Unless you enjoy trash and being ripped off, then by all means, move on over.
The Big Apple sure is a magical place to vacation–museums straight out of the movies, dazzling Broadway shows starring what’s-her-name-again? from that-one-pop-band, and glittering Christmas lights on Fifth Avenue. It’s no wonder millions fall in love with it at first sight, myself included.
But like a holiday fling, things turned sour the moment I signed along that dotted line and committed to a full year living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan. Now, I could list all the things I loved about our whirlwind relationship…but you’ve heard them all before (re: a certain J-Lo-led romantic comedy). Let’s be real. New York is also a stinking pile of crap, blown into a fan-like clockwork day in, day out. When crap hits the fan, divorce is imminent. For those flirting with the idea of moving back, stop immediately. Don’t let Jenny from the block seduce you (oh lord, give us strength!), not post-pandemic, not ever. Here’s a friendly reminder of what drove me insane.
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The Weather Is Harsh
Don’t bother packing for four seasons because you will only experience two, and they’re so extreme that fashion is the least of your worries. In winter, expect snow blizzards, brown slosh, and rain puddles the size of a koi pond. In summer, expect your day to be an extended sauna session interspersed with cryotherapy whenever you enter a bus or a branch of Target.
Spring and fall last approximately two weeks each, so that Con-Ed energy bill might actually be affordable one month of the entire year. If not, then perhaps a two-day power outage will do the trick.
For the Price of a Baby, You Get to Live in a Freight Container
At around $3,500 per month ($42,000 per year, or the same cost of private adoption in the U.S.) you are granted the honor of a 450-square foot, one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. The perks? Free workouts (it’s six flights of stairs to reach your apartment—there’s no elevator), more free workouts (laundry is in the basement), and, wait for it…even more free workouts (collecting your Amazon Prime orders before they are stolen from the lobby—there’s no doorman either). Who needs Equinox, eh?
Your Friends Will Never Be F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Everybody is so super busy and important that you will never enjoy quality time in a group of six, let alone be dubbed the “Rachel” of the gang (sigh). Instead, your colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors, and people from Meetup.com will hate you or each other for no reason at all, unless you have a job with access to complimentary Book of Mormon tickets. Social distancing isn’t a protocol here, it’s a lifestyle.
Everyone Is a Workaholic
“If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Well, they got that right, because nowhere else in the world are so many people still busy past 9 p.m. Six months in, you’ll have adjusted to midnight Chipotle, increased volumes of vodka and Red Bull mixed into your coffee, and all 10 days of your annual leave days spent at a Catskills “spa,” more commonly known as rehab.
The MTA Is a Disgrace
For those who think being the self-proclaimed “capital of the world” equates to advanced public transit systems, you’re awfully wrong. Rush hour trains run at 10 minutes or longer (don’t trust those busted digital signs) intervals and are maybe wiped down with a rag once in a blue moon (when the MTA proudly announces, during a global pandemic, that cleaning surfaces will significantly increase to once every three days, you know deep sanitization has never been a priority).
Shockingly, locals don’t see value in paying $2.75 to journey in a cesspool of human feces and rats the size of dachshunds either, so they jump turnstiles in full view of the busy-on-TikTok station staff.
A Quick Trader Joe’s Shop Requires at Least an Hour
If you want to avoid the high prices of bodegas, you have to shop at Trader Joe’s. The problem is everyone else is doing the same, so shopping for essentials turns into an hour-long weight-lifting session whereby you pick your basket up and down over and over ‘til you reach the front of the line. Because the city has turned you into a raging alcoholic you also need TJ’s wine, but the only store that stocks it is in Union Square. It’s separate from the regular store, and the line is even longer.
Pizzerias Lie in Their Marketing
Every single New York publication and book will recommend the “best pizza in the New York,” but the trouble is they all recommend a different pizzeria. The definition of “best” is the most excellent, the number one. It’s impossible to have 500 number one pizzerias. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop 500 pizzerias labeling themselves the “best pizza in New York,” complete with signage at the front door.
