Advice for living in NYC?
October 31, 2005 8:14 PM   Subscribe

I just got a new job in Manhattan, and while I've visited several times, I understand I don't have a great grasp on what it's like to live there. Yet. (And of course, may end up living in another borough after a certain period of time.) Can you NYC MeFites give a Virginian some assimilation advice?
posted by Mikey-San to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (52 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I just realized I meant to post this to society & culture and screwed up.

Perhaps I'm not quite ready for the MTA if I can't even win at the Internet.
posted by Mikey-San at 8:15 PM on October 31, 2005


Throw out all of your non-black/gray clothing and stop smiling at people. Prepare for the endless self importance of being a New Yorker in New York. Learn to appreciate a slice in all its glory. Also see here
posted by arruns at 8:32 PM on October 31, 2005


It's cold. If you haven't done cold before, you might have difficulty acclimatizing.
posted by smackfu at 8:36 PM on October 31, 2005


living here takes lots of energy (physical and mental and financial). expect to be tired pretty much all the time. i've been here for over a year, and i'm still tired at the end of the day (from the commute? i'm still not sure).
posted by unknowncommand at 8:45 PM on October 31, 2005


NYC is a walking city. There are more people per square foot here, so space is tighter, cars are less common, and everything is more expensive (especially rent).

Expect to take the subway a lot. Expect the MTA to confound you. I find Hopstop incredibly useful for subway directions (but not for service updates).

Unless you have a fantastically well-paying job, or are willing to live far outside Manhattan, expect to have at least one roommate. Use Craigslist carefully.

There are delis and bodegas on what seems to be nearly every corner in NYC. Pizza by the slice and falafel are really popular here. Also, almost everyone delivers. A huge aggregation of menus can be found at Menupages.

Try reading some Gothamist, a New York-centric blog about the city and some events.
posted by hooray at 9:38 PM on October 31, 2005 [1 favorite]


Jeez, what a gloomy lot so far! (Though see if you can get Afroblanca in here to tell some good apartment horror stories...)

Anyway, the whole point of living here is that we don't assimilate! What do you want your new life to look like? You can be a homebody, or spend your life in cafes, or live entirely in the contemporary dance world, or go to trashy nightclubs, or knit, or do anything you want.

Yeah, it can be cold and hard. (So can, like, Vermont. And D.C.) But it seems to me that all you need to do is figure out who you want to be.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:42 PM on October 31, 2005


A couple of pieces of assimilation advice:

1. Get used to the idea of shopping and doing errands without a car. If you live in Manhattan, you will probably never (or almost never) shop for anything -- groceries, electronics, appliances, clothes -- with a car. Being without a car is really liberating, but it can take a while to adjust to getting things home without just sticking them in the trunk (my local grocery store is not even on street level, and the local Home Depot doesn't have a parking lot). How to adjust? Plan multi-errand days in a way that leaves the heavy stuff until last. Buy things online. Plan to use a car service where necessary. Buy one of those little metal carts (a huge help for buying groceries).

2. Embrace what the city has to offer by being as flexible as possible. There is so much to do, see, eat, etc. in the city, and there are so many people with whom to experience it all, but often you need to stay up late/go to bed early/take a different route home to do it. Doing so when possible is often very much worthwhile -- although, as unknowncommand said, a lot of energy is needed.
posted by sueinnyc at 9:49 PM on October 31, 2005


Tired? Funny, I just recently moved out of NYC for the first time in my life - a victim of Giuliani/Bloomberg gentrification and I feel like that NYC energy was the only thing that kept me going. I feel tired all the time now because everywhere else seems so laid back. I wish I could move back.

If you can't afford to live in Manhattan live in Williamsburg. It's got great restaurants, clubs and bars and is what Manhattan and the Village used to be before the Giuliani turned it into Disney/Niketown.

When traveling to Midtown by subway you'll be tempted to look at all the tall buildings when you exit to the street. Don't do it, even normally law abiding New Yorkers will peg you as a tourist, sock you on the head with a billy club and steal your wallet. (Ok that doesn't happen much anymore but that was some easy money in the 1940s). Always walk with a purpose, this will get you to your destination faster and also keep you from getting run off the sidewalk. You'll go broke eating out all the time so if you want a cheap night out with a friend, go down to the village buy a sixpack at a bodega and find a Falafel joint that doesn't have their music turned up to 11. The best Bagel joint in the city is on 7th avenue off Bleeker. I've been going there for decades and still don't know the name. It's changed hands a couple of times but still has the best bagels and egg salad in the city. Find some good NYC blogs that coincide with your interests. I wish they had those when I was younger, they are your best bet for finding cheap and interesting entertainment.
posted by any major dude at 9:50 PM on October 31, 2005


Well, as I have recently relocated from , I've still got a lot to learn, but here's a few things that I wish someone would have told me about.

-New York is Edgy.
From tactical police units blocking off streets to some breaking news around the corner. Sometimes a nutter will decide to stab something or someone. As an intensly dense writer recently put it (and Gawker has run with it since): New York is still edgy.
Step lightly and watch your back. Don't freeze up.

