Help me feel I made the right decision in moving to NYC.
May 20, 2008 8:14 AM   Subscribe

How did you adjust to living in New York City? I just got here and I'm feeling incredibly overwhelmed and uncertain about my decision to move here. Any advice?

I don't officially move until June 16, but I'm here this week to check out apartments. The shuttle driver who drove me from the airport to my friend's apartment cut off a taxi and the two drivers rolled down their windows and started shouting at each other. At the time I thought it was humorous and "so New York", but now I realize I am actually going to be living among people like this. I'm from California and the culture is so much more relaxed and friendly there. A deep sense of doubt is consuming me.

This city is overwhelming. I have only one friend here and I'm wondering if I made the right decision in leaving all my friends and family to be here. I'll be living on a teacher's salary (~$45k) and I'm worried I'll be stuck living with a creepy roommate in a tiny apartment because I can't afford anything else.

Reassure me, MetaFilter. Hold me.
posted by HotPatatta to Grab Bag (46 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
When I moved to NYC I walked around a lot, just exploring neighborhoods. It was a great way to get to know the city and begin to know the people. New Yorkers are actually very friendly, they just have hot tempers sometimes, particularly cab drivers. Don't take it as emblematic of all New Yorkers!

I actually found it very easy to make friends. There are so many people from all over.

You'll be OK. Promise!
posted by miss tea at 8:25 AM on May 20, 2008

At the time I thought it was humorous and "so New York", but now I realize I am actually going to be living among people like this.

Cheer up- if you're lucky, you'll turn into "people like this". Don't be too scared, nothing can't be fixed- if you hate your first apartment, you can get another, if you hate your job, you can get another, if you hate your friends, you can get more. That's what New York offers people- choices. Soak 'em up!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:27 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Heh, I'm a New Yorker who moved to Seattle, and I have the opposite problem. I frighten people! In any event, you eventually become dulled to all the stimuli and everything seems less overwhelming. You'll find little surprises to love on every corner. Which neighborhoods are you considering? I'm a little worried about your salary stretching to cover the crazy-assed rents.
posted by astruc at 8:30 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I moved here from Maine about three years ago...

You make more than I do, and I meet the cost of living here. I have a nice place on the top floor of a duplex in a quiet neighborhood called Astoria out in Queens. So don't worry about being able to afford things, there's always a way to- and in fact, it fits nicely with the next piece of advice I'm going to give you:

My suggestion is to find a nice quiet neighborhood in an outer boro. Queens and Brooklyn are the best candidates, with places like Astoria, Forest Hills, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Long Island City, etc. These places are not only more down to earth, but they have the unique ability to feel like smaller communities when they're part of a large, large city. This means that you can find more accessible social circles, and make friends branching from work, your local watering hole, the cafe down the block, or the park where you sit and read. And don't worry about the commute- 15 minutes for me lands me in midtown Manhattan- so long as you find a place close enough to a train (any but the G, good lord!*). Best of both worlds IMO.

So best of luck, don't feel too intimidated. Once you settle in, you'll see that you can make the city your own.

*the G's not really that bad. Just notoriously slow.
posted by self at 8:31 AM on May 20, 2008

I just spent five minutes looking for this old comic I saved, before I remembered that we can't post graphics anymore. [shakes fist at metafilter blue sky]

The comic was two panels:

Panel 1: California - shows a guy saying "have a nice day!" while actually thinking "fuck you"
Panel 2: New York - shows a guy saying "fuck you" while actually thinking "have a nice day"

Having lived in both places, I can say that's pretty accurate, generally speaking.

Hope this helps!
posted by Aquaman at 8:31 AM on May 20, 2008 [18 favorites]

I was out with a group of friends. We had all lived here for years, except for one guy, who had only been here a couple of months and was struggling like you. On top of trying to cope with this new, chaotic environment, he felt like a wimp because he seemed to be the only one having problems.

To make him feel better, I said, "Show of hands. Who had a horrible time when they first moved here?" All hands went up. People started telling stories of depressions, nervous breakdowns, moving home to live with their parents and then moving back, etc.

I don't say this to scare you. Because the flip side is that we all endured, got over our fears, grew stronger, and learned to really love the city.