New Yorkers Can Be Extremely Argumentative About New York
When you argue with a New Yorker, prepare to lose even when you’re right. It’s as if they’re in a cult, and the core commandment is “New York is the greatest place on earth.” Disagree and you are burned at the stake. I’d like to hear them out (you have no choice since they are shouting), but I’ve known so many that have only traveled to three cities their whole lives, all within North America, that it makes them hard to be taken seriously.
The Trash Is Everywhere
If you’ve ever seen an episode of Hoarders you’ll understand when I say NYC is an explosion of mess, not just of regular ol’ garbage like bottles and take-out boxes, but literally anything and everything, splashed across the sidewalk, the park, and the beach. You can go to a posh neighborhood like Chelsea and still step on a whole dead cat, a heap of used tampons, and an expired purple cauliflower quicker than you can say, “Not today, De Blasio.” There is no escape.
Coney Island’s Beaches Are Packed and Filthy
You could compare Coney Island with a beach, or you could compare Coney Island with a landfill. I choose the latter. The water is a smoothie of contaminated soil, marine fuel, and the occasional sharp object, while the sand contains more eroded plastic forks than seashells. Amazingly the risk of bacterial infection does nothing to warn super-immune New Yorkers, and between June and September, every inch of wasteland, I mean sand, is covered over with counterfeit Peppa Pig towels and Tupperware.
So-Called Pals Will Holiday in the Hamptons Without You
If you’re an Upper East Side millionaire or have a first name that rhymes with Melania, then your beaches are in the Hamptons, situated at the tip of Long Island. There it’s clean because it’s unreachable by LIRR/Amtrak /Greyhound and too expensive for regular New Yorkers to stay overnight. Maybe a colleague whose daddy plays golf with so-and-so from Tesla will one day slip a “Oh my gah, we should all go to the Hamptons together!” during Wasabi lunch, but rest assured she will not mean it. Come summer, the prettier people from the office have disappeared early on Friday and you’ve spent the whole weekend on your secret IG account watching their stories alone in your apartment.
Outdoor Festive Occasions Are Torture
Expats know all too well that when folks back home come and visit, they book around festive “spectacles” like the ball drop, the Rockefeller tree lighting, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Not only do they assume you have front row access to all these events (you don’t), but they also assume you’ll have a blast accompanying them out in the freezing cold. Next thing you know, you’re watching Glee’s Lea Michele with a severely-weakened bladder for the second time in two weeks and you still don’t own a Planet Fitness hat.
The City Soundtrack Will Drive You Insane
No point making a “New York, New York” playlist because the soundtrack to your new life in the city will be police sirens and taxi horns, all day every day, no matter where on the map you are.
In the four weeks of the year when you can actually sleep with your windows open and not drench the sheets in sweat/get frostbite on your nipples, you’re blasted with excruciating noise pollution through dawn, and then you have the drilling. Oh, the drilling. Well…now you understand why everyone’s lost their cheer.
There’s Nowhere to Enjoy Good Coffee
Groggy after a rough night’s sleep? Unless you live between Columbia University and the top of Prospect Park, invest in a machine and an illy subscription, because your best nearby options will be Dunkin’ Donuts and Chock Full o’Nuts. For those lucky to live by a cute artisan coffee shop, you’ll savor the flavors of that $7 flat white walking-there will be no available seats inside, and hanging around outside means you only enjoy the fleshy ground coffee with freshly fermenting trash (told you it was everywhere).
You Have to Be on Guard Each Time You Leave the Front Door
It goes without saying that you need to be vigilant against street crime in New York but what newbies don’t realize is that in addition, you have to worry about people you work with, do business with, sleep with, and live with. Whether it’s a colleague stealing your ideas, restaurants adding an extra bottle to your tab, landlords screwing you for the security deposit, or one-night-stands booking their Uber home on your phone, life in New York is a never-ending hustle and quite frankly, exhausting. It’s okay to admit you hate New York because trust me, New York hates you right back.