Living in NYC – the Ultimate Guide to Life in the Big Apple

July 6, 2020 / Posted in City Guides
Jane Davis

Apart from being a freelance writer and moving expert, Jane is also an art and museum lover.

The unofficial capital of the world is home to millions of people, but millions more dream about living in NYC and having the opportunity to taste that Big Apple lifestyle. But, is life here really that fabulous and fun? We tried to find out what makes New York City one of the most desirable cities in the world, and help you get a sense of how it is to be a New Yorker.

couple in New York City
Ready to start fresh in one of the most exciting cities on Earth?

Every large metropolis attracts scores of newcomers due to abundant job opportunities, higher salaries, and generally speaking, more fun and excitement. There is always something going on in this concrete jungle, which is why it is known as The City That Never Sleeps. And indeed, New Yorkers have such a fast-paced lifestyle that they barely manage to get a bit of shut-eye between all the after-parties, meetings, and endless attempts to catch a cab. But to show you that being a local is more than that, we created this guide to show you everything you should pay attention to before moving to The Big Apple.


Living in New York City – Real Life Stories and Myths

What’s it like to be a resident of one of the most urban cities in the world? A metropolis with more than 8 million residents, or precisely, more than 20 million in its metropolitan area, the most populous one in the US. Those of you who think that this is a real wilderness where only the strongest manage to survive are not so far from the truth. But it is not just about that.

Although many think that you can’t function here without using the subway or a cab, this urban jungle is actually great for walking, and the chances are high that you’ll move faster by foot than in a taxi. It is a secret to how so many New Yorkers are in great shape. All jokes aside, sometimes you can’t avoid the subway, but it is fast and convenient. Even if you decide to ship your car cross country, finding a free parking spot could be a complete nightmare, which is why many won’t even try driving around.

Our guide will focus on showing you the real deal, with all the pros and cons, but we’ll also try to answer some of the burning questions. We’ll go through its five boroughs and try to highlight their advantages and disadvantages, to see which ones are family-friendly and which ones are more appropriate for those who are moving to a city alone. And no matter how much you try to prepare for an interstate move, you’re about to experience something close to a culture shock. So, without further ado, let’s start exploring The Big Apple.

statue of liberty
The Statue of Liberty is probably the most iconic landmark of the Concrete Jungle.

Pros and Cons of Living in NYC – Learn How to Get to Like Them Both

When planning a long-distance relocation, people tend to look at their future home through pink shades because the grass is always greener somewhere else, right? But besides parks, you won’t find a lot of greenery around here. However, this concrete jungle is working on improving that by promoting green roofs.

So there is always a balance between pros and cons; you can’t have everything, and there is not a place on this planet that’s going to suit our every need. Even if you ask locals, they’ll tell you that not everything is perfect, but at the end of the day, the point is to embrace it all. We tried to focus on those things that could be the most useful and fun to know, so you can have an idea of what to expect from The Big Apple and don’t let its rotten sides surprise you.

Our Top Picks When It Comes to Pros

Endless career opportunities

Whether you work in technology, beauty, fashion, or advertising, there is no other place where your career can excel in the speed of light. Sometimes it is all a matter of luck. But if you work hard, your efforts will, for sure, be noticed. The median age of residents here is around 35, but flocks of millennials and young professionals coming here threaten to lower down that number.

You can be yourself

This is a very open and diverse place where everyone can be whatever they want. Locals are very open-minded and usually tolerant. No one will judge you because you look different on the street, or your hair color is green; everyone is used to it. And even if you were not used to it, don’t worry, you’ll be.

Everyone came from somewhere

A person born and raised in The Big Apple is almost rare as a unicorn. This is a multicultural hub where you’ll meet people from not just every corner of the US, but from every part of the world. It’s great because you’ll learn so much about different cultures, cuisines, languages, and you won’t feel you’re standing out because you’re not a local.

Heaven for foodies

If you want to explore some of the best restaurants in New York, prepare for a never-ending food adventure because new dining places just keep popping up. However, fancy venues here are quite pricey. But just because you’re on a budget that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to satisfy all your cravings. From street food to small hidden restaurants, you can taste amazing local and international dishes for only a few bucks.

