Maybe moving to New York City is just a dream. Or, perhaps, you’re already laying the groundwork to relocate to the Big Apple in the not-too-distant future. As someone who lived in NYC for two years after college, left, and then came back following a career shift six years later, I’ve found that the city is equal parts magical and exhausting. It all depends on the day! But as I write this from my Manhattan apartment with taxis whizzing by outside my window, I have to say that I personally can’t imagine a better place to live.
Still, considering a move to one of the largest cities in the world is no small decision. As with any pivotal life choice, it’s best to go with your gut. Don’t base your decision solely on what you see on Instagram or in the movies. One thing that may make you feel more confident in your choice? Hearing firsthand from seasoned city dwellers. So, I asked 13 women to share what they wished they had known before moving to New York. They weren’t shy about sharing both the good and the bad. Read on to hear their advice for wannabe New Yorkers.
Activities and Socializing
NYC isn’t as lonely as people make it seem.
“One of the first things I heard was to be prepared that New York can be a lonely place. So for anyone who’s heard that or is nervous to move because of that, let’s clear something up. New York can be lonely—as much as any city can be. It can also be anything but. You will have a relationship with this city that is unlike any relationship you’ve ever had. If you’re ever lonely, leave your apartment and walk outside. Have a date night with NYC. It is one of my favorite pastimes, having lived in New York City for over a decade!” — Meghan Donovan of @meghandono
Plus, the city is full of affordable things to do, even if you’re solo.
“Despite being insanely expensive overall, there are myriad free things to do in New York on any given day, at any given time. New York is a beacon of music, art, and culture, and you don’t have to go to Broadway to find it. (Although if you do, TodayTix is your friend, and you can—and should—enter the ticket lottery to snag $25 day-of tickets!) Hop the subway to Coney Island, or take the train to Rockaway, and voila! A beach day for $2.75. Take in an outdoor movie at Prospect Park, and marvel at the big screen from your picnic blanket. Take the IKEA ferry to Red Hook and wave to Lady Liberty for a mere $5 (free if you show your IKEA receipt on the way home). Stroll along the Hudson and people-watch, or sit outside the perimeter of SummerStage and listen to a ‘free’ show. It’s easy to feel lonely when you move to a big city, but New York makes the greatest date around.” — Sarah Jacobson of @_thegrandapt
“Utilize free resources to see the city. There are tons of free things happening in NYC every week! Sign up for pulsd.com emails, follow IGs like @nyc_forfree, and utilize MTA subways, ferries, and buses to get around.” — Kerry Sorenson of @uesthings
But you don’t have to do everything at once.
“So many of us move to New York, take in our surroundings and the bevy of culture and activities that await, and think, ‘Oh my God, I can never stay in again!’ Whether you’re a partier or a book clubber or somewhere in between (yours truly is an in-betweener), it’s easy to get swept up in all New York has to offer and burn out fast. Remember that while having a ‘yes’ mentality is a great way to get to know your city and make new friends, it’s OK to rest sometimes, too. Don’t underestimate the power of a night (or more!) in. The city will still be here, moving at lightning speed, when you return.” — Sarah Jacobson of @_thegrandapt
“I wish I knew that the best nights out were the ones on a couch with close friends. I spent way too much time waiting in line for clubs that didn’t live up to the hype and way too much money on $25 martinis!” — Liz Ukpe of @onsundayswe
NYC is full of people who come and go.
“For some, NYC is just a temporary stepping stone. So if you move to New York with hopes of staying here for the long run, just know that your friend circle will change every few years.” — Rozit Arditi of @arditidesign
That said, meeting people isn’t too difficult.
“One thing I wish I knew before moving here is how easy it is to meet people—easier than in other cities, in my opinion. There are always people looking for friends in New York. I was scared my husband and I wouldn’t have many opportunities to be social since we didn’t know many people before moving. But that hasn’t been the case at all. My best advice for meeting people in NYC is to say yes to everything. There will always be a friend of a friend you can connect with. There will always be random opportunities for events and gatherings with new faces, so say yes!” — Katelyn Sailor of @katelynsailor
“Now that the city is back to life, I made a vow to never take it for granted. I make it a point every weekend to try a new restaurant, attend a fun event, or hang out with friends. I’ve met some of my closest friends by attending events by like-minded communities and putting myself out there!” — Breanna Young of @breannainbrooklyn
Be prepared to be patient.
“Finding an apartment will be an experience like none other. Looking for the right fit at the right price in New York can be frustrating, competitive, and extremely time-consuming. And once you get to a point where you can sign a lease, you typically need to put in the first month’s rent and a security deposit. Plus, you need to make a certain amount times your rent (or provide a guarantor that makes even more). There are a lot of hoops to jump through! I’ve moved five times in New York and like to think I’ve cracked the code, but even then, it’s tough. Don’t get discouraged and remember that it takes time to learn and become an expert.” — KC Cibran of @thecasaverde
“When I was on an apartment hunt, I used to see several units every single day for a week or two. The apartments go very fast, but a lot of rentals or sublets don’t even let you contract unless it is for the upcoming month, so it was impossible to plan way in advance. There are so many factors to consider, and you’ll have to choose the ones that matter the most to you! It’s a pretty stressful process, but once you sign for the ‘home’ you’ll have for a year or two, the life you’ll have in NYC is one you’ll treasure forever!” — Erica Choi of @eggcanvas
Compromise is key.
