The logistics of uprooting a life
June 20, 2011 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I need change. I want to move to New York, but am having all sorts of mental crazies about it. I think i'm making this into a BIG THING, when after I've done it, i'll be like, oh! i did it! that was easy and now I'm happy (or the complete opposite, and I'll return with the pain of my failure to remember forever). I've thought about this for a long time now, and I want to take concrete steps.

My life's been stagnant for awhile. I've stayed in the same job for the last 6 years that I intended on leaving after the first. I've built myself into paralyzed inaction mode to where I'm doubting my job skills and everything. But recently, I've come to realize that all my fears are keeping me from living life, as cliche as that sounds. I dumped my long-term SO, which was overdue but I feel brave and happy for having done so.

Now's a good time, I figure, to try the new york thing, as daunting as that is. My foremost questions are:

1.Work: apply from here, or is that impossible? If i move and apply, how long can I reasonably expect/factor in to find a job? I'm in web/graphic design.

2. Housing: Get temporary housing first and then look for a permanent place? Or book from here and move into it? (Friend suggested visiting there, scoping out some places, then sealing the deal first to have a place to move into) Is 1000-1200 a reasonable amount to pay for a studio?

3. This is perhaps the most important of the bunch in some ways… what kind of mindset is necessary here? If things crash and burn, I'm more scared of the mental repercussions in thinking that I can't take risks again, or that I'd not know how to dust myself off after something like this. I should note that I've been through a major depression once in my life (about a decade ago), and since then I've built a good defenses against it through CBT and therapy. If I ever do feel depressed these days, it's been manageable. At this point though, I think what I need is action and exposure to fears, not more talking and thinking. In the back of my mind, I know I can do this, though the nervousness makes it foggy sometimes.

4. General tips: I live in SoCal which is pretty expensive, but I understand the cost of living is higher in New York… if I'm getting by on my own here, should I be this daunted about getting by there? I mostly mean in the financial sense, but maybe there are emotional/mental aspects I haven't considered. I don't have family/friends there, but I think I'd be okay more or less, though finding a new social group would be hard at first.

Thanks, Mefites.
posted by elif to Human Relations (29 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Is 1000-1200 a reasonable amount to pay for a studio?

Maybe in the farthest outer parts of the outer boroughs. I know people renting reasonably decent plaes for that much in the Bronx, for example, but you'd have a pretty long commute into Manhattan on the train.

However, I think your question prompts another, bigger question: Where in NYC do you want to live? New York City is a big place, and every neighborhood has it's own character. I would recommend narrowing it down to a list of 4-5 neighborhoods, and doing deeper research from there.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:36 AM on June 20, 2011

I don't think it'll be possible for you to lease an apartment before you're there. Landlords have their pick of people lining up to see the place in-person. Also, they'll want to see that your employed, which you won't be. And the price range you expect to pay for a studio is probably too low.

It might be more realistic to plan on trying to find rooms for rent in shared apartments. You'd still have to be in town, though, to look around. You could plan on arriving in NYC and staying in a youth hostel for a couple of weeks, while you look for apartments. It'd be good to have as much of a financial cushion as possible, in case the time before you find a place or a hob ends up being longer than expected. You'll also need to have a few months' rent on-hand for a deposit.

Good luck with everything.
posted by Paquda at 11:39 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: 1. Applying for Jobs- what you work in will determine your process, but generally use your current job as a spring board- see who has connections where. Someone is bound to be able to help you out with a contact or two. Ask EVERYONE you know- someone's cousin's ex-roommate might be a founder of a company you'd be dying to work with.

2. 1000-1200 will not get you anything other than a roommate situation in Manhattan. Outside of Manhattan you'll have better luck- particularly in queens and further out in Brooklyn. Sublet for your 1-3 months until you sort out your job and budget. I'd make sure you've got at least 3k in cash before you move to allow you to make rent for 2-3 months prior to relying just on your job.

3. Mindset- just go for it! there's something for everyone here, and if you crash and burn in NYC, at least you can blame it on the fast pace of life here! Make sure to go out and do free things as often as possible- it's very easy to get lonely in this massive city.

