Dear Friend: A Newcomer's Guide To New York

Dear Friend,

It’s time to leave home and move to the big city! I’m sure you’re feeling a little terrified and that’s normal. You’re used to a certain way of living and that’s all about to change. You’ve seen every episode of Friends (that apartment doesn’t exist) and How I Met Your Mother (no Chinese food is that good) and you think you know what you’re getting in to, but you don’t. But fear not, because I’m here to help. I’ve been in the city for a year.

I’ve included 10 sure-fire ways to make New York feel like home in no time:

1. A guide to hobos

There are 8 million people in New York and at least half of them are homeless (probably). You just moved to the city so you’re already poor. Don’t give these people your money. Many of them have more impressive speeches than most of the actors on Broadway, and they’re very persuasive, but don’t be fooled. All they want is beer, drugs, or McDonalds and you can use your money to get all those things for yourself. And trust me, you’ll need it.

2. Always have cash

Unless you’re in tourist areas like Times Square or 30 Rock, or shopping in a corporately run chain store, make sure to always have cash on you. Most neighborhood stores and restaurants haven’t caught up to the world of debit or credit cards, mostly for nefarious purposes. Also, be smart and pick your ATM well or you could pay wild fees or lose a pinky finger just to get that 20 and let’s be honest, you’re probably so poor you can’t afford to lose either. Plan accordingly so you’re ready to pay 8 bucks in a bodega for a cupcake that also doubles as a bed for a feral cat.

3. Personal space be damned

Have we established how poor you probably are? It doesn’t matter, unless you’re insanely rich, your apartment sort of sucks. It’s too small, your roommates (yes, multiple roommates) are awful, and your neighbors are worse. Get comfortable living small. It’ll be a tough change, so get used descriptive words like “cozy” and “inviting” for when your mom calls. This doesn’t just apply to your apartment. Plan to be uncomfortable on the train, the street, and just about anywhere else when more than one person is around.

4. Stop pooping

Do you like using the bathroom? Well, you should probably give that up. Once you leave your home (closet), public bathrooms become little more than a myth. Unless you’re a customer or an employee, public bathrooms are few and far between in the city. Sure, you can maybe get into a hobo-ridden Starbucks bathroom or drunken nightclub full of vomit, but aside from that better make sure you can pinch it off. Don’t let that stop you from finding a nice corner of the subway or darkened alley, if you’re desperate (see: drunk) enough.

5. Eye contact no more!

Nothing says small town hospitality like solid eye contact and a friendly wave from a stranger as you walk down the road. Well, strap in, because that shit will get you stabbed here. Like a rabid dog, any native New Yorker will take your direct eye contact as a threat and immediately react as such. Grab your headphones, stare at the sidewalk and start walking.

6. Public transportation: a love story

Did you have plans today? Well, plan around the train. Yeah, you’re probably poor and no matter how much TV you’ve watched, you’re not taking a cab anywhere. The subway is great! It’s cheap(ish) and it takes you nearly anywhere in the 5 boroughs. But it’s the most unreliable tension filled nightmare in the city. You might be late and you’ll probably get a blind unemployed person begging you for money and you’ll definitely have someone sleep on top of you.

7. Own comfortable shoes

You’re gonna walk a lot. So, you know… get good shoes.

8. Stop loving smells

Nothing says I <3 NY like the smell of urine and old Chinese food; moving to the city means giving up your olfactory sense forever. The constant cascade of trash in the streets and homeless excrement in the subway will slowly burn away any sense of happiness your nose ever had. There’s no quick fix on this one. Just give up and enjoy the sweet smells in your local coffee shop or pressed up against an attractive person on the train.

9. Darkness: run!

Don’t be naive. New York is dangerous and you’re poor. You probably live in a shitty area and you might die. There are a lot of sketchy people around and they probably want to stab you. Keep to well lit areas, travel in packs, don’t flash your iPhones and wallets, and be smart. Also, punch a baby or old woman in your neighborhood to establish dominance. Don’t take chances.

10. Dating 101

New York offers some of the most romantic spots in the country; Top of the Empire State Building, a beautiful bridge in Central Park. It’s time to find that special someone, so buckle down. No more knowing everyone in town or running into someone in class. There are a lot of people out there and they’re all looking for love. Unfortunately, they’re the worst people. Trying to find a place to meet someone great is next to impossible. There are plenty of attractive people at bars and nightclubs, but love isn’t the four letter word they’re looking for there. You can try someone at work and pray for no harassment suit. Otherwise, just hope for one of those fabled New York movie moment love stories. Or OKCupid.

Thats it! You’re well on your way to surviving in the city. Give me a call when you get here, let’s do brunch! Maybe Sunday. I’ll let you know. The F train has construction all weekend and my roommate has this theater thing he wants me to go to. Plus, I’m pretty poor.



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