Shop until you drop

If you thought you got your shopping habits in check, think again, because here things can quickly spin out of control. From sky-high prices on the Fifth-Avenue to thrift shopping and scoring some great pieces for a few bucks, you can literally shop until you drop or go bankrupt. It is no wonder that many say it is their favorite cardio.

It never sleeps

If you’re a night owl, you can consider you have found your nest. It is not just a nickname or a phrase; this metropolis truly never sleeps. Whether you want to get a taco or a cronut at 3 AM, or you want to go jogging around in the middle of the night, you won’t be the only one. Some bars are open 24/7, so the party never has to stop.

You don't need to drive a car

Unlike in other cities where driving a car is a must, and you can’t go around without it, here you can function normally without it. Public transportation is wide-spread and well-connected, so if you don’t mind using the subway for $127 per month, you can take as many rides as possible.

There's never a dull moment

If you come from a small town, you know how tedious and predictable days can be when there’s not much to do. Luckily, your only problem here could be that you won’t have enough time to do or see everything that’s going on. That’s right. Every day and night, something is happening: from music venues, festivals, various events, openings, and so on.

Cons and Some Disadvantages You Might Encounter In New York

It is really expensive

If you’re wondering how to move out of state on a budget and come to The Big Apple, the answer is not that simple. This is not the best place for budgeting since the housing market is one of the most expensive ones in the country, not to mention other everyday costs. We strongly recommend that you take a look at a few tips on how to get a job before you move; that should help you get on your feet faster.

You might feel lonely

Although millions live here, you might feel lonely sometimes, especially as a newcomer who is moving to New York City alone. Saying bye to friends is hard, but making friends in an unfamiliar city is even harder. Locals tend to mind their own business, and it is hard to socialize and meet if you’re an introvert. Urban loneliness is apparently a thing around here, but don’t fall into despair. Talk to your neighbor or someone from work, join some classes, and start building friendships.

The noise, crowds, and the traffic

This city is loud, no matter the time. If you find an apartment in a busy street, prepare to get used to the sound of car horns. Or invest in proper headphones and earplugs for the night. And when the traffic and sirens finally pass, you can expect to hear a garbage truck operating, so there’s always some noise.

Time is money

Have you ever seen people walk so fast? Probably not. People here hustle hard, and there are many opportunities. But the competition is fierce, so you really have to step up your game and be on time with everything. Locals here can’t stand slow walkers, so if you’re still not in a rush, try not to slow down everyone else while window shopping or talking on the phone.

Is it so dirty?

You’ve probably had a chance to hear or read a few times how the streets here are so smelly and dirty. Well, it is not all glitz and glam like in the movies, but it is also far from a landfill. Not so pleasant smells might welcome those of you who are moving in the summer since certain areas can get a bit smelly during the heatwave. There’s garbage everywhere, and don’t be surprised if you spot a rat in the subway. They’re locals too.

The homeless population

All large metropolises share the same problem with the vast population of homeless people on the streets. According to the latest data, homelessness in NYC is a growing problem since more than 60,000 souls, adults and children, spent a night under the stars in April 2020. Some areas got notorious due to higher numbers of homeless, but after a while, you’ll quickly realize that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Is It Hard to Live in NYC?

Life in such big cities can be exhausting, especially if you have a long daily commute or have a busy schedule like everyone else. But if it is truly so hard, then why do so many spend their entire lifetimes there?

The Big Apple can take a lot of your free time for sure, but it also gives you a lot. That is why rarely who decides to leave it. Those that do go away because they couldn’t handle the stress or are just looking for a more slow-paced lifestyle.

For a newcomer, it certainly will be hard in the beginning. But every beginning is. It is a common myth that only young millennials want to live here because there’s plenty of families with small children relocating to NYC. There are some great neighborhoods that are calm, quiet, and perfect for settling and raising a family, not to mention excellent schools and a variety of things to do in New York with kids. So although life here can be challenging, it certainly gives more than it takes.

What to Expect From the Weather?

Although it is far from the notorious UK climate, the weather conditions can be pretty severe, especially in winter. The beauty of it is that you’ll be able to experience four distinct seasons and observe how the colors change throughout the city. January is usually the coldest and snowiest month of the year, and snow here can make the traffic literally freeze, so prepare your walking boots and some warm clothes.

