October 9, 2009

Pros and Cons of Living in NYC

I was talking to a friend recently who lives in New Jersey and is trying to find an apartment in Manhattan. So far it's been 3 months and he's no closer to becoming a New York resident. He's dealt with countless sleazy brokers, apartments promised to him that were given to others, and endless hours viewing misrepresented properties. He asked, "Is living in New York really worth all this?" Yes, yes it is. And here's why: for all the agida New York gives you, it also rewards you with people, activities, and opportunities that are hard to find elsewhere. Of course agida and rewards are relative so, to each his/her own. But I've compiled a pros and cons list based on my 9 1/2 years as a New York resident. Perhaps it will help you decide: is New York really worth it?

1) Diversity of people. When my sister visited she said, "You can't walk 2 blocks without hearing a different language." It's a global culture lesson everyday.
2) Diversity of food. Due to the melting pot-ness of NYC, you can find just about any kind of food you want. From the cheap kind to the one-month mortgage kind.
3) Culture. Museums, galleries, concerts, readings, theater, dance, independent film...
4) History. New York has a unique history of immigrants, music, art, literary legends, politics, architecture, finance...
5) Walking. We are a pedestrian city. This allows you to see the sights and interact with others daily. You also stumble upon things you wouldn't in a car. And, you have a built-in gym.
6) European-ish. Outdoor cafes, pedestrian-centric, public transportation, specialty food shops, food and coffee carts, boutiques, delis, appreciation of the arts and travel.
7) Career opportunities. Many headquarters are located here and you always seem to meet someone who knows someone.
8) Fashion. NYC is one of the 4 host cities of Fashion Week. You can find anything you want here. And fun fact: even the comfortable, casual clothes and shoes are stylish.
9) Delivery. My mom thought I was kidding when i said, "I'm waiting for my breakfast to be delivered." We get everything delivered: meals, dry cleaning, pet supplies, groceries. We're spoiled.
10) Opinions. New Yorkers are extremely opinionated and not afraid to vocalize. What's great is that you can call someone an idiot, agree to disagree, and then go for a beer together.

1) It's expensive. $2300 a month for a 450-square-foot apartment - to rent. $15 for a hamburger, without fries. $100+ a month gym memberships. $igh...
2) It's loud. Screeching subway wheels, screaming subway car announcements, jackhammers, fire trucks, ambulances, car horns, trash and other loud trucks barreling down your quaint street at night, noisy neighbors, car stereos. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
3) It's abusive. Most of us don't have cars so our bodies take quite a beating. We carry lots of bags, climb lots of subway stairs, and basically tire ourselves out daily being our own car.
4) It's constantly changing. Just when you've found your favorite little wine bar, it closes. Because here it's all about what's hot now, so good luck to your little wine bar.
5) It makes you entitled and impatient. NYers are taught to ask for what we want, how we want it and when we want it. That usually turns out to be: everything, perfect and now.
6) It requires major scheduling. We're known to have 3 places to be in one night, so plans are often made 2 months in advance - just to have a drink.
7) It's overload. We pride ourselves on keeping current with everything under the sun. Weekly magazines, blogs, email blasts from friends. There's always something to do (good!), a new artist to know (fun!), but it can be information overload (exhausting!).
8) It's career centric. We are career obsessed and work insane hours. One of the first questions people ask upon meeting is "What do you do?" and often you're judged from that answer.
9) The 35-hour day. We try to cram as much as possible into every day. A workout at 5am, followed by a 8am-7pm workday, then drinks, dinner, a band, and bedtime at 1am. Even crazier? We wear our schedules like a badge of honor.
10) Public transportation. Actually a pro and a con. Pros: no car worries, lots of reading time. Cons: having to hear what normally would go on in 100 people's cars. Loud music, loud talking, loud children. People begging for money, people playing bad music for money. Train delays, construction, rerouting, sweltering platforms due to no a/c in the summer, packed-like-sardines train cars in the winter.