4. It's expensive here, but you have so much cheap food, free entertainment, amazing city things. You won't need a car, you'll buy food/supplies in smaller quantities and more often (particularly if you need to carry your groceries any distance).
posted by larthegreat at 11:40 AM on June 20, 2011

3. This is perhaps the most important of the bunch in some ways… what kind of mindset is necessary here? If things crash and burn, I'm more scared of the mental repercussions in thinking that I can't take risks again, or that I'd not know how to dust myself off after something like this. I should note that I've been through a major depression once in my life (about a decade ago), and since then I've built a good defenses against it through CBT and therapy. If I ever do feel depressed these days, it's been manageable. At this point though, I think what I need is action and exposure to fears, not more talking and thinking. In the back of my mind, I know I can do this, though the nervousness makes it foggy sometimes.

I moved from Perth, Western Australia to Santa Clara, California. Your standard meet a girl online, meet up and then one person decides to go to wherever the other is.

Before I left I was terrified. What if it didn't work out? What if customs didn't let me through? What if I ran out of money too quickly? What if our relationship crashed and burned? What will people think if I come back and fail?

The last one especially.

The answer is, they don't give a rat's ass. They think you're lucky just for going and doing something they'd never be able to or have the nerve to do.

And you know what I ended up thinking after all was said and done? Who cares if it all goes to hell in a handbasket? I'm going to go over there, have fun and see how far the rabbit hole goes. And if it all fails I'll head back home and when people ask me about it I'll tell them that I had an awesome adventure and I can't wait for my next one.

Now I'm married and on the verge of getting my PR. I've seen places far outside what I would ever have been able to on my own and it's the best thing that's ever happened to me.
posted by Talez at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

have you performed an appropriate reality check first ? (ie Are you in some magical thinking that moving to NYC will fix all the issues you admit are already part of your live ? )
posted by k5.user at 11:44 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In terms of applying for jobs, when you do it depends on how big of a financial cushion you have. If you have some money saved and could live off of it for a little while, it's definitely easier to find a job when you're in the city that the jobs you're applying to are in. If you can't afford to do that, you might want to find someone whose local address you can use. A lot of companies do not want to deal with flying someone in and even if you're willing to pay for the interview expenses, they won't necessarily get that from your resume and cover letter even if you mention it. You will also need to be willing to front those costs and get plane tickets with a few days notice for that to really work.

As far as mindset goes, you have to decide that no matter what happens it's going to be a learning experience that helps you learn more about yourself and what you want out of life. If this turns out to be a move that shows you exactly what you do not want, that's actually a really great life lesson. Taking risks is hard, but it's in the risks that we achieve the greatest rewards. Some of the world's greatest people failed over and over again, but learned from those failures and were able to see them as foundation building in the end.

My advice is to dare to be great.
posted by Kimberly at 11:47 AM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: Bravo for your willingness to move, but I'd say please find employment first. I crashed and burned after I moved out there for a low-paying internship, even though I had friends to crash with. Unless you have substantial savings--or especially if you do, because you could burn through it pretty fast--I'd stay put for up to a year while applying to jobs there all the while. (A friend did this recently for a move from LA to SF, crashing with his parents in LA while he went through headhunters to find a job in SF--though there's less distance involved.)

You might want to visit first and rent out a PO box or something to get a mailing address to put on your resumes, but that might be excessive.

New York can be hard, especially if you have any depressive tendencies. Good luck.
posted by ziggly at 11:50 AM on June 20, 2011

Have you spent any time in New York, like vacations or visits? If not, you definitely should do that before you commit to a move. NY has a very different feel than southern CA. It's noisy, intense, grubby and gritty. Everything is FAST; people talk fast, walk fast, shop fast, do everything in an urgent hurry--if your pace is a little more relaxed, NYers will get angry at you and give you vicious dirty looks and call you nasty things. People will be in your personal space in all kinds of irritating ways all day long. NY is an exquisitely, incomparably wonderful place, but it's not for everyone. Give it a chance, and if you decide it's not for you, consider that a clash of styles and a learning experience, not a personal failure.
posted by Corvid at 11:51 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: By "New York" - I am going to assume you mean NYC and the surrounding boroughs.

