Moving to and making it in New York City

August 6, 2013 in Career,Life,New York City,Philosophy,Places,United States

I wonder sometimes about the ratio of native New Yorkers to transplants: it seems like every other person I meet is originally from across the country or across the world. This city is the ultimate beacon for young people, and I honestly think that it has to be one of the best places to spend a couple of years in your 20s: professionally, socially, culturally.

Christine Amorose in New York City

Granted, I’ve only been here for a year. I’m not a New Yorker by any means, but I’ve been able to carve out a life for myself: a job, an apartment, a relationship, a solid crew of friends and a wide network of connections. When friends or readers express an interest in moving to New York City, here’s what I want to tell them about making it in the city that never sleeps.

    Free haiku in Williamsburg

Find love

As Carrie put it in Sex and the City: “Women come to New York for the two L’s: Labels and Love.” While New York City is an incredibly fun place to be single, it’s also a stunning backdrop for a love story.

My two best tips to meet someone special: get online and go to birthday parties. Before moving to New York City, I refused to date online–in hindsight, it was totally hypocritical considering I’ve made such great connections and lasting friendships through my blog and Twitter, before meeting on Twitter was cool. I finally gave in (oh hey OkCupid), and I’ve been dating someone for almost six months now. Honestly: it’s the 2013 version of meeting someone in a bar, and the stigma is slowly but certainly going away.

Birthday parties tend to bring together the widest range of friends of friends: this is where you can meet your friend’s boyfriend’s cute co-worker, or someone that you’ve never heard of but who can automatically be vouched for by at least one friend. Even if you’re not looking for love, I still vote always go to birthday parties, whether it’s of a close friend or a friend of a friend: I always end up meeting someone new and interesting.

Organized desk at WeWork

Get a job

Network, network, network. I found my job through the friend of a friend of a friend–and because I reached out to those friends, introduced myself, and treated them to coffee. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: most people are happy to give it! I’ve always had more success through the people I know than blind job postings on the internet–although it doesn’t hurt to check out resources like LinkedIn and craigslist. Meetup.com is a popular way to make real-world connections in practically any industry, and Made in NY is a great resource if you’re interested in tech. Also: don’t be afraid to pick up a “menial” job while you’re job-hunting–although I can assure you that waitressing or bartending here is pretty much as professional (read: challenging) as it gets.

Be wary about apartments

One thing I don’t recommend trying to finalize before you arrive: an apartment. There are countless horror stories about apartment hunting in New York City: it’s a city where the demand far outpaces the supply. If you have more money than time and want your own place: find a broker. If you’re strapped for cash and/or looking to share a place, head to craigslist. If you’re subletting, be aware that nothing is legally airtight–i.e. you could have to leave at anytime (speaking from experience, unfortunately). If you’re signing a lease, be prepared to fork over cash for an application fee, a lease fee, a security deposit and first and last month’s rent. More than anything: check out the neighborhood and have an honest chat with the landlord and/or the potential roommates. You definitely need to make some quick decisions, because someone else is always ready to take your place–but don’t say yes if you’re not 100% comfortable with the neighborhood, the cost, the roommates. Trust your gut. Looking for something cheap? Check out Astoria and Bushwick: both are up-and-coming neighborhoods that are significantly cheaper than Manhattan or Williamsburg, but are still easily accessible via subway.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in SoHo, New York City

Volunteer

Volunteering is one of the best ways to feel like part of a community in the overwhelming vastness of New York City. If you’re looking for a regular gig, check out Housing Works: it’s an organization that advocates for people living with AIDs and supports itself with entrepreneurial projects like thrift shops or the bookstore cafe. All of it is completely volunteer run: perfect if you can commit to a few hours a week. I volunteer as a barista, and it’s such a rewarding experience–from becoming friends with my fellow volunteers to being involved in an all-around fantastic community. If you’re more interested in committing a whole day here or there, sign up for New York Cares. After the mandatory orientation, you can sign up for projects ranging from picking up trash along the waterfront to mentoring a foster child.

