"If I can make it there..."
January 14, 2008 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Is living in New York really that hard?

Lately I've been thinking about finally biting the bullet and moving to NYC, something I've been thinking about doing for years - now I'm feeling spurred on by the fact that I live in DC, which sort of sucks. But New Yorkers are always going on and on about how hard it is to live there. Which makes me wonder: is it REALLY that hard? Or is it just a part of the whole New York thing to make it seem hard?

Factors to consider in my case:

- I have a quite a lot of friends and family in the city (yes, I could ask them, but they either want me to move and so are delightfully biased, or have never really lived anywhere else).

- I don't have a particular affinity for cars, nor do I own one, or want one. In fact, I didn't get my license until I was in my 20s.

- I know it's pricey, but the places I've looked at on Craigslist seem to be similarly priced to where I live in DC.

- I'm an extrovert, crowds energize me.

- New York has a solid job market in my field but not the BEST job market in my field (that would be DC).

- I'm (almost) 30, have a professional degree, no kids or immediate plans for kids.

So, New Yorkers, especially those of you who have lived elsewhere: if it is hard to live in NYC, what makes it so? Is it the cost, or are there other factors as well?
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (73 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
yes, it's hard to live in new york--in all sorts of subtle ways that you don't realize until a year later--but it sounds like you have every advantage. go for it! people with far fewer resources than you make wonderful lives there.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:08 PM on January 14, 2008

gapingvoid on NYC
posted by sharkfu at 3:17 PM on January 14, 2008 [7 favorites]

I would recommend it to anyone for a year or two. I would not recommend that anyone besides the insanely rich live there forever. To paraphrase John Lennon, if you lived in Roman times, wouldn't you want to live in Rome?
posted by xammerboy at 3:26 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sharkfu, you just described my life. Viva NYC!
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:28 PM on January 14, 2008

Thinkingwoman: what do you mean when you say it is hard in "all sorts of subltle ways that you don't realize until a year later?"

I'm not trying to be snarky, I just don't quite understand this answer. To me it seems like the hard stuff would be moving there and finding places to live, work and people to hang out with. Of course, having never lived in NYC, I have no idea.

The idea of subtle hardness that you don't realize until a year in intrigues me.
posted by Sheppagus at 3:29 PM on January 14, 2008

thinkingwoman's spot on. It is indeed hard to live here but from the sound of things, you and NYC would make a cute couple.
posted by JaredSeth at 3:31 PM on January 14, 2008

Best answer: Once you are in a New York mindset, it is easy to live with the very real difficulties of living in New York. It all depends on your perspective and your frame of reference.

New York is, obviously, loud (I used to live on 6th Avenue on the second floor, it it was always, always loud), dirty (not just garbage, which is everywhere, but soot--that 6th Ave. apt. was always covered in horrible black dust from the cars and trucks), exceedingly expensive and is getting to be Soylent Green-stage crowded in much of Manhattan (being an extrovert has nothing to do with anything, so disabuse yourself of that notion).

I tend to think that the upsides far exceed the downsides, particularly if you have friends here and would be taking advantage of the city for all that it is worth (going to films, shows, concerts, lectures, exhibits). And if you thrive here, you will find it difficult to downshift to go somewhere else. But it does take something of a toll on you--it's like swimming upstream to spawn.

One observation about cost that does not always register with people: everything is more expensive in NYC. Starbucks is more expensive. McDonald's is more expensive. The grocery store is more expensive. There are definitely bargains to be had (particularly with great cheap dining), but always seeking out bargains is tiring (but part of the fun, sort of). Taxes are high, and there is a 3% city tax, as well. You should try a cost of living calculator to see what your needs would be. According to the one I linked to, you would need to make about 147% of your current salary to maintain your standard of living in NYC. On the wild assumption that you are in policy (where DC is the best market, but NY is OK), making $50,000 a year, you would have to make about $74,000 in NY to have the same standard of living. Is that feasible for you?

I was born and raised here, and have experience with Boston and Philadelphia. DC, not so much. Good luck!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:32 PM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

i can't say exactly what makes living in new york so much harder, but it certainly feels a lot tougher. Tasks that seem like they should be easy, take on a whole new sort of difficulty in new york.

Take renting an apartment for example. It seems in other places, renting an apartment is relatively easy if you have the money. Not only is rent very high in new york, but you also need 2 months security sometimes. And sometimes a guarantor within the tri-state area. Then some places will require you to make 40x your rent. Other places might require board approval before moving in. And try to find an apartment more than 4 weeks before you intend to move in? Forget it. You need to have all of those things and you need to decide if you want the place or not almost immediantly. Its normal to bring an empty to check when viewing an apartment so you can secure it right away. Theres no 'thinking about it'. And looking on craigslist isn't the truest representation of whats out there. You really have to see the apartment in person. And doing this all while you're also looking for a job, scheduling interviews and trying to catch up with old friends and move your stuff? Feeling overwhelmed? Thats new york. Everyday.

Well. At least from my experience.

But new yorkers love to complain and if you ask anyone we'll tell you it sucks to live here. But we do because it is also very awesome.
posted by modernsquid at 3:41 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Whether or not New York is hard depends entirely on you -- for me, NOT living here would be excruciating.

With that said, I think the only way to know if it will work for you is to try it, and it sounds like you're in a better position than most to make the leap. Loads of people move to NYC for a year or two and then leave. I haven't heard any of my friends who did this say that they regretted it.
posted by designmartini at 3:48 PM on January 14, 2008

One thing to consider when you think about the rents is that the real costs may be hidden. I paid about 500 a month to rent a room in Arlington and pay about the same in Manhattan, but the room is literally half the size, the neighborhood not as safe, and much, much louder. I also had free access to a washer and dryer and off street parking in Arlington.

The ad I answered in DC was in the back of the Post, and didn't say anything not true of my NYC place. In NYC I had to pay a week's rent to an agency.

My friends (in their 20's mostly) are more concentrated in NYC than anywhere else, that's what keeps me here. Many of them realize though that they'll eventually leave the city when they marry, because rents are insane for the amount of space.
posted by Jahaza at 3:58 PM on January 14, 2008

I hate to be blunt but how much money do you make? If you are wealthy, NYC is a wonderful place to live and it's quite enjoyable. If you are not wealthy, it's almost pointless to be there.
posted by wfc123 at 4:01 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

In my personal experience, the first 6 months-1 year are hard, but it gets easier after that. I was basically totally exhausted all the time for a while; adjusting to all that walking is hard. I felt totally broke for a while; adjusting to everything being more expensive is hard. I lived in a very bare apartment for a while; adjusting to life with no cars where you have to suck it up and pay for stuff to be delivered is hard. But the body toughens up, eventually you get settled, and your tolerance for expensive shit goes through the roof. And your tolerance for boredom drops because hey, you never have to be bored here. Which makes the idea of leaving excruciating.
Eventually of course the crushing reality of real estate prices might get you, but I'm sure DC has some of that as well.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:05 PM on January 14, 2008

Realized mine was pretty glib too, but it looks like others have filled in some of the blanks.

I do think the transient nature of NYC living gets to people after a while. You're not likely to afford to buy the kind of place you'd want to grow old in, and renting does get old. Because of that, people come and go.

Friends you've hung out with for years suddenly decide they can't handle it anymore and relocate elsewhere, often far away. I've often heard that the average person lives here for about 4 years, and long term that makes for some serious friend "turnover".
posted by JaredSeth at 4:19 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

You're going to get a bias opinion, vis a vis only people who lived in NYC will be able to answer this. I lived there, albeit briefly, and my take was:

(1) A lot, a lot, a lot of people live there for a brief time in their life and then move to California or Chicago or other places that are not New York.