I had such a hard time when I first moved here that I got physically ill. I developed a nervous disorder and had to take meds. Now I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I think my experience is typical (though maybe a bit on the extreme end).

New York City is one of the best places you can ever live. There's so much going on here -- something for everyone. And, believe it or not, people here are really friendly. I'd say it's one of the friendliest cities I've ever lived in. It's hard to see that at first, because people are in a hurry and they run their lives around efficiency. But when the shit hits the fan, New Yorkers are great. You should have seen this place after 9/11.

Look lost and it's possible that no one will stop and help you. But make one tiny request for directions and you'll get mobbed. Friendly, helpful people will come out of the woodwork. It's not that they didn't want to help you before you asked. It's that they didn't notice you were lost, because they were in a hurry.
posted by grumblebee at 8:42 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Man, I remember when I first moved to NY. There were some scary places, neighborhoods. 6 months later, I'm walking around there no problem. I think it was 3 months before I was comfortable in the subway.

Why don't you ride around on one of those tour buses and see the sights? Go to the Statue of Liberty.

Do all the touristy things that tourists do. Check out all the places you've seen in movies and tv. You really live in a cool city. And you know what, people are actually nice. They're just busy. You will be, too.

I lived there on 200 bucks a week when I started out. But then I lived in a curtained-off corner of someone's living room. I'm sure you'll do better.
posted by CrazyJoel at 8:44 AM on May 20, 2008

Time for you to attend a meet-up.

As for these kinds of people, you may find this article (You Got a Problem With That?) on the New Yawk personality interesting.
posted by caddis at 8:44 AM on May 20, 2008

It seems scary now, but I promise you, in a year you're going to LOVE it and you're going to be a better person for having experienced a NYC move.
posted by k8t at 8:49 AM on May 20, 2008

I am not the best person to answer this, as I lived in NYC for 11 months, 6 days and 15 hours, and have never once regretted leaving that god-forsaken place. But there are so many people here saying, "Oh, you'll get dulled to the noise, the dirt, the assholes," and I just don't understand why that's a goal. I hated NYC, got sick, physically, from how miserable I was, and spent a year afterwards getting rid of bad habits and attitudes I'd developed from living there. Getting out was the best thing for me. I earned $50K a year back in 1990, and left with a mountain of debt. Not sure I'd want to live there today on less. (Actually, quite sure I wouldn't.)

So I guess my advice is to listen to your gut. If you aren't a NYC kind of person, don't go there. Some people just thrive off the energy, but not everyone. I do better visiting (for very short periods every decade or so). Others think they're in the hinterlands if they're anywhere else. I don't think that anyone should force themselves to adapt to that place if it feels hostile to them.

Or, alternatively, go there with a Plan B in mind so that if it doesn't work out, you know you can leave. That might make adapting easier, too, if you don't feel trapped. Sorry I can't reassure you, other than to tell you to trust yourself.
posted by Capri at 8:54 AM on May 20, 2008

I moved to Brooklyn in January. I make a librarian's salary (~40K) and live in an inadequately heated apartment with too many roommates.

I'm a quiet, mousy person, who is made nervous by large crowds and casual swearing. Stupid decision, right?

I kind of adore it.

Remember that it's a different (not wrong, just different) culture and try hard not to take anything personally; and give yourself lots of slack in taking time to adjust.
posted by Jeanne at 8:59 AM on May 20, 2008

New York is like a relationship- If you're headed here for the wrong reasons, it will only get worse. My first time out I was just out of college, in a terrible relationship, completely direction less. I had some fun, but mostly I was completely miserable. I came back two years later and it has just been wonderful.

-Find some friends! Join a few clubs.
-Take a walk. My favorite thing to do was just head to a neighborhood I'd never been to before with 20 bucks in my pocket. Chinatown is great for this- A little ice cream, some fishballs on a stick, a dragonfruit and some dumplings later and you'll be convinced that you're living in the world's greatest city. Take an afternoon to explore Central Park. Head out to some of the city's botanical gardens. Little Italy is kind of a tourist wasteland, but take a stroll on a warm summer night with the lights and the crowds and you feel like you're in a movie.

Learning the geography of the city is 80% of the key to happiness in NYC.