Become a museum member

It took me six weeks to find a job when I moved here, and I was completely stressed out 95% of the time. I finally decided that I needed to invest in myself and my creativity, so I bought a year-long membership to the Museum of Modern Art. My MoMA card has more than paid for itself over the past year. When I have nothing to do on a Saturday, I often wander through Central Park and then pop into the museum to check out a new exhibit. When friends are in town, we always go to the MoMA because it only costs $5 for guests of card-holders. A membership can pay for itself in just a few visits, so if you’re planning on staying in the city for a while: purchase one to the museum that interests you the most. It’s so nice to be able to go in for an hour or so, instead of feeling compelled to spend an entire day because you spent $25 for one entry.

Flower Girl mason jar bouquet in New York City

Don’t get sucked in by little splurges

I don’t think anyone will disagree that it’s expensive to live in New York City. But there are plenty of little things that can tempt you because they seem so cheap: $9 manicures, $1 hot dogs, $10 taxi rides across town, $2 PBRs in a dive bar, $10 foot massages. It’s so easy to indulge because it feels like such a good deal, but it adds up super quickly. That said, it’s important to identify those splurges that you can afford and that make you happy: I almost never take taxis, but I do buy fresh flowers for my nightstand weekly.

Have money in savings

I recommend having AT LEAST two months of living expenses saved up when you arrive. Job hunting can take time. Moving into an apartment can mean a bevy of fees. There are plenty of ways to save money while living in New York City–but don’t show up without a safety net.

Christine Amorose, Aly Gill, Jocelyn Doyle, Emilie Johnson

Expect the most wonderful things to happen

I wrote this post six weeks after arriving in New York City, and I still get chills when I think about how drastically my mood and fortune improved once I changed my attitude toward making it in this city. Have a clear visualization of what you want your life in New York City to look like, and keep making small strides toward the big goal.

If you live here, what are your tips for moving to New York City? If you don’t, have you ever thought about moving here?

p.s. you might also enjoy reading What do I need to move to a new city? 

  • Great tips, darling! I wrote a similar post last year, but my personal adjustment was a lot easier because my biggest network is in the city and my family lives so close by. Even so: http://www.danielle-abroad.com/2012/07/how-to-make-it-in-new-york.html

  • Ashley Kosher

    Absolutely love this! I have been dreaming about moving to NYC for years and years….You give me hope that it’s possible and worth it. Working on my savings still 😉

  • I love this!

    I’ve have lived in New York for 5 years, and it’s still a magical place to be. A lot of my friends from school have moved away and so it’s sort of like starting all over again, except way harder because you don’t have school to connect you.

    I’ve met a ton a great people though through Couch Surfing and going to events like book signings, which at first are super stressful, but then ultimately are very rewarding!

  • camorose

    Oh LOVE THAT! So many great tips! And yes, I feel super grateful–even though I’m far from home, there’s a solid California crew here that has made finding my niche much, much easier :)

  • camorose

    Yay! Love it!

  • camorose

    Couch surfing is a great tip! Didn’t think of that, but they do have awesome meetups :)

  • This Battered Suitcase

    This is great advice, Christine, and I think it applies to many big cities. I’m in the process of moving to London and I know that I will follow most of these points there. As for online dating, I, too, have always been wary of it, but I think I might just give it a go! As you said, I’ve made so many friends online, why would I hesitate to try dating online?

    Wonderful post as always. x

  • Katherine Huff

    This post is so inspiring to me. I’ve played with the idea of moving the NYC for years and years…Instead I’ve ended up living and working in Taipei, Taiwan, for the last couple of years at a media company…someday though, as soon as Asia has let loose its grip on me…New York is my next stop. Thanks for the inspiration. Always love reading your posts.

