What I’ve Learned in New York

Johnny

I was but a mere 22 years old when I moved to this great city. Having lived in Seattle for high school and college, I became restless and craved something new, something challenging, something I could really reflect upon years later and say to myself, I did something completely out of my comfort zone and succeeded (of course something that was also good for my career). More than 4 years later, as I get ready to take the next step in life by working abroad in South Africa, I can safely say I’ve done this. I’ve written this in hopes that it’ll help out any of you looking to move to NYC, and to make any New Yorkers lol a bit.

People are genuinely nice
The first thing that comes to people’s minds about New Yorkers is that we are rude, unfriendly, and all have a “Fuck Off” stamped on our foreheads. I certainly had this thought when I first moved here. Now I can safely say that this couldn’t be further from the truth. First off, most “New Yorkers” that live in Manhattan, are not from this state. In fact, I’d venture out to say that perhaps 90% of people are not from this city but we choose to move here to chase our career goals, Carrie Bradshaw’s SITC lifestyle, or just because weave had enough of wherever we were living before and NYC seemed like the city that would provide the most drastic change. Because of this, NYC is really just a smorgasbord of people from different cities all moving here trying to make it and because we’re all strangers with no friends, we open ourselves up and are willing to make friends with anyone and everyone.

Few weeks back, I was grabbing a slice and overheard a father talking to their family about going to Hard Rock Café for dinner. I thought to myself, “You’re gonna come all this way to NYC to go to the hard rock cafe?? I can’t let this stand!” I felt it was my obligation as a New Yorker to give them some knowledge and so I did. Told them all the good spots to go and they were so thankful to me. I really do hope they went to the meatball shop instead of the Hard Rock. One can only do so much to help…

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Grand Central during rush hour.

Grand Central during rush hour

People are not inconsiderate, we just know where we want to go
For the average tourist visiting for the first time, NYC is a hectic place with millions of people on the go, lights flashing everywhere, and endless amounts of things going on. They’ll get bumped by someone late to work without an apology and think where is the common decency in people here? Truth of the matter is, NYC is an always on the go walking city. Whether we’re late for work, trying to catch a train, or just because, we all eventually develop the New York Step. This is simply walking faster than the average American, standing up straight, with your eyes focused with what’s in front of you and acting like you’re too cool to notice anything around you. We were all tourists at one time and we would stand on a street corner gazing at the sights in awe but that time has passed and we’ve seen everything we’ve needed to see. Now it’s time to get to where you want to be and quickly. We just know where to go and how to get there quickly, because well? We’re probably late so we need to hurry the hell up. Oh, and please when on an escalator, stand on the right, walk on the left!

Dishwasher? Don't even think about it.

Your standard 1 bedroom in the West Village for 3k/month. Dishwasher? Haha, don’t even think about it.

You’ve made it when you have your own one-bedroom apartment

Rent is expensive. It is REALLY fucking expensive. Anyone that tells you San Francisco has more expensive rent, they’re smoking the good shit. It is not. Manhattan reigns supreme. End of story. Oh, if you’ve watched too much Friends or Sex in the City, please note there’s not a chance the people they portray with those professions could ever afford the apartments on the show. Nowhere in this country have I seen someone pay 3.5k/month for a 400 sqft apartment that in ANY other city, would be mediocre at best. Nowhere else in the country do you go into someone’s nice one bedroom apartment, realize it’s only them, and think to yourself, “This person must have a great job”.

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Because rent is a New Yorker’s greatest expense and we don’t have other big expenses like cars, it is quite easy to infer someone’s income just from the rent. The golden rule for all renters is you must make 40x rent which means your yearly pre-tax salary is at least 40x greater than monthly rent. This isn’t just a guideline either; landlords absolutely require this. Personally, I think 40x is not conservative enough, especially with how much we’re taxed here. I’d be more comfortable making 60x my rent from personal experiences. So if someone told me they paid $3000/month in rent, I’d guess they’d make 130k-170k, which is pretty damn good all things considered. 3k doesn’t even get you a nice apartment either, especially if you live in the more desirable areas of town and/or want a doorman building. Many people escape to the cheaper options in the outer boroughs or way north in Manhattan, but even those options are not as cheap anymore like Williamsburg is now more expensive than many Manhattan neighborhoods. Of course there are many variables to consider like does this person have the parental hookup? Live the life of a hermit? Side businesses? Only eat 5$ footlongs? Or don’t eat anything? Nevertheless, the point I’m trying to make is that you’ve done pretty well for yourself if you can live in your own 1 bedroom in Manhattan. Now having a dishwasher and washer/dryer in your building? That’s a totally different story…

Money doesn’t buy happiness . . . clearly you’ve never lived in NYC
Ok, before you this is conceited, I’ll make myself clear. Money may not buy happiness in and of itself, whatever that may be to you, but it DOES buy things that make you happy;  a nicer apartment, eating at amazing restaurants and not worrying about which drink to get, buying high end bespoke suits instead of shady internet vendors, etc. What about Mo Money, Mo Problems? No, this should be rephrased to, Mo Money, Mo  opportunities to create problems in your life. If you can’t mitigate those problems, then it’s your own damn fault (here’s looking at you Mr. Tyson) because plenty of people would love to be in that situation. This has never been clearer to me after living in NY. No one can look me seriously and say you’d rather not live in a loft in TriBeCa vs a studio in alphabet city. But what’s stopping you from living the former? Yep, cash money. Of course, plenty of people are perfectly content with living in a rundown studio just to be in Manhattan because they know they can’t afford the good stuff and are completely fine with it, but if somehow a 0 was added to their salary overnight, guaranteed that person would be re-evaluating everything in their lives. Money is important. Don’t let it consume your every thought, but definitely do not think we’re in some hippie Woodstock society where money isn’t important. Get real. This is NYC. We have the TWO stock markets here! It is important.

Meatballs!

This really has nothing to do with what I’m writing about but I just love this place and gotta let it be known!

It’s completely acceptable to ask where someone lives . . . all the way down to their cross streets
In no other city does the neighborhood you live in so important and also define who you are. New York is a walking city. We don’t own cars, even if someone gave us one for free (we’d sell it since parking would be the same as most people’s rent). The neighborhood you live in, with whatever restaurants, bars, parks, etc. becomes the majority of your life. What you can walk to, in a 10 block radius, will dictate a good chunk of where and what you’ll be spending your time on for however long you live there. The subway makes it easy for us to get to other neighborhoods, with the exception of most cross town journeys (UES – West Village, Alphabet city – UWS, West Village – East Village, etc.) but on a cold lazy day, your motivation to meet up with friends outside your neighborhood dwindles and you end up settling on something within walking distance. There have even been at times where I meet someone cool, think we’d hang out, and then realize they live way too far from me and think to myself, “well I’d love to be bros, but realistically, we aren’t gonna see each other that much”. And to give you Non New Yorker’s some perspective, the distance from the Upper East Side to the West Village is maybe 5 miles. It’s considered too far. It’s a concept that is very hard to grasp unless you live here, and even once you do, you may not vocalize it, but you are thinking it.

It’s often one of the first things we talk about when meeting someone and we are all completely fine with it. For example,

“So where you do live in the city?”
“I live in the Lower East Side”
“Oh that’s awesome, I love that area. Where at?”
“Stanton and Orchard”
“Oh no shit? So you must have been to the meatball shop a bunch?”
“Ya I live right like right next door to it,  but I’ve never been!”
“What?! You’ve been missing out on the good stuff in life. We have to go!”

Completely normal. Not creepy. Great conversation starter. With that said, make sure you live in a neighborhood you will love! With that, we move on to the next topic…


Moving in the city sucks . . . and is awesome at the same time
I dread the actual act of packing my belongings, moving it into a new apartment, unpacking, buying necessities, and just spending days and days getting your shit together. Even after paying movers, you still spend a solid week getting everything put in place. This part sucks, no doubt about it. However, it is completely normal for someone to move once a year in NYC. In fact, I pretty much did this. I’ve lived in four different apartments in 4.5 years. Each subsequent move, I went to a better neighborhood. It’s this that makes the move worthwhile. Once you move to a new hood, you feel like you moved to NY all over again because there are so many new restaurants, bars, and just random things to discover. My move from Hells Kitchen to the West Village was the most drastic. I swore I’d never live downtown because I loved having a doorman and elevator, but within a week of moving in,  I quickly forgot about those amenities and realized what the hell was I thinking? Downtown is DEFINITELY the way to go. You end up discovering a lot more about the city with every subsequent move (I can name all the streets in order from W Houston to 14th st now) and a little more about yourself. Don’t be scared of moving. Yes it sucks looking for an apartment, and moving, but that’s just a few weeks. You may just love yourself for the rest of the year.

A weary Santa the morning after an all-night pub crawl.

Drunk Santa during Santa Con.

Going to bars is never the same anymore
Simple fact. Bars are open until 4 am here. Most places close at 2 in the rest of the country. Anyone that’s been accustomed to at least having the option of leaving at 4 can never appreciate any sub 4am bars anymore. I remember going to Seattle a few months back and getting together with friends at a bar. We were all catching up, drinking it up, and having a good time. I felt like I had barely talked to anyone when it was last call. I checked my watch and it was 1:40 am but people are already calling it a night. By the time 3:40 am rolls along in NY, I’ve rarely ever thought to myself, damn it’s time to go already? I’m always ready to leave. Similarly, if you’re macking on a girl all night, and by 3:30am, nothing’s happening for ya? Probably time to call it a night and go home, it just wasn’t meant to be. If the night ended at 1:30? You may be able to argue something else was working against you besides yourself. Maybe.

Models and Bottles, back in the good days (pre 2008)

There’s always someone more successful than you, accept it
New York is a city where people go to build their careers. But just because you made it here doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed fame and fortune. You’re just doing the same thing as you would anywhere else, albeit you just live in a way better city (and get a lot more cred). You’re always going to find someone more successful, with a job you’d kill for, making in a month what you’d make in a year. There are A LOT of successful people here, and it is unfair to yourself to constantly compare yourselves to the uber successful. That’s just how it is. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be like them but there is a fine line with obsessing and striving. Stay on the latter part of that line and you’ll live a much better life.

If you’re bored in this city, it’s your own fault
This one really doesn’t need much explanation. No other city offers someone more to do than NYC. If you ate somewhere different for lunch and dinner every day for the rest of your life, you still couldn’t eat at every restaurant. There are also thousands of bars, millions of young professionals ready to mingle, events and clubs for pretty much any hobby you might have, and my favorite: just walking around the city on any given day taking in the sights. Seriously, you can’t be bored in this city; there is too much do here, and too easy to them. It will be dearly missed.

Showing 2 comments
  • Lisa Galindo
    Reply

    Johnny your blog is so good it hurts lol, this article cracked me up and definitely confirms what I already know about nyc (good thing) and considering I will be living there soon this was a great read 🙂 keep it coming… and good luck in S.A.

  • Johnny Chen
    Johnny Chen
    Reply

    Who’s facebook liking the post??? I don’t see any of my friend’s photos here and am just curious! Awesome if it is actually my non fb friends!

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