You sound like me about 5 years ago. I made the decision to move to NYC from Washington DC.

1. Work - If you can, find a friend that will let you use a local address for your resume. I was lucky in the fact that it was easy for me to move to NYC - I was allowed to telecommute. However, this was not a done deal and before my company relented and let me do this, I networked like crazy, contacted head hunters in my field, and basically used every possible means I could to find a job before I moved here - mostly for housing reasons. You WILL get asked about why you are relocating. It might be difficult for you to interview from SoCal - be prepared to pay for your own expenses to come out for an in-person interview if you choose to try to find a job prior to your move. I don't know specifically about web/graphic design ( I work in an IT but in Security) so I am not sure how easy/hard that market here is right now. I would urge you to try to find a job prior to your move though - it sounds like it might put you in a better mindset to know that 'anchor' is present in your life.

2. Housing: You might want to try getting a sublet first or get into a roommate situation with a flexible lease period. Without a local job, a landlord will be less inclined to rent their place to you when they have their pick of whomever they want. Renting an apartment here is very competitive.

Your price range is very low for anything 'central' - perhaps you might be able to swing that in the upper regions of Manhattan or outer Queens/Brooklyn. However, to give you an example, if you are fine with having a roommate, you could easily find a place to live in Park Slope for that amount of money (That's where I live, and I just helped a friend who relocated get settled into a new apartment share here.)

Make a list of places you like - neighborhoods and boroughs. Go on Craigslist and research general prices.

3. I think the midset is - You don't make NYC adapt to you, you adapt to it. Be positive, and know that there will be some stuff that just isn't the same about NYC that SoCal had. You walk A LOT more here. If you crash and burn, so what? You tried to do something and you had the stick-withitness to get it through. Keep telling yourself you can do this. That's the best thing I can suggest. New York City isn't a mythical city. If you want it, then do it.

4. New York is COLD in the winter. Read up on layering clothes, boots, and the like. You must dress for the elements here since you often in them. Buy a granny/grocery cart. I won't lie to you - it can be hard to make friends here, but you can. I found the first year the most difficult. I got involved in a lot of things that interested me, and I was lucky to meet many people that way. You have to have a 'try anything' mentality here to meet people, I think. As with any other big city, people have crazy schedules, and you have to be a bit pushy to get their time. But you can make friends here. I have a great social circle who have been very supportive of me, and I can say that some of those people have become my best friends.

Two last things - I would suggest is to take a realistic look at your finances. How much money do you have saved? If you want to live alone in a studio, you will need a few thousand dollars to get in the door to one. You will need to think about shipping your stuff across country. New York has both a State and City tax rate, so you may not be paid as much here as you were in California.

Also, how much time have you spent here? Come out and visit if you haven't. SoCal and NYC are vastly different in terms of attitudes, pace and space. I love NYC and wouldn't trade it for the world, but it's not for everyone. It's a fast life out here, and if that suits you, I think you'll be fine.

Please feel free to MeMail if you have specific questions or just want some more support, okay?

Good luck!

Please feel free to MeMail me if you want specific advice.
posted by carmenghia at 11:55 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Browse craigslist and you will see what you can get for 1,000 to 1,200. If you want to live alone-you won't find a decent studio in a prime area for that price. I would estimate 1700 to start for a studio. If 1,200 is your max and you want to live in prime area-you will most likely end up with a roommate.
posted by duddes02 at 11:56 AM on June 20, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so far, everyone. Here's some more info to clear up any confusion:

Brooklyn for housing…
I have about 30k in savings, though by no means do I want to blow through it. I have stayed a few times, yes, and it's gritty people were in your face and not slow and I felt like i'd found my people. I like the grit, the cold, (not so much the humid, though I've lived in places like that). I was born into a city a lot like NY for the first 10 years of my life and I think I just want to return to it. I don't like LA. It's too sunny and slow and ….

