This is one of my most frequently asked questions. Whether IRL or through social media, I often talk about it. Especially back home with friends. The first thing anyone asks, upon meeting me, is what it’s like to live in New York City. Disclosure; this post is going to be extremely honest and, hopefully insightful, but it does not mean to harm anyone’s feelings nor expectations or experiences. Everyone has a different opinion and that’s what makes it great. If you have anything to add, I’d love to know!
I first moved to New York 4 years ago, back in July of 2014. I came here with my husband, who got a job a few months prior to our move. It wasn’t a sudden move, like when we lived in Dubai, but something pondered. We actually wanted to start our new life together in an exciting new city, and country. I have to say that, having lived in Dubai, helped my second experience a lot. It wasn’t a huge shock, nor a surprise. We both had never been to New York, nor the United States before, so it’s safe to say, everything was shiny and new.
This year marked our fourth anniversary in the city, and I purposefully did not write anything about it. I’ve always heard that, to be considered a real New Yorker, you have to live here for 5+ years. We’re definitely on our way to hitting the mark. But this experience has taught me some of the hardest lessons of my life. Let me preface by saying that I’m not head-over-heels about this city. I don’t deny what a privilege it is to be living here, and the #blessed seems appropriate at times. But it is a hard experience that will change you forever.
When asked, what it’s like to live in New York City, I never have the same, nor a straight answer. The city makes you feel like you belong, most of the time. It’s so diverse, nobody cares what you look like, or what you’re doing. But also, it’s the loneliest I’ve ever felt in life. People are peculiar, different, extremely nice and distant. No one gets seriously close.
It’s expensive. No one seems to have that perception, but everything in New York is very, very, very expensive. Housing, food, activities, social life. A glass of wine can be $16. Museums can cost up to $30. A subway ride is $2.75. You feel like you’re making through all the time. Again, this is coming from a privileged point of view. But my perspective will always be in comparison to a life back home.
People are tough. And you grow tougher. You learn how to be alone, have lunch alone, walk alone. I spend the majority of my time, alone. Making plans with friends is hard. Everyone always has something, with someone, somewhere. We see most of our friends sporadically. Unless they have a similar lifestyle (in my case, freelance).
There’s a whole restaurant fauna. This is actually something I love. There are numerous restaurants popping up every single week. You have so much diversity in food and drinks. One of my favorite things is to try something new often. But again, it’s expensive.
The park becomes your beach. Any beach is at least an hour and a half away. We’re beach people and are used to having it 5 minutes away. Central Park, or any other park, becomes your best friend during summer. No one minds that you’re wearing your bikini in the middle of the city. They do it too.
Summers are extremely hot and humid. Winters are extremely cold. Oh yeah. Summers are the worst time to be in New York. Trust me. A day does not go by when I’m not dripping over my clothes. My hair does not obey. My glands are active. But then, you go inside any place, and it’s freezing cold. Then comes the winter. Where being outside becomes impossible, over the intense cold that penetrates through your bones. There are like two solid weeks of intermediate weather throughout the year.
You won’t know New York until you’ve actually lived in New York. This is kind of obvious but not really. I totally relate to people who come to visit and have this blind passion for the city. But on the other hand, everyone who lives/ed here will tell you that you don’t truly know it. The hustle, the challenges, the cold, the hot, the unpredictable. Nothing can prepare you for it. And just visiting is not enough to comprehend the complexities of the web you got yourself tangled in.
Last, but certainly not least, I asked a few of my friends, who are living and lived in New York, to share their experience. It’s such a multi-faceted one, that just my opinion didn’t feel enough. My husband is also torn. He loves the city and Brooklyn, but hates the harsh winters. Loves the multiplicity of food options, but hates traffic. He’s always been kind of a nomad and fits in very well anywhere he goes.
One of my closest friends, Christie, says that living in New York is inspiring in the way that everything is fast-paced and everyone is constantly on a mission; it makes you want to work hard and to achieve your dreams. There are so many different types of people, fashion, restaurants… the diversity is endless. Living in the city is fulfilling and dreamy.
Rita told me that living in NY is GO! A mix of everything, a taste of everything, a touch of everything. Not for the faint hearted, living in NY is overcoming, it is destabilizing in the most beautiful way possible. It can be horribly lonely in the midst of millions or wonderfully empowering. NY at times feels fleeting, a stopover for those always traveling, a hard place to find roots. Come and go, come and go. Everything is close yet so far away. NY is a paradox.
Another girl friend of mine, Ashley, defined it exactly as I would, NY in just one sentence is really hard, but I think there’s a song that sums it up pretty well – concrete jungle. Where everything is possible, everything happens, and where life runs at a hallucinating pace. There’s a constant love-hate feeling that grows deep within you with everything that’s good and bad.
Last, but certainly not least, Ana told me that living in NY feels like traveling the world without ever leaving the city. The diversity of people, colors, flavors, smells, restaurants, activities is my favorite thing about this city. But it is a very intense place to live. Like I always say, it’s the city of the “very, many, much”. Very cold, very hot, many people, many activities, much noise. It can be overwhelming for sure, and it is at times, but at a very personal level, the feeling of living in the center of the world is absolutely wonderful.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you live abroad? Have you been to New York? Tell me all!