-Be fluid.
A butterfly flaps its wings in Bora Bora and suddenly your main line to work isn't running for an indeterminate amount of time. Know alternate paths, lines, or at least how much time it's going to take to hoof it into the city on foot versus a cab's fees. Be aware of any temporary changes of service.
Always keep enough cash on hand to get you back to your home, should you lose/misplace/forget your metro/subway card. Or get rolled (fold a twenty into a tiny square, and hope your mugger doesn't get thorough).

-Water.
I'm not sure how this comes up for everyone else, but at least when it was still hot, I consumed my weight in water. Get a good nalgene or similar brand bottle that you can refill whenever you come across a water fountain or unattended sink. Otherwise, budget out some weekly funds to buy bottles of water.

-Karma
Tip musicians you like in the subways with pocket change. They have permits. People topside probably don't. If you are struck by the homeless situation, help out organizations.
Stay humble and don't be afraid to ask people at random for help or directions.

-Research
Really. There's an amazing amount of things going on that you will never know about unless you keep your eyes and ears open. Nonsense NYC is full of all kinds of oddities and happenings. Read the Village Voice before its recent merger waters it down any further (they also have the better current movie listings page).
Get hip to when all the book signings are happening, rather than finding out about them the day of.
Speaking of books, get a NY Public Library card. Free, but be sure to check the times at the branch you want to visit.
I like using Yahoo! Maps over Google for the simple fact that you can show subway stops on the maps (right column, "SmartView", click Travel and Transportation to then click Public Transportation).
And know where public restrooms are.

-Watch The Warriors
And not the recent "Director's Cut" ("this takes place in the future"...riiiiight). You may have days (and nights) that may resemble the Warriors' plight. At the very least you won't feel left out next time it pops up in a conversation.

-Ride the rails
Spend a weekend riding the subways on an unlimited metro card. Pick a place that you would like to go to (museum, shop, park, etc.) and then use the subway maps (available at libraries) to trace a path. Try not to use the same way twice. An unlimited card can be used again after 18 minutes, so don't worry about getting on the wrong one.

-Stamina
I'm from a land of wide open spaces where everyone had a car, and now I have to walk everywhere. Aside from getting homesick about driving (and speeding), it means that I was not used to the amount of walking that a normal NYC day entails. Like unknowncommand said, this place can be draining. Stay in shape, or at the very least try to take vitamins, get a decent amount of sleep, and invest in great walking shoes.

Oh, and there's this great (and cheap) vietnamese sandwich place at 369 Broome street.
posted by blueneurosis at 10:12 PM on October 31, 2005 [2 favorites]


Yeah, those Vietnamese sandwiches are awesome. And cheap.

I don't know if you know lots of people here, but: it usually takes a year or so to really begin to get your footing and make friends. (I'm sure there are exceptions, but that is what I have found moving here myself and seeing lots of people move here.) People who live here are busy and hard to make plans with. Soon you will be too, but until you get into the swing of things it can be odd.

Also, don't stop in the middle of the sidewalk, top or bottom of stairs, etc. That is, be aware that people are walking around you.
posted by dame at 10:26 PM on October 31, 2005


Poor afroblanca . . .
posted by dame at 10:26 PM on October 31, 2005


Conversation
It is not uncommon for a casual aquaintance to ask you how much you pay for rent. Do not take this as rudeness. Addendum: when in doubt, talk about rent.

Swearing is just part of life in the city. Expect at least 50% more swearing than what you're used to.

Don't be nervous about talking to your fellow New Yorker. Contrary to what you may have heard, most are exceptionally friendly--though in a very direct manner. At the same time, have a reason for conversation ("How about this weather?" is not a good reason) or be prepared for a "why the fuck are you talking to me?".

Money
Everything costs more. Everything. The degree to which things cost more is in direct correlation to how awesome you are. That is, because everyone's paying more, New Yorkers tend to be excellent bargain-hunters. For example, a quick way to make friends at the office would be to say something like, "I found this place in LES that has $2.00 beer on Thursdays."

Unlike your rent, it is generally not OK to ask someone how much money they make, because it's not nice to remind New Yorkers of just how much a percentage of their paychecks is going to their rent.

Relationships
Peoples is peoples. New York peoples, more so.

Housing
There have been a million and one threads about NYC housing. The basic gist: have everything ready that you'll need to sign a lease (including but not limited to: driver's license, previous landlord's phone numbers, copy of credit report, 1st month's rent, last month's rent, security deposit (another month's rent) and any applicable realtor fees); look on Craigslist or in the Village Voice Classifieds and be prepared to run--don't walk--to the place the second it's on the market; call management companies (numbers are usually on the sides of buildings or in the yellow pages) and ask if they have any units available--this eliminates realtor fees.

Once you find a place, you'll now have plenty of time to start looking for your next place. Just about everyone is trading up, except those lucky bastards with awesome rents (rent control/rich aunt/etc.)

