10 Things I’ve Learned from 10 Years in New York City

Monday was my 10th anniversary of moving to NYC, and in true New York fashion, I was so busy that I forgot about it on the actual day.  That was no indication about my feelings for my city though – I love this place, and I am so grateful for my life here, hectic schedule and all.   I never could have imagined where I’d be in life today when I drove out with a friend in her parent’s van a decade ago (with just two boxes of clothing!!!)

  1. Embrace the New York life.  Some things were a big shock to me coming from the Midwest: Why are the grocery store aisles so cramped?  I almost had a heart attack when I saw a crappy frozen personal pizza for $4.50 (those were 99 cents at Kroger!)  But eventually I realized that there was no need for crappy frozen pizzas when there are delicious dollar slices hot and ready to eat.  These little adjustments help you realize that not everything about city life needs to be expensive, you just need to be a little flexible.
  2. Get out there. We all have our days when we want to burrow in the couch and just zone out, and that is completely fine, but don’t let those days become the majority when there is always something to do in the city. Gallery hop art openings on Thursday and sip some free wine while you find your new favorite artist.  Go to the random book signing or dance party.  Wander through a park or window shop in the streets of Soho.  Read the folding chalkboards in front of bars and let yourself be drawn in by a promising happy hour special.
  3. Get on the list.  Especially when I first moved here, I had no money but I still wanted to go out.  I sought out every free party and open bar I could find (RIP myopenbar.com).  Through RSVPing to these events, I got on all sorts of party mailing lists.  I still get invites to this day that I am not 100% sure how I ended up on that particular list, but I’ll still give it a shot – I might end up finding a new favorite.
  4. Assert yourself.  The stereotype about New Yorkers being rude might seem true if you are used to people saying smiling and saying hello to everyone they see.  There are over 8.5 million people here; we simply don’t have time for that.  But there is an unspoken set of rules and courtesy that New Yorkers operate under: Walk fast, move out of the stream of traffic when you stop, don’t spread out on the subway seats, and stand up for pregnant women and elderly people.  I try to be mindful of my own bags and coffee cups, but I also will be quick to put the kibosh on manspreading if two dudes are trying to act like they need three to four seats for the two of them.  My general rule is look pointedly at the seat they are taking up with their needlessly-spread knees, say a firm “Excuse me,” wait a beat for them to move their legs, then start sitting down either way.  They will move.  My one caveat here is don’t do this unless you feel safe to do so (but I almost always do at this point).
  5. Beware the empty subway car.  If a train pulls up and every car is packed except one, there is a reason.  Whether it is something you’d rather not see or smell, just skip it.  Don’t learn the hard way.
  6. Don’t be afraid to do a little research.  NYC has over 8,000 restaurants, and over 24,000 when you add in to-go spots, cafes, delis, etc.  We have some of the most amazing food here, but with that many places, there have to be duds too. The prospect of separating the wheat from the proverbial chaff can be a little overwhelming, but I’ve become the person all my friends count on for knowing good restaurants to recommend through a combination of research (Yelp and Foursquare are essential apps), following food bloggers (@nycdining is a favorite), and reading the room (if you walk up to a restaurant around 8:30 and it is completely empty, be wary).  I also share my favorite places here on the blog and on Instagram in the #curvilyeats tag.
  7. Find your bodega.  There is nothing that can compare to a really good bodega bacon egg and cheese on a bagel.  A bit of trial and error is required to find the best one near you, but the risk is generally low, and they reward is great once you find your spot.  And for the love of everything beautiful, don’t you DARE complain if you are lucky enough to find one with a bodega cat.
  8. Find your “third place.”  My favorite concept I learned in my undergrad Urban Anthropology class was “third places.”  The theory goes something like this: Your first place is your home; your second place is your career, as that is where you spend most of your time outside of home; and your third place is where you can go to escape and unwind from the pressures of both of the first two.  Basically, it is your “Cheers” – the place where everyone knows your name, and you can go by yourself and be comfortable knowing you’ll see people you know or meet someone new.  I’ve had a few of these places over my decade in NYC, from cafes to bars to a bakery, and they’ve all made this city feel like home.  The realtor-favored adage that “the city is your living room” can be true if you play it right.
  9. Getting out of town helps you appreciate it.  As home as I am in the city, I still need regular doses of nature to feel balanced.  When the weather is nice, we like to take mini day trips hiking (our favorite is the massive Harriman State Park, just 40 minutes north of the city) or overnight camping.  I always come back from a nature trip feeling refreshed, and happy to get back into the New York pace of things.
  10. Be nice to people.  For a city this big, NYC can feel surprisingly small.  In my decade here, I’ve been so surprised to see the connections amongst people I’ve met in different situations.  Generally treating people with kindness and respect is the smart move as well as the right one (unless they are manspreading on the subway, of course) – you never know who you are going to meet again!  It is also the best way to suss out who your people are, and form the friendships that are going to last.  I met one of my bridesmaids at my first “third place” (RIP Sip!) and ended up offering her to sleep on my couch at the end of the night when she found out her train home was out.  We’ve been friends for almost 9 years now 🙂

Of course, I’ve learned so much more in my time here, but these were the first 10 things that came to mind when I mulled over what a decade of NYC has taught me.  I’ll keep sharing my New York tips and guides here on the blog – let me know if there is ever anything specific you want to hear about!