12 Tips for Living in New York, , US
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New York is a love it or hate it city. I love it for so many reasons - the grittiness, the green spaces, the people. New York has something for everyone. If you're moving to NYC, this is a great starting point for expats.
Expat Life in New York
New York City is inarguably the most fast-paced city in the United States. Los Angeles often fights for the US title of biggest and best, but the two cities really don't need to compete. They're two completely different worlds with opposite climates, urban density vs. urban sprawl, Hollywood vs. Wall Street, etc. New York's energy is infectious and its diversity is impressive -- and, in my opinion, those are the main reasons that so many people love this city. That being said, the city is not always an easy place to live -- the high cost of living, dreary winter weather (which sometimes lasts through much of spring) and non-stop, run-you-over attitude of some New Yorkers can wear you down.
New York is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island and Queens. Every neighborhood in each of the 5 boroughs has its own unique vibe. Spend the morning in the West Village (Manhattan), the afternoon in Fordham (the Bronx) and the evening in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) and you'll understand.
Expats find themselves landing in New York for different reasons. Many people come to New York City to study at one of the cities many universities (New York University (NYU), Fordham University, Brooklyn College, Columbia University, Julliard, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Cooper Union and the list goes on. Others move to NYC for career opportunities and job transfers. The financial, fashion and publishing industries are based in New York. And, many of the largest corporations in the US are headquartered or have offices here as well. Additionally, there are jobs in healthcare, IT, hotel industry, restaurants, education, visual arts, theater, TV and film and many other industries.
Cost of Living in New York, US
The cost of living in New York City varies widely. I lived in the city with roomates after college, ate out often (but always cheaply) and it didn't break the bank. But, an expat family whose kids need to go to a bi-lingual school, may find that the cost of living can quickly get out of hand. Affordable NYC rents are as low as $1,900 for a basic studio on the Lower East Side to $4,800 for a "cozy" 2-bedroom on the Upper West Side with a small patio. Of course, if you're company has given you a higher housing allowance or you're not on a tight budget, you can spend, spend, spend. Groceries are affordable (they are not much higher than groceries in other places in the US) and restaurant prices are all over the map -- with many cheap but delicious meals to be had. Currently the cost of a subway or bus ride is $2.75 and cars are not needed in NYC (in fact, in many neighborhoods, locals would tell you that having a car is a hassle). And, of course, healthcare can be a huge expense in New York (this is a universal problem in the United States).
Local Clubs and Organizations
There is a club for everyone in New York. There are sports clubs such as New York Road Runners, Gotham Soccer League and NYC Softball League. Expat clubs like French New York City and Japanese American Association of New York. The list of parenting groups is long - Mommy Poppin's article, NYC Parenting Groups: Meet Local Moms and Dads Online and IRL, is a great place to start searching.
Many expats and locals make friends while taking cooking classes, photography classes, art classes at places like The Art Student League of New York and English language classes.
Volunteer at a Community Garden, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Food Bank for New York City, City Harvest, teach beginning Spanish or chess at the New York library and many other opportunities. New York Cares has a searchable index of volunteer projects.
International Schools in New York
There are a number of international and bi-lingual schools in Manhattan. British International School of New York on East 23rd (by the East River) is an IB World School that welcomes students from ages 3 through Upper School. Just next door (on the same plaza overlooking the East River), the United Nations International School (UNIS) welcomes students from pre-K through high school. UNIS has students from over 125 countries. Avenues, The World School welcomes students from nursery through 12th grade. It is located adjacent to the High Line in Manhattan on 10th Avenue at 26th Street. The Dwight School is an IB World School that welcomes students from nursery through grade 12. The main campus is on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on 89th Street and Central Park West. Nord Anglica International School, formerly World Class Learning Academy, welcomes students from ages 2 through Middle School (8th grade) and is located on East 2nd Street off of 2nd Avenue (Bowery) in Manhattan.
For French speakers, Lyceum Kennedy International School has two distinct schools. The original school, Lyceum Kennedy French American School, is a bi-lingual French and English School (nursery through 12th grade) with campuses in midtown Manhattan (2 locations in the East 40s) and one in the suburb of Ardsley (through grade 5). The second school is Lyceum Kennedy Japanese School located on East 43rd Street that has a nursery school and Japanese School for young children through Junior High Students (takes place on Saturdays). Lycee Francais New York is a bi-lingual French and English school that welcomes students from nursery though 12th grade. It's located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on East 75th Street off of York Avenue. The Ecole is a small, French-English, bi-lingual school located in the Flatiron District of Manhattan on East 22nd street. It welcomes students from nursery through 8th grade.
For Italian speakers, La Scuola d’Italia is a bi-lingual Italian, English school located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on East 96th Street. It welcomes students from pre-K through 12th grade.
In Queens, the United Nations International School (UNIS) has a second campus in Jamaica Estates that welcomes students from K through 8th.
In Brooklyn, International School of Brooklyn (ISB) welcomes students from pre-K through 8th grade and offers French and Spanish language immersion and IB programs. ISB is located in Carroll Gardens.
Shopping in New York
Most New York neighborhoods have a few large grocery stores, many medium-sized grocery stores, smaller bodegas and Korean grocery stores, and, outdoor markets (some are seasonal, others are open year round) on certain days of the week.
On the Upper West Side, for example, residents can shop at larger grocery stores like Fairway, Zabar's, Gristedes and Whole Foods.