Transportation
You'll be walking a lot more. Just the way it is. Learn the basic N/S routes on the subway. You'll learn the E/W routes as you go. Avoid cabs unless you're really drunk or it's really late or you live on Sketchy St. Related to housing: the closer you live to a subway station, the better. Don't have a car in the city unless absolutely necessary (addendum: or you live outside Manhattan, where you have a reasonable chance of finding parking on the streets). If you've got tons of dough to spend on a parking space, well, fuck you. :)

Food
Whatever you want, whatever you need, whatever country's cuisine tickles your fancy... you can find the best of it in the city. The word everything does not begin to satisfactoraily describe the options available to you. Grilled Cheese. French Fries. Fish and Chips. Bagels. Steak. Indian, Ethiopian, Italian, German, Japanese, Thai, Chinese... if you ask for a regional dish you're likely to be asked for more specifics. Northern or Southern Indian? What town in Italy? What tribe in Ethiopia?

And, of course, pizza. Here's the absolute basics: if you want a slice, go here or here. If you want a pie, go here or here or here.

Anyway, that's for starters.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:26 PM on October 31, 2005 [6 favorites]


Don't be nervous about talking to your fellow New Yorker. Contrary to what you may have heard, most are exceptionally friendly--though in a very direct manner. At the same time, have a reason for conversation ("How about this weather?" is not a good reason) or be prepared for a "why the fuck are you talking to me?".

This is the principal thing I try to get across to Midwesterners attempting to deal with NYC. If you want to know something, ask someone. Don't say "Excuse me... I was wondering... if I could ask you a question..." This behavior pegs you as either con man or God Squad, and you will fall through the filter. "What time is it?" "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" Just ask your question. If (horrors!!) you're not clearly understood the first time and must repeat yourself, well, the alternative was starting with that silly boilerplate those irritating Midwesterners use.
posted by Aknaton at 10:41 PM on October 31, 2005


Oh my fucking god. You guys are amazing. We must meet up for drinks.

Great links, Civil. \m/

Cold weather: Bring it on. Cold-weather camping has turned me into a surly polar bear.

Swearing: Fuck. I said "fuck" randomly, just now. That's how awesome me and swear words are. We're tight.

Car: I don't own one now, so I'm pretty cool with not having one. Segue:

MTA: The greatest four letters in the English language, as I learned the last time I was in NYC, are N, Q, R, and, W.

I have to train myself not to look up, because invariably, every time I surface from the subway, I turn into THOSE BUILDINGS ARE HUGE HOLY SHIT and I can practically feel the natives wondering if I'd be interested in this bridge they've got for sale . . .

Definitely interested in finding the cheap, but awesome, places to eat. Funds will be tightly monitored as I stabilize to the new environment.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:48 PM on October 31, 2005


Tip musicians you like in the subways with pocket change. They have permits. People topside probably don't.

The sellout subway musicians with the MTA issued banners have permits. To the best of my knowledge anyone without a sign has no permit and I guess can get hauled off if the cops are feeling ornery. I've found the best subway musicians, the ones that I give money to, never have permits.

And subway breakdancing/acrobatics (in the moving cars) are really cool. They also don't have permits.

And I mentioned cops: You will not be helped by the NYPD. You will be hindered by them, from subway searches to busted parties to beatdowns at protests to ruined Halloween parades.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:41 PM on October 31, 2005


Sounds like London with better food.
posted by lunkfish at 11:43 PM on October 31, 2005


I have no comment, except to say that I love New York and Manhattan and am jealous. You will love it!

Actually, I do have some comments:

- People in Manhattan are generally nice. Be open to the fact that you will soon be on a name-basis with your dry cleaner, the bodega guy, the guy in the pizza place, and so on. Meet your neighbors.

- Go to all the museums. All the time. A great thing to do, if you have some spare cash, is to become a member of the MoMA and some of the other museums. Once you're a member, you can do stuff like go there after work or when you have a few spare minutes. It's wonderful.

- You will walk a lot. A great way to get to know the city is simply to walk all over it. Plan some walking tours for yourself; walk (as I used to do) from 103rd (where I lived) to Chinatown and you'll find a lot of great neighborhoods on the way. Just set aside a couple of days to walk around and gawk.

- When you are choosing an apartment, don't choose a big apartment in a crappy neighborhood. Don't live near Penn Station. New York is a city that pushes you to stay out--in parks, libraries, cafes, restaurants, shops, and the like--rather than stay in. You will find that a small apartment in a great neighborhood full of bookstores, eateries, parks, and so on is far more enjoyable than a big apartment in the midst of a barren midtown block. And as you make friends, you will spend more and more time at their apartments or out with them. Neighborhood and proximity to a useful subway line are the most useful. In fact, I'd even go so far as to recommend a sublet for a month or so so that you can learn the city before you put your name down on a lease.

I hope that helps--you'll have a great time!
posted by josh at 3:32 AM on November 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


One note on C_D's post:

Joe's pizza (the good one, on the corner) is gone. Don't bother with the other one down the block. This is another good place to go for a slice.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:51 AM on November 1, 2005


Don't live near Penn Station.

Ha! As if you'd be so lucky. If you can find a place on "the island" that's within your price range, consider yourself lucky (or wealthy).