(2) There is a point in your life where not even going out to dinner until 10PM and going to a show and then walking drunk home at 4AM is normal and all your friends do it. Also not having money is a big deal and people prioritize luxuries like they were young: drink cheap booze, wear expensive clothes, live in a tiny place with not much decorating and a large plasma, expect to meet new people and be able to adapt and switch social groups quickly as friend turnover is rather high unless you literally were born there and thus have familial connections.

(3) There seems to be a general point, at least among non-natives, where people go from absolutely broke and hating NYC after the initial lust, then sort of falling for the excitement and at a certain point they start to realize they can live elsewhere at a higher standard of living and that driving sounds better than walking two blocks in the cold for a meal.

At least that has been the feeling I got from a lot of people who had professional jobs that did not pay what things like high finance or being a lawyer/consultant wouldn't pay. Those people seemed able to wait out the time when they get vested as a partner or whatever and could afford something decent. They were the ones comfortable living from day-to-day because it was temporary, at least mentally. Do you ever seen yourself getting $1.5mill in one fell swoop of a bonus and being able to obtain a more normative standard of living?

In any case, I doubt whatever professional capacity you reside in, New York is usually not a bad place to have on a resume. You wouldn't be stepping down, usually. So why not try it out for 4-5 years and move back to DC if it doesn't work out? If you stay within the industry, a move from DC to NYC and back again in that sort of time span won't look that bad.
posted by geoff. at 4:35 PM on January 14, 2008

I honestly didn't fully realize how hard it was until I moved away after 8 years and saw how easy it is to live elsewhere, in comparison. Carrying groceries through the sleet for ten blocks once a week felt like a normal chore after a while.

That said, I wouldn't trade my time there for anything. It toughened me up. Everyone should try it, especially if they're intimidated --because I think you'll find it's not that bad once you're in it. In my experience the challenge of it and the crush of humanity can be both invigorating and numbing at the same time, for the same reasons.

And yes I nth everyone who says it's easier when you have more money. Quality of life is exponentially better when you can afford to take advantage of the many offerings of the city's nightlife, restaurants, theater, etc, live in a vibrant community, live close to a subway stop, and have enough room in your apartment to feel human.

All this, merely my experience. YMMV
posted by np312 at 4:39 PM on January 14, 2008

I lived in NYC for 4 years and I didn't find it particularly hard at all. You can meet just just about every type of person, buy any item or service, eat any food, learn any skill, join any club/hobby/organization, and experience a bit of just about everything there is to experience on the planet. You can get just about anywhere in the city on one subway token (what's it up to now, $2.50?), or with relatively inexpensive cabs. It's easy to get around--you can learn the basic layout of the city by looking at a map for a few minutes, and then just learn-by-experiencing the handful of neighborhoods that are more involved. In short, it's the most instant-gratification city I'm aware of. It's like the WWW of cities.

Obviously there's no shortage of people which is a double-plus. First of all, a social life should be easy to build. Second of all, you can remain anonymous easily--it's hard to embarrass yourself in public in NYC because chances are you'll never see these people again!

Regarding the "New Yorkers are Rude" stereotype, this was not my experience at all. There are simply so many people there that you can't possibly get a gleaming smile from everyone you pass on the street--BUT when you need advice, directions, or a hand, you're unlikely to be turned down. I can't tell you how many times I saw intimidating thug-types give up their subway seat for a woman, child, or elderly person.

It's certainly not a cheap place to live, but I know plenty of kids in their 20's getting by waiting tables, and they have decent apartments and aren't going hungry. I live in Baltimore now (much cheaper in general), and I get the idea the DC is pretty expensive, so NYC is probably not too much worse.

So it can be expensive and fast-paced, and sometimes exhausting (so much stimulation, noise, and walking everywhere), but for all of the above reasons I think it's actually one of the easiest places to live. (And I'm a very, very laid back person who managed to get through 4 years in NYC without succumbing to the hustle-hustle-hustle-everywhere mentality).
posted by Alabaster at 4:41 PM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

np312 pretty much says what i meant by the hardness that accumulates. it's just all these tiny things--and it may totally just be my personality. but i got to where i literally could. not. stand. to hear another car alarm EVER.

don't get me wrong: it's a wonderful city, and everyone should live there for a while. but living elsewhere is a vacation by comparison.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:50 PM on January 14, 2008

Best answer: Yeah, it's so hard to live here that no one even tries.

You're perfectly suited to the place. The only people who don't find it hard to imagine living anywhere else are people who don't love New York.

I travel almost every other week for work. No matter where I go, I always feel joy when the plane lands in New York. It's expensive, is all. So be good at what you do. As for the car thing, you'll never even notice not owning one.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:33 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The best part is that you get to look down your nose at Massholes like Curley up there.

Otherwise: Lots of walking. Waiting for delayed trains. Litter. Crazy people. More walking. Stairs. Broken escalators. Reggaeton. Finding an apartment. Affording an apartment. Getting packages without a doorman. Carrying laundry and fumbling for your keys because your building lacks a doorman. $10 for a six-pack of almost-decent beer. Horns honking. Bag searches on the subway. The laziest, most insolent public employees in North America. Random displays of power from the NYPD. Walking crosstown to pick up that FedEx package that the driver couldn't leave at your apartment only to realize that you forgot your license and that a student photo ID and a utility bill and credit card aren't sufficient only to have to walk all the way crosstown again. Tourists everywhere. Knowing that you'll probably never be able to afford the nice clean apartment that you could afford anywhere else in America. Knowing that dipshits like Sheldon Silver stand in between you and sensible policy. Being caught in the middle as a market rate tenant where neither the rent-control lobby nor the city government nor the developers are working in your interest. Knowing that your rent is going to a blustering, incompetent, inefficient landlord who doesn't care about the peeled paint and standing water in your apartment while looking for every opportunity to fuck you in the ass. Paying 3x the national average rate for electricity. Time Warner Cable. Those crazy people with the flowers who ask whether you're Jewish and then scoff at you when you say no. People who don't pick up their dogshit. Getting spotty cell service in midtown at 5 PM regardless of your carrier. Cameras everywhere. Class warriors. Identity politics. Drivers from New jersey. Having to take the subway to get to Target. Too many Starbucks. Too few Dunkin' Donuts.
posted by Kwantsar at 5:37 PM on January 14, 2008 [8 favorites]

I find that it is exhausts me physically, financially, temporally (that's not the right word), socially, and probably some other ways that I can't think of (because I'm pretty tired right now). If you have great reserves in these areas (it sounds like you do), then it won't be as hard. Most of the time that I bitch about it sucking, though, I feel like I deserve to do it because I love it so much. When other people do it, I kill them. Because that's what we do here.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:38 PM on January 14, 2008

Best answer: Meh. Full disclosure, I was born in an apartment in Queens and I've never really left. Paging jonmc.

I don't think New York is all that hard to live in on balance. There are lots of insane, scary, maddening things about living here of course. Finding things to do that don't require a down payment is a challenge, the rent is nuts, parking is impossible, there are smells and filth everywhere you turn, and six months out of the year every square @#$% inch of the city is packed with confused tourists.

And those can definitely be hard. But there are hard things about living anywhere. In Boston you have to deal with the pedestrian = target mentality of the drivers, the horror that is Logan, more college kids than should really be legal. I couldn't live in DC, the sheer tonnage of entitled politicians would drive me to homicide inside a month. It's all to do with finding someplace where the difficulties correspond to your strengths or desires.

