New York City – Love it or hate it?

New York City – USA

It took Jack exactly 28 hours and 12 minutes to announce that he loves New York City. It took him 28 hours and 14 minutes to suggest that “Hey! Maybe we really, really should consider moving here after our trip ends.”

I was like, ‘Ok.’

Empire State Building from The Rock
Empire State Building from the top of the Rock

In retrospect, I should’ve pretended the idea repulsed me so much so that he’d start bribing me with offers of daily massage and home made dinner before agreeing so quickly.

I had plenty of reasons to be repulsed by the idea. Big city is not my thing. And New York? New York is the epitome of everything I don’t like about big cities: claustrophobic, hectic, and waay too many people. New York is a city that repulses some people so much there are sites dedicated to hating it.

But I’ve always wanted to try to live here (I swear I’m not bipolar or anything like that) – while others are hating, the rest waxes poetics about it being the greatest city in the world. How can a city polarize its citizens so much?

Some of the things we love about New York:

The energy level is intoxicating

The concrete and glass jungle that is New York

Being surrounded by these ginormous buildings knowing that some of the world’s most important decisions are made within – you can’t help but feeling like you’re part of something big and important. If the world is giant machine, New York would be one of its bigger cogs. Bigger is better. By association, living in New York makes you cool as well.

* written in a tounge-in-cheek spirit

Walking in New York is fun, it’s like playing a video game

I find myself walking much faster than I’m used to. You know, to keep up with everybody else. Everyone is rush, rush, rush. Running up and down the stairs, across the street, avoid those cabs, avoid the tourists, avoid the puddles.

100 bonus points if you can jump over the pile of trash without knocking the granny on crutches!

It’s tiring, but it sure makes eating those cupcakes justified.

Since we hate going to the gym – living in a city where walking everywhere is not only possible, but actually – well, kind of fun in a video game sort of way – seems like a good idea, no?

There’s so much to see out on the streets: beautiful brick buildings, cute cafes, posh ladies walking their equally posh canines. And since space is at premium here, there aren’t any of those gigantic parking lots that make walking such a miserable experience. Jack and I walked a total of 50 blocks yesterday and enjoyed every single block of it. Of course, the good weather helped 🙂

The definition of multi ethnic is New York City

People of New York

On our daily train from New Jersey to Manhattan we’d hear conversations in multiple languages at any given time: Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, Chinese, English, etc… Even English here comes in all sorts of accents. I used to think San Francisco was multi ethic. It is – but it’s nothing compared to NYC.

I can’t put it into words about why I’m drawn to a multi-ethnic community. It’s something that I’m used to, I guess. Or maybe because I’m an immigrant myself.

Or maybe I’ve started to associate this type of community with the abundance of good food? You have people from all over the world, you get food from all over the world.

Which brought us to the next point.

So much food so little time

Chelsea Market, New York

This is one of the few things I do like about big cities: you’ll never run out of options on where to go out to eat. Especially in New York. From you 99-cent pizza to specialty dumplings. From vegetarian dim sum place in Chinatown to homemade truffles in Chelsea Market. ‘Where to eat?’ becomes a complicated question I’d imagine many New Yorkers spend hours debating.

Thank God for all the walking we do or else it will be Peru all over again (have we mentioned that we gained 5 lbs for the 2 months we were in Peru?)

And of course not to mention the fact that New York and its regions has a really good public transportation system. Old, yes. And it’s not even close to what some of European cities have. But shoot, I think for a US city it’s bloody impressive.

Having said all that, New York is… well, New York.

It’s intense. It’s dirty. Rumor has it it stinks in summer. It has heat waves. It has blizzards. It has tons, and tons of people. It has tourists that come in busloads and hug the sidewalk (see the video game point above). It has a weird fascination with designer cupcakes. It’s expensive.

We’d like to live here, but we wouldn’t want to be stuck here forever.

“Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.”

The quote above is from an essay called ‘Wear Suncscreen. It’s one of my favorite inspirational essays. If you haven’t already, you should check it out. Lots of good advice there.

But our question is…

Do you agree that living in New York make you a hard and bitter person? Do you think you can live here?


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31 Replies to “New York City – Love it or hate it?”

  1. Absolutely. It's made me a hard and bitter person. It's also made me hate being around other people. Nothing like having to work 70 hours a week at top speed, having to race down the street as fast as possible, having to spend every penny you have on a constant basis. Every time you go shopping there will be a hundred people crowded around you, trying to see what you're looking at. Every time you want to have a nice meal out there will be loud-mouthed blowhards sucking up every bit of available air. New York sucks. And I was born here. Can't wait to leave.