As for the "neighborhood vs. apartment" debate, I'd say it depends on the kind of person you are. If you're a homebody, or plan on hosting a lot of parties, move further out and get a bigger place. On the other hand, if you want to really feel like you're in the center of where everything is happening, you'll be trading in your square feet.

To give you a practical example, when I was apartment hunting a couple of years ago, I found a two-bed in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) for $1600. I found a two-bed in SoHo for $200 more a month.

Aaah, but what does "two-bed" mean in New Yorkese? For the Brooklyn place, one bedroom was the size of a large closet, the other bedroom had clearly once been part of the living room, but recently sectioned off. The living room was gigantic. The kitchen consisted of a stove, a sink, a single cabinet and a refridgerator from the 1950s.

The SoHo place, on the other hand, had no living room. The "common area" was the kitchen, which was the size of a large closet (about twice the size of the Brooklyn place). I guess you could put a small table in the kitchen and one of those 9" TV's and... viola! living room! The bedrooms had just about enough room to fit a queen sized bed. But nothing else. Like closets.

Of course, that place was a block from the Ford Modeling Agency, so the view couldn't be beat. I opted for the Brooklyn place, however, as my friend/roommate didn't want to sleep in the kitchen. Spoiled-sport.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:51 AM on November 1, 2005


I must put in a word for the hood. If Manhattan doesn't work out for you, try Brooklyn. There are parts that are equally rich in culture, food, etc.

And don't be afraid to ask for directions. New Yorkers LOVE to give directions. In fact, many times if you ask a stranger for directions another stranger will stop to make sure you're getting the best route.
posted by captainscared at 5:04 AM on November 1, 2005


Even though there are 8 million people in the naked city, it can sometimes feel lonely, but then you also can feel much more warm bonding with strangers than anywhere else.
Here's my obligatory daily why-I-love-NYC story:

Last night on the subway coming home from the parade in the Village, in a car delightfully crammed with witches and vampires and cupids and french maids and unidentifiable zombie types, some dingbat decided his conversation with someone who wasn't getting on that particular train shouldn't have to end when the doors closed, so he held it open and kept talking. At first, it was just one or two people on the car that started yelling at him as the conductor came on the PA to ask him nicely to stop, but in 60 seconds, all of us were positively roaring at the idiot to let the door go or get off. Young drunk guys, frail old ladies, everyone: were were just hollering a blue streak at him. When he finally got off, we all smiled at each other in triumphant accomplishment and had a general discussion about what a douchebag he was.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:37 AM on November 1, 2005


I've been living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan for the past seven years (I moved here from Ohio). Having run my experience by many friends, I noticed a common storyline. Naturally, your NYC experience may differ.

PHASE ONE: BREAKDOWN
Well, there's an initial stage of wonderment ("Wow! Tall buildings!"), but after that, harsh reality floods in. Everything seems too difficult. Finding a job is difficult; finding an apartment is difficult; paying the rend is difficult. I moved here with $6000 in savings and as I saw it dwindling, I got really scared that I would wind up on the streets. People are friendly here, but they are also busy. They don't have time to pick you up if you fall down. After stressing for months about this stuff, I almost had a nervous breakdown.

Years later, I mentioned this to a room full of friends, and they all said things like, "Oh my God. Me too! That first YEAR! Ouch!"

This sounds like a horrible thing to tell an NYC newbie, but the good news is that you get over it. You DO survive. It's mostly a matter of acclimatizing yourself to the rhythm of the city -- it happens by itself in time.

PHASE TWO: PIECE OF CAKE
The city is now yours. You feel like a New Yorker. You know your way around. You give guests a tour and they marvel at your savvy. You have a favorite coffee shop and a favorite book store. You have a neighborhood. NYC no longer seems outrageously expensive, because you're earning more and you know where to find a bargain.

You are more exposed to different kinds of people than you ever have been before, and it feels great. You're totally comfortable chatting with Hasidic Jews and ghetto guys.

PHASE THREE: EVERYTHING NEW IS OLD AGAIN
NYC becomes just a place. It did for me. This is sad. I have to admit that though the city no longer scares me, it no longer impresses me either. I never think to look up anymore. After work, I come home and do stuff I can do anywhere.

One day, I realized that when I first moved here, I got so excited when I saw a film crew working ("Wow! Those guys from 'Law and Order.') Now I get pissed off. ("Great! I have to walk three blocks out of my way because some asshole wants to make a movie!")

I seriously need to inject some fun back into my NYC experience. I'll put that on the to-do list.

===

There's been some great advice here. I'll add that I work in the entertainment industry (both theatre and around the fingers of TV/Film/Web). If you need some specifics about that stuff in NYC, feel free to ask.

Oh, and welcome!
posted by grumblebee at 5:57 AM on November 1, 2005 [2 favorites]


Oh yes. And while living in New York City, you will most likely see someone vomit in public. So, uh, be prepared, I guess.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:12 AM on November 1, 2005


As a hick who moved to Manhattan I'll throw in:

1. Do not, do not, do not start out in Brooklyn. It's great. But it's not Manhattan and you should at least see what all the fuss is about before getting the fuck out of there for saner and cheaper environs. As you can see, this is debatable and it comes down to personal preferences. I like to be at the center of the center of the world. Lower Manhattan is it. It's seriously giving me shivers right now to think about it (I live in Atlanta now).