Also, please don't assume that New York = Manhattan. There are plenty of nice places to live in Queens and Brooklyn that are a subway ride from all that jazz but don't involve ambulences drag racing outside your bedroom window.

Plus you can develop a healthy loathing for New Jersey, and that's worth it all by itself.
posted by Skorgu at 5:49 PM on January 14, 2008

I've never found it difficult in the ten years I've been here. I was broke as hell for the first two years and still loved it.

Thing is, we're all complainers here. Come join us. :-)
posted by idest at 5:50 PM on January 14, 2008

Response by poster: Hey, I'm a Masshole by birth! :)

Anyway, all super-helpful answers, thanks! I appreciate the honesty. I can't really leave my job until I'm done with the project I'm working on (which should be at the end of this year) so I have lots of time to save and plan and decide.

Anyway, thanks and keep em coming!
posted by lunasol at 5:58 PM on January 14, 2008

DC is a freaking dreamland compared to NYC.

Things I, smiling midwesterner, found foreign in NYC:

1- Everyone seems rude, but the standard for physical closeness in NYC (Manhattan and MTA specifically) is just way way smaller than anywhere else. Possibly in the world. If you are walking, you're going to get jostled, shoved and possibly mugged, that's just the way it is. You can't take it personally.

1b- Everything moves fast.

1c- People rarely acknowledge anyone. Much of that is just because some people are jerks, but much of it is because it would be exhausting to do anything else.

2- There are people from every place in the world (galaxy?) there. This may be disconcerting and smelly to the uninitiated.

3- Public bathrooms are atrocious.

4- Retail really stinks. Others have commented on prices, but let's not forget the 20 inch aisles and plastic sheeting hanging on the shelves. Which are filled with grey market products.

5- Tourists. Try getting stuff done with gape-jawed Germans staring at every building.

5b- On the other hand, you're a tourist too, so get out of the way.

6- Garbage. They throw their garbage on the curb and it gets picked up every night. It is really weird, but that's why they think NYC is dirty. In general, I found it to be quite clean except for that.

7- When things get bad, all this stuff can weigh on you. Just because there are people EVERYWHERE doesn't mean it isn't lonely. It's not just that it's everything we've all said already, but that there is SO MUCH of it.

8- The Bronx isn't all that bad.

9- 20 street numbers to the mile. That confuses people.
posted by gjc at 6:05 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't know if I should answer because I am just seconding some of the statements already made. I've lived in NYC for about 2.5 years now. A really good friend of mine lives in DC, so I've spent a lot of time there, and feel like I can make a good comparison.

I do not think it is that much harder to live in NYC than DC.

The two things that stand out in particular as more difficult than other parts of the country are:
1) Cost of living (rent is just the beginning) - it's really hard to save money, because everything you want to do, see, eat, experience, is right around the corner.

2) Due to the high cost of living, your standard of living probably will decrease in some way. For myself, I live in a 200 sq foot apartment. I'm in my late 30s, and most of my neighbors are college students. It's just hard living like this after a while. I have a friend older than me who needs to have a roomate to afford living here. YMMV

3) The crowds - you may feel differently about crowds when - you need to wait for the next 2 subway trains because you just can't throw yourself into that tiny space on the subway with hundreds of other people, or...you just want to walk home and have to dodge delivery people on bikes, huge throngs of people, etc., it gets old. Or, even if you want to go to the park or the bike trail on a nice sunny day, so do 10,000 other people. You can't move.

Despite those caveats, if you are a noncar person, this is utopia (I am also a noncar person). Subways and busses are really good. I like to walk, and 90% of the time, weather is great.

Every possible group/interest/activity you want to indulge in is here.

It's easier to meet people that you have things in common with (and I'm saying this as the worldest biggest introvert - so if you're an extrovert, it will be a cakewalk).

Also, I can't explain it - it's the stimulation. You can walk through a different neighborhood frequently, and see something new or unexpected -- all the time.
posted by Wolfster at 6:06 PM on January 14, 2008

It is crowded everywhere (like you want to go to a movie on Friday night? so do 6 million other people) and there is no fucking Target. You have to walk a lot and wait for trains. But the thing is: some people live here for a while and can't take it; some people love it so much that a dirty A train pulling into Howard Beach at 2 am is the most beautiful sight in the world. I would try to scare you into staying home to keep one more renter out of the market, but fuck it, I own: try it out; the worst that can happen is you turn into one of those people who think they know something 'cause they made it through four years.
posted by dame at 6:15 PM on January 14, 2008

I'm from New York City-ish and found it extremely difficult living in the South/Atlanta, initially. (Perhaps it was something about Atlanta, per se.) But, point being is that, which ever way the migration goes, I've just chalked the " hard living" bit to culture shock, and an eventual mismatch of needs/values/conveniences.

It does sound like you have a great list of reasons to move, and I think it's worth a serious consideration.

Plus, like Skorgu said, you can find places to live just a subway or PATH ride away, and plus you can develop a healthy loathing for Long Island/Staten Island/Cherry Hill, and that's worth it all by itself.
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:22 PM on January 14, 2008

I hate to be blunt but how much money do you make? If you are wealthy, NYC is a wonderful place to live and it's quite enjoyable. If you are not wealthy, it's almost pointless to be there.

I see stuff like this all the time and I've just never found it to be true. I've never made more than $40K/year, and I've always been content with my lifestyle, and I've saved up quite a bit as well. I've known a lot of people who don't feel that way, but most of them either have a lot of credit card debt left over from college, are doing a lot of coke, or are otherwise trying to live beyond their means somehow. If you're responsible with money, and can find a job fairly quickly, the initial cost to move here is still large, but overall you won't have much trouble. My friends in DC have to pay much larger rent than I do just to live in a safe neighborhood.

The one thing I really miss about suburbia is the supermarkets. Those wide aisles are like meadows to me. Grocery shopping really is kind of a pain here. If FreshDirect delivers to your neighborhood, that's a plus.
posted by lampoil at 6:36 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I live in one of the most expensive parts of DC right now and I spent the summer in the middle of Greenwich Village. The thing about NYC is there is just so much more to do. If you get past the rent difference (and compared to the nicer parts of DC, I don't think there is a massive difference) it's the fact that people go out to dinner constantly, they go for drinks, the shopping is unreal (as are the deals so you buy more), I had the time of my life and I spent a fortune. Did I need to spend a fortune? Not at all, but every night I had an invitation to a great restaurant or drinks (and the deals during the week are awesome, but once again you end up spending more overall), there were plays, clubs, etc. The one thing that was massively more expensive was going out on a Friday or Saturday night, drink prices are unreal (assuming you are in Manhattan and not going to dive bars, you can always go cheaper). I mean bottom line, there is always something to do and since transportation is so much easier than DC, getting to a friends or a bar on the other side of Manhattan really isn't that hard. All the downers that keep you in the house a lot of nights rather than going out to see friends in DC, just don't exist in NYC.

The other thing is that supermarkets in Manhattan are outrageous, which is one of the reasons everyone eats out, half the time you break even or spend less money. However, like all things if you put in the effort it doesn't have to be, FreshDirect is pretty good, but the massive taco salad that is delivered to your door for only $5 is pretty tempting in the face of cooking for yourself.

