Thanks to Suzie Dundas for collaborating with me on this post……. Life in New York isn’t for everyone. Many try it with high hopes, but arrive and quickly realize it’s nothing like they had expected. Others come to NYC on a whim, fall in love and stay for life. There isn’t any specific ‘New York type’ or a way to predict anyone’s outcome or future here. Sometimes the least likely will flourish in the ‘City That Never Sleeps,’ and those expected to succeed, last only a short time. Some say you really have to love the city to live here, and I agree.
Suzie Dundas has been living life in New York for about six months, and though she loves cities, she doesn’t love NYC the way that she should. In fact, it seems the longer she lives here, the less she likes it. Should she give New York more time? Try living in a different neighborhood? Or maybe, New York just isn’t for her.
I’ve been living life in New York for about six years, but I’ve loved the city – despite its challenges – since I stepped off a Bieber bus in 1979.
Suzie has created a list of New York’s weaknesses –– those things she hates and has discovered only since moving here. She feels the sooner she can accept these, the sooner she will learn to accept the city and embrace the lifestyle. My opinions differ from Suzie’s, as you can see in our discussion below….
1. The Subway Sucks
Readers from New York may doubt this first claim, thinking “that’s not true, my subway ride is great.” But, these people are wrong, and have simply become used to the misery that is the New York subway.
Taking the subway sucks. At best, it’ll be a short ride where you manage not to catch the plague. But usually, it’s a hold-on-for-your-life kind of situation.
For starters, the subway is dirty. On an average day, 4.3 million people ride the subway, and even if New Yorkers everywhere were massive germaphobes who took care to cover their coughs (and trust me, that’s purely hypothetical), it would still be dirty. You’re cramming people shoulder-to-shoulder into an underground tube of stale air, and asking everyone to breath in shared dust and dirt, all while holding on to the same handrails. I consider it a small victory every time I walk out of the station without coughing up blood.
If you do manage to escape the plague, there’s still the risk of injury — or falling into the lap of a complete stranger, as I did recently — if you get a subway driver who forgets about the whole “hit the brake at the station thing” until the very last second possible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen kids fly out of seats (yes, it’s a little funny,) skinny-legged women in high heels trip over themselves like baby deer learning to stand, and people slide across the subway bench due to what I can only assume is a student driver controlling the subway car.
The upside: Taxis are relatively inexpensive.
Yeah, the subway isn’t great — but it’s a means to an end. It’s the most efficient way to navigate the city and you’re only on it for minutes of your day, so lighten up and get some hand sanitizer.
And, I completely disagree, which most New Yorkers will — taxis are a fortune. You didn’t live here in the days when traveling by taxi could cost just $5.00. Now, you can’t go any place for $5.00—not even around the block. Hence, I rarely take cabs — only when I have a lot of stuff to carry, I’m sick, it’s really late, or I’m exhausted. Plus, hailing a taxi isn’t always easy depending on location, time of day, and weather.
The subway is the most convenient mode of transportation in NYC — at least in my opinion — and it does have its entertaining moments. Plus, with the inflated cost of fuel, even $2.75 is a steal. If you’re going to live life in New York, you take the subway.
2. The Guilt
For me, I often feel guilty when I see homeless people or those asking for money and I can’t do anything to help. I generally don’t carry cash, so I’m forced to look like a jerk when I walk by without offering anything. However, I’d also look like a jerk if I asked if they accepted credit cards, so I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. It’s a fortunate position to be in (giving money, not asking for it) but it does make me feel bad every time I don’t have change in my pocket, which is, literally, every time.
As another example, I have a friend who stopped walking to work because she felt guilty going past stick-thin runners who were covering five miles in the half hour it would take her to walk to work. Now, in theory, that should be encouragement to walk to work more often, but of course, that’s not what happened. I also pointed out that it’s likely the runners were going past her, feeling equally guilty that they weren’t on their way to jobs at their successful careers. Everyone feels guilty about something – a secret to living in NYC is getting over it.
If you want to help the homeless or less fortunate, a great way is to volunteer. There are plenty of terrific organizations in NYC looking for help. I think this is a problem not specific to life New York, but specific to life in urban areas.
As far as not running/exercising or not going to work and feeling guilty about it, I don’t think that’s specific to life in New York, either. I think that’s specific to people. With 8.3 million people living in the city, there’s probably a higher volume of guilt, but also a higher volume of drinking establishments on every block to relieve the guilt. (Yet another reason to live in NYC.)