Moving will likely give me more problems, not less, but I'm doing it for the Greater Good…, so, no, I don't believe I'm involved in magical thinking.
posted by elif at 12:04 PM on June 20, 2011

Well, as far as the "making friends" part, there do tend to be a lot of Mefi meetups around here. Check the white to see if/when the usual suspects are doing something.

As to how to get a job here, just start applying. For what you do, a lot of places will be willing to do phone interviews. The important thing is that people can see your portfolio. (Which, I'm sure I don't really have to mention, ought to be rock-solid).

Good luck!
posted by Citrus at 12:15 PM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: I have an interview in New York coming up and found this recent blog post really helpful
The author gives a nice overview of the different neighbourhoods, which could be a starting off point for you if you are looking on craigslist or something. I think the author is planning a follow up post too, given some of the questions in the comments section!
posted by unlaced at 12:27 PM on June 20, 2011

By "New York" - I am going to assume you mean NYC and the surrounding boroughs.

There are no surrounding boroughs. NYC comprises the five boroughs.

For a $1000-1200 studio in Brooklyn, I'd look at South Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and maybe even Park Slope (might be a shade too expensive for you, but you never know). Parts of "East Williamsburg" might be decent, but it's been many moons since I've lived out there.

If you're willing to go to Queens, you could get something in Astoria or Kew Gardens for about that amount. Kew Gardens isn't "cool," but it is extremely safe and livable.

As for the right mindset, just approach it like an adventure and don't sweat it too much.

Also, the cost of living doesn't have to be higher in NYC. Shop smartly and you'll do just fine. Ditching your car also helps.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:32 PM on June 20, 2011

>>Moving will likely give me more problems, not less, but I'm doing it for the Greater Good…, so, no, I don't believe I'm involved in magical thinking.<>
the first and second clauses certainly sound in conflict.
posted by rr at 12:57 PM on June 20, 2011

The first thing I'll say, regarding your overall situation, is that I'm not sure moving to New York is really the solution to problems like "paralyzed inaction" and an overall sense of doubts and fears. Living in New York is not easy. It's not typically a confidence-boosting place when you first move here: it's busy and confusing and people get impatient easily. Also a lot of people who live here are really driven. It's very much a "big pond" environment - you're going to find that a lot of fish are much bigger than you, even if you were the smartest and savviest person back home.

Your specific questions:

Work: I think this depends what you do for a living. If you wait tables or tend bar (or anything in the service industry, really), you could probably show up in New York and have strong job leads very quickly. If you work in a more conventional field where there is A Hiring Process, especially if it's not a very big industry in New York, things might be a lot harder and the "job first, then relocate" conventional wisdom would be better.

Housing: If it were me, I'd arrive in New York with a place to lay my head for a couple nights. Then I'd find a sublet on craigslist. Then I'd find something permanent after I'd had a chance to check out different neighborhoods, find a permanent job, etc.

Mindset: If you have to ask this question, it might not be the right time for you to move to New York.
posted by Sara C. at 12:58 PM on June 20, 2011

I think you have enough savings to make a serious go, but if you're looking at Brooklyn, I URGE you to sublet a small room in somewhere you are positive is safe (like, the Upper East or West Sides- that is, in Manhattan) so that you can scope out neighborhoods before you agree to anything. Brooklyn is more affordable than Manhattan because it's often sketchy or inconvenient to transit, you want to have a walk through anywhere you might be living first.
posted by tremspeed at 1:06 PM on June 20, 2011

For a $1000-1200 studio in Brooklyn, I'd look at South Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and maybe even Park Slope (might be a shade too expensive for you, but you never know). Parts of "East Williamsburg" might be decent, but it's been many moons since I've lived out there.

This is all extremely out of date information.

Out of all those neighborhoods, the only one you'd have a chance finding a studio for under $1200 would be Kensington. For that price range, you're looking at Bed Stuy, Crown Heights, South Brooklyn (places like Midwood, Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Kings Highway, etc which are terminally unhip and involve backbreaking commutes into the city), and maybe the furthest away and crappiest parts of Bushwick.