Bottom line, compared to DC, it's heaven, however all that fun isn't free...
posted by whoaali at 6:38 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Actually I think the worst part of living in NYC is dealing with people who visit and can't comprehend that yes, you live like this and no, you really don't want to hear about how much happier you'd be if only... But I've ranted about that before.
posted by Skorgu at 6:54 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

here's my experience:
I live in Hoboken-almost Manhattan- and work in Manhattan (Hoboken btw is an alternative to Manhattan, if you want more space and don't mind fratboys and sorority girls or ex fratboys and ex sorority girls)
Been here three months, but I have been living relatively close to the city for three years now.

Everything is more expensive. Rent-duh- but utilities as well, transportation is actually cheaper than keeping a car most anywhere else, even for me needing both a bus pass and a subway pass. But of course, if you don't have a car you will have to rent for the times you need to get out of town. Keeping a car will cost you upwards of 200/mo in garage fees, at least in Hoboken. Good luck finding parking on the street.

Work is more competitive, you will see people putting in long hours and putting up with demanding bosses. Personally I don't do that, but then again I am not looking for advancement in the current job, perfectly happy with my position...because I know I will not be living here forever.

I mean, it is great in some ways. There's always a bar or restaurant to go to, and you don't have to worry about driving back drunk. Manhattan...well it's great, but as pointed out before, things like groceries and shopping will take more time. You can't just drive to the local supermarket and pick up a month worth of food and groceries. You will have to buy groceries in small quantities, hence more trips, or have them delivered. We're lucky we live within walking distance of a Shoprite :)
Unless you make a lot of money, you will have to use a laundromat - so you will spend two hours weekly doing laundry and nothing else.
Even if you live and work in Manhattan, your commute might take up to an hour each way. More if you choose the outer boroughs.

So, there's tradeoffs. Is it worth it? I can't vouch for you. I grew up in a big city and am used to crowds, public transportation, beggars and crazy people. I don't mind the hustle and bustle. I like the city, but I know I won't settle here.
posted by spacefire at 6:54 PM on January 14, 2008

I've been living in NYC for ten years. I don't find it hard at all. I DID find it really hard for the first year when I moved here, but I have no family here and, back then, I had no friends, either. I've moved other places under the same circumstances and found it equally hard.

Now, it's like anywhere else. It's where I live. I honestly can't connect with anything being especially hard here.

I'm not rich; I'm middle class. I have a fairly nice apartment in Brooklyn. It's rarely noisy. In the morning, I walk a couple of blocks to the subway and then it's a 20-minute ride to work. I love not owning a car, and I love the reading time on the subway.

While I'm at work, I'm in an office. I could be anywhere.

Lunch time is incredibly easy, as there are a gazillion restaurants near my office. If I don't feel like going out to lunch, I can order. Almost all those places deliver.

After work, if I'm feeling like a homebody, I take the subway home. I often stop at the grocery store (a block from my apartment) and pick up something for dinner. At home, I could be anywhere. I have my Tivo, my Mac, etc...

If I'm feeling like going out and having some fun, then I'm really in luck. NYC has thousands of movies, plays, clubs, etc.

This is a very hard city to live in if you're poor. It's a hard place to live if you're middle class and feel the need to act like you're rich (e.g. wear the latest fashions all the time.) It's a hard place to live if you have a leisurely pace. Other than that, I think it's an EASY place to live. If you want anything, you can almost reach out and grab it. The subway system is easy to learn; the city is a grid; people are really helpful when giving directions.
posted by grumblebee at 6:55 PM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

Yes, if you have money, NYC is the best place on earth. (It doesn't come close to Paris but c'est la vie.) Beyond that, it's difficult to be objective to about the whole affair. The rest of America is so unbearably pale to NYC that there's really no comparison to make. Chicago is just blah, and it's cold. And it's in Indiana.

Personally, I think DC is a dump. Beyond the poor people and the crime it's just so... lame. The impeccable subways almost makes up for it but the city as a whole is depressing. You can only look at the Lincoln Memorial so many times before you start to think that the entire affair is kind of played out. Even the DC tourists are extra lame and that's saying something.

The hardest part is just finding a place to live and a way to live. Yes, it's difficult. It's very, very difficult. Don't be surprised if you end up moving over and over and over. But in the meantime... The real challenge of the city is to find your own way. You have to find your coffee shop, your lounge, your club, your gym, your park, your Thai place and your "people." It's not until that you wake up from a drunken stupor in Coney Island that you can really New York your own.

I would try to scare you into staying home to keep one more renter out of the market, but fuck it, I own: try it out; the worst that can happen is you turn into one of those people who think they know something 'cause they made it through four years.

dame is so sexy but she's not the common case. Most women rent. It's a big decision so you shouldn't let anything or anyone persuade you but, yes, NYC is wonderful and you must definitely try it. (I made it through 12 years!)
posted by nixerman at 6:58 PM on January 14, 2008

modernsquid -- Then some places will require you to make 40x your rent.

So, $1000 /month theoretical rent. $12,000 rent per year.

40 X $12,000 = $480,000 yearly salary, minimum.

I don't believe your statement.
posted by NortonDC at 7:01 PM on January 14, 2008

1) Chicago is just blah, and it's cold. And it's in Indiana. Or Illinois. Potato, Potahto.
2) Norton DC, they want your annual salary to be 40x your monthly rent, I believe.
3) I really don't have any practical knowledge to contribute, but I have to say, one of my very few big regrets was that I didn't live in NYC when I had no family committments. Go!
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:11 PM on January 14, 2008

Response by poster: NortonDC, I think she means you need to annually make 40x your monthly rent, which is annoying but fairly reasonable. So, for instance, if the rent is 1000/month, they want you to make $40K/year.
posted by lunasol at 7:12 PM on January 14, 2008

NortonDC, it's 30 times the monthly rent. So, if your rent was $1000, they would want you to make $30,000.
posted by unknowncommand at 7:14 PM on January 14, 2008

Jinx. 30 in Brooklyn, 40 in Manhattan?
posted by unknowncommand at 7:17 PM on January 14, 2008

$1,000 x 40 = $40,000 per year.

They're asking you to make enough money that rent is not the majority of your income, and that you won't be late with the rent if you lose your job.
posted by explosion at 7:17 PM on January 14, 2008

Norton DC:

$1000/month rent x 40 = you must make $40,000. Believe it.
It's not hard because you have to carry your groceries instead of putting them in your car. That's city living in most of the world. We are spoiled by cars in the US.

It's not hard because shit's expensive, there are good deals and you in general get paid more here. ($30K in the midwest - $45k here).

It's hard because you see all this insane wealth around you and all these insane displays of wealth and advertising and capitalism and you start to think "I need to make money, more money, more money" and you read about hipsters in magazines and you think, "I need to know about all the underground clubs and hot bands" and you see famous people and think "I need to be famous" and important people live on your block and you think "Why am I not a professional success at 26."

But it's not impossible, because you soon remember that money isn't everything and your friends are cool and your city is vibrant and you don't have to go to a strip mall to go out to eat, get your nails done or do anything else like you do everywhere else. You see amazing things everyday and you get to complain about the prices and you get to ask people what their rent is without compunction and you know, by osmosis, what's cool and what's not about 6 months ahead of Philly and 1 year ahead of DC.
posted by chelseagirl at 7:23 PM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think much depends on how you define hard. There is no objective standard of that word, especially if you're asking New Yorkers. Some people were born and bred here, others (like myself) moved here from other places. I don't find New York a particularly hard place to live, as in, I'm not exhausted every night when I come home from work, just from the effort of existing here. Sure, there are some hard days, when the subways break down, or when there's a huge storm, or the Republican National Convention's being held at Madison Square Garden. On a day to day basis, however, I go to work on the subway (and leave myself a little extra time in case it's running slow), I buy myself lunch (or brown bag it if I'm feeling poor), I do my job, and then either go home to walk my puppy like millions of people across America, or go out to have a drink and dinner (and pay more than millions of people in America).

