Moving to New York, Part 1

New York skyline views from Rockefeller Center

I’ve been living in New York for 8 months now. And I’m finally learning to not just tolerate the city, but mildly enjoy it. What changed in these 8 months?

Breaking this reflection into a two-part series because as it turns out, I have a lot to say. 

Moscow-level expectations

Since I had lived in Moscow before moving to NYC, city life was nothing new to me. I wasn’t a doe-eyed suburbanite becoming a city dweller. I loved the energy of urban life in Moscow — a city with a population larger than that of London, Paris, and yes, New York itself. So I was excited for a new adventure in America’s biggest city. 

I was in for a disappointment.

You know how it is when someone hypes up a place, your expectations are pretty high, but when you actually try it it’s really not that great? And you’re left feeling a little disillusioned? New York was like that for me.

Hopping back to the summer, June, when I moved to New York City. A month away from the peak of New York stink and heat. In many ways, my first impression of New York was everything I expected: noisy, busy, full of tourists. 

But I hadn’t expected the rats, the perpetually late and stuffy subway trains, the garbage bags piled high in the streets, the stench. The can collectors ripping apart said garbage bags to fish out cans and bottles they could exchange for 5 cents apiece. The number of homeless people. The young man on opioids next to me on the train, slumping forward, his phone repeatedly slipping through his fingers and dropping to the floor every time he nodded off.

It took me about 1.5 visits to Times Square to start actively avoiding the area and its tourists, drawn to the lights like flies. I enjoyed the views of the skyline from Rockefeller Center, but one $50 ride to the viewing platform was enough. I crossed the Statue of Liberty off my to-see list. Central Park was nice, sure. But Moscow’s Gorky Park was prettier.

In fact, at the beginning, my brain was in permanent comparison mode between New York and Moscow. Moscow’s subway has wifi and marble statues, New York’s has rats. In Moscow, I felt perfectly safe walking home by myself at 2am with music blasting in my headphones. In New York, I’m much more alert. No jamming out to music on a late-night walk home. 

New York nightlife: a mediocrity that deserves its own subheading

Picture this. You enter a speakeasy styled as a 1920's saloon, with drinks served in teacups and mugs. So far so classy. Smooth jazz flows from the speakers. 

*record scratch* *freeze frame*

Actually, the DJ is blasting Post Malone. "G-Wagon, G-Wagon, G-Wagon, G-Wagon." Wow, pun intended. The vibe is like stepping in to a poorly researched time-travel movie. You sip your $20 gin and tonic and ponder this.

A couple of local friends then try to impress you with one of the nicer city venues, but when you get there, the line, no joke, is 1.5 hours long. You learn this is considered an acceptable wait time.

You finally find a place without a huge line, but when you get inside, you see that you are just another sardine in a can and dancing is not an option — unless swaying half a foot to your left and right counts as dancing. 

Which, come to think of it, it does in New York. 

You think, alright, I’ll go get a drink instead. But the layer of people surrounding the bar is thicker than a snicker and the wait for drinks is long enough to start triggering your commitment issues. You decide to commit to 3am pizza instead. Quite frankly the highlight of NY nightlife.

And okay, there was the occasional bar that wasn’t overcrowded and had decent music, but those places were the exception. Shouldn't NYC be setting the gold standard in venues and music and overall good taste? Apparently not.

Maybe I expected something grander from New York because of my unconscious expectations. The reality was unfortunately stinkier, creepier, and sadder than I expected. 

The things I liked right away about New York

To end this first part on a hopeful note, New York did have its positives. 
  • The food scene here is remarkable, both in quality and variety. Pho, burgers, Thai, Italian, etc. 
  • If you like a certain DJ or musician, chances are they’re playing a show in the city soon. I saw Dada Life and Bonobo. 
  • The subway system may be abysmal, but for those flying to their next destination, New York is a transit hub, and you can book cheap direct domestic and international flights to many spots. Nonstop Orlando tickets for $80 roundtrip, anyone?
  • The weather was warm and pleasant. It felt like summer even in October. A definite win over Moscow’s or Minneapolis’s weather. 
Were those positives enough to win me over? Find out in part 2, whenever I post it:)


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