Congrats! You’ve moved to the greatest city on earth, New York City.
I’ve used a combination of the above… and now that I am married to my partner in crime, who happens to be American, I am the lucky holder of a Green Card.
NYC is unlike anywhere else, and we have learnt a lot along the way.
I got most of the new-to-the-US necessities out of the way when I lived in Virginia: get a job, obtain a Social Security Number (SSN = absolutely crucial), open a bank account (with new SSN), US drivers license (not that I needed one once we moved to NYC), build a credit score, get health insurance through your job or before obtaining your visa. (Having health insurance is a must, the US is not like Australia, NZ, Europe, Canada.. there is no public healthcare and seeing a doctor here can cost $250+ out of your own pocket without it, I learned that the hard way).
If you are looking for job-searching or practical visa advice, check out this blog here New York, No Worries, it has heaps of useful info there.
NYC specific quirks:
In most instances, in order to rent an apartment you will need to use a broker to help you find it. Great, except for the fact they take between 8-18% of your annual rent as a fee to help you find it. This is common to the some of the big cities in the US. Sometimes if you are in a position of power, you can ask the building you move into to pay the broker fee.
You can avoid using a broker, but life is much more difficult. You can find no-broker apartment buildings (I have a friend who lived in Eberhart Bros buildings) or try Naked Apartments or Craigslist (I have heard success and horror stories about Craigslist).
We used a broker because we flew up to NYC from Virginia for 2 days, 6 weeks before we moved. Without the help of our awesome broker, I don’t know how we would have done it. We saw ~20 apartments in two days which was so exhausting. I hear 90% of brokers are terrible… 10% are great… We happened to be recommended by a friend to one who was absolutely fantastic.
Lucky for us, the building we moved into paid the fee for us. Everyone wins. In this situation we had the upper hand because we moved in winter in December when there is very low demand for apartments. Friends who have been searching for an apartment in the Summer months found it incredibly difficult to negotiate brokers fees, or find their perfect place because of the high demand for apartments during that season.
Where to live?
NYC is a myriad of lights, and neighborhoods. Choosing where to live is difficult when you first move here. We had our budget, our list of ideal neighborhoods, and our list of apartment requirements. If I were to draw a venn diagram, there wouldn’t be much sitting right there in the middle. In an ideal world I would love to live in Soho, NoLita or the West Village, but given our requirements in an apartment, and our budget, we ended up in NoMad (North of Madison Square Park). Not terrible given it is cycling/walking distance to our respective offices, right next to the subway, near our gym, gorgeous 1-bedroom etc etc.
Depending on the personality you are looking for in a neighborhood, I suggest using some of these resources to get a good feel for NYC’s neighbourhoods (see how I swapped between American and Australian spelling there?):
Celebrities: Yes, you will encounter many celebrities every day in NYC, but please, please act like a normal person. Even this morning at Two Hands, Hugh Jackman sat opposite us and people were literally gawking, pointing, squealing and secretly taking pictures of him eating breakfast and drinking coffee. Act normal people!
Things I’ve learned about the USA:
- Tipping: Tip 18-20%, no excuses. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops, manicures, facials, haircuts. It’s custom here, and you are (kind of) a New Yorker now, so act like it! NYC is expensive as it is, but it is a real dick move not to tip.
- Tax: Frustratingly, all prices are quoted pre-tax. So that pack of gum that costs $1, well you will need $1.09 in cash to pay for that!
- Seamless: Your best friend when you are working late, snowed in at your apartment or feeling incredibly lazy. Basically every restaurant at your fingertips, delivered to you!
- Amazon Prime: For an annual fee, you have access to basically ALL of the goods available on Amazon delivered within 2 days for free. I order basically everything, except groceries, from Amazon and have it delivered to my apartment!
- Regional Differences: North vs South vs East vs West are all incredibly different. Different landscapes, different accents, different personalities. I’ve enjoyed visiting all the different regions to learn and see more. I’ve visited 18 states and driven through a handful more. I’m going to cross another two new states off the list this upcoming week on business travel. One of my surprising favorites to date was Arizona (namely, Sedona, absolutely gorgeous).
- American Accent: There are a few different accents I’ve encountered here: Northern, Southern Belle, Eastern, Boston, California, Valley Girl and many more…. But, the more they deviate from the movie-star American accent, the less they will be able to understand you. No joke, back when Mike and I were dating he would have to translate when we were visiting states like Indiana. When this happens just channel your inner American: instead of waww-taahhh say war-terrrrr.
- Your Accent Outside of NYC: When I lived in Virginia briefly, I felt like a celebrity every time I spoke. “OMG are you Australian?”, “OMG that’s so cool, have a 10% discount”, “your accent is so cool”, “my friend studied abroad in Australia, they LOVED it”, “do you know so-and-so? they live somewhere in Australia”. People wanted to be my friend just from the accent.
- Your Accent in NYC: In NYC however, you are just another f*cking aussie. Don’t think you’re special because you’re Australian, you are just another tourist/expat just like the 56 million other tourists that visit NYC every year. But… disregard this advice if you are an Australian male between the ages of 21-25 and are at a bar full of young, female, American college students (in this case you will in fact be treated as a celebrity).
- Slang: Throw out your entire vocabulary.. no one knows what you are saying. My entire vocabulary has been replaced, and no one understands any abbreviated or shortened words.. I thought this buzzfeed article was enjoyable. A quick guide for you: petrol = gas, footpath = sidewalk, bottle-o = liquor store, rubbish = garbage, rubbish bin = garbage can, toilet = bathroom/restroom (they cringe when you ask “where is the toilet”, despite the fact we all know I will not be taking a bath in the “bathroom”).
- You are no longer a tourist: So don’t act like one. Walk fast, do NOT stop in the middle of the sidewalk (which you no longer call a foot-path), don’t gawk at celebs and do not make unnecessary eye-contact or loud noises on the Subway. Kapeesh?
Any other questions? Ask me below. Best of luck and welcome to the Big Apple!
– Louise Fry Bosserman xx