I really think it depends on what your idea is of a hard place to live. No car? By and large, no problem (unless you live somewhere far from the MTA, or if you want to get out of town over the weekends). Having a car here is a mixed blessing -- sometimes it gets you places faster, other times it doesn't, and the insurance is high, and parking is scarce. Lots of friends and relatives here? Great -- you get to see them when you want to, and you don't have to if you don't want to, since everyone understands that you don't feel like taking an hour long subway ride every week. Money? It's nice to have, but so long as you're making above $50,000 to $60,000, you can have a relatively good life here. Below that, and you might have to tighten your belt a little.

I moved here in 1999, from a small idyllic town in Western Mass. I've learned to adapt to this city, and I'm happy here. I don't have a car, I don't make a lot of money, and I don't have a lot of relatives, but I have created a family of friends in this weird town. Sure, some days when you're packed in like sardines on the train, sniffing in the body odors of a hundred different people, having missed the last two trains because they were too full, wondering if your rent check cleared and if, assuming it did, you can still order take out from the Chinese place on the corner, it might seem a little hard. But if you find a place to live where you're comfortable, that's within your means, and which is close enough to the things you like to do, you'll probably be just fine.
posted by lassie at 7:26 PM on January 14, 2008

I moved to NYC in April from DC, so I'm coming up on a year. Many folks told me their first year in NYC was the hardest year of their lives. Mainly, that helps to keep me going. I have had many moments of soul-crushing depression, regret, confusion, anger.... Long moments.

I am 31, female, educated and ambitious. I'm not yet in a position to tell you why NYC is worth it, or why it's not. But i can tell you how DC looks from here.

First, what I miss:

-A really lovely townhouse with a tiny backyard and a front garden on a tree-lined street just off Dupont circle. Jesus, I miss my house.
-Pho, mostly. But also, Ethiopian food, Peruvian food, Afghan food. It's all here, don't get me wrong.. But it's honestly not as good. Rent is higher, so i thought food would cost more, but be as good. This is the food capital of the world, right? (wait til the plusses below)
-Bookstores. (johnmc is gonna hunt me down and punch me) I had 5 kickass, old, interesting and specialized used bookstores within as many blocks. I miss every one. Every day.
-I REALLY miss Kramer's.
-The relative ease of a DC winter.
-Trees, grass, gardens, beautiful architecture.
-Nearly childless, dogless, garbageless streets.
-Talking to really smart people everywhere you go who seriously, earnestly want to change the world. And have ideas for how to make it a better place. And get things done.
-wandering in and out of the east wing, or the hirshhorn, whenever, to look at that one painting i love. Free.

Here is what I do not miss:

-Khaki pants.
-Southern mostly fake-ass hospitality.
-Lame (however beautiful ) metro system. With carpeting. Ew.
-The segregation. White and black, but also rich and poor.
-hill staffers. (sorry)
-The lack of weird people. They are my people, and i always felt REALLY weird in DC. (I feel pretty boring and tame here. Oh, well.)
-The construction cranes.
-The truly lame art scene.
-Talking to really smart people everywhere you go who seriously, earnestly think they are going to change the world. Can get a bit tiresome.


-Mexican food. THIS makes it all almost worth it.
-People watching.
-Grocery stores are everywhere it seems. EVERYWHERE, I tell you!
-Bodegas. Oh, man. This might even top the mexican food. (It's 5am, I need a sandwich. And a screwdriver. And a lighbulb. Walk to the corner!)
-Pizza and bagels.
-The beach.
-Not that I have ever taken advantage of this, but there are a ton of mefites living here.
-The subway, to me, is a head-scratching, mind-bendingly confusing, often irritating work of art, architecture, infrastructure, theatre, humanity, humility and history.
-The Strand does, in fact, completely rock my world.

If you do decide to move, drop me a memail. (And save at least ten grand for the unforseens and the ohmygawds.)

Best of luck!
posted by metasav at 7:33 PM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

For what its worth, I moved to NYC seven years ago, and I was almost exactly in your situation, except I didn't know anyone here. Everyone up above covered the basics... but yeah, you are really ideally suited to move here. The big thing is having marketable job skills. If you can get a job making $50k then you'll be fine (for what it's worth, I came making a lot less, and even then it wasn't so bad). Oh, and I NEVER had dreams of living in NYC... I moved here in the throes of a quarter life crisis in order to get more career experience. Never thought I would love it as much as I do. That said, my boyfriend and I talk about leaving in a few years.
posted by kimdog at 7:36 PM on January 14, 2008

WHOA! This is not an answer to your question, but I just checked out your profile. You just moved to DC. LIVE IT UP!!! ENJOY IT!!! YES, I'M YELLING AT YOU!!!

Seriously, it's a pretty dang easy city to soak up, relax and enjoy. See it all first, then decide if you want to leave.

Sorry, didn't mean to yell.
posted by metasav at 7:41 PM on January 14, 2008

Is living in New York really that hard?

Yes, it is. But if this was really meant to be your home, you won't care how difficult it is.

Me, I've been here fourteen years. I've experienced all kinds of frustration and heartbreak. Never had two nickels to rub together. And I can't imagine myself living anywhere else. This is my home. It's just that simple.

That's the kind of mentality you have to have in order to live here.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:17 PM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Haha, metasav, I agree that if I'd just moved to DC for the first time, it'd be silly for me to be already thinking of leaving. But I've lived here before, felt lukewarm about it, and then moved back for a job. It's a fine city, just not necessarily the city for me.

Anyway, I think I pretty much agree with you about the good and bad in DC. I never want to see another pair of khakis.
posted by lunasol at 8:18 PM on January 14, 2008

I have a quite a lot of friends and family in the city

Sure you do. How many of the are willing to offer a couch until you find a place?

In a lot of ways living in New York is easier than anywhere else; if you have the cash, everything else just falls into place. You want someone to come, take away your laundry and dry cleaning, and bring it back at your specified time? Done. You want online grocery shopping and timed delivery? Done. You want {any other good or service at a time and place of your choosing}? Done. You want to go anywhere? Taxi, subway, bus, bike, on foot - all valid options. If you're wealthy enough you can even have a car there.

However, employers in New York expect long hours and flawless performance; people are for the most part indifferent when they're not being downright nasty; and everyone is busy all the time. You can't avoid interacting with these people, either; they're everywhere, pressed up against you like sardines. Unless you have enough money to only go places where they're kept out.

I miss parts of it - the food and the music, mostly - but I'd never move back.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:06 PM on January 14, 2008

You know how you might love with the jerky guy with the motorcycle over the nice guy with nothing to say? He may be a jerk, but he's also exciting enough to give you a reason enough to care one way or another. That's how New York is.
posted by the jam at 9:10 PM on January 14, 2008

You know how you might fall in love...
posted by the jam at 9:12 PM on January 14, 2008

Also, I don't care what anyone says, but compared to DC, New Yorkers are so nice. Seriously, and competent. They also aren't mad at you for just existing and ordering a coffee, they may get pissed off if you don't quickly and efficiently have your money out, but NYC was a breath of fresh air after DC.
posted by whoaali at 9:15 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's hard, but it's (mostly) worth it. I've lived in Manhattan for the past 10 years - moved here from the Boston area. You'll know in a hurry if you are meant to live here. Most newcomers either adapt or leave within the first year. Compared to Boston or almost anywhere else, NYC forces you to:

1) Triage. Your apartment will be 1/3 the size of whatever you get in DC for the same price. Will all your stuff fit? What will you throw out?

