We've all done it thanks to movies like You've Got Mail, Home Alone 2, When Harry Met Sally, and Muppets Take Manhattan: imagined what life would be like if we moved to the Big Apple. You've envisioned a bright and sunny apartment with high ceilings and charm, walking down the sidewalk with coffee from the newsstand in hand, and holding out a hand and shouting "taxi!" to bring a yellow checkered cab to the curb. You picture your life filled with great-looking people, tasty cocktails, quiet walks in Central Park, and fashionable, Instagrammable photo ops aplenty. It's lovely, isn't it? Yes, just like a dream–and that's just what it is, a dream.
The reality of life in New York City comes with more noise, more people on the sidewalks, and more hassle (and cost) of hailing a cab than Hollywood portrays. Beyond painting an honest portrait of city life (one that clearly depicts taking the subway, the cost of cocktails, and smaller apartments) here are a few other truths that you need to consider about moving to New York City.
- Where to do your laundry
It's likely your old place had a washer and dryer setup in the unit; at the very least, there was a community laundry room located in the building, right? You probably haven't thought about having a washer and dryer in close proximity, but these are the very things that are considered luxuries in the New York City rental market (luxury amenities reflect in a higher rental price). It will be an adjustment, but get used to the idea of schlepping your dirties to the local laundromat. Another option is to use a laundry service–or "wash-n-fold" in New York-speak.
Taxis are expensive. They also don't have ears, so whistling at one or just shouting "taxi" isn't going to get you closer to stepping inside of one. They're also not super convenient–they're either always full or off duty when you need to grab a cab the most.
Instead of the taxi cab, consider the subway (which is much more cost-effective than cab fare), other train lines if you live outside of Manhattan (such as the LIRR or Staten Island Railway), or even the ferry (that's for Staten Island folks). Of course, don't rule out the cheapest way to get around in New York City: your feet. They're free!
- The grocery inconvenience
The first time people visit New York City, they head to places like Times Square and other city spots popular with tourists, and eventually they wonder, "where do people go grocery shopping in New York City?"
While there are plenty of places, out-of-towners don't recognize them since they are used to seeing traditional grocery stores with big parking lots and cart returns, and that vision is absent in New York City. There's no need for those kinds of places because there's not any space for said parking lots, and you're not going to fill up your trunk with groceries here because you're unlikely to have a car of your own. With that said, how are you going to manage carrying groceries around? There are a few options: buy smaller amounts of food more frequently, splurge for the cab or Uber on grocery days, or use a budget-blowing grocery delivery service.
- Railroad apartments
Yes, these are a thing, and they have nothing to do with being close to a train. A railroad apartment mimics the shape of a train and its attached cars; in this kind of apartment, all of the rooms are connected by one narrow hallway. These apartments were constructed as a convenient way to create the most living space possible on narrow city lots at a time when the demand for housing was extremely limited. They're sometimes billed as a 1.5 bedroom with the half-bedroom used by some families as an office space or den. Still, rents in New York City are high, so some folks find themselves paying rent for a bedroom that the rest of the household can walk through easily thanks to that long, narrow hallway and overall design of the apartment.
- Tenants rights
Since the New York City area has a high density of rental units, and because people are people, the city has established rules and regulations over the years to help protect tenants. In fact, they've published a tenant's rights guide. Understanding your rights as a tenant (and knowing that your landlord is not lord of all creation here in NYC) is one of the most important thing anyone renting in the Big Apple can know! Be sure you know your rights before signing a lease.
- The pace
Sure, city life brims with hustle and bustle and indicates a faster pace of life–you might expect that already. What you won't expect is that you'll need to pick up the actual pace with which you move your feet to schlep yourself around and cross the street! In Manhattan especially, don't text while walking on the sidewalk–you'll hold up the foot traffic. If you're out with a group of pals, walk like you're on Noah's Ark, and go two by two so that other people can continue on their pedestrian journeys through the city. If you're moving at a slower pace on purpose in order to soak up the scene, be prepared to move out of the way if someone is clearly in a hurry–don't expect them to dodge you!
- You'll want to leave
You made it! You made it to Manhattan (or borough of your choosing). All that hard work, money saving, and logic defying brought you here. You've chased the dream, and now you're living it. Why do you feel like you suddenly can't take it anymore? No worries, friends, it happens to all of us–you need to "escape to the green world," as Shakespeare so eloquently put it. Or you can just call it island fever.
Start with a visit to Central Park or any other of the city's 1,700 parks and green spaces. If that doesn't do the trick, hop aboard a train upstate to enjoy mountain views, or take the LIRR out on Long Island (or the Jitsy out to the Hamptons). Beaches or mountains or just more greenery is just a ride away.
- Expect delays
New York might not be as large geographically as other areas, so you might think this: "a few miles? Surely it won't take more than five or ten minutes to get to where I need to be." Oh young ones. Think again. It's precisely because of New York's smaller geographical size along with its dense population that it takes just oh-so-long to get wherever you are going. It's always going to take you longer than you'd expect to get anywhere, whether that's on foot or via the subway. You'll wait longer if you're trying to drive somewhere or take a commuter train. Rush hour is a nightmare (like in other cities), but just do your best to budget for time and to leave earlier than you thought you might.
- It might be worth it to live closer to the train
We are creatures of comfort. If you live more than a couple blocks away from the subway, train station, or MTA bus lines, that springtime or fall stroll that was once enjoyable will feel like a punishment in the harsh New York City winters or sweltering summers with lack of breezes.
- Bring cash
From the deli to the bakery to the hot dog stand to the bodega, you willfind yourself frequenting some spots that don't accept plastic, so have a few bucks on you for those moments–much better to avoid paying an overpriced ATM fee. New Yorkers pay the second-highest ATM fees in the entire county, with fees topping out over five dollars just to use the ATM. Surprisingly, Pittsburgh has the highest ATM fees by just four cents more than New York City ATMs.