3. The Noise
In my office downtown, I work on the 31st floor, and my office has a big window that I can open and look at the Empire State Building – not too shabby. Except, of course, for the fact that I can’t open my window at all, or the sounds of sirens, police cars, traffic, honking and (for some reason) barking dogs will render me unable to engage in any form of communication that doesn’t involve typing. I’ve literally put conversations on hold because I couldn’t hear over the sounds of people below, and I’ve completely given up on ever trying to have a conversation while walking outside.
At my apartment, I often wake up in the mornings due to the vibrations caused by the noise from street cleaning vehicles, and the squeal of the subway leaves me wondering if I’m going to sustain hearing loss from my daily commute. Apparently, I will. I’ve accepted that I’m going to have to become a heavy sleeper and learn to admire views with the windows closed, and so much for fresh air, well– any air.
I actually love the sounds of the city—I think of it as white noise. Loud sirens aren’t included in this, but ones in the distance are. I love the constant buzzing of traffic, the sounds of the subway on the tracks, the honking horns every now and then, etc. I hate the sounds of construction—especially jackhammers, but that can happen anywhere. I lived in Atlanta and had a jackhammer outside my window for months, not a day or two.
When I leave the city, I am actually weirded out by the quiet. Without any noise, I don’t feel life happening around me. For me, it’s those noises that contribute to the energy and vibrancy of any city, especially New York. The sounds make me feel alive.
Oh, and when I need to sleep, I wear earplugs.
4. The Rude People
I’ve met some lovely people in New York, some of whom have become friends (and some of whom I met in the hellish process of apartment hunting). But I’m consistently amazed by how rude strangers are on almost a daily basis. I see this every day as people who scream every vulgar word under the sun in front of children and families, people who honk and scream at pedestrians who have the gall to – gasp – use a crosswalk, and customers in stores who will murmur about what a bitch you are if you dare to say “excuse me” in a crowded area.
I’m not from the South, but I don’t go out of my way to be rude to people, which I can only assume is what most people here are doing. For example, if I worked at a Duane Reade, and someone asked me a question, I’d try to answer instead of just blankly staring back. If I was trying to throw something away on a street corner and missed the trash can, I’d try again. It’s a bad example for tourists and visitors and makes everyone here look like a bunch of lazy and thoughtless SOBs.
That said, I don’t get upset by this, at all. New York is a busy, dirty, expensive place (more on these later)I can’t blame anyone for being in a consistently foul mood.
New Yorkers aren’t rude, at least most of them aren’t, but they do have character, and they don’t hesitate to speak their minds. Ok, I admit it, we do yell and scream a lot. We are passionate people!
The residents of New York City may be direct, they don’t mince words or sugar coat anything, but actually, I prefer that. I’ve lived in the South, and that’s not the case there. Personally, I’m more comfortable around people who I know don’t like me, rather than those who pretend to like me.
Guaranteed, if you are in a bind, a New Yorker will have your back. We stick together and look out for one another. New Yorkers are hands down some of the friendliest and most kindhearted people.
As far as a cashier not answering your question, I don’t think that has anything to do with life in New York. He or she probably didn’t know the answer and didn’t know what to say.
5. The Dirt and Trash
I know NYC has been cleaned up a lot (both in terms of actual trash, and safety,) but it still strikes me as one of the dirtier cities I’ve been to in the U.S. I was in Baltimore a few weeks ago, and it struck me as being clean – and when Baltimore, the city whose unofficial mascot is a trash-can fire looks clean – that’s a problem.
Let me be clear: I’m talking about straight-up trash. Have you compared our subway to other cities? There’s trash all over the place. I’ve seen more people litter in NYC than anywhere else, and I can’t figure out why. There is some amazing architecture here, buildings that serve as a testament to the awesomeness of engineering, and bridges that literally and metaphorically light the way to adventures – so why is everyone dirtying it up? It makes us look like we have no appreciation for the city or what it offers, and I’m going to stay on my soapbox long enough to say this: throw away your damn trash, even if you do have to go six inches out of your way to reach the trash can.
I know. We’re rude and dirty, even the media says so. Dirty? Are you kidding me? NYC is like a pristine shopping mall compared to what it used to be. I appreciate what little dirt is left. Thankfully, not all the graffiti and trash are gone.
I’m not saying that anyone should throw trash on the ground — because they shouldn’t –but people who want perfectly clean streets and subways live in the burbs and drive cars. Trash is an inevitable fact of life in urban areas, and the more people — the more trash.
