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This is not one of those lame 10 reasons why you must live in New York City article.

Frozen New York City welcoming me in Feb. 2014

In February 2014 I moved to New York City after living in Sydney for 7 years, I am writing this as a reminder of my year and a half in NYC and hopefully to help people about to make the same move. I already had a job lined up in NYC and this post won’t help you with that.

Probing

Before moving I was able to visit NYC twice and get a gut feeling for the massive amount of change I would be signing up for. The first time for two weeks starting at the end of August until September 2013. The second time one week in November 2014. During those two vacations I understood there was a positive balance between things I liked and disliked of New York City so I didn’t have to adjust that much when I moved.

Food

New York City spoiled me with its excellent and wide variety of choices. From the cheap 1$ pizza slice–which is way better then all street pizza I ever got in Sydney–to Indian and Turkish restaurants. In the time I was there I couldn’t find any Thai restaurants as good as Sydney but to be fair I only tried a couple.

Sushi like in Japan

Yelp is a widely used app for venue reviews–a good start but since you meet people from all over the planet working in NYC ask them for recommendations about their home country best food in Manhattan for example. When 2 or 3 reply with the same place it’s bound to be good. Even better if they tag along with you!

Turkish food like in Turkey

Food shopping

Coming from Australia food shopping in NYC was shockingly bad–regulations are more permissive so if you care about what you eat you might need to keep your eyes open. Fresh produce most of the time was poor quality and the farmer market I went to in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall was disappointing.

There are higher quality chains like Wholefoods and Trader Joe–you’ll pay the toll and during the weekend they are jammed with people but very well organized and long counter queues move really fast.

Cost of living

Sydney is expensive but NYC is more expensive so prepare to compromise on work proximity, apartment size or number of flatmates. Prices are only going up so check Zillow to get an idea. During contract negotiation I checked the rental prices and asked adjustments to my paycheck to afford the area and category building I wanted.

View of downtown brooklyn

Finding an apartment

Each New York City neighborhood is extremely different. Sometime one or two blocks distance can mean a lot in terms of noise, good vibe, safety, food venues and transport–without knowing the one you like you will be just guessing.

Walking back from Brooklyn Boulders to Borough Hall

Be careful not to lease in a location you dislike because the lease is a legal contract that you can’t just terminate like in Sydney–here you are legally bound to pay the rent until the end of the contract or the owners will sue you. People that live in the city don’t consider walking out of a lease an option.

Brooklyn Heights

To avoid signing a long term lease you could search on craigslist and commit for 2 or 3 months–you usually still have to give the first month in advance and one month bond. Craigslist is a bit of a zoo but I’ve heard of people finding decent accommodations with limited budget.

I stayed at two airbnb for a total of 5 weeks. This allowed me to triage areas and avoid making a rushed decision on where to move. I decided I wanted to be close to my office in the financial district so I moved in downtown Brooklyn–I had plenty of subways stopping within 2 blocks from me, a nice park nearby and the Brooklyn bridge park and good food shopping at my doorstep.

Downtown brooklyn

Another option is to give a real estate agent your budget and requirements and he will show you as many places as possible in a day or two so you can pick one and move in as soon as possible.

Forget washer/dryer

Old buildings have strict regulations that prohibit installing washer/dryer in the unit and because of the general lack of space in New York City they are considered a luxury–if you are lucky the building might have one in the basement or to share with a few floors but don’t worry you have dry cleaners at almost every corner as well as pickup services.

The commute

Get ready to spend about 40 minutes or more each way–a long commute is the easiest way to afford a reasonable rent.

M train last stop at Middlevillage

I was one train and less then 20 minutes door to door to my office which in New York City is pretty good considering the average. In about 30 minutes I could get to any mid-town venue, 40 minutes to central Park.

Keep in mind the metro works 24/7 but there are always change of service after 10/11pm and during the weekend–keep an eye out for MTA paper notices taped outside the station or use the CityMapper app that alerts when there are change of service.

Unlike Tokyo or London or any other country I’ve been the NYC Subway stations have not communicating separate entrances for direction. If you get in the wrong direction most of the times you can’t just walk across you need to walk outside and swipe your Metrocard again–if you have a weekly or monthly pass it will flag you as double pass and it won’t let you in and you’ll have to wait around 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the subway entrance sign if it only says “Uptown” or “Downtown” it’s very likely you can’t cross the other direction.

Banking and credit cards

You should open a bank account as soon as possible, without a social security number you will need to provide your ozzie address which is ok. I suggest you wait to apply for a credit card until you get a few paychecks in or you might get declined. Nobody told me that when a credit card application is denied your credit score goes down–if you apply for another card and is declined the credit score goes even lower and as a foreign citizens with no credit history in the US you already start pretty low.

Work culture

I worked as a software engineer and I didn’t see the crazy hours everybody talks about. Most of my ~100 people company was working 9-5. Exception to that was the finance division. I know many interns and white collar were paid peanuts which I bet turned their NYC experience in to a nightmare.

I actually met lots of people on minimal wage struggling to live in NYC but still living there because it’s New York City. Others where unhappily stuck there–even tough they would never admit it–because they couldn’t find a better job elsewhere.

My company had unlimited–subject to approval–paid vacations which was pretty sweet. For other companies it’s usually 10 days.

Driving from LGA back to Brooklyn

Why would anyone want to live in New York City?

If you haven’t been to New York City you should visit it–nothing I will say will convince you. Everyone is after different things at different points of their lives–I can tell what I liked about it.

  • Having the choice to go to a different events or exhibitions
  • The variety of nighlife venues
  • The excellent food culture
  • The seasons and change of colors: Spring, Autumn the best and the bite of a very cold (-10) white Winter
  • The proximity to Europe and North America made it a fabulous starting point for my trips

Things I disliked:

  • Walking in Manhattan is like a level 29 douchebag Tetris. But you can fit in.
  • The sewerage stench from late Spring till end of Summer
  • The garbage on the streets
  • Summer 2014 was too humid for me but according to the locals it was much worst the year before
  • I could really smell the traffic pollution

I hope you have a bit more information about your next move. If you are in doubt about moving to New York City just do it I doubt you will regret it.

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Enrico Teotti

developer and agile mentor with over 15 years of experience in the IT industry across Europe, Australia and the US.

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