Everything You Need to Know Before Moving to New York City

Christian Detres
Last Updated on May 8, 2024
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So you’re moving to New York City, eh?

Most likely you’ve been accosted by friends and well-meaning acquaintances telling you that’s the greatest idea ever or that you’ve lost your fool mind. Both those things are true.

New York can enchant and frustrate you in the span of a heartbeat with a wink and a middle finger. The actual process of moving here is like jumping onto a moving train. Setting roots can be harder than digging through concrete with your hands. Be prepared to hustle each and every day. After all, New York is one of the most expensive cities in the country

Being a part of the greatest city on earth though? Priceless. The rewards of ‘making it here’ are enormous.

Moving to New York City

Here are some of the top neighborhoods to consider in each of the boroughs. Click the links below to learn more about the neighborhoods:

  • Manhattan: Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, Yorkville, Central Harlem, Hudson Heights, Upper East Side, East Village, Times Square
  • Brooklyn: Fort Greene, Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo, Cobble Hill, Williamsburg
  • The Bronx: Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, South Bronx, Mott Haven, Belmont, Norwood, Jerome Park
  • Queens: Long Island City, Astoria, Ridgewood, Flushing, Rockaway Beach
  • Staten Island: St. George, Tompkinsville, New Brighton, West Brighton, Todt Hill, Lighthouse Hill, New Dorp, Midland Beach

Another option to consider is spots across the Hudson in New Jersey. Jersey City and Hoboken, for example offer easy commuter access to all New York has to offer.

New York City At a Glance

New York City is the city that never sleeps, which means its always changing. Take a glance at some recent stats to stay informed about current conditions in the city.

  • Population: 8.39 million
  • Cost of living: 84% higher than the national average (Salary.com)
  • Median 1-bedroom apartment cost: $3,150/month (Renthop.com)
  • Average salary: $77,000/yr (Payscale.com)

For the latest updates on the coronavirus COVID-19, visit the New York City Health Department website.

20 Things to Know About New York City

Here are some things to keep in mind before you dive into what could be the most exciting time in your life:

1. Keep it hyperlocal.

Admire your immediate surroundings. The ten block radius around your apartment (and job) will be the New York you experience 90% of the time. No matter where you live in the city, most likely you’re in a neighborhood with deep cultural traditions, a dominant cuisine and ethnic demographic. Enjoy it! New York’s diversity is its crown jewel. Leave the curiosity lights on.

2. Understand gentrification.

This is a real battle and frequent topic of conversation here. Many neighborhoods are changing rapidly due to the city’s resurgence in popularity with young adventure-seekers and creatives. With that comes skyrocketing rent and a dilution of historic microcultures. Be sensitive to the families who have been here in your neighborhood for generations.

3. Embrace the exotic.

Much of what makes the city great is the vast array of options in entertainment, nightlife and cuisine. If you don’t take advantage of the weird, be prepared to be considered as basic as pumpkin spice lattes. Make sure to step out of your living room and explore the Big Apple and all it has to offer.

4. Pick up the pace.

New Yorkers can be the friendliest and most helpful people on Earth but you’ll get nothing but shade if you’re in the way. Got a phone call/text? Step to the side of the sidewalk. Walking with a large group of friends? You are not the Giants’ defensive line so walk in single or double-file. Just taking in the sights while on a stroll? Be ready to dodge people who actually have something to do with their day. Small courtesies make for reduced hateful mutterings about your existence.

5. Stay connected.

New York is jammed full of people but can be the loneliest place ever if you don’t plant roots in your community. Get involved in a local communal garden. Offer your professional expertise to a charity. Learn a bartender’s name and use it. New Yorkers live in a constant flux of appearing/disappearing faces, so it’s important to make yours one to remember.

6. Communal living is tricky.

This city, especially real estate, is EXPENSIVE. Most young people come here expecting to share an apartment or loft with several other aspiring New Yorkers at the same time. This can be harrowing or awesome depending on how reliable you are with monthly rent and how respectful you are of chores/cleanliness/property (especially food). Nothing will ruin your stay faster than being loathed at home. And heads up, prepare yourself for the infamous broker’s fees as well.

7. Short term leases are helpful.

One of the great things about such a transient city is that your options for living arrangements can be easily tailored to your needs. Try a short-term lease (sublet) before locking down a permanent home. It’s a great way to meet people and you’ll be able to ‘kick the tires’ before you commit to the insanity. Craigslist and many social media group pages cater to just this. Test out a neighborhood before you choose one to see if it’s the one for your lifestyle, or determine if you need to explore other parts of the city first. Act like you live there permanently and make sure to check out your local grocery stores before committing.