“You’ll almost always have to ‘give’ on something when it comes to finding an apartment. Spend some time listing out your non-negotiables and also what you’re willing to accept. For example, maybe a short walk to the subway is a top priority for you, but you’re willing to give up lots of natural light.” — Kerry Sorenson of @uesthings
Do your research before selecting a neighborhood in which to live.
“If you have no idea what neighborhood you want to live in, then prioritize distance from either friends or work. But make sure to take time to walk around the area before settling on something. Talk to people living in New York already regarding neighborhood vibes and the pros and cons of each neighborhood.” — Meghan Donovan of @meghandono
Walk-up life can get exhausting.
“The view and natural light from a fifth-floor walk-up may be amazing, but it never gets easier climbing those stairs—especially with pets!” — Sydney Callands of @sydddcal
Small, “just because” purchases aren’t insignificant.
“The under-$15 purchases add up. Whether it’s oat milk lattes, Juice Press smoothies, or Sweetgreen salads—they add up! Set a limit for these types of purchases.” — Kerry Sorenson of @uesthings
Money can feel tight, especially early in your career.
“I actually wish I waited two to three years and saved up a lot more money before moving here. I don’t have any regrets now, but when you’re starting out in your career, paying rent, buying groceries, having a social life, and trying to save money and invest on a starter salary is nearly impossible.” — Liz Ukpe of @onsundayswe
The city is full of highs and lows—and inconveniences—but it’s all worth it.
“Everything is more difficult and more expensive in New York. That includes the simplest of tasks: washing dishes, doing your laundry, getting to the airport, going grocery shopping, finding an apartment, etc. All have an extra layer (or two) of complication. The highs of living in New York are high. You’re truly at the center of the universe, with access to the best of everything, and the city has unmatched energy. But I believe to be happy here long-term, you have to be someone who really loves the highs and won’t let the lows rattle you. Otherwise, all the extra hassle just won’t be worth it.” — Diana Pearl of @dianaspearl
“One of the things I wish I knew before moving to New York is just how worth every sacrifice it is. When looking at apartments for the first time, it’s easy to be worried about not having laundry or a dishwasher or having half the square footage you might have elsewhere. But those minor inconveniences pale in comparison to the magic life New York brings. While there will always be difficult things about living here, it is such a unique and special experience you will never regret.” — Katelyn Sailor of @katelynsailor
The city is extremely fast-paced. Slow down a bit!
“Even when you’re not in a rush, you will still be in a rush. Remember to stop and breathe every once in a while because New York is beautiful, so soak it up while you can!” — Sydney Callands of @sydddcal
“NYC welcomes you as who you are and where you are in life, but it also wears you out faster than any city in the world.” — Rozit Arditi of @arditidesign
“The main thing I wish I knew about NYC before moving here is that it’s easy to become defined by your job or career. People in NYC tend to be ambitious and hardworking, often moving from all over the world to pursue careers at top companies. The first thing someone might ask when you meet them is, ‘What do you do?’ or ‘Where do you work?’ Make sure to find something that brings you joy outside of your job that allows you to explore your passions and have fun while doing so—like a creative hobby or joining a sports club!” — Michaela O’Shaughnessy of @lifeofaladybear
And it isn’t exactly clean, either!
“I wish I knew how dirty the city would be. As someone who spent her entire junior and senior year studying Sex and the City, I had no idea that a move to NYC also meant shacking up with the occasional cockroach or waiting for an oversized rat to cross the street so I could get to where I needed to go. And don’t even get me started on the constant fear of catching bed bugs!” — Liz Ukpe of @onsundayswe
New York will challenge you.
“As a young gal watching way too many rom-coms in my childhood bedroom, New York City was always my dream—and I made it happen. But this city is not for everyone, and that is OK! Simple things like getting groceries or doing laundry have a ton of extra steps, and emotionally, you’ll be challenged every day. I’ve learned so much about myself and grown to really love who I am here, but sometimes, it makes me want to cry on the subway—and that’s just New York.” — KC Cibran of @thecasaverde
“NYC is incredibly inconvenient unless you’re wealthy. Unless you are Ubering door to door, you will have to brave the elements. Between waiting in a boiling-hot subway station for a delayed train, getting your feet and legs soaked in the rain even with an umbrella, and freezing in the wind, cold, and snow—you’ll definitely build a lot of character. It takes about 30 minutes minimum to get almost anywhere by public transportation if the destination is not in your neighborhood or adjacent to it. Sometimes it takes just as long by Uber or taxi because of the crazy traffic. The bright side is that over time, you become tough as nails, and pretty much nothing phases you! Another added bonus: You’ll walk about 10,000-plus steps every day without trying. (Bye-bye, cardio workouts!) — Kate McReynolds of @katemcreynoldsblog
“NYC will challenge you in ways you never thought possible, and things definitely don’t come easy living here. The more you persevere through the challenges, the more you’ll learn about yourself and grow.” — Tracy Davis of @tracyadavis_