West Coast, East Coast: Ten Things I’ve Learned About New York City

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I’m what you might call a city girl. Can I handle camping and other countryside adventures? Sure! Do I much prefer the modern conveniences and culture of large cities? Definitely. Having grown up in Austin and lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco, I like to think that I can handle big cities. But let’s face it, New York City is kind of a whole ‘nother animal — and one that, after our week there last week, I’m super excited to tackle.

However, there are a few things I definitely noticed after spending some time there, and in order to tell you guys a bit more about our crazed apartment search, I thought I’d share these experiences through a list of observations. I’m wondering if current New Yorkers will identify with any of these, too!

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1. A listed rent price is like a grade in school. Just a jumping off point to start negotiations.

I’ve never seen this in any other city, but apparently, listed rent prices are completely negotiable. Every single place we saw, we were told by either the broker or the owner that the price was $x, but that ” we could talk about it.” Obviously, this got us to consider some places that were a little over budget, and now that I sit here thinking about it, this pricing thing is probably a perfect marketing tactic to rent places out quickly. You feel like you’re getting a deal! (PS – bonus points if you know where the phrase “grades are just a jumping off point to start negotiations” comes from.)

2. Being nice gets you somewhere.

I was raised in Texas, where people are extremely friendly and polite in public. It’s second nature to me to thank people profusely, wish people a good day or a good evening, all that jazz. Twice on our trip, Joe and I were running extremely late to dinner reservations, and each time, I called the restaurant to apologize, let them know, and see if they could shift the time. In both cases, they held our table — once, for 45 minutes at a very busy restaurant, where plenty of walk-ins were waiting. I think both hosts were really appreciative we took the time to call, apologize, and try to make their jobs a little easier. Ditto for cabbies. Just saying thank you and being pleasant often led to the meter being turned off a few blocks before our destination.

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3. Private cars =  a total rip off.

Those cars that pull up and offer you a ride when you can’t get a cab? Complete rip offs. And the single one we took when we were desperate and in a hurry tried to pretend like he didn’t have any change, so we’d have to pay more than the agreed upon rate. Not cool guy, not cool. I’d say wait it out for a taxi, or, if you’re really desperate, get an Uber (though here’s another thing I learned: Uber is way more expensive in NY than in SF!).

4. Fact: for the price of monthly mortgage payment on a palace in virtually any other American city, you get an outdated dump in Manhattan.

I mean, I feel like most people know this. But it just had to be said.

5. More people smoke in New York than they do in LA or SF.

Or maybe it’s just that you’re out on the sidewalks more, with lots of people, so you totally notice it. I won’t lie — I’ll probably have to wash my hair more there. I hated coming home and smelling like cigarettes every day. Blech.

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6. Central Park is completely necessary.

Okay, I get it. It’s pretty amazing to take a stroll through the park. I loved seeing everyone picnicking and just enjoying the peaceful respite. And I’m really excited for fall, when all those leaves change color. I’ve never really lived anywhere that had a true autumn!

7. The wine is almost all European.

Which is cool, I adore French and Italian wine. But I just thought this was very interesting. Here in California (and in SF no less), for very obvious reasons, wine lists are often dominated by California producers. In New York, domestic wine selections were far, far more limited than European ones. I’ll need to find a wine shop specializing in California — it’s inevitable we’ll miss some of the smaller producers that you can so easily find around here!

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8. The West Village = where I must live some day.

We looked at this SICK apartment on Grove St. in the West Village. The apartment had the best location ever — quiet, tree-lined street, right in between two cross streets that had fantastic shopping and restaurants. But, the unit was a fourth floor walk up with only one extraordinarily tiny bathroom (read: not happening with a dog, and not happening with the amount of bathroom crap I have), but OH MY GOD the location. We seriously considered it for a second just because of that.

9. “New York is all about making it work.”

A friend of ours said this to us when we told him about the apartment we had applied for, and after mentioning the things we loved about it, we mentioned some of the things we didn’t (like minimal closet space). “But we’ll make it work,” we told him. And then he said those eight little words that are so true about everything in NY. “New York is all about making it work.” True of apartments, rent, getting around, storing your crap…everything. It’s an adapt and overcome city, but I kinda love that about it!

