the beauty and also hardship that comes with being in a new place. Mostly it’s expanding one’s mind though, transplanting oneself to a new and foreign city, something one doesn’t get when only living in one place their whole life (save for maybe a semester abroad or so). A comment like this can only come from someone who doesn’t have experience away from their comfortable block, and I’m so proud to have had the courage to experience other parts of the world and country than my hometown, even it it makes me a forever non-native and places me lower on your hierarchy scale. In turn, you believing in this hierarchy places you lower on other scales…

  • Paige Gurski

    Found myself highlighting one particular snippet from Eric up there:
    “The city does that to you: Whatever you do — music, fashion, business — you feel like you’re in the very center of the universe. And you know what? I think maybe you are.” ….I vibe with this hard. This sunday is my new york birthday – we’re turning 1! <3

    • Aydan

      yay!! Happy New York anniversary!

    • ErikBaard

      I hope you always feel so inspired. Go get ‘em!

    • Sarah Hassan

      One of the reasons why I am itching to go back – born & raised on Long Island 15 minutes from JFK, starting working in the city when I was 15, went to school 25 minutes north up the Hudson, moved back home and commuted, moved to the Upper East Side, and now I’ve been in Atlanta for 2.5 wonderful years BUT….there’s just no place like New York City. <3

  • Paige Gurski

    Joan Didion on first moving and belonging here is my favorite: “I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later—because I did not belong there, did not come from there—but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.”

  • Roshni

    This article just makes me want to live in New York!!

  • Kate

    Tom Wolfe wrote something like, “One belongs to New York as much in five minutes as in five years.” That was always true for me. The instant I was here, I was here forever. And I think people know in their hearts whether they’re trying it out or seeing how long it lasts too.

  • I feel like some people just live and breath New York City and upon their first step feel like they belong. I go weekly (living 30 mins outside the city), but it’s never spoke to me the way it does for others. It’s always felt overwhelming, too bustling, too mismatched and gritty for me. But I love that others love it so much, and I’ll never tire of hearing of their love stories of New York!

    Eva |

  • Emily

    2 summers in new york and 4 months since actually moving here later.. starting to feel a bit like a new yorker, though/while wondering where i fit in. moments i feel like a true new yorker: when i strike up a conversation with a stranger (often decades older than me) about something going on on our block, like the movie filming currently. when i go to my job, my coffee shop, my bookstore. when i go home to small town northern california and realize that even if I feel average in new york, i’m beyond cool, stylish and accomplished there. i don’t know if new york is mine forever, but everything I do here has a weight to it, like I’ll remember these months and years vividly for the rest of my life.

  • Kattigans

    I don’t like in NYC but I relate to Missy’s feelings about my own SF. I was born in the bay area, went to school in Southern CA, never thought I’d come back here to live right after graduating but 4 years later I’m here in SF. And sometimes I get these intense itches to move. I want to be in LA or NYC. But then the sun comes out after a few foggy days and the city is so pretty and I start to fall in love again. But I’m still searching and wonder too is it an “it is what it is” situation?

    • Adrianna

      I get that same itchy feeling to move away from NYC – nyc represents opportunity and excitement when you don’t live here, whereas it can feel repetitive once you’ve had the same fancy NYC job and routine for several years. I’m almost 11 years here, four of them at NYU, and I sometimes envy people who moved here after college because they got to experience a different location. (I lived near NYC in NJ before that.) In turn, California was always a symbol for newness and adventure for me.

      I visited SF twice and I have no idea how I’d live as a pedestrian – those hills! But I loved how quickly we got to Muir Woods and Marin Headlands. In some ways I quickly felt at home in SF because we could fall into our Brooklyn routine of hipstery food and cold brew immediately.

      • Kattigans

        Yeeeep! so funny you say Brooklyn bc I’m from Oakland and according to all the transplants (lol) its become the BK of the West. I cringe when I think of that analogy but hey whatever! And also funny you mention the hipster because you seriously cannot swing a bag here without hitting at least 3 passerby’s eating a kale co-op salad and sipping an oat milk latte. SF, especially certain neighborhoods, are little ecosystems of hipster realness and just have such a scene. The scene is even too much for me, but its good ppl watching!

        Maybe we just have become spoiled? We both live and have lived in some of the most desirable places in the US, if not the world, and we feel a similar sentiment. I think one thing SF really lacks for me is a certain level of sophistication beyond the abundance of Michellin star restaurants. I love fashion, clothes, and I feel like I really have to water down my style here bc ppl will legit look at your crazy or as a try hard if you’re too done up plus the mood here just lends itself to falling into the routine of sweaters, boots and denim all the time. I miss tank tops, I miss summer heat, I miss skirts haha I can of course wear some of those things here but the weather is so schitzo that you really have to over prepare with dressing. It can be nice in my neighborhood- warm even- and then I can head DT to my office and its a freaking wind tunnel. That’s partially why LA appeals, except hate driving!, But I miss that warm southern CA weather and the lifestyle that comes with it.

