Like pretty much every other ambitious person(and all of you who know me found out eventually how ambitious I am), I always figured I’d eventually move to New York. It is, at this point, half-dream and half-obligation for people trying to do big things. It’s kind of an American Dream living inside of the American Dream.
I also always figured I’d love it. At least, it looked like I would love it. thoose million of movies filmed in NYC gave me the idea of a perfect, magic city. And it is, actually, a magic one, from the prospective of a tourist…
My first touch with NYC was 4 years ago, in 2010. I was a summer program student, that got a fat “NO, I don’t know who you are” from my so-called employer from Baltimore, Maryland and the only one thought that I got at that time was to try how dip is the ocean in NYC. The first thing that hit me when I had the first contact with this city was awful smell of those mountains of trash bags that were in front of the bigger or smaller restaurants of the evening Manhattan. And then the Subway… The NYC Subway is something that for somebody who has never seen it could be an enormous shock: rats running under the tracks, a lot of trash under the same tracks, crowds of people, terrible smell, etc., etc…
Then I got at that place where we were supposed to stay… The place was quiet alright… But the area wasn’t… During the whole summer, almost every week (at least once a week), somebody was killed there… The cause – a “war” between two different groups… I didn’t really even try to figure out who was against who… The least I know, the best I would sleep…
And if this wasn’t enough for a “brilliant ” experience in NYC, one day, I have lost my backpack that contained my phone, my wallet(with two credit cards) and my passport… Yeah, you wrote the right word, my PASSPORT… Can you believe that? And obviously, I had to report that… And to spend almost the whole night at a police station, with two policemen that were making fun of my origins(they asked who I am and at my answer that I am Romanian, they started making fun and saying that there is a descendant of Dracula here… Funny, huh? Well, not really, at least for me, a tired, hungry, scarred girl that has just lost her papers, her money(I had in my pocket my last 100 dollars and I had to pay for rent, for a new metro card(because, yes, I forgot mention, I had my metro card inside of that wallet that i lost) and I had to eat something… And everything would be OK if I only had a job… The saddest thing was that I didn’t, at that time)…
Nut then I found a damn job… I got the title of sales associate (in fact, I was selling ice-cream and water in the street for a cafe/gourmet/deli/whatever was it and I had to yell the whole day “cold water for one dollar”(at one point I even lost my voice for a few days, because I was yelling to much, trying to sell as much as possible ), but who cares, if this was giving me money and I finally had food on my table and money to pay for my rent, so I had a roof under to sleep?
At the end of that summer, I went back to my country, and then moved to Kazakhstan, where I got married and had a quiet life for a few years… Probably to quiet… In February 2013 I felt like I want some adventure and my husband and I, we decided to apply for an exchange program again… And we got it…
We came back to US almost a year ago (OMG, there will be a year tomorrow or after tomorrow(OMG, the time flies so quick, that’s just scary)). After a summer quiet calm in Virginia Beach(which description would be probably the subject of another future post), we had to move back to NYC. I mean, nobody forced to do it… It was just the only one legal way to be here… We decided to go and study here and for the begin, what we wanted to do(my husband and I), was to study English… In fact, I have never studied English. I speak 5 languages, but only 2 of them were the subject of study for me(Romanian and French). I learn English watching movies with subtitles in my native language and with the original English audio track. So, learning the right, literary English was the first step… We got enrolled at an ESL School here and we started our “journey” in NYC…
So when we moved to New York I was quiet predisposed to liking it. We were already successful and could afford to pay rent in the city.We were young (26 both of us), but not so young that would be intimidated or overwhelmed (at least, that’s what we thought(the overwhelming came after, at several points)). We had some acquaintances here. we had already spent enough time in town 4 years ago, so we knew our way around too.
What I should probably mention is the fact that NYC is not the worst place in the world. I wouldn’t be here if it were that way, and those who know me, know that don’t stay for too long anywhere where I feel too miserable. What should be said, however, is that New York as it stands today is antithetical to many of the ideals that drive people to move there. I would even argue that, increasingly, it is not the city for many others who are being told that it is.
I say this having lived in many places across the country, in many socio-economic neighborhoods in those cities and having done my share of traveling. There are many problems with New York. Basic problems. We’ll get into most of them below.