2. RE: Museums. One can get into any of the big museums (MoMa, Met, Whittney, etc.) with an ID badge from any of the big banks and law firms in town. Though you might not work for one, you will meet lots of people who do. They can all go for free with a flash of the badge, and can bring up to 4 guests (5 total I think, some museums may only let 4 total). It's great not to feel like "I'd damn sure better get my $20 (!!) out of this museum visit because I can't afford to come back for a year." Instead, go back all the time with that friend. Or get somebody's old ID. They don't care. They don't look at the pictures at all...

3. Pick something!!. In many cities, it's easy, and in fact key, to be into a lot of different stuff. Art house movies. Bars. Clubs. Coffee. Shopping. Art. Avant Garde art. Music. Food. In New York City, each of these hobbies/activities/indentities ("foodie", "art nerd", "arthouse movie nerd") could last a lifetime. Probably more than a lifetime. This seems like a blessing of course, but it's also a curse. There is just too fucking much to do in NYC. To much even to filter out the good stuff and go to that (these guys take a shot at it every week -- they do an allright job). You'll be run ragged trying to experience everything. And this will get old after a while. I wish that I had been more structured in my fun in NYC. I think getting a deeper experience of some of the best food in the world would have been better than my scattershot (bagels!, corned beef!, thai!, oh, look documentary!, MoMA!, The Gates!, Speakeasy bar!, Clubnight! Magazine lanuch party!) approach. I wish I had ignored more. And then again, of course, I don't. Definitely definitely expect the deluge. Expect to drown in the most exquisite torrent of culture sights sounds smells tastes and experiences.

(4. Man I fucking miss Manhattan.)
posted by zpousman at 6:33 AM on November 1, 2005 [3 favorites]


- Don't live in Manhattan. I can't stress this enough. I don't understand why people pay so much for so little, just to say they live in Manhattan.

- New Yorkers get a bad rap. We're very nice people. Just don't waste our time (seriously- dawdling is the surest way to annoy a New Yorker).

- I hate to break this to you, but the one truism I've found in my 15 years here is that there are people who are New Yorkers, and people who are not New Yorkers. You will find out which camp you're in within the first 3 or 4 months- you'll just know. This will not change. Accept it. If you discover that you are not, at heart, a New Yorker, don't fight it, and accept that NYC is a waystation on your journey. I've met a lot of people who are miserable because they simply cannot tune into the NYC vibe, yet keep trying in vain to "find their niche".
posted by mkultra at 6:33 AM on November 1, 2005


Oh, and a couple more things:

- Everyone delivers. EVERYONE DELIVERS. Even the drug dealers deliver here (or so "my friend" tells me...).

- Pick up a copy of NFT.
posted by mkultra at 6:43 AM on November 1, 2005 [2 favorites]


NYC becomes just a place.

This never happened to me in the 24 years I was there (and boy, do I miss it). I never lost that "wow, this is a great city!" feeling; of course, I didn't take that advice about not looking up, either. I'd go out of my way to walk down streets I wasn't familiar with, and never ceased being astounded by all the wonderful and quirky architecture that isn't in any of the guidebooks. (Which reminds me, if you like that kind of thing get the AIA Guide to New York City—it's a constant delight, the only problem being that it's too heavy to lug around with you all the time.)

Great advice in this thread, particularly about walking and knowing alternate transit routes—you will arrive at your station to find that service has been discontinued until mumble mumble because of bzz squawk hiss and you have to be somewhere in half an hour. There's a big difference between the guy who goes "oh fuck" and stands around looking helpless and the guy who goes "oh fuck" and heads briskly to the next line over or dashes to where he knows he's likely to get a cab (before the first guy figures out he should try that).

I want to emphasize mkultra's wise words:

New Yorkers get a bad rap. We're very nice people. Just don't waste our time (seriously- dawdling is the surest way to annoy a New Yorker).


I'm constantly explaining this to people, and it's especially vital information for visitors from south of the Mason-Dixon line, where it's impolite to just buy something without having a little conversation about the weather or one's extended family. In NYC it's just the reverse; if you get to the head of the line and say chirpily "My, it's hot today! You know, I'm from Georgia, and I thought I was leaving this kind of weather behind..." you will get glared at by everyone, the cashier and the other people in line, and you will go away hurt and spread stories about how cold and rude New Yorkers are. Nothing could be farther from the truth—New Yorkers are as nice and helpful a lot as you could ask for—but there's a time and a place for everything, and a situation in which people are waiting to be served is not one for casual conversation. The golden rule of NYC politeness is Don't Waste My Time; remember that and you'll be fine.

Good luck and enjoy the pizza!
posted by languagehat at 7:07 AM on November 1, 2005 [2 favorites]


Even the drug dealers deliver here

100% true. First time I saw a weed delivery guy I completely lost my shit.

I don't understand why people pay so much for so little, just to say they live in Manhattan.