Don't be scared of New Yorkers. We're in a hurry- or we like to look like we're in a hurry- but I've very rarely had a nasty altercation. People love to be helpful, if only to show off their NYC-Fu.

Subscribe to some newsletters. So many zany things go down in a week (That floating pool! Free shows! Wine tastings! Sesame Gelato, mmmm) that you're bound to miss a couple. After a few weeks you'll start to know which venues and theaters to keep an eye on.

You will have a terrible, gut-wrenching time and then you will get it and find yourself in a superb zen. I've been all over the world and even though many cities are prettier and more likable than New York, none even begin to touch on it's essential personality.
posted by GilloD at 9:01 AM on May 20, 2008

"Oh, you'll get dulled to the noise, the dirt, the assholes,"

I'm not a rah-rah team New Yorker. If you don't want to live here, don't live here. It's great that this is a big world and that one has all sorts of choices.

I've been here for ten years, and I'm not dulled to the noise. I hate loud noise. It's not noisy in my office or my apartment. It's generally not all that noise when I walk down the street. It just depends where I choose to live, work and walk. NYC has so many neighborhoods, each with its own character. (Some are quite clean, at least by city standards.)

And people here aren't assholes. (Sure, some of them are, but some are everywhere.) There are so many interesting, kind, giving people here. I'm sorry if you never met any of them.

I'm not a world traveler or anything, but I've lived in London, California, Florida, Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, Maryland and New York. In my experience, NYC percentage of assholes is on par with other places I've lived. Again, people here have a unique rhythm. It's easy -- when you first get here -- to mistake that rhythm for assholishness. It's not. As you'll learn if you stay here long enough.
posted by grumblebee at 9:01 AM on May 20, 2008

New York City is one of the best places you can ever live.

Correction: New York City fifteen years ago is one of the best places you can ever live.

This has been true for about the last 100 years.

Seriously, though: Grumblebee is right. Collectively, New Yorkers are the warmest, kindest people I've ever had the privilege to live among. The cartoon Aquaman remembers captures this perfectly.

Where exactly will you be teaching? I want to suggest sane places to look for housing and a community, but New York is a big place and I don't want to start on the wrong end for you.
posted by gum at 9:02 AM on May 20, 2008

I grew up in a tiny town in rural New Zealand and I've lived in New York City for 3.5 years now. For me, the best way to come to grips with it was to treat it like a collection of small towns. Each neighborhood is self-contained - its own little place with its own downtown and cool areas to check out. So just take the city a neighborhood at a time.
posted by gaspode at 9:02 AM on May 20, 2008

You'll be fine. Bear in mind:
...we spent entire evenings together during which we exchanged less than a hundred words; once, we walked all the way to China-town, ate a chow-mein supper, bought some paper lanterns and stole a box of joss sticks, then moseyed across the Brooklyn Bridge, and on the bridge, as we watched seaward-moving ships pass between the cliffs of burning skyline, she said: "Years from now, years and years, one of those ships will bring me back, me and my nine Brazilian brats. Because, yes, they must see this, these lights, the river--I love New York, even though it isn't mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it."
posted by chengjih at 9:03 AM on May 20, 2008 [4 favorites]

And as for cost of living: You're in a city! If the grocery next door is too expensive, go down the street. Or try a weekend market. Rent is VERY expensive, but with a little bit of homework everything else is on par- or cheaper- than the rest of the country, just due to the sheer size of the competition. Budget yourself- I made it here in 20k the first time, 25k now. I've never felt like I couldn't have the time I wanted to have.
posted by GilloD at 9:03 AM on May 20, 2008

maybe you can take comfort in the fact that some others of us are a bit jealous.
posted by gcat at 9:06 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Basically, the NY-CT-NJ area, and also Boston and Philly are the only remaining bastions of an old form of the male species who is competitive, alpha-leader, living in a capitalist environ. This old form was proud of his heterosexuality and enjoyed public scenarios where this was all hilited, including male-bonding, and misogynist types of offbeat humor, etc. ALL!!! now very politically incorrect.
Enjoy it, you'll soon never see it again, as the left-coast, whiny, subaltern to the nanny state, bland, nonjudgmental, non-capitalist, unisexual ethos will dominate everywhere. Of course, there are hetero male-dominated cultures on lefty west coast, for example the LA entertainment industry, but showing it on the street is not encouraged, as it is in NY. Showing it in the streets is a form of power and street theater. Hurray.