Queens, on the other hand, might be more in your price range.
posted by Sara C. at 1:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Uh. I did it for basically exactly the same reasons you are talking about. It worked out great for me. I moved to New York with two grand and a couple of suitcases. I lived on couches for the first month and took the fist job i could find that paid more that six bucks an hour. It was incredibly stupid and of the five people that i know who pulled a similar bonehead move, three when back home. I am a lucky ducky.

HOWEVER. You've got decent money saved up, you're not being totally unrealistic. You have some friends and know that there are going to be tough times ahead. go for it.

That being said- please expect the first year to be a year of depression. All my transplant friends call it the "three month dump". After three months all the euphoria is gone and you just live there, but with much less friends and comfort than you had in your old city. If you stick around a year it'll go away.

the Mindset thing- It's Lonely. Often it's hard for transplants to understand why it's so hard to make friends here- and it's not because people are unfriendly- it's just that there are so many more people here, and it feels like so much less time. We don't have time for the friends that we already have. Keep in mind that busy is not intended to be rude.
posted by Blisterlips at 1:26 PM on June 20, 2011

also, I live in south brooklyn, where your price range is do-able. BUT. it's an hour commute to Manhattan. It's not something that most folks want to do when they've just moved to the big city.

Almost everyone has a roommate until they get all domestic. I lived in park slope for years with a roommate for around 700$. (up until last year)
posted by Blisterlips at 1:32 PM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: This is something that's taken me eight years in the city to come to peace with: While it is great to have Living In New York as a Lifelong Dream that you're excited to achieve, you really can't think of the possibility of leaving New York as a failure.

It's really too much pressure to commit yourself to this ideal that being - and staying - a New Yorker somehow is a badge of achievement that is not worth giving up when you are unhappy or truly want something else or are looking for the next phase in your life. I've had friends and colleagues stay for longer than they should have, unwilling to admit that maybe there were other places that would be great for them because they found it unacceptable to signify to others that they had somehow "crashed and burned" here. Truly it is all internal. No one else reads that signal the same way.

The road in your life is long and it's really not, like, "you win or you die." You will maybe live in many places in your life - some for a short while and some for much longer. You may go home at some point. Maybe you'll go home a couple of times. None of these things are really failures. They are just... onward.

So don't beat yourself up when things get hard in NYC, because they will be hard sometimes - but really don't beat yourself up once you get here and try it out for your definition of "awhile," however long that may be, if you decide there's somewhere else you'd rather go, either. There are so many ways to be excited and inspired by the environment around you - be open to that beyond New York.
posted by sestaaak at 2:22 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I think you'll be fine. I moved to New York last January, with the intention of completing a course and leaving after a month, but I ended up staying for 6 months and I'm contemplating moving back. I absolutely loved it, and I found it easy to make friends and meet people--although I had a little help in that department, since I moved in with a friend for the first two months, and also met people on my course. But still, I overall found people to be very open to outsiders-- New York is made up of them!

I subletted one bedroom of a two-bedroom in Queens for about $750 a month. It was very nice and had a big living room and kitchen. I found two jobs pretty quickly: one, bussing tables at a fancy restaurant (hated it) and one teaching ESL to adults (loved it). Your experience looking for a professional full-time job might be different, but I doubt it's impossible.

People make NYC out to be this big, scary place where you won't be able to "make it" if you're not the cream of the crop. Maybe it just meshed with my personality, but I found NYC to be like any normal big city... just way more awesome.

Seriously, I adjusted very fast and I wasn't even in my most optimistic and positive frame of mind when I moved there. I strongly suggest you go. As everyone is saying, worst case scenario, you just move back.
posted by queens86 at 2:27 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

For housing, feel free to look at Inwood in Manhattan (200th street). 1100 can get you a large 1 bedroom if you put the leg work in.
posted by Stynxno at 3:24 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Folks have covered this pretty thoroughly, but I just want to suggest that you might even want a place with roommates for a while, if you're worried about meeting people and making friends. It's usually pretty easy to pick out the friendly, normal, fun people from their craigslist ads, and it's such a typical thing here for strangers to room together that you can generally trust your intuitions about people being cool.