A friend of mine who used to live here says New York is a set of scales. Sometimes it tips to the good and sometimes to the bad, you just have to figure out which way it tips more often. Which is like any place, really, but New York is so in-your-face that the good and bad are more amplified.
So in the end, is New York really worth it? Well, 8.2 million of us say a resounding "YES!" (Yeah, that was us on the train, while you were trying to relax, after a 20 hour day...)


  1. Thanks for the post. I've been considering moving to the city after I graduate. There are a ton of issues still up in the air that may influence my decision. However, the allure of NYC has always tugged at my heart, ever since I was a little kid. I got to visit over the week of July 4th and loved it. It was hot as hell, but it was still an amazing experience. I think the thing I'm worried about most is the whole housing issue. It seems lke that would have a huge impact on the overall enjoyment of life. I found some apts in uptown/Harlem that seemed decent. I wouldn't even know how to go about figuring it all out. Any suggestions?

  2. Hi Stephen,

    Thanks so much for your great comments! I'm really glad you've been enjoying the blog.
    First, while I understand your worry, I would put that aside and lean towards making the move. When I moved up here with no job, no place to live and didn't know anyone I thought "What's the worst that could happen? I move back home and regroup." I've now been here for over 10 years and it was the best move I ever made. If you want adventure, the unexpected and some of the most interesting people you'll ever meet then come join us!
    Second, as for apartments, I suggest looking on Craigslist to get an idea of prices in different neighborhoods. Harlem's totally fine, but if possible, come visit again and wander neighborhoods to get a feel. You should consider the commute, proximity to conveniences (banks, grocery stores, etc), how safe you feel at night--especially walking to and from the train (VERY important).
    A roommate is probably the best way to go, both economically and socially. Look at the post I did called "Rental, sweet apartment rental." That will give you an idea of what to expect and what you'll need when looking for a place. You can move into their apt and usually they've furnished the place--and sometimes you can even find one with a furnished bedroom. Or just look at short term/sublets (Craigslist) if you're not positive where you'd want to live. Bring little stuff, be mobile and stay somewhere for a month, 3 months, whatever, get to know the city, then look for something that has a year lease. Also, since things move so fast up here you typically won't find places to look at until the month prior--so you can get an idea of what's out there, but don't count on places for say, June being posted until May 1, fyi.
    Hope this helps! Feel free to ask more questions!
    Oh, and one last thing, I have a Twitter feed relating to NY. Its mostly pictures right now since I've taken a little break from writing. It will give you an idea of what daily life is like up here. Search: NYCmindy

  3. I love this, I attend school in NYC and I love it so much! I read your cons and was just thinking these add to the city for me.. the subway, the noise, the outrageous rent.. it may sound crazy.. but to me it is the character of the city and i love it!
    - Renee
    [this is not actually anonymous]

  4. Thanks so much, non-anonymous Renee!

    I really like that you embrace the "cons," since yes, they play a huge part in making NY the distinct city it is. And it seems that stuff also bonds NYers since it's not weird to disclose what we pay for rent or brag about how we creatively got that table from the stoop sale back home without the help of a car.
    A friend just moved back to NY after being gone for 4 years and said "I forgot how much noise pollution there is!" When I go home to Texas it takes me a couple of nights to get adjusted to the quiet when I'm trying to sleep. After 11 years here it just seems so unnatural.

    Good luck with school and I hope you continue to enjoy NY!

  5. I'm glad I came across this, I'm trying to move out of the south to the city for school this winter. I've spent a lot of time in the city visiting family and it's always been a second home to me. My family down here is trying to talk me out of it because of the costs, so it was nice to read this and be reminded of why I want to be there so badly. Thank you. :)

  6. Thanks so much! It's understandable that your family is concerned about cost, but you can find plenty of things to do, eat and see here that are within a reasonable budget. Housing is typically the most expensive cost, but if you seek a roommate situation it makes it cheaper. Message me with any questions, I'm always happy to help.
    I moved here from Texas in 2000 and couldn't be happier with the decision. It's always nice to visit friends and family down there, but NY definitely feels like home--pretty much from the moment I got here. Sounds like you've had a similar experience.
    Good luck if you make the move and again, don't hesitate to contact me.