When I moved to NYC as a young man, Manhattan was still affordable. And I lived several places there (I was in school on upper W. Side). But I wish I had been forced to go to the boros (I did end up in Brooklyn later, hwvr). THere are more interesting commercial streets and friendships in the boro neighborhoods. I predict you'll have a fantastic, funky, small apt. Even if you have to share it (expect two people to pay at least 800 each, but for 2 nice bedrooms in a more interesting block, maybe 1000 each). So, once you are broke!!, then you'll be forced to cook from scratch from unprocessed foods, and you'll be much healthier.
posted by yazi at 9:06 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

*holds HotPatatta*

I felt exactly the same way when I moved to New York. It gets less overwhelming. Right now you're noticing everything and don't know what to screen out. In a few months you'll know what you should pay attention to and what can be classified as background noise, and you won't get that THERE IS SENSATION EVERYWHERE AND I THINK I HAVE SYNESTHESIA feeling anymore. You'll also realize that people are really quite friendly; it just takes a different form.

*lets go of HotPatatta*
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:09 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hi. Fellow California native now living in Manhattan. Welcome to the city - hopefully we'll see you at a meet-up semi-soonish (I'm hoping to organize one myself in the near future).

It's like the song says: Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Its just a line from a song, but its one of the truest truthisms I've ever heard in my life. And I've lived a lot of places (most recently in Africa for 8 months, 5 years around NYC before that).

NYC really is one of the best places you could possibly get to live on the planet. It is a time that you will be able to look back on when you are older, fondly. It is a special badge that will open up worlds of conversations with people you meet later in life who also carry the same badge. It is an adventure that you could spend a lifetime here pursuing, and never really come to the end of, because it is always changing (just...don't do that, because the world's a big place and you should try to see more of it than just NYC).

Go to the museums. Explore the windy streets of the West Village. Have a beer in a Brooklyn beer garden. Play in a pub. league sport in Central Park or Chelsea Piers. Learn how to live / eat on the cheap and healthy side (there are good threads here about such things). Save up and spend one night living with the extravagant side of the city, and have breakfast in a diner while the sun is coming up and talk with good friends about why you're glad you don't live that way the other 364 days of the year. Then take the subway home and enjoy the ride, just like you enjoy it the rest of the year when you're headed in the opposite direction from home.

The people here are really great. Its a wonderful kaleidescope of humanity and you get to look into it for as long as you see fit. I sometimes find myself sitting out on my front stoop at 2 in the morning, just watching what kind of people are out and about at that time. I'm trying to work up my courage to play guitar in the subway station down the street. I'm still finding new tiny hidden little gems of restaurants in my own neighborhood, let alone the rest of the city.

Don't ask Metafilter to hold you. Let the city do it.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:14 AM on May 20, 2008

I'm from California and the culture is so much more relaxed and friendly there.

What part of California? I'm a native NYC-er who's been living in L.A. for 2 years, and I find both cities very similar personality-wise. With so many people here driven to succeed (and a lot of folks who are just plain off their nut), "laid back" isn't the first thing that comes to mind about L.A. Now San Diego, Santa Barbara, etc. -- definitely more chill.

You may have to readjust your senses of time and physical space to survive in New York. New Yorkers like to get things done with a minimum of B.S.; they also like to keep moving, staying on-the-go, so there's an impatience with people who aren't locked into the same rhythm. For example, one of my huge pet peeves (speaking as a native) is people who stop at the subway entrance, blocking the stairway for everyone else, to look at a map or say a protracted goodbye to their friends. Anything that blocks the normal flow of foot traffic makes steam come out of my ears. :-)
posted by mirepoix at 9:14 AM on May 20, 2008

Walk. Walk walk walkwalkwalk. Get a map of the neighborhoods (here's one geared for tourists) and make a point to explore one thoroughly each weekend. Visit every borough.

Find quiet spots in parks. I'm fond of The Ramble in Central Park and of The Cloisters. Prospect Park is amazing.