        Oh and for the hills, you get used to them (good exercise) or take the bus haha.

        • Adrianna

          It’s funny to read how you describe the hipsterness in SF, bc that’s what some downtown Manhattan neighborhoods and some surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods are like. It doesn’t bother me, but it’s easy to stay in that comfort zone when we travel to other cities – we found the same aesthetic in Barcelona, Lisbon, Austin, etc. I recently stepped into a South Slope/Greenwood area (Brooklyn) coffee shop that wasn’t designed to look like another Blue Bottle or Bluestone Lane, and I was shook. I think back to this article:

          I could see that about SF style, I lol’d when I saw the Merrill Store around Union Sq Park. Not sure how much time you’ve spent in NYC. I guess it’s a “safe space” for fashion, but most people really do just dress in jeans and sensible black coats. I honestly never see any girls or women that would fit the Man Repeller aesthetic, haha, even when I worked in fashion. But maybe I’ve just aged out of that social space?

          • Kattigans

            I haven’t been to NYC in 10 years and when I went it was bc I was modeling and it was also a different time mid-2000s and all. I have a bunch of friends who live there and most of them are v FASHUN so maybe that’s what I’m working off of? I want to go back soon and explore + visit some of them. Hipster SF-ness is so real. Just head to Valencia St in the mission or hayes valley and its like everyone there stepped out of a movie set or a girls episode at the Helvetica cafe in szn 5 ha (hope you get the reference). I have great cafes in my neighborhood that aren’t built for the IG aesthetic and I love them so much same with some bars. I know the ppl there and they know me. I also have a great studio apartment and its one reason I find it hard to leave. Its rent controlled and the comfort of being there with that security is hard say goodbye to. Also hipster exists everywhere haha just a fact of life I guess.

  • Olivia

    Okay hi! I am a sixteen year old girl going to NYC with my mom for spring break. Can anyone recommend fun places we can go ?? We are SF natives 🙂

  • ByeBeckz

    As someone trying to make my way to the city, I loved this. I’ve lived in Paris, Miami, and Los Angeles, but I feel like the city is going to a game changer for me. I never got that sense of “home” anywhere I went- despite growing up and mostly returning to the same city my whole life.

    I love reading about your experience moving to the city, Haley. From your writing I think we have similar personalities, also an INFJ (lol myers-briggs <3)- so I love hearing about your experiences/your interviews with others on integrating into the city. Keep up these types of articles! I think it would be cool to do something on people who didn't fit in in the city? Like not an "I hate NY" article at all, but just what the city DOESN'T offer. It's easy to get lost in these positive pieces and would be cool to see another side.

    • Adrianna

      I’ve known several people through college and entry level jobs who left as soon as they could. It’s easy to move here with an idealized version or specific impression of NYC, and subsequently be disappointed. NYC is what you make of it, which is easier said than done. (Especially in terms of career – some things are just out of your control)

      Depending on your commute, the sheer volume of people is enough to drive people crazy. I purposely take a longer route on a different subway line because the route closer to my apartment is packed to the absolute maximum. I personally don’t find nyc crowds overwhelming, because I’ve learned patience as I’ve gotten older. (Compared to a friend who loses her shit every time someone is walking slowly in front of us.)

      The main thing that started to bother me is how long you have to travel to do something outdoorsy, like hiking. I’ve pretty much given up on bike riding, because pedestrians and cars are inconsiderate of bike lanes. I purposely moved to a Brooklyn neighborhood next to prospect park, because I just want to walk around without checking every direction for other people and cars.

      • ByeBeckz

        The things you stated are exactly what I’m worried about (and probably everyone thinking of moving there is). The thought of crowds excites me but dealing with that on the subway or a sidewalk, day after day- I’m sure it becomes too much. I’ve only visited NYC for long weekends and somehow the city was always relatively dead. No lines or stress anywhere. It felt like the city was tricking me lol! The busiest place I saw was the natural history museum.

        I’ve also always lived somewhere where I can trek outside and go hiking /biking/swimming, whatever- but I’ve never been particularly into it, but I’m sure I’ll regret not taking advantage of it when I leave it behind.

  • Sydney’s response was poetic

  • nicolacash

    Loved this piece. I’m a native NYer and moved 2, almost 3 years ago to a different city for a job…to this day I still say I’m from NY when I travel because that’s where I’ll always feel is my true home.

  • ErikBaard

    I’m a native and I’ve come to believe that you belong as soon as you start contributing — volunteering, creating, caring, improving. There are fellow native who take pride in nothing more than a circumstance of birth. That’s inherently unearned, freeloading off the people who make NYC special. So get on your bike, put on your walking shoes, or grab a kayak paddle and explore. Keep your eyes open. Look for need. Look for where your creativity might inspire or help. Than act. Then you’re as authentic a New Yorker as ever walked our streets.