Medium grocery stores such as Westside Market (several locations) and Citarella are great places to shop. From a cost perspective, stores like Zabar's and Citarella can be pricey because they sell a lot of high-end, unique items that foodies and good cooks love. They are really fun places to browse, buy a few things and may definitely inspire you to up your cooking game!
Bodegas and Korean grocery stores dot the map and most New Yorkers will have one within a block or so of their apartments. The quality of these stores varies widely. Some are very nice and locals frequently get a quick, takeout meal from a Korean grocery store's food bar. Others are slightly seedy and you might only buy a bottled drink and a newspaper. Most Korean grocery stores sell inexpensive flower arrangements that are displayed in buckets lining the outside perimeter of the store. In my opinion, these flowers are one of the great deals to be had in NYC.
On weekends and some weekdays, locals love to grab a cup of coffee and stroll through outdoor markets like 79th Street Greenmarket and Tucker Square Greenmarket. Grow NYC has a searchable database of green markets throughout NYC with all of the information you need - hours, days of the week, types of food sold and even special events.
In terms of shopping for clothing, New York is a fun place to shop for clothes. And, you can fill your closet on any budget. If you're looking for inexpensive clothing, for example, Century 21, Old Navy (multiple locations), TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Target are great options. People who aren't that familiar with New York, have a misconception that the majority of New Yorkers are upscale, fashionable dressers who shop at expensive boutiques. This is far from reality. Yes, a small number of New Yorkers have the budget and desire to always be fashion forward. And, yes, a lot of New Yorkers wear black almost every day -- it's the uniform of busy New Yorkers who want to look good without giving it much thought. The reality of New York is that you could wear a t-shirt and jeans or exercise clothes every single day and feel completely at home.
Want to understand why New York is considered a America's melting pot? Simply use the subways and busses. You'll get it. New York City's MTA (Metropolitan Transport Authority) is the largest public transportation system in North America. It is an astoundingly efficient system of subways, busses and commuter railways that keeps the city and suburban areas running. Traffic in the city itself and on the roads, tunnels and bridges coming in and out of the city is often a nightmare. Because of this, people of every walk of life use the public transportation system.
NYC Taxis (also called cabs) are the only vehicles licensed to pick up people who are hailing a ride on the street. The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) does a good job of regulating the over 130,000 licensed vehicles in NYC. Most taxis are yellow, but there are also green taxis (in northern Manhattan and the outer boroughs), TLC licensed for-hire limousines, paratransit vehicles and commuter vans.
There are also over 85,000 Uber and Lyft cars through the city. And, Citi Bike is the largest bike share program in the United States with 12,000 bikes and 750 stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City (NJ). NYC Bike Maps offers maps that show where there are bike lanes in the city. If you have just arrived in NYC, I would advised you take some time to get accustomed the city by foot before you start biking. You'll have a better understanding of where to enjoyably and safe to ride bike -- and where it's dangerous and drivers are too aggressive.
New York has a temperate climate. July and August usually have several 3-4 day stretches of oppressively hot and humid weather. January, February and March may see a few big snowstorms, but typically New York is not the winter wonderland that you see in the movies. Those days are few, but beloved by locals who appreciate how beautiful the city and its parks are with a covering of snow. September, October, November, May and June are the months that keep locals sane with many picture perfect weather days that could even put smiles on the faces of the most hardened New Yorkers.
Restaurants and Nightlife
Want authentic Jamaican? Korean BBQ? Ethiopian? Moroccan? Brazilian? ... the list goes on. With over 26,000 restaurants in New York, you can find restaurants from every culture, country and type of cuisine. Zagat has always been New Yorkers' go-to restaurant guide. Also, indoor food markets with lots of food stalls, like Chelsea Market in Chelsea, Gotham Markets in Brooklyn and in the Theater District, Dekalb Market Hall are fun places to wander (great for bad-weather days).
Health Care Facilities in New York, US
Several world-renowned hospitals are located in the city: Memorial Sloan Kettering (cancer) and Hospital for Special Surgery (orthopedics and rheumatology), New York Presbyterian Hospital (numerous specialities, includes Columbia University Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medicine) and NYC Langone and Mt. Sinai (multiple specialties).
Expat Health Insurance in United States
Expats interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.
Recreational Activities in New York
There are fitness clubs everywhere: Soul Cycle, Equinox, Crunch Fitness and Row House are just a few examples.
Chelsea Piers has locations in Chelsea (Manhattan) and Brooklyn. These massive recreational facilities have fitness classes, pools, rock climbing (Chelsea location), boxing, barre, basketball, cycling classes and more. Outside of the fitness programs, Chelsea Piers has classes and camps for children in a wide range of sports and activities. Plus, there's a driving range, bowling and skating rink (hockey and ice skating).
Running (New York Road Runners) and biking are popular in New York. Softball (NYC Softball League) and soccer (Gotham Soccer League) is played in many parks across the city.
Dance classes for all levels can be found at dance studios throughout New York like Peridance Capezio Center and Ailey Extension.
If you're a tennis player, there are public courts throughout the city. NYC Parks Department has a list of public tennis courts by borough.
Crime in New York, US
Crime varies by neighborhood. The NYPD launched an online tool to give stats on number of crimes and types of crimes by precinct. If you're living in a safe neighborhood, you still have to keep your guard up.