Used book stores. So many quirky friendly casual people. (Not to mention cheap books.)
Visit Bluestockings. Honestly, you just walk in and everyone treats you like a friend.

Take every opportunity you can to go out with your friend's friends. If one of them is in a band, go to a show. If one of them has similar politics, ask about events. The usual social networking. It's intense in NYC, but also easy because there's so much going on and it's all close together.

Choose a bar and a coffee shop and become a regular. You'll start to get acquainted with staff and other regulars, and it'll be another place that feels homey.

Disclaimer: I don't actually live in New York. I'm just there a lot and have come through terror to love it.
posted by hippugeek at 9:24 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ha Ha Ha, Welcome to New York. Two aecdotes: I was at a crummy job and was talking to someone I was giving a tour to and noted that I had lived in the city for eleven months two weeks and that everyone had told me "the first year is rough, it gets better after that." He immediately responded "that's what we tell you for your first year, it's actually your first five years." That said, I've had a number of friends who moved here, but then left after six months, but it's the planet.
posted by history is a weapon at 9:28 AM on May 20, 2008

The brilliant cartoon Aquaman John Callahan refers to is by John Callahan.
posted by grouse at 9:46 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yup, I got the just-arrived blues/panic worse than I've ever had before or since on my first day or two in NY. Lasted all of about two days, and after that I found it an amazing place - albeit that I found I had to escape once every six weeks/two months. What hippugeek said: kick back, find some local venues you like (bars, shops etc.) and then go out exploring.
posted by YouRebelScum at 9:50 AM on May 20, 2008

Seven years ago I moved to NYC having spent most of my life in Tennessee. I knew one person here. I was making $32,000. My plan was to work for 2 or 3 years to get experience in my field then, move back to the South. But before I knew it, I had great friends, a great job, a decent apartment, and a wonderful boyfriend.

It seems over whelming, but once you get here, you just take things day by day. The housing search is a right of passage. You've gotten some great advice upthread. I would suggest neighborhoods like Astoria, Sunnyside, Inwood, Jersey City and the north western section of Washington Heights (where I lived for 6 years) as friendly, affordable, and safe for recent transplants. It's often easier to get a long term sublet (1-2 months) and then try to find more permanent housing once you are here. In those neighborhoods it's still possible to find studios or one-bedrooms for ~$1100 if you want to live alone.

The thing is, there's something for everyone here. You don't even have to be one of those nose-to-the-grindstone, work-80-hours-a-week type of folks to have success and be exposed to wonderful opportunities. I'm a non-profit shlub working 35 hours a week, hanging out with other non-profit schlubs, artists, and musicians. But I've had just the most amazing time living here, and experienced things that would have been impossible anywhere else. I've worked on projects with Gloria Steinem and Kathleen Turner, had an affair with an intellectual giant (who's been the subject of an FPP in the blue), seen David Bowie play live seven times, and appeared on Entertainment Tonight twice. NYC is a continual stew of wacky, wonderful, frustrating, and stinky.
posted by kimdog at 10:38 AM on May 20, 2008

hang in there! it took me a full 6 months to adjust. as soon as you say, "i've just moved here," people will look at you with sympathy and take you under their wing.

get out there and walk around as much as you can. seriously, you have to develop calluses to get by in new york. on your feet, and maybe a bit on your heart.

one thing i recommend is buying one of those "streetwise" guides to manhattan (and brooklyn, if you go there often). don't worry about looking like a tourist. it is absolutely indispensible. also, the "not for tourists guide to nyc" is very handy. you can get both at barnes & noble.

it's crazy, but you'll learn. just hang in there for the first 6 months and you'll find your footing.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:41 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's a good chance your first month here is going to suck, especially since you don't have a place to live yet. If you have friends in the city use them. The absolute best way to find a decent place to live is by word of mouth. You're here in summer, so you'll be dealing with the horrid heat and humidity, so hopefully you can find somewhere with AC. The subway is your friend– a big scary crowded friend that takes some getting used to– but the best friend you'll have in the city. Make sure you keep on on weekend service changes on the lines you use.

Make sure to eat well and wash your hands– you're touching a whole bunch of germ-covered stuff every day, and your immune system isn't used to it yet.