  • Jolie

    I can really relate to what Paige said. As a native, I find that resentment creeping in pretty often. It’s never resentment towards anyone who’s immigrated here, but people who have moved here from the Midwest or whatever. I can’t help it. I used to be able to afford an apartment in a place like Williamsburg, but now it’s full of these entitled transplants who drive the rent up so high that I can’t even live in the borough of Brooklyn unless I want to move to Coney Island (spoiler alert: I don’t). Just because they (and their parents) can pay $3000 for a studio, entire neighborhoods like that are quickly inaccessible to people who have worked and lived here their whole lives.

    Yes, gentrification is bound to happen in New York, but it has been happening much faster over the past ten years or so and it has reached a point of no return. I’ve been working and living and going to school in NYC for years, yet I see people my age who went to Midwest University and moved to NYC at 25 getting the jobs I want. Why is that?

  • Sub Rosa

    The first time I felt like a New Yorker was when I hustled my ass down a street to Rhapsody in Blue. I looked in a studio and saw a small girl toppling over in a ballet skirt, I looked up and saw a construction worker on scaffolding tapping his foot and bouncing to his work, I passed a round, bespectacled man hopscotching across the street and smiling at an organ grinder monkey. ‘Oh, these are my people, this is the vibration everyone’s always talking about,’ I thought. We are on the same wavelength. Of course, I was four, and watching Fantasia 2000. Really, I walk down a smaller Broadway and force the streets of Salt Lake to be enough for SJP, Harry, Sally, the entire chorus line, etc. because bitch, I’m poor and trying to go to school so, naturally, I read my New Yorker every week and feel like one, passing LDS churches all the way home.

  • I don’t live directly in NYC but I live close enough where I can pop in and out if I want to. The beauty of it is that no one really cares where you come from- it’s not a “small talk” city. That might sound harsh, but it’s such a diverse, accepting, and “you do you and I’ll do me” kind of place that it’s hard for me to feel like I don’t belong. I am fascinated by people who were born and raised there. I think it’s amazing that you are exposed to such an awesome place at such a young age. I’ve always felt that city kids grow up faster than those who were raised in the suburbs- that’s not a diss to my fellow suburbians. I just don’t know many young kids who could navigate the subways or tell the difference between the LES and East Village, and it’s pretty cool.

  • Jana Nysten

    This so reasonates with me. Not a New Yorker (though I felt for this city so much when I was living there… and still suffering from heartbreak in some kind of way… let me have my dreams #fandom) but no difference to Berlin.

    Moved to Berlin progressively three years ago. Officially here for two.

    Do I feel I belong?

    Well… just had my mom and best friend from back in the days over for the weekend. And they certainly see me as Berliner.

    But then again…

    Who is a Berliner?!

    So rare to find people born and raised here.

    And there are people not speaking a word of German who say they‘re from Berlin. And they’re right. Such a melting pot. Just like NYC. (Or Brussels, where I lived for a little as well – aka the „capital of Europe“ – but never liked that city very much…)

    My moment of „belonging“?

    I‘m weird on this. First time I got here, I was 15. And I was sure, I‘ll be back. 15 years later I was. And while I have a hard time going anywhere remotely close to Ku‘damm… I have started doing yoga and meditating (so Prenzlauer Berg of me…), did pescatarian for lent (well… so something…), wear leggings on Sundays (is that Friedrichshain?!), out of politeness learned some few words Turkish (hello Neukölln) and love a good moshpit – watching from a distance of course (SO36 – Kreuzberg you‘ll be my secret lover always and forever…)…

    This city is so diverse – just as NYC – and if one day I dont feel home in one part, be sure I find another part where I do.

    For me, Friedrichshain currently does the trick between crazy Kreuzberg and put-together Prenzlauer Berg. But let‘s see what the years to come will bring about.

    And sorry for the long rant..

    Just felt like… inspired?!

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  • Kubla

    I lived in NYC from 2005 to 2012. I had 2 babies. I lived in Park Slope. It was so lovely, like living in a novel, really, or a movie. Now I wonder if it was all an illusion. I am coming back to visit. I wonder how it will seem now. I can’t wait to haunt my fav places, walk the same paths, visit the boutiques I used to go, eat at the same unknown places. Breathe the air. Walk a million miles and laugh, cry on the subway, talk to strangers,

  • Basil

    Not a New Yorker, but South African transplanted to the U.K. Despite having a british passport from birth, the moment I actually felt british was when I was in a queue waiting to change my train ticket, and someone pushed in front of everyone else and instead of confronting them, I tutted and rolled my eyes. Mostly I would now just say i don’t really belong anywhere

  • Nat Ch

    I arrived to NY in late August last year. I went back to my country after 4 months and spent a month there and I felt SO SAD. In one hand, I was with my family and friends there… the city where I’d lived my whole life (27 years) and on the other hand… I missed everything that NY had become to me at that point: my own space, my silent days alone, the energy of the streets, the distance with who I was before realizing Im on my own in the world. I felt like I belonged here the first time I went grocery shopping 🙂 and I dont feel like leaving any time soon!