  • CaseyVidgen

    Great post. I had a rough time meeting people when I moved to the city, but luckily I became good friends with my co-worker. We’ve used some good sites too that we’ve used to expand our circle of friends. We used to use skout, but there were too many creepers on there, then another coworker showed us cliqie.com. It’s a really cool approach cause you and your friends act as wingmen to find other groups of people who want to hang out with you (they “like” you back essentially). Then it matches you that way and helps you find things to do. Feels very natural and non sketchy. Hope it helps

  • James Harrison

    I think after moving in NY, you have done lots of things.

  • Jessica Ann

    It’s funny I grew up there and just as I was about to leave it was the same time you arrived. All I kept saying was “I think I’m done with NY for awhile. I’m giving up my space for someone else. Let them have at it!” I’m glad everything fell into place. It is definitely a city that defines a hate/love relationship but there really is so much good about it and I am glad that it was worth the risk!

  • LaurenFritsky7

    My tip after living here less than two months: don’t get stuck in your neighborhood or borough bubble. My husband and I like to get lost on Saturdays or Sundays and take the subway or drive to a new area.There is SOOO much to see here — I don’t ever want to get in a mode of staying uptown, or Manhattan, all the time.

  • Michelle Summerville

    Great post Christine! I’ve been here 15 years now and can relate. I think you’ve pretty much gotten NYC down — get out and do things, meet people (it’s all about who you know), work hard and you never know what can happen :) Also love that you pass on cabs to splurge on fresh flowers. Reading this made me smile.

  • Lauren @BonVoyageLauren

    This is so helpful! I’m sending this to my friend who is seriously considering moving to NYC next year. Thank you!

  • Heather

    I adore the you listed “Find Love” first :-) One of the reasons I moved to NYC in the first place was because I was so disheartened by the dating scene where I lived. It took a while, but I finally found The One. I accompanied my roommate and her college friends to a bar one night and met this charming and sexy guy who was a grad school classmate of one of her friends. We hit it off instantly and have now been married four years! My advice is to always be open to new opportunities. I could have easily stayed home that night and missed out on something pretty special.

  • SB

    Hi Christine, I love reading your blog because its so inspiring and you’re not afraid to play down your success. You go girl!

    For us English, London is the equivalent of NYC and I can’t wait to ‘make it here’ in a few years after travelling/working abroad.

  • Anya

    Hi Chrstine, great post! I lived in Sydney, Sihanoukville (Cambodia) and now in Berlin and I can just agree to all the points you mentioned! Best way to “own” a city is to get to know its people and discover its unique places (very often the sidelanes are well worth checking out!) :) As for the “Find Love” – I thought a million times about online dating but am also scared I meet someone creepy :) Any sites you can recommend? Thanks :)! Anya

  • camorose

    That was my exact feeling! I’ve created so many great connections online, in both business and my personal life–why not give it a go with love? Good luck in London x

  • camorose

    Oh, thank you! I’ve heard great things about Taiwan–and that’s such a cool experience. New York City will always be here waiting :)

  • camorose

    Oh how cool! I’ve heard of Grouper, which sets up “group dates” with two groups of three singles. Haven’t heard of cliqie–will check it out!

  • camorose

    A few! :)

  • camorose

    Awwww I love it when things like that happen! I must have taken your space and all that good energy :)

  • camorose

    So true! One of my resolutions this year was to get out of the city at least once a month–sometimes that’s out of the country, other times it’s just to a brand-new borough but it helps SO much!

  • camorose

    Thanks, Michelle! So glad you enjoyed the piece and that you could relate :)

  • camorose

    Hooray! Best of luck to them :)

  • camorose

    Eek! Love that story!

  • camorose

    Thanks lady! Yes–London is a pretty incredible city to call home too :)

  • camorose

    I feel like the odds of meeting someone creepy in a bar are just as high–my tips would be to be prudent and be picky. Meet in public and get a good feel for someone before you take it offline. Good luck!