But I think it begins with a premise and a question: New York is like an expensive stock: hyped up and trading at many multiples because everyone wants it. It might pay off for you and still go higher-that might be very likely, in fact. But is it really the best opportunity for you? Or is there something better, less coveted, with more upside?
My advice to young people would be this: Don’t move to New York. It is not is where you will find yourself. The obligation is artificial. The payoffs are low. The risk is high. The dream may be dead. I’m going to avoid the trap of telling you where to go instead. I’m just warning you to reconsider. Don’t move to New York, find your own city and your way.
1) It’s not that money should be precious, but it is dangerous to internalize the attitude that to survive you have to make and spend tons of money. And that things like savings and investments are pipe dreams. It makes you a very short-term person. New York, because of how expensive it is, is full of short-term people.
2) There is no question that being around peers comfortable with spending $5,000-6,000 a month on an apartment has a warping effect on your perspective. There is no way that it cannot.
3) People say that visiting and living in New York City are very different things. I’ve found that they are exactly the same and that’s why it is a bad place to live. That’s quiet why I say that it is a great place to be a tourist, but living in here? Hell, no, it is just too overwhelming… At least for me… And I ended up with the tag that I am weak… Well, if having feelings and acting like a human means being weak- than yes, I am very weak person
4) The parks are beautiful, no question. But how much of that beauty is a result of contrast? How much of the respite they provide is relief from unnecessary (and dare I say, unnatural) conditions?
5) You wouldn’t think there would be such a thing as “too many opportunities” but there are. With so many smart and successful people in one place, it is inevitable that there would be an excessive amount of good meetings, drinks, introductions, events, etc. So you feel like an idiot saying no. But really you should be sitting at home working (or doing nothing). Because that’s life.
6) On a New York street corner, I once saw a homeless guy get hit by a car, launch through the air and land face first on the pavement, skidding to a stop like a cartoon character, except-horrifyingly-the ground doesn’t give way in real life. A handful of us rushed to the scene (that rare spirit of human connectedness in an emergency). Then cars started honking and people got upset because this was holding up traffic.
7) Some of the most amazing people I know live in NYC. That doesn’t mean I (or you) have to.
8) Breakfast for two shouldn’t cost $38 plus tip.
9) An economy where people at the bottom of the service industry-your bike/food delivery men, your CVS employees, your busboys-cannot remotely afford to live in or enjoy the city they do backbreaking or dangerous labor in, creates an intolerably close equivalent to a slave economy. In New York, being around immigrants it’s a reminder of gross inequity and unfairness. The American dream is not an hour-plus subway commute from a shithole apartment for an embarrassing minimum wage and faceless employment. Unless of course, you’re a stagehand at Carnegie Hall.
10) I’m saying that whatever book or movie or narrative that drew you to New York-the person who wrote it would hardly recognize the streets you’re walking right now. Not literally of course, but you know what I mean.
11) Oh, you need to run over to Home Depot or head across town to pick something up at Office Max or some other perfectly minor errand? OK, see you in four hours.
12) There are so many great, accomplished, inspiring people in New York… and you can visit them!
13) Things like Airbnb, Yelp and blogs make it possible to experience something close to living in New York by lowering the transaction costs. It’s cheaper to get an apartment (for an extended period of time), figure out what’s good/cool/new, learn insider tricks and secrets than before. You don’t have to move there, acclimate and learn by trial and error.
14) Have you ever shopped at a grocery store where you’re shopping while in line, able to buy only what is within arm’s reach of the queue which circles the entire store and backs up literally to the front door? Because that is a thing in New York.
15) Hey, cockroaches! (Brrrrrrrrrrr, I hate them!!!!)
16) Is there anything worse and more jarring than walking down the street and getting hit with the sound of a shrieking siren or a taxi laying on its horn five feet away? Or the terrible crashing of truck cargo as their insane drivers barrel through intersections or over dips in the road? These noises do more than distract, they violate the body cavity and destroy any semblance of normal human equilibrium.
17) I met a young woman a few months ago. She had just graduated from some college and moved to New Orleans. I asked why. She said “I don’t know what I want to do with my life yet, but who can afford to live in New York while they figure that out?”
18) Goddamn, you think a city of walkers would know how to walk. They do not.