6. The Crowds
I live (for now) on the very bottom of the Upper East Side, and when it’s nice outside, I walk to and from work. This means on an average day I go through the most crowded, touristy areas of New York – Central Park past Grand Central, through Times Square and past Penn Station (twice!), so I’ll acknowledge that I may be in unusually high-traffic areas.
But holy crap, is it bad. Here’s an open plea to the worst offenders I see on a day-to-day basis.
For the family encouraging their children to walk on his/her own: Stop. Just stop. Your kid isn’t adorable to everyone else, and making every single person stand still behind you while your little child stumbles down the street is the equivalent of me walking around with my arms straight out, and then screaming at anyone who doesn’t get out of the way to let me pass. If it’s crowded, and your kid moves slow, Pick. The. Kid. Up.
For short people: I’m not short, but I imagine it sucks sometimes. So I’m not unsympathetic. But seriously, it can’t be a newsflash to you that you’re short. You have short legs, and presumably, you have your whole life. Thus, you walk slower than tall people. SO MUCH SLOWER. To the point where I sometimes have to do an exaggeratedly slow walk behind you for comedic effect until you move out of the way.
If you’re short, you can pump your legs as fast as you want, but chances are, someone else is moving faster. So please, please, leave room to pass you, or at least don’t walk three abreast on a sidewalk when the tallest member of your party is five foot two. You’re making everyone late and angry. And I won’t even begin to explain the nightmare of dealing with short people who have umbrellas because it brings up too many painful memories of being poked in the boob/neck/eye.
Those areas you mention above are packed, especially during an evening rush, and I admit, if you have to frequent places like Times Square on a daily basis, it wears on you. But, those parts of town are small considering the size of the five boroughs. And, you don’t need to spend most of your time in those places. You will encounter crowds each day on the trains or buses, or depending on where you work, you’ll walk through groups of people (some slow, with children and/or short!). And, I would imagine that many of the slowpokes are tourists — they are probably captivated and need to look around. Just politely excuse yourself, dodge or walk around them. I do it all the time.
What helps is where you choose to hang out and live. When not working, you can be somewhere peaceful and removed from the hustle and bustle — it’s your choice.That’s the beauty of life in New York — there’s something for everyone and you just need to find where you fit in.
No matter where you hang your hat, remember, you are in NYC, undoubtedly the greatest city in the world. We do put up with a lot to live here, but all the hassle is worth it, at least in most New Yorkers’ opinions. And it’s that hustle and bustle that contributes to the excitement. Everyone is off somewhere, doing something, striving, running, talking, laughing, being.
How do you know if life in New York is not for you? When you look at the Chrysler Building (even if you’ve looked at it every single day for the past 20 years) and you don’t say, “Wow” or just feel even the slightest bit of awe or admiration, then it’s time to leave New York.
7. The High Cost
Living here is crazy expensive. If you’re somewhat limited on where you can live, either for safety or work reasons, you’re going to have to spend a large part of your income on rent – I’d say at least 50 percent – if you want to live alone. And I think an adult who makes a good salary should make enough money to afford a living space for him or herself if they choose to live alone. In NYC, I pay more for my very small one bedroom on the Upper East than many people do for mortgage payments on a four and five bedroom house in other areas of the country.
This is often justified by saying that everything you could want is right outside your front door, and that’s true – but you may not be able to afford it! I have access to the best theater performances, operas, restaurants and events in the world, but these are indulgences not enjoyed frequently. And if my budget limits me to seeing, for example, three shows a year, that’s not really frequent enough to warrant needing to be just down the road.
Yes, I could live with roommates in the outer areas of Brooklyn or Queens, but I like living alone. I’m thinking I may have to get over this to be happy in NYC.
New York is expensive, and I can’t argue that. But, you get a lot for the money here. That may not include square footage, but space doesn’t determine happiness. You can get anything you want at any time; you have the greatest theater outside your door, every type of cuisine on the planet, the most spectacular public parks of any city, and arguably, diversity like no other place in the world. Combine all that with the energy, creativity, drive and zeal of the people, well, that’s New York City and you betcha for all that, it’s gonna cost you.
Though money is a constant struggle for most who choose a life in New York, chances are if you can pay your rent, you can figure out the rest.
The greatest things about life in New York, in my opinion, don’t cost a penny. Walk out your door every day only to discover the limitless possibilities. Dream big — use the boundless energy in this city to your advantage — and make your dreams happen.