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10. It’s really easy to fall in love with New York City.

I won’t lie. I’ve been a little down lately, thinking about how much I will miss living in San Francisco, and California in general. This will sound super cheesy, but I really feel like California is where I found myself, so it’s been sad thinking about closing such a huge chapter of my life and starting a new one on the other side of the continent. The thing to snap me out of it? A week in New York. You can’t help but fall in love with it. The amazing abundance of restaurants, shopping and culture doesn’t hurt either (we will NEVER struggle to find great take out options again — yes, this has actually been an issue in SF!). I’m very excited to move there now. In fact, when I woke up in my own bed on Sunday, I found myself wishing we were in New York already!

Okay, (future) fellow New Yorkers, or anyone that’s spent some time there. What are things you’ve learned about New York City that I’ve yet to discover?

{Image Credits: Jamie Beck for Ann Street Studio; “Spring Time” and “New York” posts}

40 comments

  1. janel said: replied:

    these photos are amazing! i go to NYU and have been living in the city for about three years. it is so true that being nice gets you somewhere- you would be amazed how people react to an upbeat “thank you” or when you hold the elevator for them. also, the west village is seriously a dream location. walking down jane and cornelia streets is the best way to spend a sunny day.

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  2. I love this list. I’ve always dreamed of living in NY one day but as I’ve gotten older, I realized I couldn’t live that far from my family. So I’ll just live vicariously through you. ;) Keep the NY stories comin’!

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  3. “make it work” was my NYC mantra during my four years there. you have to make EVERYTHING work — from sleeping in a bunk bed in a studio-turned-2 BR apartment because that’s the only way 3 people can fit in the place to hauling your groceries 10 blocks because you don’t have money for a cab. Receiving packages, rainy commutes, delayed trains between Brooklyn and Manhattan — ah so many crazy memories. But NYC makes you feel like a part of a pack. no matter your level of income/status, we all experience these things at some point.

    This really resonated with me: 23 Signs You’ve Lived in NYC Too Long http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/23-signs-youve-lived-in-new-york-city-too-long

    7 May 2013 | Reply
    1. Melinda's Musings said: replied:

      I saw that buzz feed list as well – it’s perfect! I counted, and after almost 11 years of living in NYC I found that 19 of them apply to me. So accurate and hilarious!

      9 May 2013 | Reply
  4. sarah said: replied:

    I think San Francisco would be reallly hard not to miss, but I also think NYC is something amazing that everyone should experience at some point. So happy you’re headed east!

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  5. Lauren said: replied:

    Absolutely love these posts about NY and your move! Please keep them coming!!

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  6. Kasia said: replied:

    You are making me so jealous with this! I used to live in NY then NJ but was in the city every weekend. I miss it so so much! But alas I found love in California so I have made peace with the fact that ill never live in NYC again. Can’t wait to live vicariously through your posts! Best of luck on the move, I’m sure you will love it!

    Xoxo,
    Kasia

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  7. Jessica said: replied:

    eeep! What an exciting time! Good luck on the apartment hunting front, I just know that you will “make it work”, and in a completely fabulous way!
    xx
    Here&Now

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  8. Erin said: replied:

    Don’t count on those thank you’s getting your table held and your meter knocked off early every time – I think those were lucky flukes! ;) Not that people won’t appreciate niceness, but…

    And if you do take a black car, tell the driver your destination and negotiate a flat-rate price before you get in – that way you’re less likely to get ripped off, and you can maybe even get it for a few bucks cheaper than a taxi would be!

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  9. Bethany said: replied:

    New Yorkers definitely share a sense of “we’re getting through this together.” Every single NYer can give you a list of what they love and hate about the city but you’re right, you’ll fall in love.

    Living in NYC is like having a wild, tumultuous relationship. You’ll hide from it angrily one day and revel in it the next but you’ll never be able to forget it.

    I moved here five years ago from the Midwest and it gets harder and harder for me to imagine living anywhere else!

    Welcome!

    Bethany
    aluckyfifth.com

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  10. Katy Byrne said: replied:

    Is it sad that I immediately appreciated your Clueless reference? So jealous. NYC is the best.

