21 Tips For Surviving New York City

Friday, August 29, 2014

Moving to New York doesn't have to be THIS scary. Moving to New York doesn't have to be THIS scary. (Escape From New York)

As any New Yorker will tell you, the city can be overwhelming, -- and even more so if you’re new to it. We sat down with some of WNYC’s most loved hosts and producers to get their advice about navigating and enjoying the Big Apple. They talk about their personal struggles and how they overcame them to find success in the bustle of the city that never sleeps. Here are their tips, disaster stories, and reasons they love the city.

Your Guides:

Manoush Zomorodi: Host and managing editor of WNYC’s New Tech City.
Ellen HorneExecutive producer at Radiolab.
Kate Hinds: Associate producer and reporter for WNYC News and Transportation Nation.
Anna Sale: Host of WNYC’s Death, Sex, and Money.
Mythili Rao: Producer on The Takeaway.

Learn To Manage Your Money 

    • Manoush: Write everything down. Mint is a great program that helps you budget and keep track of things. Sign up for one, force yourself to log in every week, set some goals, take a personal finance class. 
    • Kate: Roomates, roomates, roomates! I ate a lot of canned soup. I lived in cheap apartments in neighborhoods that were always a little edgy. Anytime I’m in the suburbs, I try to get food and basics somewhere that’s cheaper than Whole Foods. 
    • Anna: I got really into finding cheap lunch deals. When you move here, you realize how much of a cash economy it is. You don’t use debit cards like you do in other parts of the country.  I’m really glad I discovered cheap falafel sandwiches. I was late to adopt laundry drop-off but I’m really into dropping off my laundry now. It’s made life easier. Getting a bank that refunds my ATM fees is also really nice. 
    • Mythili: I made a very rookie mistake that a lot of people make. I thought that cabs were an efficient way to travel and they’re neither fast nor affordable. You pay extra and you don’t get there any faster, except in rare circumstances. Cutting out cabs will save a lot of money: get to know your subway system. 

     When You’re Stressed: Take A Walk, Find Some Green

      • Manoush: I think the best way to get to know a city is just to walk and walk and walk. You know you’re a New Yorker when someone says an intersection and you can picture it in your mind. 
      • Kate: There are some super special places like Wave Hill in the Bronx, where you can have a little peace and quiet. I try to find nature in New York when I can. Just standing alongside the Hudson river and smelling that salty bay smell is great stress-killer for me. 
      • Ellen: You cannot be in a bad mood at Coney Island. Even if it’s crazy and crowded. It’s a very specifically joyful place for me. It’s so diverse and such a weird mash up of beach culture and urban culture. It’s a great trip for any New Yorker to get out of the city, while still being in the city. 
      • Mythili: One of the nicest things about the city is how run accessible and bike accessible it is. There’s great waterfront everywhere, there’s great parks everywhere. We’re all packed into this small concrete island. Figure out which parks you like and where you like to hang out, and get that little bit of green space.
      Ellie Kemper performing at the UCB Theatre in 2008 (Alex Erde/flickr) 

      Explore The City And Fall In Love With It 

        • Anna: I discovered improv really early, that it’s cheaper than seeing a movie, and it’s made me really appreciate the talent in this city. You see these young up-and-comers and months later they’re famous and all over pop culture. I also really love Queens. It reminds me more than anything else of the spirit of the city, which is that this is the place where we all come to figure out how to make our dreams come true. 
        • Kate: I live in a bunch of different neighborhoods and I tried to get out of those neighborhoods as often as I could. I tried to be a tourist in the city. And to talk to strangers. I’ve had some great conversations with people on park benches...those shared moments of New York City humanity are what make this place so great.
        • Ellen: Take advantage of the city. I went to all the free outdoor concerts, and the free outdoors movies. Go to really far flung places to try that soup dumpling, or whatever crazy food you’ve heard of. Those are the times when New York really stands out. 
        • Mythili: Stay busy. If you’ve got time to be homesick you might be moping around your apartment too much.

        Remember That It’s Hard For Everyone

          • Kate: Be kind to yourself, New York can be a tough place. You practically see streets paved with money — it’s hard to get away from the materialism sometimes. But remember that most people had it hard at one time in their life and you just gotta pay your dues. Hopefully it will all work out. 
          • Manoush: Let up on being in touch with everybody all the time. You’re about to start a new chapter in your life. 
          • Ellen: I have a hate/tolerate relationship with New York. There have been times where I felt like it’s a wonderfully alive, exciting place to be. And on the low end of the spectrum, it’s a dirty, way too crowded, very frustrating place to live, that’s divorced from nature. I definitely feel like I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to live here in a way that’s comfortable and happy. One difficult New York moment early on was getting locked out of my apartment. I thought I was going to have to spend the night on the street. I ended up breaking into a building next store, climbing a fire escape, climbing onto the roof and breaking a window to get into my apartment. My arm was all bloody.  
          • Anna: I had a friend early on that was in recovery, and I went to her one-year anniversary meeting. I remember sitting in that room and hearing people tell the stories of what they had struggled with in this city and I remember feeling so profoundly moved and not alone. And, weirdly, jealous that I didn’t have a space to go to where people shared like that. It’s lonely when you’re struggling in the city at first. The first year-and-a-half is hard, and then it starts to feel manageable. 