There was an episode of Seinfeld where Elaine is debating between dating two guys. One is just perfect, but he lives all the way uptown requiring 3 transfers. The other is awful, but is just a couple of stops away. Naturally she goes for the awful one.

Point being, once you're off the island, it feels like it. Oh, I know, rationally the subway goes everywhere, so there's no perceptable difference between someone taking a train to Penn Station from Williamsburg versus the Lower East Side. But it feels different.

Yes, there are plenty of nice things to see and do in Brooklyn. I once heard that there are even a couple of places to go in Queens. But it's not the same, not even close. Look at a map--the coolest places in Brooklyn all hug the Manhattan side. It sucks feel like you're just outside the center of the universe, but wait, it's really just a couple of stops, really, it's not a big deal... just wait a half hour for the L to come and you'll be right in the Village! Brooklyn is all the drawbacks of NYC living with only some of the perks. Queens is somewhat less of the drawbacks, but substantially less of the perks. You'll quickly find that all your work friends want you to come "over" to visit instead of the other-way-around, except for maybe twice a month when they'll hear about some "hip, new" place in Red Hook so they'll begrudgingly make a trek.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:25 AM on November 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


Don't say "Excuse me... I was wondering... if I could ask you a question..." This behavior pegs you as either con man or God Squad, and you will fall through the filter. "What time is it?" "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" Just ask your question.

Great advice. Just as an aside, this works the other way, too, sadly. After being raised in the NY area, I still have a hard time living a more polite, pass-the-time section of the country. I have been accused of being 'brusque' and 'aloof' when, actually, I am a very nice person -- just not used to making meaningless small talk with strangers about nothing. It's tough to toggle this on and off once you get used to it.

One more bit of knowledge -- after you're settled, you'll want to get out every now and then for a break from the city. Public transportation can take you to some wonderful places. NJ Transit can bring you down to many nice spots on the Jersey Shore. Amtrak goes out to Old Saybrook or Mystic, Connecticut or Westerly, Rhode Island for some good beaches. In most of those places you'll need to figure out a cab or a bus to get you from the train to the heart of the activity, but it's completely do-able.

Also, about the museums -- you won't always need a coporate member card to get into them. The Met and Cloisters, at least, actually don't have a real admission price: it's a 'voluntary donation'. So you are within your rights to give them $3 and say "This is what I can donate today." They are used to this, since art students do it every day, so don't feel weird even if you get a frosty look. I'm not sure which other museums operate this way; maybe the Natural History. This thread is making me nostalgic...It's been too long.
posted by Miko at 7:28 AM on November 1, 2005


Aw shucks, I might as well throw my $0.02 in here.

Buy a monthly Metrocard. If you find yourself riding the train a lot, say to and from work, don't bother shucking out $2 everytime you hop on the train. The monthly card will save you money.

Read up on the city. Good resources are the Village Voice, Not For Tourists (NFT), and even CitySearch can be helpful.

If you have some acquaintences or friends-of-friends living in the city, try to reinvigorate those relationships. If they're transplants (and, of course, nice people), they can understand what it's like to be a newcomer to the city and help you get established.

DO NOT go through an apartment broker to find a place to live (unless you have a spare $3000 to drop). Craigslist, et al, can be helpful for finding a place. Also, what everyone else already said about apartment hunting.

If you're on a budget, take the time to hunt for bargains. My personal favorite was cheap Tsing Tao and lo mein in Chinatown. H&M is good for cheap, stylish clothes. The Strand is wonderful for used books. Everyone has their own personal favorite ways for saving a buck.

Have fun!
posted by slogger at 7:48 AM on November 1, 2005


Read this thread. Subscribe to the New Yorker. Pick up the Village Voice. Explore, explore, explore -- start with the Circle Line, and consider taking the Gray Line bus tour when you're new in town. Ride buses; you can see how things flow together in a way that the subway can't show you. Walk.

I would disagree with C_D -- I live in Astoria, Queens, and really like it. For what I paid for my first Astoria apartment, I could have a.) had roommates in Manhattan, or b.) had a really shitty studio apartment in Manhattan, with red stains in the tub and the shower in the kitchen. I lived in a studio before moving to New York and was tired of seeing everything I owned without turning my head. Now I live in a big one-bedroom in Astoria that's three minutes from the subway (and fifteen from Manhattan via the N/W) and it's great. I have a real neighborhood, full of unpretentious melting-pot New Yorkers and not hipster boutiquey art-gallery trash. (Art galleries are fine, but you know what I mean.) I can get everything from sushi to Albanian food delivered within fifteen minutes.

I'd also check out New Yorkology, Forgotten NY, New York Songlines, and Bridge and Tunnel Club.
posted by Vidiot at 8:06 AM on November 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


And go to MeFi meetups. We hold them at the drop of a hat, and we're friendly.
posted by Vidiot at 8:07 AM on November 1, 2005


Flavorpill has cool stuff to do in NYC. They'll send it to you by e-mail each week.