2) Plan ahead. No matter what you want to do, there are about 10,000 other New Yorkers who had the same idea at the same time. And they're on line in front of you.

3) Spend. No matter how much money you make, it's never enough. I have friends who say they are 'just getting by' on $250K a year. Raising a family in the city isn't cheap!

4) Deal with assholes Examples aplenty.

If you can deal with all that, you'll love it here. I do.
posted by dudeman at 9:41 PM on January 14, 2008

I earn a lot more than people above are saying you need to enjoy the city, and I still find it hard...partly because, even after four years here, I find the idea of spending more than a week's pay on rent to be ridiculous.

Unlike others above, I think about living somewhere else pretty much constantly.
posted by bingo at 9:43 PM on January 14, 2008

Whoaall has it, I think--the fundamental human condition in NYC is living among the multitudes. As a result, we New Yorkers have little patience for those who make themselves nuisances. Don't stand in the middle of the sidewalk. Know what you're going to order before you get to the counter. Have money ready to pay. Don't hold up the line at the subway turnstile. Always move on the right side of a two-way thoroughfare. Stand on the right of an escalator, and walk up/down the escalator on the left. Leave strangers alone.

But the flip side is that New Yorkers know that you have to live/work together when everything is so densely populated. Once you breach the protective film that keeps us in our own little worlds, New Yorkers are generous and kind. You don't just see this in disaster situations, like 9/11 and the big steam pipe explosion (not the same scale, but it was scary for us in midtown). It's the guy jumping on the subway tracks to save the person who had a seizure and fell in front of a train. People sharing cabs in the rain. Young kids helping a woman carry a baby carriage up the stairs from the subway.

There is a hardness to the City that is not for everyone. But there sometimes are moments of humanity that, when observed, make you think everything is going to be alright in the world. If camaraderie and a generosity of spirit can exist here, with a thousand different cultures living in only so few square miles built on stress and steam and steel, surely somehow the rest of the world can follow suit, someday.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:43 PM on January 14, 2008 [5 favorites]

Things I (personally) have found hard about New York:

1) Meeting new people can be hard. As such, the city can feel damn lonely at times.

2) I love the public transportation offered by buses and subways, but it con sometimes be infuriating. Especially getting between Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx without going through Manhattan.

3) Job searches can be a real bitch, but YMMV depending on your personal experiences.

However, I find it's worth it, at least for some period of time. If you love big cities, it can be a great experience. If you move here, by all means announce it in MeTa and call a meetup, we're a friendly bunch.
posted by piratebowling at 10:11 PM on January 14, 2008

It's not that difficult - you just either have to get used to standing in line a lot and being close to a lot of people, or be quite rich. Definitely work on the queuing skills. There are tougher cities - Leith for one.

some places will require you to make 40x your rent.
I don't believe your statement.

This is sadly true for a lot of the snottier places in Manhattan. Here's an anecdote for you - someone I worked with sold his Washington Square coop, having lived there since the 1980s. Cleared a full 700K in cash from it after closing. Wanted to move to a house in the suburbs for family expansion. However, this house was not going to be finished for nearly a year. So he decided to rent. Even with his wife's salary combined, their household income did not meet the 40-45x threshold that many of the condos were asking for year-long leases in Manhattan. Even when he was willing to pay the entire year's rent upfront, or place it into escrow.
posted by meehawl at 10:17 PM on January 14, 2008

I moved here for college and never left, though I'm in brooklyn now.

Protip: Brooklyn is cheaper than Manhattan. Also, my commute to the lower 30's in a lot quicker than when I lived on the Upper East Side.

What's really surprising about New York is the sheer variety of costs-- there's SO MANY ways to get ripped off. When I lived on 70th street getting food *delivered to my door* (freshdirect) was cheaper than the local grocery stores. Now that I'm in Brooklyn I go one subway stop down for the much-more-poor grocery store, which is much cheaper than the one two blocks from me.

Second Protip: Don't just Craigslist apartments. Get people in the city to hook you up-- people know when things are opening up in their building, and having a personal introduction from a reliable tenet can save you $100's a month in rent. I basically got a discount on my place because the super told me his estimate on what the rent would be, and it turned out to be far lower than the landlord's intended price. Random stuff like that is the only way to get a good deal (but trust me, I'm still overpaying) short of a rent-controlled grandmother.
posted by ®@ at 10:19 PM on January 14, 2008

Short version, yes, it really is that hard.

I lived in NYC for only two years -- one year in Chelsea, one in Park Slope. We had many of the same advantages you list (family in the city, no kids, no car or love for cars, decent job, decent money.) Two years was more than enough.

It is unbelievably expensive to do anything. Rent you know about (though it's going to be a lot worse than you expect; unless the rental market has changed a lot since our apartment-hunt, those places you're seeing on craigslist don't actually exist. Highlights from our realtors: "This doesn't have a kitchen. You don't need a kitchen. Nobody cooks in new york." Or: "You don't need windows. There's no view anyway.")

But beyond that -- we used to joke about the "door tax:" every time you walked out the door of your apartment, you would come home $20 lighter, at minimum. Even if you didn't actually buy anything, somehow, it'd just cost that much to get where you were going, or to get out of some situation once you got there.

Noise. Constant, 24 hour high-decibel noise. Traffic, sirens, underground trains rumbling, jackhammers, miscellaneous clashing and crunching. I've lived in four large US cities, none even vaguely approached NYC's noise levels. In our (not crappy, and very expensive) third-floor manhattan apartment, we could hear the subway station announcements rumbling up from below. Park Slope was somewhat quieter, but even so, I remember one night soon after we finally moved out of NYC, we were lying in bed and heard this weird unfamiliar sound. It turned out to be an airplane flying overhead. In the whole past two years, it had never once been quiet enough for us to hear something as subtle as an airplane.

Inconvenience. Simple things you don't even think about in a normal city become huge endeavors in NYC. You can't, say, buy more groceries than you can carry home on the subway: luxuries like grocery carts (not to mention stores with aisles large enough to accommodate them) will be a fond memory. It's generally easier to find out what the weather is like by reading the newspaper than by stepping outside -- living in NYC is a little bit like living in a space station; you're mostly indoors or underground, and space is cramped either way. You will have to learn complicated etiquette about dealing with doormen and building supers. Simple things like needing to throw something away that doesn't fit in your building's trash chute, can turn into epic, all-day affairs. Some of the inconveniences seem almost perversely intentional: all the shows start at exactly the same time, so all the restaurants near those shows are booked solid at exactly the same times, and everybody is outside afterwards fighting for a taxi at exactly the same time.

It's exhausting.

All that said: I'd say go for it. You're in pretty much the ideal situation right now to take advantage of the good things NYC does have to offer, which are indeed many and varied. Worst case, you'll last a year or two, get what you can from the city, and then get the hell out to the rest of the country which for a while at least will appear shiny and clean and trivial to deal with by comparison.
posted by ook at 10:35 PM on January 14, 2008

There are "fucking Targets" in Brooklyn and Queens; one is also coming soon to Harlem.

JFK called DC a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.....every Southerner I know has told me it's not the south. Its subway is much nicer than NYC's.

I've lived in two staffed buildings and don't really like it:

In both places I have had to wait for the night doorman to come and unlock the door when I'd much rather have my own key.

In the old building:
The second manager in my old building flouted the no smoking law.
Nothing was done when I told management a porter was harassing me in the elevator.
The on site plumber told me the dripping shower head "wasn't so bad" and didn't fix it.
The first time I told the manager that my windows were leaking and wanted new ones, she claimed that it was a landmarked building and they couldn't be replaced. Bullshit--Landmarks Commission told me new ones which closely matched the old could be installed.
A crucial check I needed was given to me by the concierge several weeks after it arrived...and not in its original envelope (the building installed locked mailboxes after I left).

In the new one:

At various times the doormen haven't bothered to tell me that workers had been sent away because their insurance info wasn't filled out properly.
One of the doormen has been dumping an entire bottle of cologne over himself when there was previously nothing wrong with his hygiene. He didn't take the hint when I told him the person interested in him will want to know how HE smells.
The former super demanded extra money for things he was already being paid to do. He also refused to let workers into my place even though I'd left a note giving permission and screamed when I went barefoot in the lobby.
The building's wealthiest owners are allowed to flout protocol (construction on Saturday, not informing adjacent neighbors about the length and scope of their work).
A second doorman has been posted during the day when a fulltime handyman should have been hired instead.
posted by brujita at 11:18 PM on January 14, 2008

i lived in NY for 7 years. yes, it is hard. it grinds you down. and it is amazing, and i still miss it like hell, even 10 years after leaving.

when people ask me why i don't move back, i tell them you can only move to NY if you're young and stupid, or old and rich.

not entirely true, but true enough - it's hard.

still, everyone should do it once in their life.
posted by wayward vagabond at 3:45 AM on January 15, 2008

I hate to be blunt but how much money do you make? If you are wealthy, NYC is a wonderful place to live and it's quite enjoyable. If you are not wealthy, it's almost pointless to be there.

Winner for the stupidest comment of the thread.

You do NOT have to be wealthy to live here. Evidence: me.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:38 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I earn a lot more than people above are saying you need to enjoy the city, and I still find it hard...partly because, even after four years here, I find the idea of spending more than a week's pay on rent to be ridiculous.

But if you make so much more than us, I don't see why you're paying more than a week's pay if you don't want to. My share of my rent isn't more than a week's gross pay. Others have apartments that are some combo of bigger/nicer/closer to work, perhaps, but I like mine just fine and again, I'm not trying to live beyond my means. It's not that middle class New Yorkers can't afford the things they need; it's that they think they need things they can't afford.

(Of course, if you have kids that's another story. If you have kids, it's probably not the best time to move here).

important people live on your block and you think "Why am I not a professional success at 26."

This is true, though. Disarmingly so. Good point.
posted by lampoil at 4:48 AM on January 15, 2008

But if you make so much more than us, I don't see why you're paying more than a week's pay if you don't want to.

Er...I'm not. I'm paying less than a week's pay, just like I think is appropriate. Living within my means is exactly what I'm doing. It's just not good enough.
posted by bingo at 5:57 AM on January 15, 2008

The hardest part about living in New York is it makes living anywhere else ... not New York.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:40 AM on January 15, 2008

If you want to be here, you'll make it. I've lived here for 4 years, and it's been amazing thus far. And yes, there are things that drive me crazy (I have a cheap apartment, and yet what I pay here could get me a palace almost anywhere else in the country; I miss the conveniences of suburban life like Publix and nice, empty superstores; I hate cold weather), but if I moved away I would miss this place terribly, so for now, here I am.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:44 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

NB: I am aware there are "Targets" here in New York. They are not like the Targets in the suburbs, just like the grocery stores aren't. They are dirty and picked-over and crowded and sad. Please forgive my liberty with the truth in search of a higher one.
posted by dame at 9:58 AM on January 15, 2008

dame is correct; the Targets here are not like the ones in the 'burbs. This is one thing that makes me sad about NYC.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:02 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've been here 10 years, and am originally from rural Vermont, so you can imagine the kind of adjustment I had.

I found it difficult, at first, merely to process exactly how big and how crowded the city was. The indifferent hordes on the street were completely overwhelming, and I felt isolated and simultaneously crushed by the weight of all of those people. After a year or so, this really settled out -- I got used to the fact that no one looks at you on the street, and breaking things down into My Neighborhood, My Subway Line, My Bodega really helped me get over the concept of the city and instead enjoy it as a series of small, personal pieces.

A lot of the comments you're receiving really vary depending on whether the commenter is talking about Manhattan or the boroughs. I've worked in Midtown for these whole ten years, but have only ever lived in the boroughs. Queens for a few months, and Brooklyn for the rest. I love Brooklyn more than I can say. I can't imagine living in Manhattan -- ridiculously expensive, crowded, and there's no "escape" from the city. Living outside the bounds of Manhattan means that you have a quieter place to rest your head at night, the skyscrapers and taxi-clogged streets don't press in on your dreams. I find much of Brooklyn like a peculiar smaller town or mini-city. Where I've lived, the streets are tree-lined and the heights of the buildings restricted by zoning laws. It's more manageable for me personally. And no, it's not loud.

Everything is more expensive. However, salaries generally compensate for that. On the flip side, you will talk to your friends in other cities and occasionally get cranky that you don't have the things that other people your age have: a place you own, a kitchen you can move around in, closet space, a yard, etc. It can make you feel much younger than you actually are, and the mefite who commented earlier in the thread that NYCers tend to spend their money like younger people is exactly right. Many people live with roommates even up into their 30s, and in general a lot more emphasis is placed on going out with friends, seeing concerts, eating out, dressing well, than on settling down and fixing up your home and having babies and so forth. I'm a pretty responsible grown-up sort, and I can tell you, I don't spend my extra money on new curtains for my apt even though the old ones annoy me -- I spend it on travel, shows, dinner out, drinks with friends, and clothes. The curtains (and the like) are just not a priority -- AND I don't have the time to devote to it. I'd rather be at Northsix, seeing Ted Leo for the bazillionth time. Or riding my bike to the ballfields in Red Hook to get lunch from the Mexican and South American vendors selling tacos under rooftarps.

Depending on what you do, work life here can be pretty demanding. There's definitely an expectation that you will work long hours, and be in top form. There's a pretty serious workaholic streak that dominates the white-collar industries. I know a lot of people (not even on Wall Street) that seriously burnt out, because they just found themselves devoting all of their time to their jobs -- getting home from the office at 9PM or later, obsessing over doing things perfectly, coming in on weekends. There are dozens if not hundreds of people lined up for your job, people who are desperate for that chance, and you get to feeling like you've always got to be at the top of your game, and that the standard bar is set really high.

I do think one of the most insidious things is something that has been mentioned upthread, which is this sneaky mindbending that happens when you see the wunderkind who lives next door, the kids who know about all the cool shows, the impeccably dressed and coiffed professionals on the subway who seem to have it all together, the hip artists who are at the latest latest exhibits, the girl who's close personal friends with your literary idols, the guy 10 years younger than you who just bought a loft for more money than you'll ever make in your life, etc. etc. etc. You get caught up in this, and start thinking that you have to do everything, to be everything -- there's so much you're missing out on! There's so much awesome around you that it can push you into feeling inadequate when you're doing just fine, or can drive you into a stressed out, fruitless attempt to keep up. With everything.

I love living here, and find the benefits priceless. I wouldn't ever say that the drawbacks hard enough to make it not worth it, and some of the things being complained about are No Big Deal after you get used to it. I don't think carrying your groceries, for instance, is really some great hardship. It bugs me that I pay so much for everything, and that my grocery store is always crowded -- but on the other hand, there's a great farmer's market just a few blocks from my house, incredible ethnic markets all around, and I take certain ingredients and foods for granted that are hard to find elsewhere. Some of what's tiring is just basic city stuff -- compared to a smaller city or smaller town, of course it's got a lot of random unanticipated stress. Compared to another large city? Most of the things that can make NYC tiring are found in any other major metropolis. You either want to live in a city, with all of the things that come with that, or you don't want to deal with the urban life. NYC in particular isn't necessarily to blame for some of these personality/environment mismatches. You want to live in a city? NYC is one of the very best in the world, and it has a character all its own that you'll either grow to love like it was your own family, or never quite warm to enough to keep you from breaking up over all of its annoying habits.

On preview, apologies for the length!
posted by tigerbelly at 10:23 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've lived in Brooklyn for ten years now. I'm originally from Alabama, so this was a pretty extreme change for me. For a long time I was angry I couldn't find Martha Holme's canned squash in the grocery store to make my mama's famous squash casserole. Then I discovered how easy it is to cook squash.

I went to a small private school in my hometown. I could have transferred to a public school, but I was terrified of trying to find my way around. Being lost was a big fear of mine.

So you can imagine how frightened I was when I moved here. When I got a temp job, I would map out the directions to the company the day before, and I would actually get on the subway and go there as a test run. Also, I was poor, I wasn't getting any theatre work, and the winters were unbearable to me. The cold made me cry.

Now I sometimes miss having a backyard with lots of dogs running around, I miss my friend Ellen in Atlanta, and I miss porches and lightening bugs. There's more I'm sure. But what I've gained from living here is so much more substantial than what I've lost. I could say a lot about the theatre, art, clubs, but here's the main thing: I was always a scared little girl, afraid of taking chances, and now I'm much more confident - more "at home" in my own skin. And it feels like this was "me" all along, but it tooking moving to New York to discover it.

Sometime when I go to dinner with friends in Manhattan, I take a cab back to Brooklyn (another minus, I'm afraid, is that around midnight the trains only come once an hour). And every time we go over the Manhattan Bridge, and I can see the Brooklyn Bridge to my right, and if I tilt my head I can still see the lights of the city, I feel the same wonder and appreciation as the first time I crossed that bridge.
posted by Evangeline at 1:06 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh, and the food! The food!
posted by Evangeline at 1:08 PM on January 15, 2008

A fun letter to the ed I read in the DC city paper in 1997:


This whole N.Y.C. vs. D.C. argument ("New York Fetish," 8/1) reads so much like a couple of guys talking about whose penis is bigger. Granted, N.Y.C. may be more like a real penis and D.C. more like a dildo, but the gist of the argument is the same. I suppose N.Y.C. is the better lay, but for some it may turn out to be more trouble than it's worth in the long run. On the other hand, D.C. is, well, rather plastic, but having less of a mess to deal with certainly has its advantages. The really sad fact of all of this, though, is realizing we are just talking about a couple of dicks. If you think either of them will make you happy and avoid dealing with the internal issues that really make someone happy or dysfunctional, you'll wind up getting screwed over in the end.

Paul Del Grosso
Dupont Circle
via the Internet

Letter to the editor in Washington City Paper

I grew up in Brooklyn, left to live in Tel Aviv and now am living in a small town in the northeast of England. NY is expensive and dirty and fun. You can find most things you want and if you have the energy can find bargains and tons of free events and opportunities. Convenience and amazing shows are tempting and costs loads.

Taxis are not necessarily quicker than subways and if you live in an outer borough your commute to work (and play) can be an hour and a half each way. This takes its toll in a way that you don't realize if you haven't experienced a shorter commute.

In the year and a half before leaving I was going out every night and going to multiple events a night...sometimes keeping up with friends and shows is not just expensive it can also be exhausting and a second job.

NY requires you to be able to set your own boundaries. Though because it's large as others have pointed out it can be forgiving of screwups though plugging into a community or neighborhood or sub group reduces that just like anywhere else.

Good luck whatever you decide to do.
posted by terrortubby at 1:34 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stand on the right of an escalator, and walk up/down the escalator on the left. Leave strangers alone.

what freakin escalator in NY have you found where people do this though? This is exactly the sort of thing that makes NY hard to live in - no one does shit like that. They don't move into the middle of the subway cars, even when it's crowded at the doors; they don't move to the back of the public elevators even when it's crowded at the front, they don't stand on the right and walk on the left on the escalators like they do in london... I am often impressed with how polite people can be in other cities, as a lot of public transport experience in NY really will contribute to the feeling that this is a "hard" city to live in.

I've lived here my whole life and I'm always surprised by the small ways that other cities just have small things better organized or somehow agreed upon so that it actually doesn't have to be some enormous ordeal - whereas here, it often feels far more complicated. Hopefully you will have a fairly well organized life that doesn't get you sent around on too many errands, but if you have to deal with getting stuff done, it can be a frustrating city. I'm not saying it's not worth it, but to me, it's those little annoyances that build up to cause the stress that makes NY "hard". If you ever get sick in NY, it can be seriously difficult, even with insurance - you still have to run around these giant buildings and try to find the right people. It's basically just the "fall through the cracks" feeling - there are a lot of people here, and no particular one of us is that important, kinda thing.
posted by mdn at 3:20 PM on January 15, 2008

I guess I was surprised to read all the comments about how dirty it was. I lived in NYC (briefly) in the 1980s, again in the early 1990s, and again a few years ago. It seems a little easier to move around dodgier areas now than then, and they tend to be visually cleaner, but the downside is that there seems to be a lot more people jamming up the place. Also, the Port Authority is no longer dangerous and sad. Thinking back, I guess living right in Manhattan *is* quite dirty - I guess you just get used to wiping down your windows sills and collecting huge rafts of soot. Can't be good for the lungs. I wonder what the average haemoglobin-carbon monoxide blood concentration is in habitual New Yorkers. My perspective on noise and pollution may be skewed: I spent much of my teenage years living in alley flats in Dublin between the Guinness fermentation vats and a small abattoir that would let its blood run out onto the street and down into a drain. So compared to that, New York seems clean...
posted by meehawl at 4:25 PM on January 15, 2008

Best answer: This is an interesting thread to me, because there is such a difference between the people (few, it seems) who love New York as a home, and those who passed through it transitionally.

One thing that hasn't been sufficiently pointed out, in my opinion, is the fact that for every disadvantage you suffer as a New Yorker, there are several solutions.
- Grocery stores suck? Try Maxdelivery or Fresh Direct and get them delivered to your door.
- Don't have a car? Get a Zip Car membership. Take the subway. Take the bus. Take cabs.
- Spent all your money on rent? Cancel your cable TV and go out and do a million different free things that are way more fulfilling than what's available in the 'burbs.
- Think it's dirty? Just think about all the smog you're breathing in cities that rely on cars for all transit. I grew up in Phoenix, AZ, and as a little kid we sometimes had to stay indoors during recess because of toxic smog alert days.
- Want to see nature? Hang out in the Meadow of Central Park during a summer's day. Go to the Noguchi museum's rock garden in Queens. Rent a car and visit the Poconos.
- Don't make enough money? Shop at National Wholesale Liquidators. Get a better job in a new field. Forget about rising gas costs. Drink your liquor at home (it can be delivered to you for free) instead of over-priced Upper East Side bars.
- Need an apartment? Check Craigslist, your friends, and brokers. Yes, rent is expensive, but with a little creativity, perseverance, and luck, you won't have to live in a closet. Most of the people stuck in shitty apartments are there because they didn't do their homework.

The only problem without a solution is that of your temperament: if you can't adjust to the fast pace, you will not make it. Everything else is completely within reach.
posted by designmartini at 8:12 PM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

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