  2. I love New York! I went there often as a kid when we lived in Connecticut. I also love the arts, so it's a place I would love to spend more time in now. I need to check out that quote you included because I live in Northern Calif. and am wondering what the author means about getting soft 🙂

  3. I think I could live there yes. But I was there for a week and even in just a week, I dealth with the extreme ups and downs of the city. One minute I'd be more extatic than ever, and the next I just wanted to yell at everyone.

    City of extremes, it brings out both the best and worst in you. So yeah, I think NYC thoughens you up, but it depends in what way if it's a good or bad thing.

  4. NYC does stink in the summer. Millions of dogs and mountains of garbage in 100 degree heat and 90 percent humidity. But it IS one of the great cities in the world. I'm there for the winter–check out my blog–and I'm loving it.

    GREAT photo from the top of the Rock, BTW.

  5. My short visit to NYC made me exhausted. Mainly because I was running out of the time to be at a meeting, and I was coming from Middletown, CT. Quiet and peaceful little town of CT. I spent a month in the wilderness, mountain, lake, and all the little country towns of New England. So getting back to the city, especially NYC was a shocking experience for me.
    I'm not a city girl, even though I spend a half of my life in the city, growing up. But I would love to visit NYC again and give another change.

  6. I love New York City! I live in NY for about 20 years and I still love it, the interesting part is I still always find new restaurant new places to see and things to do. Its like never ending. I love how I can have really good Taiwanese food too.

  7. As far as I'm concerned, New York is a great place to visit and give in to all your touristy tendencies. But as far as actually living there? Maybe I could do it for a summer. Maybe a year at most. But it certainly wouldn't be my top pick. I'm much more drawn to places with a slower pace of life!

  8. Having just left New York after nearly 10 years, I can say that while I LOVED (and still do I guess) many aspects of living in the city, it got to a point where we just couldn´t sustain. J and I always say that if we had loads of money, we would never leave, but alas, we don´t, so we left. It´s an amazing place though and I would recommend giving it a shot!

  9. Fantastic city – has it's problems like anywhere and while I'm not bothered by construction sites nearby or the garbage trucks at 3am, some folks are. It is often frenetic but spend time there on a Sunday morning or over a holiday… it does have it's quieter moments. I'd love to live there but for me, it's cost prohibitive. If you can afford it, go for it – at least for a year. It's like nowhere else. *grin*

  10. I think everyone has fantasized about living in New York for a while. The ethnic mix is awesome. I loved sometimes being the only white American on a full subway car. Now, I feel like nyc is too big and I'm happy being in a smaller city. What is that "Rock" that you took the Empire State Building photos from?

  11. As someone who has lived in NYC for nearly 10 years, this post was a very fun read for me- it's always interesting what resonates with people about this city because it does have so many layers and facets.
    I moved here after college thinking I would stay for a few years and now I'm not sure if I'll ever leave (at least not permanently, I do have an upcoming rtw trip). I actually had some months (maybe even a year) early on where I started to get really bitter about the poor customer service, the rude people, the trudging to the subway in the middle of a snowstorm. But surprisingly, that has now been trumped by all of the benefits and joys of living here. I agree with Christine- everyday it feels like you're a tourist because there's always more to discover.
    A part of you does get hard, but another part of you becomes very open and aware of all of the possibilities in life. It actually does make you bipolar! 🙂

  12. I love New York City, but I’ve only ever visited as a traveler, and never for more than a week at a time. Still I would like to try living there one day, even if it’s only for a few months.

  13. I always think that the "leave Northern California before you get soft" quote in that essay must have been written by someone who never actually lived in San Francisco, Oakland, or Berkeley, the places most people think of when they hear Northern California. Even though there are plenty of 'new-age' options in these cities, they are actually really tough places to live. I've found in general that NYC peeps are nicer, many of the neighborhoods are cleaner, there is less of a racial divide, and whether or not you agree with how Giuliani handled the homeless situation, after years of working on the "problem", San Francisco STILL hasn't figured out how to deal with the situation. I worked in social justice orgs in the Bay for years and still became so hardened in order to survive walking down the streets of the Mission and the Haight, and many spots in Oakland and Berkeley.

