One month in the Big Apple: First Impressions

I have been living in New York for almost one month (!). Yet, the fact that I have had barely any time to visit the city, meet up with my friends, blog–or basically do anything that isn’t working or looking for an apartment–tells you just about all you need to know about living in this fabulous city. Here is what I’ve noticed so far:

(1) People in New York live to work. The expression that Americans live to work while Europeans work to live has never been more true. In Paris, I took 1-2 hour lunch breaks (as did everyone else!) whereas here I’m lucky if I get a half an hour–seriously. As an intern I’m not expected to work as much as a normal staff member (my one perk as I’m being payed slave wages), most of whom, I notice, never actually take time to eat.  New Yorkers are often eating at their desks while they continue to work through their lunch hour, eating during a “working-lunch” meeting (seriously?), or eating while they’re on their way to a meeting in another office. In Paris, my colleagues and I would go out to lunch together and come back two hours later, a little wine drunk, with 2/3 of our work day done. Ah yes, there are days when I really miss France! But, the French economy is slower, and much less creative than the American one (for a number of reasons which I’m not getting into here, I’m just saying it doesn’t all chalk up to 2 hour lunch breaks), and that does matter–a LOT.  Finding a job in a slower economy, much less one that is less creative is a nightmare, especially for youth, who, on average, face unemployment at almost double the general unemployment rate. With that said, I’d rather be working during lunch and weekends (and oh yes, do I work on weekends) than in a low-paying job with little advancement opportunity, and a 2 hour lunch break. So yes, I am currently overworked and underpaid, but the opportunity cost for landing a good job when I’m finished is well worth the sacrafice.

(2) Conquering New York real estate is no small feat–if you manage to do it without a broker you deserve a tall glass of your preferred alcohol, which I definitely did when I landed my place. The funny thing about New York is, and I heard this over and over again (but definitely got really annoyed with it when I was still homeless and looking for a place) was that you shouldn’t “try too hard” to find an apartment, it “will just happen.” YEAH OKAY, thanks for the useless advice. I think a better way of saying this would be “use your resources, it’s more than likely that you already know someone who can help you out.” What I mean by this is that maybe a friend of a friend knows of a place, or can host you for a few nights, or knows a really good website to find housing. The bottom line: it is essential that you ask people for help, especially if you’re like me and think you can do everything on your own. I came to New York and was contacting about 10-15 different people every single day about apartments that I saw on Craigslist, Roomster, Facebook, you name it. I did everything BUT pay for a broker to find me a place, and after 3 weeks I still hadn’t found anything in my price range that wasn’t in a dangerous area of the city, that wasn’t dirty, and that wasn’t owned by really shady people (like the Russian Mob–more on that story some other time.)

At this point I was starting to get worried that I would have to pay $750 to rent someone’s couch (yes I actually saw a place that said $750 monthly rent and when I got there the woman was renting out her couch). But then, one day last week my colleague asked how the apartment hunt was going, and instead of saying “fine” and keeping my problems to myself, I blurted out “HORRIBLE!” I told her how hard it was to find a place within my budget limitations and in a safe building/neighborhood, preferably with female roommates. She said she also had trouble when she moved to New York and wanted to help. So, she asked within her friend group and ended up forwarding me an email from a friend of hers who was looking to sublease for my dates, in my price range, and with two girl roommates (both who work in fashion–added plus) and a cat! I saw the place a few days later and was asked to move in on October 15th. Moral of the story: ask for help! Especially when you’re moving to a city like New York. There are so many “insider tips” you just can’t know without living here for several years, and your friends and colleagues are probably the best people to help because they generally care about your well-being and livelihood, whereas landlords and building managers are just looking to rent to the highest bidder.

Here are some pictures of my place:

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(3) Building on the creative economy that I was talking about earlier, New York is home to apps, apps, and more apps!  And while these apps weren’t necessarily created in New York, they were created FOR New York, and other big cities like it. Ride sharing, especially apps like Uber and Lyft just make so much more sense in New York. I didn’t even know that Uber was not only a car service (much like taxis), it’s also a ride sharing service (using Uber POOL) that makes the already cheap cost, even cheaper. Then there’s Seamless, the app that works with take out restaurants and saves your credit card info so any time you want to order delivery, you log on, order, and it automatically charges your card so you don’t have to enter your information each time you order take out (which, for a New Yorker, is a lot). It also includes the tip, so when the delivery man shows up you simply take your food and say thanks–no awkward transaction because its already been taken care of! Before living in New York I never used Tinder. I actually didn’t get why you would want to meet someone on Tinder and therefore didn’t use it.  However NOW that I am so busy I only see the inside of my apartment, the subway, and my office, I can see why you might gravitate towards Tinder. It’s not that you want to meet someone on Tinder, it’s more that in a city of 8.5 million, it’s not likely that you’re going to run into Mr. Right when you frequent the same general areas each day (work, subway, home). For busy people, Tinder lets you see scan through your options because there is no way you could meet all the people living in New York, it’s just not possible. Which is what I love most about using apps in New York: the makers have really outdone themselves in finding creative solutions to problems for big city dwellers like myself.

Aaaaand that’s all for now. I have some work to get to (surprise, surprise!). But I will keep you guys updated as often as I can!

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