  • CaseyVidgen

    Oh cool, I haven’t tried them, maybe in the future. Good luck!

  • Hey there, really liked your positive perspective, hoping to make the move May 2014 from Albany, NY =)

  • camorose

    Awesome! Good luck :)

  • chip

    Thanks for tte blog, I’m considering moving to NYC, Bronx or Manhattan yet, for 2015 from the UK. Gotta a lot to reaseach

  • camorose

    Yes! Still an awesome place to live though :)

  • Anna

    I love that you’ve taken the time to respond to EVERYONE on here!! You’re awesome! I’m moving to NYC the day after Christmas this year from Salt Lake City, UT. Huge change and I’ve never even visited the city so kind of nerve racking but I’m excited and hoping for the best!! Any advice you can give me? I’d love to hear anything you have!! <3

  • camorose

    Oh yay! Honestly, all of my best advice is on this site–but know that there will likely be some tough times, especially in the beginning. Everyone I know has had a rough first six months but a turning point (usually) comes and you just fall in love with the place!

  • Anna

    Well I love this article and will keep it handy for when I move!! Maybe we’ll run into each other sometime haha! I’m going to come visit mid November to try and figure things out. Hopefully I’ll be able to get everything settled then like an apartment and things like that! Any suggestions on where to live? I have a daughter so safety is a big thing. But so is location and money!

  • camorose

    Honestly, most of New York is pretty safe. I’ve heard great things about affordable, family-friendly neighborhoods in the Upper East Side though :)

  • Channa

    Im a DC native and for some reason I’ve always wanted to move to New York City; the funny thing is I’m 29 years old and never been to the big city lol…. ( I know PATHETIC)….. Why the move to New York, mainly because it’s something I wanted to do since the age of 17 Almost as if New York is just calling my name…. So we shall see

  • camorose

    You have to check it out for yourself! It’s a wonderful city.

  • Naomi Proudman

    I’m moving to Manhattan in September 2014 (if everything goes to plan!) Maybe we can help each other?? x

  • camorose

    Oh you’ll love it! And September in the city is the BEST :)

  • Sunny

    Just came across your post and loved it!! I’ve been in NYC about a year and am so proud of the accomplishments I’ve made like finding an apt and job, I really am lucky in those areas. However as for as a social scene I find myself almost desperately asking the “what are you up to tonight” with people who hardly respond back. Friends back home say its just a new york thing, but I don’t know.. how were you successful in finding a good group of friends so quickly??

  • camorose

    I’m super, super lucky in that I had a bunch of friends from college who all moved out to New York in the past couple of years. My college roommate, a super good friend from an internship, a girl from my sorority–we have a pretty tight-knit group now! I definitely agree that it’s super hard to “build” that friend group from scratch, but it’s possible! I think finding like-minded people is key–whether it’s from a yoga class, church group, language class. Keep trying! It will click! And remember that practically everyone was or is in the same situation!

  • disqus_2xOpjlnTpX

    NYC is one of the worst place to find love. You’re lucky and your story is rare.

  • Pingback: If you want to travel the world | C'est Christine()

  • Natalie Rivera

    Thank you so much for creating this list. I’m trying to decide on which city to move to, but can’t decide. However I know I’ve always wanted to go to New York, but the horror stories I’ve heard are really discouraging me. I’m thinking that if I do make a move, rent a room, but I don’t know exactly how much money I should save before then.

  • camorose

    I’m so glad that the list helped, Natalie! I’d have AT LEAST three months of living expenses saved up–although probably safer to have six months!

  • Pingback: 9 Iconic and Free Things to Do in NYC()

  • Van Wade

    When planing and deciding to finally move, get a good look for adequate movers. They are essential for the moves like this, believe me I tried the hard way also, just a small tip from me, good luck all future newyorkers.

  • Pingback: 100 Travelers, 100 Adventures - P.S. I'm On My Way()

Previous post:

Next post: