New York City: the technicoloured, abrasive cultural nucleus of the world that holds promise, opportunity and excitement in extreme excess. It’s also the place where more and more expats – particularly Australians – are migrating for greener (more concrete) pastures.
Its allure is undeniable – a fact learnt firsthand from this Melbourne-native, Manhattan adoptee, who intended to stay a modest “two weeks” yet is still living in a six-floor walk-up, West Village Brownstone, four years later. What can I say? The bagels are good.
While it’s been an undeniably incredible experience, visiting New York for two weeks on a holiday as opposed to living here permanently are very different things. While I fundamentally knew what I was getting myself in to – sub-freezing winters (with no respite for weeks at a time); exorbitant rent (on the proviso that a lease can actually be secured); an extremely competitive job market (while dealing with visa constraints, no less), and living 10,000 miles from my friends and family (and a half-decent flat white) – there were also many not-so-obvious things that I wish I’d known to make the transition a little easier.
Living abroad has paid dividends many times over, and I would recommend it to anyone considering a similar experience. From one expat to another, I’d like to impart some of the cumulative knowledge that I’ve picked up in the City That Never Sleeps.
10 things I wish I’d known before moving to New York
1. You’ll need your go-to coping mechanisms
Like many inspirational Instagram tiles and Pinterest boards have informed me, it’s not the adversity that gets thrown your way that defines you, but rather your reaction to it (or something along those lines). Understand that the city is merciless – you will need to adopt coping mechanisms early on and employ when necessary. Me? I rotate between one of three, depending what’s got me down. They are as follows:
- A carefully-curated playlist so powerful I feel like a Beyoncé/Gal Gadot hybrid
- A killer sweat-session (looking at you, Soul Cycle; it’s therapy and exercise combined)
- A tequila-on-the-rocks at Mother’s Ruin
2. Learn to love the subway
It’s not the most straightforward to the uninitiated; there have been many instances I’ve accidentally wound up in Brooklyn. Sure, its sanitary grading (if any) is questionable, but it’s an extremely speedy and efficient way of getting around. It is your friend, especially when stuck on Fifth Avenue traffic. (Bonus tip: if there’s a subway cart that appears delightfully deserted in rush hour, do not alight. It’s likely that it has recently been used as a public restroom.)
3. Make punctual friends
Don’t be afraid to enforce strict penalties to your tardy-prone dining partners. New York eateries are merciless when it comes to their strict (annoying) rule to only seat a party after everyone has arrived. To the point where your table will be given away.
4. Adhere to sidewalk traffic
It is just as serious on the pavement as it is on the road. New Yorker Walkers do not mess around. If you’re going to walk slowly (tip: don’t walk slowly) stick to the far-right side. Pull over to use your phone.
5. Re: cabs
Do not, under any circumstances, upstream a cab. You will be inviting terrible karma, my friend.
6. Accept the racket
You WILL get used to the noise, whether that be loud party-goers on your street at 3am on an idle Tuesday; the screeching, ceaseless sirens; or the faint scratching of the rats in your walls.
7. Don’t hesitate to outsource
Utilise what the city does best and outsource where you can. Sometimes it is worth the money to drop off your laundry or get dinner delivered.
8. Wear what you want
Unless it’s black tie, you really can’t get the dress code wrong. New Yorkers are some of the most open-minded, expressive, non-judgemental individuals this side of Mars. Get creative.
9. Growls are OK
It’s okay to be aggressive. In some instances, it’s expected.
10. Flit in and out as much as possible
As much as you’ll love the city’s inimitable energy and excitement; plan to leave it frequently. Even if it’s just a weekend upstate or a quick trip to Long Island. It will keep you sane, reboot your system and make you feel excited to come back. And it will only make you love it more.