  14. I have always thought living in a large city would be fun . . . for awhile! I love NYC and I don't think it stinks during the summer but I am not sure this would be the city for me. I think I can see how it could make you hard. Fighting through the traffic and tourists just to get to work or your chores done would make anyone angry and frustrated. But I think any city would do that.

    On the plus side,I also think living in a large city would be a great way to keep my mind and body active as I age. In large cities you walk more than in the suburbs and keeping the bus routes straight would definitely keep my brain on its toes!

    Speaking of Northern California. . . I completely agree that you need to leave before it makes you soft! Very true.

  15. Great post on NYC! My best friend's mother actually put the "wear sunscreen" essay in a memory album she made for us as we graduated high school. Smiled when I read your mention of it here! 🙂

  16. I love NYC. The first time I was there, I found it a tad overwhelming but as I spend more time there, it's one of those places that you find yourself falling in love with. I love the diversity, the energy, the variety of activities, the different neighbourhoods, the beat of the city, and yes, even the people. They have warm centers once you get through to the crust :o) If you guys are still there, check out highline park at sunset.

  17. I agree, everyone should live there for a least a year once in their life!!! It is THE MOST exciting city. I lived there for 3 yr. and every day I felt like a tourist. We had a ball every single day. So much to do and so much free stuff to do!!! That's my kind of place. Loved the buzz of the city which, coincidently, is the exact same reason I moved back to Seattle. It was always loud and I was literally sleep deprived living there. With so much energy in the city, it was really hard to find a peaceful place. And, yes, it does smell but it's a cool NYC smell. The weather is so hot and so cold. The food amazing. It's a jumping place for travel to europe. Seeing your post makes me miss that amazing city. I say do it!!! You will never regret it. And if you do, check out Washington Heights–a great area still in Manhattan and hopefully still affordable.

  18. My mom grew up in the city, so we went a lot when I was a kid and I wanted to live there so badly after high school/college! I spent a summer doing an internship there when I was in college, and that sort of got it out of my system, living there for 3 months. It's been 7 years since and I think I have been back like twice?

    My biggest issue is that there is just no peace and quiet. Or space. I need my quiet outdoor space.

  19. We love New York so much we eloped there! We could totally live there – but I think you are right, eventually the spell would wear off and the city would wear you down. Perhaps the perfect plan would be to be bi-coastal…spending 3-4 months at a time on each coast. What do you think?

  20. It took me from the time we got from JFK to the hotel and walked to Times Square for me to decide that I LOVE New York, and the two weeks following and a 3 month trip since has done nothing to quell the feeling. I love it. I love how big, industrial and at times, dirty it is.

    I'd love to do my Masters of Journalism at Columbia but it costs a bomb so perhaps I better keep saving and dreaming of the New York skyline. 🙂

    PS – only the metro kind of stinks in summer. =P It just gets hot and SUPER humid. Hot, I can deal with. Humid, argh >_<; I also don't like the summer crowds. It was great at the beginning on June but last week of August sucked big time.

  21. Ahhhhhh New York City! Absolutely the greatest place in the entire world. I know because I've checked 😉 I lived there for 10 years before my husband and I left 6 months ago for our round the world trip and I CANNOT WAIT TO GET BACK! It is the only place where you can have anything you want at anytime you want anywhere you want. And like the song says… If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!
    – Claire

  22. I love New York, but I've been over manhattan for a while. It's too much. In my opinion, much better to live in brooklyn or queens and go to manhattan as needed. Bushwick, park slope, green point, astoria – all are awesome neighborhoods, still diverse with a lot to offer, and so much more affordable. Manhattan, though.. not to live..

  23. Jill, thanks for reminding me about the "Wear Sunscreen" essay! I remember listening to that before I went to college… and this essay is exactly what I needed today! If you feel NYC calling your name, then heed it, but I agree, have an exit strategy, leave before it makes you into a hard and bitter person! A recommendation for you… if you want to work in NYC, why not live in Hoboken, NJ, only 10 mins from downtown Manhattan, but a lot more affordable and a lot more livable as well! People are a lot nicer here as well!

  24. While I don't think I could move to NYC permanently (I need my own spaaaaace!), I'd love to live there for a year or two. Well, I'd love to live everywhere for a year or two, actually. 😉

  25. Having just been there for the first time, my gut says no, I couldn't live there. At least not long term. But there is something intoxicating about the city and it does feel exciting and energetic. But then I realize that I'm a bit more of a homebody than that and I like the personality of my city (Portland, OR). Anyway, I would try it short term…I just don't think I'm cool enough to actually live there.

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