    1. Hello , I was reading your pros and cons ... And honestly makes me ant to move tere . I want to visit there a couple times before actually moving there and make friends so I can have a roomate when I do actually decide to move there . I'm currently in Texas , I just moved here like twoo months ago , I'm thinking about working here and then moving to NY to study over there , I love the city and I think it's best for me to move there . The thing that scares me is that I'm 18 , and I don't know if I can do everything on my own . Live on my own , you know ? I'm just a shy girl , with no experience what so ever . I just hope I can do things on my own . And make friends , lots of friends . I'm Dominican and Puerto Rican , I'd like to stay with people that are in my race so I can feel like home ... I also was watching this show called "Wahsington Heights" where tey show a group of Dominican young people trying to pursue their dreams , I wonder if I can be like them ... The show is filmed in upper Manhattan , do you know if there's a lot of Dominicans that live there ? Is it a safe place to live ? I'd like if you could email me so I can have someone to talk to about my decision of moving there ... keep contact , my email is imyourvoice23@gmail.com I'd like it if you could contact me there with answers , hope to hear from you . I'm sure I'll have more questions about moving ...
      _ Tatiana Hernandez

  7. Hi Mindy....thanks for the great blog! I am going to be moving to NY soon to study music there. It seems like such a beautiful city! The only thing im concerned about is accomodation! Its so darn expensive! Thanks once again for a great blog!

  8. Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying the blog! Yes, it's expensive, but worth it. Such an incredible city with interesting, amazing people. As I've told others, roommates are the way to go to keep costs down some. Then you find cheaper things do here, it's possible. Feel free to message me with questions and good luck with the move!

  9. Nice blog! I live in central NY and I'm trying to decide whether to go to college in NYC, or just stay home for college and move there after I graduate... I have nooo idea what to do right now. I'm scared that I'm going to go to college here and end up staying here!

  10. Hi Allie!
    I had responded last week, but just realized it didn't actually post. Sorry about that. So...thanks, really glad you like the blog! As for your college dilemma, remember that just because you go to school somewhere doesn't mean you'll have to stay after, if you don't want to. I went to college in Texas and ended up in NY. You just have to figure out what kind of college experience you want. NY is an amazing place, but you won't have the "traditional" college experience since it's in the middle of a fast-paced, crowded city with endless options of food, events and people to meet. Not good or bad, just different than living in a smaller town without constant stimulation and distractions.
    And when I say the "traditional" college experience, that includes not living at home. I went to school 3 hours from home so I didn't have a choice. And I'm glad. I loved living on my own for the first time, and with others in a dorm. Lots of bonding and new friends. Which may not be as easy if you stay in your hometown, depending on whether or not you'd have the option to live away from home.
    There are really many factors to consider, but most of all, don't get hung up on thinking you'd have to stay where you go to college. College is just another chapter in your life--and a really fun one. Whatever you decide, not living at home means more independence and freedom. And college in NYC means you start your adventure sooner rather than later. And if not, don't worry, NY will be here. Trust me.
    I hope this helps a little. I'm happy to discuss it more, feel free to contact me. And good luck, whatever you decide!

  11. Hi Mindy. I have been reading your blog and I find it interesting. My concerns about coming here to go to college basically all surround around money. I am concerned I will not find a job to help support me while in school. And then there's the debt incurred from loans to go to school and pay for living there. It's hard to tell if it's worth the debt incurred to go do something new and adventurous. What are your thoughts? Thanks.