Here They Deliver Everything, Literally

No matter the time of the day or night, there is always a service able to deliver you anything you can imagine to your front step. From foods and groceries, clothes, books, to umbrellas, and basically whatever you want. You might think you won’t be using these services too much, but they are actually very convenient, especially for someone who has a busy and hectic lifestyle.

Let’s Take a Look at First-Hand Expectations Vs. Reality Video

We all have some expectations, but how far are they from reality? Let’s take a closer look at a few common misconceptions or expectations about this metropolis and its lifestyle.

Now Comes the Money Talk – What Salary Do You Need To Live in NYC?

This metropolis is infamous for its high prices when it comes to, well, pretty much everything. There are some things you need to consider when relocating for a job here because the cost of living in New York can be compared to only a few places in the US. The Big Apple traditionally tops all lists of the most expensive cities in the US, followed by San Francisco, but when you take the entire world into account, it is not always at the very top.

There is not some universal amount that is going to be enough to satisfy enough everyone’s needs, but you can live somewhat comfortably with around $50,000 per year. In case you have a roommate to split the bills and rent, or you have a partner who’s also earning, that will satisfy all of your basic needs and a bit more.

Of course, it is doable to survive even with a lower income, but it depends a lot on your housing arrangements and other expenses related to your chosen lifestyle. According to Numbeo, a website that compares various costs, an adult person needs around $1,300 per month, without rent, while the average net salary after taxes revolves around $5,750.

Is 80k a Good Salary in NYC?

If you’re earning around $80,000 per year, know that it’s a pretty decent amount that will even allow you to have some savings or indulge yourself now and then. It all depends on which neighborhood you settle down in because the most significant part of your income will be spent on rent. But besides decent housing, you’ll be able to set some money aside for eating out, entertainment, and even traveling if you know how to manage your finances.

How Much Money Do You Need to Rent an Apartment?

Since around two-thirds of the entire population is renting their homes, the rental market is obviously vast. However, finding a balance between your budget and an apartment you like in a decent location is not so easy. Besides, there is not a lot of room for second thoughts. If you don’t take that apartment immediately, someone else will grab it right in front of you. Let’s take a look at some of the average monthly rent prices based on the location.

streets of NYC
Can you handle traffic jams on a daily level? Find a home in a walkable area, and save some money on gas and parking.

How to Decide Where to Settle Down in NYC?

Although renting allows you to change your location more often and explore different areas and their distinctive features, it is always essential to find a safe and sound neighborhood when relocating long-distance.

Those moving to New York probably see themselves as Manhattanians in an ideal scenario, but this popular area is typically very pricey and crowded with tourists. While house hunting here, it is important to stay open-minded and consider all aspects. It can be a very time-consuming process, so consider renting a storage unit until you find that perfect solution.

Brief Guide to the 5 Boroughs of NYC

This gigantic metropolis is divided into five boroughs, which function as smaller cities or districts within their own administrative borders. On the other hand, each of the five New York boroughs features dozens of great smaller neighborhoods. Since going through so many different areas is not an easy feat, newcomers usually opt for a specific borough that suits their lifestyle, and then dig a little deeper.

And that is something we recommend you do, especially if you’re moving at the last minute and don’t have a lot of days or weeks to explore every nook and cranny of the metropolis. We decided to briefly summarize some essential facts about these five boroughs, so take a look and give them all a fair chance.

Brooklyn bridge
Make sure to research all five boroughs thoroughly before you sign a lease.

Living in Staten Island – It’s Cheaper Than Other Boroughs

Although this is not the most popular borough and it certainly does not offer that typical experience of residing in a large metropolis, Staten Island might surprise you if you give it a chance. Around 500,000 locals call this island their oasis away from the Concrete Jungle, and when you feel you’re missing the hustle and bustle, you’re just a ferry ride away. It’s free and offers stunning views. There are four bridges, so it is well-connected to the rest of The Big Apple.

The most significant advantage of finding a home here are somewhat lower costs, and although there are still plenty of taxes to pay, you can get more for your money on this island.

There are plenty of single-family houses with backyard pools, and the overall quality of life is considered to be higher. Staten Island is often referred to as the Borough of Parks, so it’s perfect for everyone who is into outdoor activities or is moving with pets and children.

the city during the sunset
Those who want to live on Staten Island need to prepare for regular ferry rides.