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  11. ANH said: replied:

    My advice would be to find a place with a washer/dryer or at least with hook-ups [then buy your own]. The first place I lived in New York had a washer and dryer but the second place I lived did not and it was a huge adjustment! My roommates and I had to carry our laundry over to the next block and pay to have it done [the place we went to charged by the pound].

    Good luck!

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  12. Elizabeth said: replied:

    I actually am from Alabama but my dad is a transplant from Brooklyn so I feel like I’m part New Yorker! I’ve only been there once when I was a senior in high school and before I went, I was in love. After I left, I was obsessed with going back. I really just let everything soak in when I walked around. My parents took me to Chinatown and Little Italy and they were both incredible. Make sure to hold your breath a little when walking in Chinatown. The smell can get extreme! Go enjoy Broadway (we saw Spamalot) and just enjoy the moment! I wish I could go back! :)

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  13. kelsey said: replied:

    love this post, the tips, and the amazing black and white photography. the reasons above are the chief reasons i’m NOT a new yorker
    kw Ladies in Navy

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  14. Jessica Wallace said: replied:

    This is so helpful! I am going to school in Wilmington NC right now, but I’m planning to move to NYC for my career. I’ve only been once but I really liked it, and cant wait to have my own place in the City. Please keep putting up posts like this! They give me hope for the future!

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  15. Kelly - Fabulous K said: replied:

    I envy your move to the big city — I would love to live there someday. Can’t wait to read about your NYC adventures; best of luck!!

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  16. sketch42 said: replied:

    I’ma born and bred New Yorker. Grew up in Brooklyn, went to college in the city, and still live here. So I’ve never lived anywhere else. But I’ve traveled a lot, and I go to the beach every summer for 3 straight months, and I’m telling you- those breaks are necessary. This city will bring you immense joy, excitement and opportunity, BUT it will suck the life out of you if you arent careful. Maybe thats because I have kids?
    Some things-
    When you live in NY for a little while, leaving your 10 block radius seems like going SO far away.

    I also happen to think we are all pretty nice here. Not mid-west nice, but not the assholes we are made out to be.

    Also- grocery stores are mega expensive. Its pretty much cheaper to eat out or order in.

    And last, if you have children just WAIT, JUST WAIT until kindergarten applications. Its my own personal hell.

    NY is really a place where if you put yourself out there, good things could come your way. Although it is a very very big pond.

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  17. Zunni said: replied:

    Loving hearing all about New York… I’m living in Australia and I find your thoughts about NY (and SF) fascinating.

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  18. Kristen M said: replied:

    i moved to new york 7 years ago, here’s a few things i learned…

    -finding an apartment in this city is one of the hardest things you will do (i don’t have kids, but i’ve heard about the whole schooling thing… thats the hardest). its ungodly expensive and small and backwards from anywhere else in the country. and as insane as it sounds, you will get used to a 4th+ floor walkup. this is a city of stairs. and delivery.

    -ask your friends who resoles their shoes. you’ll need it.

    -cut out from work early the day the symphony plays in the park. get a blanket and a bottle of wine. its magical. and there are fireworks.

    -buy boots around halloween and an ac around memorial day. you don’t want to wait until you NEED these things.

    -plan a vacation to the west coast (or a warm island) between valentine’s day and st. pats. thats a rough stretch of time.

    -if you go to ikea in bklyn and buy a buncha stuff, theres a phone at the exit that calls a car service. you can ask for a mini van. but make sure you have cash.

    -peta makes the best mouse traps. they look like monopoly houses. use pennies to weigh the trap.

    -there’s a restaurant in the east village called s’mac. guess what they serve?

    -as of last month, you can legally get shiner on tap…

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  19. Marissa said: replied:

    You must try Grounded in the West Village, amazing coffee beverages.

    7 May 2013 | Reply
  20. Angelica Golden said: replied:

    Clueless! Love that you put this quote in. I love New York (I’ve never lived but have visited tons); I know you’ll have an amazing time exploring the city.

    8 May 2013 | Reply
  21. Anne [A Squared] said: replied:

    Excellent use of a Clueless quote! And best of luck in NYC– what a fabulous place to live!