8. Stand clear of the closing door.

Public transportation is your best friend/worst enemy, and you have lots of options. The New York subway is the most impressive system in the world, but it will cost you big time if you don’t have a monthly pass. Bikes are fast so it’s important to watch out for opening car doors. Ubers and cabs are available at the drop of a hat, but they too will break your bank if you rely on them too much. The bus is slow but reliable. As for driving your own car? Just don’t.

9. Pinch those pennies.

With so many ways to spend your money in New York, you have to develop a great set of blinders to stay solvent. Budget out large purchases, an acceptable per-diem, and stash some emergency cash. It’s far too possible and very likely you’ll go into your wallet one day and not have a clue where that $100 bill you had yesterday went.

10. You might want to pre-game.

If you’re going out in Manhattan, understand there’s a premium to pay. Most of the bars and clubs you’ll be going to have unimaginable rents to cover and it’s reflected in the drink prices. $17 for a non-well mixed drink is not crazy. Well, it is, but it’s not unheard of. Brooklyn and Queens are much more affordable and the vibes are just as strong as vibes in the Upper West Side. Just a heads up!

11. Safety first.

New York is one of the safest big cities in the world, but don’t be stupid. If you don’t want to be a target, don’t be a target. Walking around by yourself late at night in an unfamiliar and statistically dangerous neighborhood is a bad idea. Common sense 101 applies here. It’s not hard to be carefree if you have a couple of brain cells to rub together. Use them!

12. Park like a ninja.

Parking restrictions will have you moving your vehicle a couple times a week to accommodate street cleaning. Getting a parking ticket is more annoying than expensive but getting your car towed is the Apocalypse. No joke, it will cost at LEAST $200 to get it back – even the same day.

13. Make some noise.

The city is loud. Learn to deal – this is New York, not (insert wherever you are coming from). We party on Tuesdays at 4 AM, Saturday afternoons, and all other days that end in “y”. Calling the cops to deal with your neighbors’ noise is a quick way to be hated in your building. As long as it isn’t a daily occurrence, let it slide. You’ll want the same consideration when you want to throw down.

14. Beware of slumlords.

Find your local renters advocate. There’s a lot of pressure on landlords to keep up with the ever-improving living standards in all the boroughs. If you feel like you’re getting a ‘deal’, you probably are and it’s probably the bane of your landlord’s existence. They WILL do everything they can within the law to get the most money out of you as possible. Often, they cross the line and it is a really good idea to know where that line is. If you feel like that’s the case, there are many pro bono lawyers focused on tenants’ rights ready to fight for you. It’s a constant struggle. Don’t give up your rights for the convenience of being non-confrontational. It’s New York. We speak up for ourselves.

15. Learn to deal with FOMO.

Fear of missing out (FOMO) will drive you insane if you don’t learn to handle it properly. There are FAR too many things going on on any given night to be butthurt about the things you didn’t get to do. I guarantee whatever band or show you can’t get to will be back around soon enough. FOMO no mo’!

16. Escape from New York.

The city can feel like a noose if you stay in it too long. The best way to appreciate NYC for the long term is to make sure you get away to other place s for a few days whenever you can. It’s amazing how fast you can be upstate in the mountains or on the water. Those crazies you meet on the train? I guarantee you they haven’t walked barefoot in the grass for a while. Life balance is the key here. TimeOut New York has a great list of the best fall escapes.

17. Hit the beach.

Everyone knows Coney Island exists but few first-time residents realize there are so many beaches, ranging from popular to private(ish) lining the shores of Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. Summer here is the greatest thing ever and the beaches are accessible by most public transportation. If sand and sea isn’t your thing, New York’s Central Park has more than 800 acres to explore.

18. On-demand all day.

There’s an app for that! Seriously I’m not kidding, no matter what you want, there is a great likelihood you don’t have to leave your apartment for it. Restaurant food, beer, groceries, maid services, UBER, moving services, massage, you name it. If there’s a need, someone has most likely found a way to bring it to you. Do some research.

19. Find a healthy routine.

With so much to do in such a big city, so many places to eat and be entertained, there’s a great chance your weekend nights will be fraught with the pull of Netflix and a turned-off phone. Burning out here is easy to do. The plethora of parks and beautiful architecture make long walks or bike rides more attractive than neon and loud music. Take advantage of the quiet side of the city. You’ll only appreciate it more.

20. Your smartphone is your friend.

Download an offline subway map for your phone and thank me later. There are few things worse than having to leave your seat in a crowded train (most lines don’t have Wi-Fi underground yet) to peer over the head of another seated passenger and check if you’ve missed your stop. It’s just good to have the reference handy as a newcomer. Try New York Subway MTA Map and Route Planner which also works on the Apple Watch. Trust me.

Moving to New York? Find and reserve storage in minutes with SpareFoot.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 13, 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Christian Detres

Christian is a NYC-based writer and producer.
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