Don't get too wrapped up in getting settled to enjoy the city, this is the greatest place in the world, and you're lucky to be here. Get out, make friends, walk around, take pictures, and enjoy yourself.

Its definitely scary, but 6 months ago I was in the same position, and now I'm the one giving advice. Worry not my friend, and welcome to NYC.
posted by dantekgeek at 10:54 AM on May 20, 2008

BTW I'd also recommend getting a bike if riding in urban traffic doesn't scare you. The city has gotten a lot more bike friendly over the past decade (nowhere near Portland, Boulder or even Chicago, but not bad at all), especially the gentrifying/gentrified parts of Brooklyn. I live in central Queens and I ride whenever possible.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 11:32 AM on May 20, 2008

I had similar concerns to yours when I moved to New York about 12 years ago. I lasted 7 years and, while there are many things I miss (including my career, alas), I wouldn't move back. When I first arrived I lived in Queens, near Astoria, which I wouldn't recommend as a respite from Manhattan. The chaos is more ethnic than the fast-walkers of midtown, but it's still dirty and noisy and the train is packed wall to wall and I never got used to it. We were right near the LIC heliport and the copters used to hang over our building waiting for clearance to land all those CEOs coming in from Connecticut at 7 in the morning. (If you have any kind of class baggage or resentment, NYC will give you a lot of material to work with...) Later I moved to a tiny studio on the Upper East Side, which was a better fit: quieter, and I could walk to work through Central Park instead of taking the subway, which was a lifesaver. Try to make sure you live or work near some green space that you can breath in every day.
posted by libraryhead at 12:05 PM on May 20, 2008

enough people think that NYC is an amazing coty (if not THE greatest city in the world) that you ought to spend a little time and open up a bit in order to figure out what they're talking about. You'll either see it or you won't. And when that time comes, you'll know exactly what to do. In the meantime, welcome! Have a blast! Try a different kind of ethnic food every night of the week! On an off-day, choose an avenue, start downtown, and walk as far as you can. Go to a museum. Go to many, many museums. Go to the Village Vanguard, the most famous Jazz club IN THE WORLD. Eat Indian food in Jackson Heights.

etc., etc., etc...
posted by fingers_of_fire at 12:38 PM on May 20, 2008

When I moved to NYC, straight out of grad school with a job to go to that would take 1h45mins of commute one way, one friend and three days to find an apartment I was scared shitless. No doubt. But I'd also never felt more alive in my life. This was my challenge, the first one I'd ever faced as an adult, and I even if it was fear, the tingle I got from it and the adrenaline rush felt like I had just been woken up from a long, boring, dream. The first night in my new, tiny, unfurnished UES shoebox with one suitcase and the cheapest futon I could find I cried like a baby. I always knew I could leave and go home again and no one would have thought me pathetic for doing so but I also knew that NYC was my hometown. I'd just never lived in it before.

I don't live there anymore - I live in California now. And they are very different places. When I first moved here I thought I would go insane from the boredom and the slow pace and the faux niceness. People often asked me which I liked better but you can't compare them. Comparing them is madness because they aren't just different places they are entirely different universes. I couldn't live in NYC right now but I couldn't live in a world where NYC wasn't just a plane ride away. Luckily we have an office there so I get to go back frequently (each time with elaborate plans about how I can live bi-coastally and, well, the cat will just have to learn to fly won't he?). I dream about going back all the time.

I think most people who move to NYC feel like you feel at first. And maybe it won't be for you in the end. I think if you approach it as The NYC Adventure of Aught-Eight and don't try to force NYC to fit the CA mould but rather accept NYC for what NYC is and has to offer you can at least make the most of whatever time you do spend there.
posted by marylynn at 12:52 PM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I grew up in bucolic small town in California and have been in New York for ten years and doubt I'll leave.

With that said, I must say that the only people who stay working or living here happily are those who have a compelling reason to be here above anywhere else: the center of mass of their friends and family; work that can be done only here or is better paid or easier to get here than elsewhere; or some kind of truly absorbing hobby which is at its pinnacle in New York. Cute neighborhoods and parks and restaurants and friendly bars just won't suffice in the face of can't win choices of housing cost versus housing quality versus commute distance, the vast costs in money and time of outdoor recreation which is trivial anywhere else in the country, more hard-to-win trade-offs when you have kids, etc.

Give it a shot, but don't worry if you decide it's not for you, and don't put good time after bad if you do make that decision.
posted by MattD at 1:29 PM on May 20, 2008

I must say that the only people who stay working or living here happily are those who have a compelling reason to be here above anywhere else

Sorry, I just don't agree. I don't have a compelling reason to be here. I came here to do theatre, and I'm doing it, but I long-ago gave up wanting to do Broadway-style theatre. The work I do could be just as easily done elsewhere.

I don't have any family here.

I stay here because it's home. I fell in love with this particular city, so I'm faithful to it. I love being married to it. I love all its warts and wrinkles. I hate them, too, but what are you gonna do?

I think that's the most compelling reason why people stay anywhere. People stay in horrible war-torn countries because they feel those countries are home.
posted by grumblebee at 2:00 PM on May 20, 2008

My dear, you'll be just fine.

I first came here 20 years ago as a college student. I had scary moments like that, and I've also had scarier ones -- like taking a walk through a park on a nice day during lunch and stumbling upon a man masturbating in broad daylight -- but I also had gloriously offbeat and charming ones, like the winter morning I was thoroughly grumpy and had to get up early for some errand, and stomped onto the subway to find three of the merriest-looking department store Santas were on as well. I sat next to one of them and cheered myself up just watching the faces of kids as we traveled.

I went a year only riding on a single subway line because I was too nervous trying to figure out how to read the others; I rode the 6 train everywhere. The 6 train goes up the east side; if I had to go somewhere on the west side, I just took a very long walk. I got mugged once, but that day I'd just gotten a new wallet and hadn't yet moved all my ID and cards from the old to the new, so I was able to congratulate myself for being smart as I handed them a wallet with a five-dollar bill in it, and they ran off, leaving me unharmed and still holding onto all my ID and my credit cards and my bank card and my other $20. I picked up friends here and there, who taught me how to use the other subways and commiserated with me about laundromats.

And gradually I found my own city landmarks -- the corner deli where the owner once saw me buying a box of cat food and grinned, saying, "I bet someone's waiting for you, huh?" The salsa record store on my block with the owner who always said hello. The doctor who opened up his storefront and painted it to look like a MASH unit. The coffeeshop run by East Village Activists who also ran a bar in the evenings, and made a point of sending staffers to walk home patrons who lived on the block and had had a little too much. The dog run in Tompkins Square Park where a little girl struck up a conversation with me once about why she liked pug dogs MUCH better than any other kind. The subway station where six sailors asked me for directions to McSorley's Ale House, and when I said the best way to show them was to have them follow me onto the proper subway and I'd tell them the best stop, they all invited me along, and so there I was being treated to cider by six really hot guys in dress whites.

And I also eventually had my own city calendar: December was when the museums put up their own Christmas trees; May was when the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has its big Japanese festival during cherry blossom season. July was when the free summer movie festivals start. September was when the book festivals started. November was time to stow my bike away for the winter, and April was time to dig it out again.

Within a few short years I couldn't imagine living anywhere else. You'll have your scary moments too -- so have I since, but you have those anywhere. But in time you'll just roll your eyes at them, or save them to swap stories with friends over a drink (I have my own about the cabbie who insisted on taking me to a freight entrance at a train station simply because I had luggage). But you'll also have "who's seen the weirdest thing" stories (I once saw a guy riding down 2nd Avenue on a unicycle, wearing a tuxedo to which he'd sewn several plastic forks), and "who's seen the best things" stories. You'll be just fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:23 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

P.S. to Grumblebee:

I think you're me. (Stage manager, here.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:24 PM on May 20, 2008

Julia Wertz does a hilarious comic called Fartparty (dont let the name turn you off - its great!) and she moved to Brooklyn from San Francisco last year. She was inconsolably homesick for a while; its takes some time to get used to New York, but now she's warming up to it. Anyway, check out the comics for some misery-loves-company if you want.

It seems to me that one of New York's greatest assets can also be a liability; there is so much to do here that sometimes you are paralyzed by all the options you have and end up staying inside. A great filter is an event list that suits your tastes. Nonsense NYC is an email subscription list that includes mostly free, arty events in the city. Flavorpill lists all the major culture events, though these can get expensive.

Also, check out Gothamist. Not only does it give great advice for cultural events, its also a nice way to get to know whats going on in the city news-wise.
posted by minicloud at 2:38 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Actually, people here are really nice - there are just a few assholes, and that comes with "a lot of people".

I recently got a t-shirt that indicates how much wireless signal you're getting and walked with a friend to a party about 10 blocks from where I live. I had literally a dozen people stop me to chat about it (it was also the first nice spring weekend evening so everyone was happy).

You give people half an inch, they'll treat you well.

I've been here for 25 years. The first year or two was tough. I didn't make a good friend for two years. I can't imagine leaving, except that I fear I might have to leave the US for good someday if it keeps going this way.

Finding a place to live is hard. The key is alternate solutions. e.g., you might want to be on the nonsense list, mainly because of the cool events, but there are some cool roommate situations.

I've done extremely well for a place to live but that's because I always started to look for a place very very early. The one time I didn't, I ended up couch surfing for a while.

Were I you, I'd find a tiny, tiny room somewhere (Jersey City?) so you don't get panicked into doing something wrong, and then take your time finding the "place of destiny".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:06 PM on May 20, 2008

Hah, preview!

Some other great lists:

extreme NY (mine).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:10 PM on May 20, 2008

Most people really aren't like that most of the time. Driving in New York will make the gentlest soul into a lunatic cursing machine, I swear.

As others said, take a lot of walks. I moved here 15 years ago (from a small town in Tx) to go to college and never really felt like I knew New York until I dated a guy who walked everywhere. It really is like a bunch of small towns. If you're feeling really overwhelmed, I'd recommend walking around (and maybe even trying to live in) the more residential parts of Brooklyn--"Brownstone Brooklyn"--which have a much more homey feel than a lot of the rest of New York. When I lived in Astoria, I didn't know my neighbors, but my first week in Brooklyn, I met a couple of people who were sitting on their stoops.

Think of some things you like to do and find something similar in NYC to do. Museums, bookstores, parks, sightseeing. Summer in NYC is full of free stuff to do--concerts in parks, movies on the pier, stuff like that. Wander around and try things.

As for money, it's doable too. I started out at $25K in the mid-90's, and was making a whopping $35K in 2001 when I decided to go to law school. Now I'm a public interest attorney. You live in an outer borough, you make smart choices, you'll be fine and still be able to have fun.
posted by Mavri at 3:54 PM on May 20, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, you guys. Really. I'm still scared shitless, but it's nice to hear from people who were as frightened as I am and grew to love this city. I know it's an amazing place with terrific people, but I just wonder how I fit into the whole thing.

And not being rich blows!
posted by HotPatatta at 4:22 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

When you're here to visit or house-hunt, you often wind up seeing the city at its worst and most inconvenient. You'll be amazed at how different it feels when each day is your own and so many new places and situations are opened up to you.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 6:09 PM on May 20, 2008

Seriously. Everyone else said it, but I'm scared about moving from NYC to California (so it's really as much for me as it is for you)... You're going to be fine here. I had a rough first week and it took me a full year to really get to know the city, but stay with it, give yourself plenty of time to get around (since you never know what's up with the subway at first), walk, explore, and don't be afraid to ask for specific tips on Metafilter or directions on the street. As Sesame Street so wisely said, "we are the people in your neighboorhood". It's not all crazies on the train or insane cabbies- there are plenty of people who have been right where you are and are happy to help. Take a deep breath and enjoy the adventure!
posted by Thin Lizzy at 7:48 PM on May 20, 2008

Oh, Hotpatatta, I have more practical good news for you -- I have about the same income as you, and I can afford housing. I do have to have a roommate, but the apartment is in a nice area of Brooklyn and is absolutely HUGE -- it's about 3/4 the size of my parents' HOUSE. There are also other parts of the city where, if I wished, I'd be able to afford a place by myself, and yes, those places are also in good parts of the city as well.

So yeah, your income's also okay. You may not have a SEX IN THE CITY or a FRIENDS apartment, but you won't be stuck living in a shoebox in FORT APACHE: THE BRONX either.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:59 AM on May 21, 2008

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