  12. Hi Sabrina!

    Apologies for the delay in response. Honestly, your question's a hard one, only because money is such a personal thing. My inclination is always: go for it! Make the move. Only because I'm a risk-taker and err on the side of optimism and things somehow working out. It's not always the smartest approach, but I find I have more adventures and fun stories that way.
    As for finding a job while in school, I guess you'd have to figure out what you want to do and maybe call around or look online to see if there are openings and how much they pay. Also, reach out to EVERYone you can. Tell them you're moving, maybe they know someone who can help. Not sure if you got to it, but I did a post on moving to NY, may have some tips for you:

    Also, let me know if I can help. I'd need more details, but am always willing to help people move to NY. It's an incredible place--no other city like it, Good luck with whatever you decide!

  13. This is such a great entry. I like that you don't over glamorize nor trash the city. I'm a native New Yorker (Brooklynite to be exact!) and have contemplated countless times about moving to our way more expensive neighbor, Manhattan. (Although I have to say, Brooklyn rent is skyrocketing too..pretty much any area within 25 minutes of the city, sigh).

    This list at least reminds me why, despite me hating NYC, I love it more. Every time I think about finding a new job and relocating, I remind myself of the exact things you listed.


  14. Thanks! And what a great comment to get on my 12th anniversary in NY. Especially from a native New Yorker.
    Years of observation lead me to the list and it will probably always ring true. As much as the city changes, like people, it's general characteristics don't. Which is both comforting and daunting.
    I too think about leaving sometimes, but I just love the people, the adventures, the surprises, the pride...and the list goes on.
    Thanks again for taking time to comment. And I hope if you're ever torn about whether or not to stay, you look at your list again and remember that this city needs people like you, who truly appreciate it, for better or worse.

  15. Hey Mindy,

    I have read many blogs and other "stuff" online and this by far has been the most impressive/enjoyable one yet! I really enjoyed your list on living in NYC. I lived about 8 yrs in upstate NY but being i had friends in jersey, NYC became my second home. Due to personal reasons i had no choice but to move back to Cali where im from. It's been 3 yrs since i left and I miss NYC very much. It became my second home.I've been seriously thinking about moving back but like the average joe there's so many uncertainties that go though my head such as jobs & living quarters. Whats the vibe right now out there as far as employment?

  16. Hi there! Thanks so much for the blog compliment! Glad you enjoyed it. As for the job vibe out here, I'd say it's fairly optimistic. I suppose it depends what you're looking for, but compared to a few years ago, when there was no hiring, things have picked up. My friends have done a fair amount of interviewing the past couple of years, while they still have jobs. Depending on your line of work, maybe google some recruiters and inquire there.
    Let me know if you have other questions, I'm happy to help!

  17. I have been thinking of living in NY for most of my life. My wife and I have two young girls. We live in Melbourne,Australia. Any ideas for rentals in a nice area close to a Costco (I may be able to transfer my job there)? Also schools are another issue.

  18. Hi Gerardo,

    Unfortunately I know nothing about schools here, but I'm sure there are blogs or sites that cover that. And I think there are a few Costcos (I've never been) so the easiest would be to look up the locations and then perhaps research the neighborhoods. If it's narrowed down I'll be happy to answer questions about neighborhoods, providing I know about them. Costco isn't a common thing for most NYers because 1) we don't have cars and 2) we don't have room in our apts to store bulk items. Wish I could be of more help. If you think of other NY questions, let me know. And good luck!

  19. Hi, Mindy! I am also from Texas (Houston), and I really love your blog! I know it's been a while since you've posted, but I've learned so much from your "old posts". :) Anyway, after 3-4 years of "what-ifs" and "maybe I shouldn't because I am broke"s, I finally decided to take the leap and move to NYC! My official move date is 1/30/2013, but I'm scared sh*tless! One of my best friends up there is also a "transplant" and he says that I should just say "screw it" and do it, but I am so afraid of things going wrong, and I really would rather not have to come back here. I know that nothing in life is guaranteed but seeing these posts from you and others like yourself who basically did what I am doing (moving to NYC with no job) are very encouraging. Thank you so much!