In October, my friend moved into an apt north of Washington Heights (last exit on the Henry Hudson northbound in Manhattan) for $800/month. It's a one bedroom with a living room, and it's cheap enough that he doesn't need a roommate. The only catch is that he had to pay a $1400 to a broker. And it took him 6 months to find.
posted by exhilaration at 8:45 AM on November 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


Point being, once you're off the island, it feels like it. Oh, I know, rationally the subway goes everywhere, so there's no perceptable difference between someone taking a train to Penn Station from Williamsburg versus the Lower East Side. But it feels different.

If you live in NYC, and particularly Manhattan, there's always one thought that stabs deep into the heart of your brain stem and doesn't go away, ever.

"How fucking long is it going to take for me to get home this time?"

Your travel time, all of it, car, subway, bus, everything but walking and cycling, is at the mercy of millions of other people, many of whom don't care how long it takes for you to get home.

Getting back to Manhattan from Brooklyn is always a chore, no matter how many Brooklynites will tell you "oh, it's only 15 minutes on the train". It may actually be only 15 minutes when the train is moving, but there's the additional 15-20 minutes waiting for the train, and then the other 5-10 minutes when the train is stopped in the middle of the tunnel. If it's after 11pm, double all of those numbers. Then multiply by the number of drinks you've had.

Rapid transit in Manhattan is usually just that - rapid. Outside Manhattan, it is simply... not.
posted by Caviar at 9:00 AM on November 1, 2005


Get a good large bag, like a messenger bag because you'll need to be hauling some necessities with you every day. I loved not having a car when I lived in New York, but the downside was not having a trunk to stash a change of clothes or extra CDs or snack food. If you don't have one already, get an iPod because it will make your commute that much easier.
posted by Sara Anne at 9:02 AM on November 1, 2005


For chrissakes, learn how to walk!
posted by skryche at 9:28 AM on November 1, 2005


Getting back to Manhattan from Brooklyn is always a chore, no matter how many Brooklynites will tell you "oh, it's only 15 minutes on the train". It may actually be only 15 minutes when the train is moving, but there's the additional 15-20 minutes waiting for the train, and then the other 5-10 minutes when the train is stopped in the middle of the tunnel. If it's after 11pm, double all of those numbers. Then multiply by the number of drinks you've had.

I don't understand why Manhattanhites subscribe to this canard. Trains run at a fairly uniform rate the whole length of their line- how is it possible for them to work otherwise? If you're waiting for a train, it doesn't matter one iota where you're getting off. I live in Park Slope, and I have an easier commute to downtown Manhattan than most Manhattanites.
posted by mkultra at 9:35 AM on November 1, 2005


Some other tips, from the top of my head:

- Yanks or Mets. Pick one. You must pick one- you can't root for both.

- Ray's Famous Original != Ray's Original Famous != Original Famous Ray's, etc.

- Never, ever, ever eat at a chain restaurant again. There's simply no excuse for that in NYC.

- If at all possible, avoid the 4/5 line during Rush Hour. Take a transfer if you have to.
posted by mkultra at 9:40 AM on November 1, 2005


I live in Park Slope, and I have an easier commute to downtown Manhattan than most Manhattanites.

Sure - but that's only true for a very small part of Brooklyn.
posted by Caviar at 9:42 AM on November 1, 2005


NYC has enough people already. Please go away (unless you are bringing a lot of money).
posted by camworld at 10:32 AM on November 1, 2005


If you can't afford to live in Manhattan live in Williamsburg. It's got great restaurants, clubs and bars and is what Manhattan and the Village used to be before the Giuliani turned it into Disney/Niketown.

If you can't afford to live in Manhattan, you can't afford to live in the trendy part of Williamsburg, either. However, do try the fringes, such as Greenpoint, East Williamsburg, and Williamsburg below Broadway.

the alternative was starting with that silly boilerplate those irritating Midwesterners use.

I'll agree with what everyone else is saying: those cliches, platitudes, and niceties are wasted on New Yorkers. Get to the point, please.

"Great! I have to walk three blocks out of my way because some asshole wants to make a movie!"

Alas, my lad, you left out step four: You become a near-native local, which includes knowing that you have the legal right to walk through a movie set and that if you time it right, you can be just another bit of background business for whatever they're shooting. You can watch episodes of Law & Order, Third Watch, and CSI:NY and see plenty of New Yorkers pointedly ignoring the production assistants.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:55 AM on November 1, 2005


Look up. I still do it. I still drink from "I Love NY" coffee cups too.
Walk and explore. You'll find something. But Walk right!
Vice Guide to NYC.
New York is what you make of it. You can ride the wave or let it crush you. Your choice.
Watch "The Cruise". When you start taking NY for granted, watch it again.

Also, you may want to get a short-term sublet when you first get here. I stayed with a friend for a month before finding a place and a job. This made the transition that everyone bitches about much easier. It sucks to have to move twice so quickly, but you'll get a better idea of where you really want to live, rather than being immediately stuck in a year long lease.

And go to a meetup.
But be nice to Amberglow. We all are.
And welcome!
posted by hellbient at 10:56 AM on November 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


- Yanks or Mets. Pick one. You must pick one- you can't root for both.