    8 May 2013 | Reply
  22. Catalina Sanint said: replied:

    Can’t tell you how helpful this all is, considering I’m going through the exact same transition (minus the luxury of going for a week to check it out–wah,wah). I can’t wait to get to NY!! Good luck with the move and all things apartment related :)

    8 May 2013 | Reply
  23. Jules said: replied:

    Congrats on finding a place! I came to New York for a weekend and had three Craigslist appointments, basically praying that one worked! (It did, thank God.)

    “Making it work” is what this city is all about. I moved from a beautiful, airy walkup in Chicago to a cramped, dirty 5 bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. With one bathroom. It is a trade off though – you take the less-than-stellar living conditions for the exchange of the amazing restaurants, parks, shows, etc. that also call this place home.

    Best of luck with the move!

    8 May 2013 | Reply
  24. Clueless reference. dah! I’m happy to hear that you’re coming around. You have a lot to look forward to, my dear! ox

    8 May 2013 | Reply
  25. And ew. How motherly did that sound? #alreadysoundlikeone

    8 May 2013 | Reply
  26. Maddy said: replied:

    You will end up fudging your rent a little out of embarrassment when your not new york friends ask how much your rent is.

    8 May 2013 | Reply
  27. Inge said: replied:

    Hi Victoria,

    I wish you the best of luck with the move to one of my favorite cities in the whole world! And congratulations on finding a place there, I hope you’ll be telling more beautiful stories about NYC and sharing more lovely pictures – these look amazing!!
    And I guess this is the very first time I’m commenting here, but I just had to – I loved your tips!
    Your blog is really one of my favorites to read, I even shared it with my readers too: http://www.simplyfabulouschic.com/2013/05/6-blogs-that-i-love

    Your pictures really make me dream to go back to NYC someday… Maybe soon!
    All the best,
    Inge x

    8 May 2013 | Reply
  28. Kimberley said: replied:

    You had me at the Clueless reference!

    9 May 2013 | Reply
  29. Gabrielle | Savvy Home said: replied:

    Girl, I’ve experienced most of that stuff only visiting NYC, but that last one rang so true for me, as I had the same bittersweet feeling leaving Australia. The good news is, there’s always something more exciting on the other side and I can tell that NYC will really suit you. You’ll do great! Xx

    9 May 2013 | Reply
  30. [...] this list by Victoria on “10 things I’ve learned about NYC.” – vmac + [...]

    10 May 2013 |
  31. I feel like we’re at opposite feelings – I want to move back to SF! haha NY is definitely a “make it work” city, and I guess I’m just at the point where I’m tired of trying to make it work.

    Not to say that there aren’t great things about NYC – like being able to walk pretty much everywhere, cool events and happenings pretty much all the time, the shopping!, and all the food and restaurants and all the quintessentially new york things, like Central Park and The Plaza and neighborhoods like the West Village and Upper East/West sides…

    Can’t wait to see your reflections after you’ve lived here for a few years! :)

    13 May 2013 | Reply
  32. Sam said: replied:

    Sounds like you’ve already had quite the adventure! NYC is a great place to live…but there are also parts of living here that suck. Steep rent is one of them, as is the number of slow walking tourists. That said, it is an amazing city with so much to offer.

    I’ve been here for a few years, and I think it’s important to be realistic about NYC, but at the same time, remember to step back and appreciate how lucky you are to live here. On that note, let me know if you’re ever up for UES brunch :)

    15 May 2013 | Reply
  33. Rose said: replied:

    All of this is so applicable, even when you’ve lived here for a while! The West Village is, hands down, my dream spot to live in NYC. I’m currently in Queens, and only 15 minutes from getting into Manhattan on the subway, and while there are so many nice things out there like space, and trees, and a tiny front yard, and I only have to go up ONE flight of stairs, I sometimes wish I were living in the city, although to be honest I’ve been considering Brooklyn next! :)

    Also, I think about the people who are smoking ALL THE TIME. I deliberately cough and wave my hands around when I pass them to let them know how much they’re annoying me and how disgusting their habit is.

    PS-don’t ever take gypsy cabs, they’re ALWAYS a rip off!! They’ll honk at you, a lot, if you’re in areas where they think you’re a tourist. It’s ridiculous!

    Anyways, best of luck on your move-I hope to see you out here sometime soon!!

    Rose
    Blonde in this City

    15 May 2013 | Reply

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