19) The amount of bitchie people that are here is probably bigger than the amount of them for the whole country. C’mon, people, does somebody pay you for being assholes and dickheads or what? Still don’t get it…
20) I actually like the smaller apartments thing. It keeps you humble and less needy when you move elsewhere and have more options. After New York, you don’t need an extra bedroom or a huge dining room table. But grass and light and some space are basic human needs.
21) If you travel a lot, New York is not a fun place to be based. First off, it costs $120+ round trip to get to the airport (more if you don’t feel like getting sick and jostled in a cab and take a car service). The main airports are terrible (what LaGuardia gains for being closer, it more than undermines by being worse the crappiest small-town airport you’ve ever flown out of).
22) It is not relaxing to come “home” to New York. Because again, New York is busy and buzzing and always on. Normally that is a good thing, just not when you’re coming off a couple weeks on the road. Only being in Manhattan, and seing all this rush, can give you enough stres for… let’s say… the rest of your life?…
23) I’m not sure if New York really deserves its reputation as a haven for creative people or as a creative, inspiring place. It is very clearly a “reptilian environment” which research shows to make being creative very difficult. As someone who wrote a book while living there, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say you have to work harder to feel safe, be vulnerable and produce creatively in New York than you do in other cities.
24 I’m saying that this environment is not good for you as a human being, whatever you happen to do for a living.
25) Yes, you can get breakfast delivered. You can get Chinese food at 2 a.m. or pick up supplies at a bodega. And? This is what you pay 3x a higher cost of living to reside in a inhumanely small space for?
26) Living in New York has some of the same problems as being a vegan.Psychologists have been able to figure out that we have a finite amount of self-control-they call it “ego depletion”-and stressful activities and willpower are very taxing. So do you want the place that you live to sap your most precious resource? Do you want to be a dick to everyone because you spent all your self-control on the minor frustrations of city life, the way a vegan used it all up avoiding chicken stock/
27) New York can be a crutch. Yes, your music career is stalled. Yes, your art remains unknown. Yeah, you’ve yet to be published or your startup is only hype. Butyou live in New York, and that makes you better than the people who don’t (or so you reassure yourself). Where you live is not an accomplishment.
28) Fucking cab drivers…. Oh yeah, fucking cab drivers… ad with that I said everything…
29) Culture and nightlife. First off, let’s be real. By these you mean clubs-and clubs are all terrible, whatever the city. In terms of culture, I think this is overstated as well. It’s not like we’re all going to poetry readings. There might be a few more indie bands, but so?
30) There is something to be said about diversity. Real diversity-as in an ecosystem that truly lets different people do different things. The South is great at this, strangely. So is the West Coast. The economy and culture of New York does not allow that. It allows people to grind it out and be hardened at whatever income bracket they’re at. That’s about it.
31) Speaking of drinks, why does everyone use tiny water glasses in the city? Who wouldn’t be happier using a normal adult-sized cup instead of the shot glasses they set out on most tables? or, if you decided to give us those minuscule glasses, fill them with something damn heavier, not the sleepy water… 😀
32) Winter. Ugh. Modern Phoenix, AZ is not a pleasant place because our modern interventions dramatically amplify the natural climate (heat island effect). Arizona is rightfully docked for this. New York on the other hand, dramatically amplifies the terrible northern winter in equal fashion. It’s freezing but the snow disappears. The sidewalks are iced with the runoff from buildings. Its muggy and steamy inside. The wind races through artificial tunnels created by skyscrapers. And then we just pretend it’s normal winter weather.
Well, it looks that there are only 32 reasons to avoid living in NYC instead of 40, like the title said… From the other point of view, there can be at least 32 points that would stay for living in NYC. Per total, this city is not so bad as we sometimes are tented to think that it is… It is still the city of possibilities and chances… I use to call the city of adventure, the city where you walk every day on a very tiny, small path that lays on the top of an enormous, endless abyss and you have to be very careful if you don’t want to fall down. This is the city where today you can be a millionaire and were just tomorrow – you can turn into a homeless that would be hit by a car and everybody around you would be mad that you interfered with the traffic, causing traffic jams and interminable delays… In this city – you never know what color is going to have the next day… It can be either white, either black… Or, it can be red, green, purple, pink, grey, etc., etc. You just never know…