Absolutely true. And make it the Mets. Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Microsoft (to update an old analogy).

If you decide to spend more than you can afford on rent and live in Manhattan, cultivate the kind of contempt for the outer boroughs shown by some commenters here. If you decide you can stand not being in the Heart of the Heart of It All and live in Brooklyn or Queens, memorize the appropriate line about "it takes only X minutes to get to Y" and get used to having to cajole your friends into making the trek to your place. Yes, it's unfair that they'll go to the Columbia neighborhood, which is just as far away, without a qualm. Suck it up. (If you live in the Bronx, god help you. And if you live in Staten Island, let's face it, you're not really a New Yorker at all.)
posted by languagehat at 11:26 AM on November 1, 2005


Yanks or Mets. Pick one. You must pick one- you can't root for both.

Absolutely true. And make it the Mets. Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Microsoft (to update an old analogy).

If you decide to spend more than you can afford on rent and live in Manhattan, cultivate the kind of contempt for the outer boroughs shown by some commenters here. If you decide you can stand not being in the Heart of the Heart of It All and live in Brooklyn or Queens, memorize the appropriate line about "it takes only X minutes to get to Y" and get used to having to cajole your friends into making the trek to your place. Yes, it's unfair that they'll go to the Columbia neighborhood, which is just as far away, without a qualm. Suck it up. (If you live in the Bronx, god help you. And if you live in Staten Island, let's face it, you're not really a New Yorker at all.)
posted by languagehat at 11:27 AM on November 1, 2005




Damn, I always miss the good threads when I'm at work!
Anyway, as a relatively new Manhattanite myself, here's what I wish someone had told me 6 months ago (that hasn't really been covered yet):
1) WASH YOUR HANDS. When you get off the subway and where you're going, wash them. There are so frickin many germs in this town it's insane. My boyfriend and I got sick all the time the first few months we were here. Now we're religious hand washers and while I'm sure some of it is just immune system adjustment, the hand washing certainly can't hurt.
2) If you are at all a light sleeper, for the love of god don't get an apartment with windows facing out onto a major (or minor) street with bars on it. I guarantee you you will be woken up at 4am at least two nights a week to the crowd spilling out, even if you have no trouble with general street noise. Earplugs don't help.
3) Get used to feeling poor. No matter how much money you make, Manhattan can make you feel poor. Budget first for rent, second for food + going out, and distant third for everything else.
4) Yes, you can get any kind of cuisine here, and the best of the best of most any kind of cuisine. But that doesn't make the average any better than anywhere else (and frequently worse). Invest in a Zagat, and learn to love menupages.com. Especially in New York restaurants, that old adage of "good, cheap, fast, pick two" is really, really true. And Magnolia Bakery cupcakes are the most overrated steaming piles of crap I've ever eaten, don't believe the hype.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:51 PM on November 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


Have your money ready, and then move quickly to the left.
posted by Soliloquy at 7:29 PM on November 1, 2005


If you get a bike, don't ride down one-way streets. You're asking for it.

Just because everyone steps off the curb like they're trying to steal second - don't. Between taxis, drunk people, and messengers, be patient.

Be prepared to be fast. Sometimes you'll need to be, sometimes not. I think most long term NYers are thinking 10 seconds ahead, whether it's whether it's how they want their eggs, or how you can get through a crowd of people to exit the subway car.

If you run into someone on the street, and another person starts talking to both of you rather soon, it could be a scam. If someone starts talking to you, it could be a scam.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 3:44 AM on November 2, 2005


Invest in a Zagat

No. Zagat is a popularity contest. Bookmark chowhound.com, and cultivate foodie friends who know about the taco truck that just started coming to such-and-such a corner and blows away the competition. And keep your scent receptors open as you walk around; a whiff of garlic is always a good sign.
posted by languagehat at 6:47 AM on November 2, 2005 [1 favorite]


And, apparently, get used to mysterious maple smells.
posted by Caviar at 9:04 AM on November 2, 2005


No. Zagat is a popularity contest

Agreed. Zagat is a total blight on the restaurant scene, a prime example of the problem with the democratization of reviews- people vote for the things they like. Don't even get me started on their new non-restaurant books...

C_D: Meh, those hipsters can stay home for all I care ;)
posted by mkultra at 11:03 AM on November 2, 2005


If you get a bike, don't ride down one-way streets. You're asking for it.

Good advice, but if you must go down a one-way, just slow down (a lot) and pay particular attention to everything - cars pulling out, pedestrians, other bikers. They won't look for you since your going the wrong way. The burden of responsibility is definitely on you here.

Also, if you ride, do not ride with headphones on, unless you want to die. I can't believe what a disturbing trend this is becoming. And ride a door-length's distance from the cars - otherwise you will get doored, eventually.

One more - when you're walking, there's always someone behind you, so if you need to make a u-turn, do it with the proper signals, and loop like a car, instead of just turning and walking the other way. This will prevent hot coffee from burning you, but more importantly, ruining your new Chinatown-Prada jacket you just got at that sample sale.
posted by hellbient at 9:25 AM on November 3, 2005


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