There's also the big advantage that with roommates your budget will let you live pretty much anywhere in Brooklyn that you want (and is doable in much of Manhattan), but will be extremely constraining if you live alone. I've had friends who do find deals on $1200 studios in, e.g., Prospect Heights, parts of Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, etc., but they're rare finds that you snag by being in the right place at the right time, after months and months of keeping an ear out. You're looking at more like $1500 as a reasonable minimum otherwise and it goes up from there.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 3:48 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The only people who think moving out of NYC as a failure are those who are miserable living there but won't leave. I'd compare it to the people in LA trying to make it in the entertainment industry who are miserable, but don't want to quit.

Be prepared to pay more money for a much smaller apartment with a lot less closet space than you would in LA. I haven't lived NYC for a while, but I'm assuming the ridiculous broker fees are still a part of renting. In general, if you aren't subletting, renting an apartment involves a lot more up front money and financial scrutiny than it does in LA. It's not as simple as paying your $60 for a westsiderentals password and passing a credit check.

I made the reverse move--from NYC to LA. My own experience is that people weren't anymore or less flaky or driven, it's just people in NYC like to talk about work and their lack of time a lot more. No matter where you live it can take a while to settle in, y'know?

This isn't related to moving to NYC, but while you're still here in LA I'd encourage you to take a few chances as well. There's a lot of living you can do here too. Think of it as practice!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:12 PM on June 20, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks guys- I hate to be one of those "mark everyone as best answer" but there was a lot of good advice here. Some yays, some nays, with a lot of realistic advice in between, which was what I was after. Housing-wise, looks like the roommate path is it, which I'm fine with. Thank you for all the tips of job searching, which is probably the stickiest thing. That was tremendously helpful and something I was really curious about. I still have some time before my lease runs out, which gives me time to experiment more here and research before I move there. Like a lot of you said, I think I'll be fine too.
posted by elif at 5:17 PM on June 20, 2011

Without any New York living experience, I'll just speak to the challenge and fear of going for it in general. You've no doubt heard it before, but remember what Helen Keller said (paraphrased), "Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all."

I just wrote a long personal anecdote about this but am going to distill it down to just the relevant gist here. I got laid off and had to decide whether to move to a big city I didn't want to live in and take a job I didn't want in an industry I wanted out of or finally take the risk of starting my own business. I visited the city for interviews, which demystified it and made me realize I'd built up the mental barrier of moving to much more than it really was. People do this. I can do it. You can do it. Go visit and see. Once you're there and moving around, you realize that. And secondly it firmed my resolve to finally listen to my soul and do what I want, even though it is a risk and will be hard and I could fail. So I'm not moving to that city, I'm not taking those jobs and I'm going to take a risk and scramble like hell to do my own thing from here. So that's the part we have in common, the scary do-I-or-don't-I, just for different reasons.

We can both do this. We're capable. People do this. Helen Keller Helen Keller Helen Keller. Everybody who has ever risked. Everybody who has ever succeeded. They went for it. If you don't want what you have, GO! Try something else. And try again after that if needed. Be smart but don't be so careful that you don't venture out and risk. You'll get your sea legs and adapt and see things from a new place and adjust and do it again.

The practical stuff is covered elsewhere here and you have to have that stuff covered, but it sounds like you've got money and good info and advice. Add confidence and courage to those and you're set.

Here is your theme song to kickstart this adventure. It says GO!

And here's one to recapture some of that great NYC dream feeling from amongst all this practical talk of logistics. It's a great place and it's calling you.
posted by Askr at 7:06 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: haha, thank you Askr! your positivity is perfectly contagious!
posted by elif at 8:44 PM on June 20, 2011

I've recently looked for studios and you can get a studio for 1000-1200 in Harlem, Washington Heights, and some pretty decent parts of Queens (Sunnyside and Woodside). You might have to pay a broker fee though. I personally prefer the culture, noise-levels, and amenities of Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan. I love Sunnyside, my current neighborhood, and loved my old neighborhood, Park Slope. When I lived in Park Slope we had a subleasor from LA briefly who used the sublease time to explore neighborhoods before settling on a place.
posted by melissam at 7:46 AM on June 21, 2011

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