Living in the Bronx – the Birthplace of Rap and the Yankees

The Bronx offers a bit of everything. Decent communities, reasonable prices, parking spots, lower rents, not-too-long commutes, and diversity in every sense and on every corner. It attracts tourists, but not in such high numbers.

This borough north of Manhattan has almost 1.5 million residents, which makes it one of the fastest-growing boroughs in terms of population. Besides, nearly one-third of the people here were born outside of the US, which makes it great for expats.

The costs here are still higher than the US average, but for The Big Apple standards, they are more than reasonable. That is unless you decide to settle down in the more affluent neighborhoods. The Bronx has more than 50 districts, so options are endless.

In terms of housing, you can find anything, from single to multi-family houses and apartment buildings. Some of the most famous landmarks are the Yankee’s stadium, The Bronx Zoo, and Botanical Garden.

Living in Manhattan – Right in the Heart of the Jungle

Life in Manhattan can briefly be described with one word: expensive. And we are not exaggerating. However, if you can afford it, go for it, because staying in the heart of The Big Apple comes with countless perks.

For starters, you certainly won’t need a car around here. Traffic is horrible, and paying for a parking spot is ridiculously expensive anyway, so this is a convenient reason to ditch the car. Walkability is particularly good in this borough, but if you don’t like to walk, you can always catch a bus or a subway train.

The population of this borough is very diverse and international. Lots of young professionals, CEOs that keep this state running, elites, and people of all backgrounds in general, have found a home on this island separated from the Bronx by the Harlem River.

Excellent private and public schools attract many families as well, apart from the fact that this is a generally safe area. When it comes to costs, the overall prices in Manhattan go up to 50% above the US average. Central Park, Bryant Park, Broadway Theaters, are only some of the most iconic landmarks that will be in your neighborhood if you move here.

NYC at night
The most prestigious borough is everyone's dream location.

Living in Brooklyn – More Than a Playground for Hipsters

With 2.5 million residents, Brooklyn is the largest borough in terms of both size and population. Brooklyn was a city of its own until the late 1800s, and it now attracts numerous tourists and newcomers as one of the five boroughs of the most exciting city in the world.

Not so long ago, Brooklyn was a bit notorious for being one of the most dangerous areas in The Big Apple. Luckily, times have changed, but that came with a price. Rents here keep increasing, and the average house prices go around $700,000.

Contemporary Brooklyn offers communities suitable for millennials and families. It is very walkable and has a lot of parks and options for kid-friendly activities. On the other hand, you can find lots of startups and new companies, quirky shops, and unique spots for hanging out with friends after work.

However, one thing distinguishes this borough from others, and that is the sense of community. You don’t have to worry about meeting your new neighbors, making friends, meeting local business owners, and generally getting a sense of belonging. Your Brooklyn movers can help you with packing your belongings, but your neighbors might help you unpack.

Brooklyn bridge at night
Brooklyn is so much more than the bridge view and hipster's paradise.

Living in Queens – It’s Not on Long Island

This large borough has around 2.2 million residents, and each one of them will get pretty upset if you tell them that they basically live on Long Island. You can also expect to get a brief lesson and an explanation of why they don’t have anything to do with Long Island, so try to avoid that topic.

Getting around Queens can be tricky for newcomers because this borough consists of a bunch of areas that used to be separate towns and villages, and let’s just say that they did not really do the best job when it came to naming streets and organizing everything.

Queens rules supreme when it comes to shopping malls since there are plenty of them in this borough, as well as beer gardens and patios.

If you enjoy surfing, you’ll be glad to know that the city’s only legal surfing site, Rockaway Beach, will be in your neighborhood.

Queens still has that old-school charm and character, since it is not so polished as Manhattan and some other parts. Both major airports are located in Queens, which can be very convenient for frequent travelers.

Is Living in NYC Worth It? Share Your Experience With Others Once You Find Out

If you don’t try it, you will never know, right? Many believe that it is too hard to survive in this urban jungle, but it is in our nature to challenge ourselves and take a leap of faith.

Whether you’re a dreamer or have your feet firmly on the ground, there’s certainly been a point in which you questioned your decision to move to The Big Apple. But if you’re determined to take this step, there is no room for panic. The hardest part is making the big decision. Everything else, from moving services to auto transportation, feel free to hand over to professional New York movers who will make sure your long-distance relocation goes as smoothly as possible.

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