          More Advice

            • Manoush: Always carry a bottle of water because subways get stuck — stay hydrated! My favorite app is Exit Strategy. It helps you figure out which subway car you should get into so you can get out at your destination as quickly as possible. 
            • Kate: I learned very quickly to trust my instincts and not to apologize to myself mentally. If I was sitting across from someone on the subway and I didn’t like how they were looking at me, I would just get up and find a place I thought was safer. As a woman, I was very attuned to physical safety. 
            • MythiliI was lucky to have a cool older brother already living in New York when I moved to the city. One of the first things he did was to introduce me to a girl in his office who was my age and who lived down my street. She was a soccer player and runner like me so I had an instant workout buddy and partner-in-crime to explore the neighborhood with. Having a friend you see almost every day goes a long way in making a new city start to feel like your own.
            • Anna: This is a place that people want to come. It’s actually not that hard staying in touch with people who aren’t from here because they’re always looking to crash on an air mattress. 


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            Comments [7]

            Bob from I wish I knew

            Why not try going back to where you're from and stop bidding up the already too high and unaffordable housing prices here. You've all turned NYC into Peoria on the Hudson, with your Wendy's and McDonald's and Denny's and big-box stores and all that other mall culture suburban crap that followed your arrival a decade or two ago and seem to be filling up the holes left by the cool little businesses and shops and restaurants that made the City a good place to be despite all the problems here and that have been mostly driven out now, like so many native New Yorkers. Now, here is almost just like there, where you all are from, only worse, because it's even more fake and imitative! Because you brought your ersatz American culture with you to what once was a genuine and even unique American place. Please, go home, relax again, and be uncool, it's OK. Your life can still have meaning and be fine even if you aren't allowing yourself to be exploited by some scumbag landlord/corporation to live in a run-down old tenement that should be viewed as a disgrace rather than a sign of hipness. But, maybe that's just me, and old Bronx boy who tried to find a home in Manhattan and, like the Native Americans of the 18 and 19th centuries, I too am being driven out of my native habitat by the white man and woman!

            Sep. 06 2014 08:17 PM
            Kofi Martin from New York, NY

            Francesca! Nice, adorable piece about the trials and tribulations (and triumphs) of living in NYC. I was an intern in the City while I was in undergrad with Brenda in Community Engagement! I'd later move to South America and work odd and end jobs only to return to NYC to further fall in love and in love with the city again.

            That said, what about a piece on how to survive NYC as an intern?? What have you been through? Enjoyed? Recommend?

            Sep. 04 2014 09:42 AM
            HipHopSays from Fort Greene (Brooklyn)

            #boo....drop off laundry (really). it cost more than washing your clothes and the time I spend washing clothes I use to balance my checkbook (which I use good old excel for so I don't need interwebs to do). #boo....cabs (really). Here's a tip for women buy more (work) clothes that don't need dry cleaning, you'll save roughly $50/month.

            Sep. 03 2014 01:41 PM
            kristin from inwood

            i appreciated learning where the author/ intern was from. knowing where the advisors are from (or about their backgrounds a little) would be useful.

            there are many new yorks... we can start with the eb white new yorkers, but even without deciding if any of the contributors will stay or if they'r just the energy passing through --- there are different new yorks, with different sets of rules, a different set of expectations and needs.

            at the most basic (for this listicle) - knowing origins would give us an idea of familiarity with public transportation, diversity; proximity to family (coming to nyc from idaho is different than coming from nj, i'd imagine!)

            Aug. 29 2014 08:57 PM
            kate from brooklyn

            Very sweet post. All good tips, except using an app like exit strategy is cheating! Learn where to stand on the platform by taking the subways, Over time you'll know where the stairs are in each station relevant to where you're going. When you have that down, that's when you know you're starting to become a real ny'er.

            Aug. 29 2014 02:14 PM
            Anna from Murray Hill

            This is awesome. There should be more NYC survival content out there!

            Aug. 29 2014 12:59 PM

            Why is everything with Kate in the past tense? "Lived", "Ate", etc? Not relevant any more

            Aug. 29 2014 12:57 PM

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