- Don’t move in to an apartment until you have met your future roomies
Although it seems like a big advantage having a place to go to as soon as you arrive its not worth the risk of potentially sharing your space with any crazies. Craigslist is a minefield full of scams and psychos so don’t part with any of your cash unless you know exactly who your moving in with. This was my first mistake when I moved to New York which I quickly realised after my room mate went from friendly and helpful to scary and mental. She ran the apartment like an army barracks with a gruelling cleaning schedule, a no guests policy and constantly reminded me that it was not my home, I had to follow her rules or I was going to be put out.
There are plenty of housing groups on Facebook where loads of rooms are advertised and you can easily check out their profile beforehand so you know if they’re legit. Some of the best ones I found were “gypsy housing” “New York city housing, rooms, apartments” and “J1 graduate New York”.
2. Get a sim card, bank account and metro card asap
T Mobile have really good deals, depending on how much data you need packages start at $30 a month. I decided to go for the $40 a month deal since I literally didn’t know my arse from my elbow in New York and completely depended on my phone to find my way around.
I had a bit of hassle when I first arrived trying to open a bank account, Chase bank wanted me to provide proof of address which obviously isn’t possible if you’ve only arrived. Wells Fargo and Bank of America are your best bets, they just need two forms of photo i.d and your Irish bank card.
Travel in New York is expensive, buy a metro card it will be your new best friend. The more you top it up by the more bonus travel you get and at $2.75 per subway ride its well worth it. I found a great app called Citymapper its like my bible over here, just put in where you want to go and it will give you lots of different alternative routes of how to get there on public transport.
3. It’s not as manic as you think
When I first arrived, I stepped out on to the street in Times Square with my life packed into 3 oversized bags and no internet, no friends and no one to phone. After hogging some free wifi and getting an uber to my apartment I couldn’t wait to go back out again and explore. (another tip, never attempt a subway journey with heavy bags, trust me)
I was surprised at how quickly I settled in. Once you start socialising and make a few friends thats all you really need before you start feeling like you actually live here. The majority of people I have met have been really friendly and its easy to make connections if you make a genuine effort. The whole “cold and lonely” perception of New York is just a silly stereotype. No matter where you are or what time of the night it is there is always police around so it feels really safe too. The buzz is electric, the lights the people the atmosphere, I love all of it. It’s one of the most exciting places in the world, so instead of being freaked out by the hustle and bustle join in and enjoy it!
4. Bring your comfiest shoes
The sheer size of the place is insane, especially when your coming from somewhere as small as Ireland which has a population of 4.7 million while New York city alone is home to 8.4 million. The distance that you will walk is going to be immense so bring your comfiest runners and prepare for some serious cardio. It might seem like a pain but walking around is the best way to see the city and really helps you get your bearings in terms of knowing your way around. Everything goes here, you can really wear whatever the hell you like from heels to Huaraches, plimsolls to pizza boxes (yeah really!) I’ve seen it all. And if your buying a pair, don’t forget about U.S sizing. Your best bet is to try everything on and take a good walk around before you buy anything. I’m a UK4 and ended up having to get a 5.5
5. The weather is crazy
I knew it would be cold in New York in February, but what I didn’t know was it would also be warm. The weather here is so unpredictable, one day it might be too warm for you to wear a jacket and the next your wrapped up from head to toe and theres 8 inches of snow outside. There was a blizzard here the other day and the whole city shut down for a “snow day” so don’t be shocked if your suddenly housebound. My room mates and I decided to brave the cold and build snowmen in Central Park which was so worth it but it wreaks havoc on your health when the temperature is up and down like a yoyo so stock up on vitamins and bring a multitude of outfits for every type of weather.
6. The only place with more Irish bars than New York is Ireland
I still can’t get over how many Irish are over here its like a home away from home! Your strolling down fifth avenue past all these fancy designer boutiques and you hear someone across the street shouting “ah well, whats the craic?” and you don’t feel like your so far away at all. Every second street has an Irish bar on it and theres no better community to be a part of than the Irish abroad. Everyone is really understanding since most of them were in the same position as you at some point and most people are willing to help you out in whatever way they can.
There’s the “New York Irish centre” which is always open and the “Irish immigration centre” who are always on hand to help and chances are you already know someone who knows someone who’s in New York so use the contacts you have and don’t be afraid to reach out.
7. Meetup and Bumble(bff) will have you buddying up in no time
Whether your into cocktails, cars, rock climbing or raving you can bet that theres loads of other people in New York who are arranging a meet up for that very activity. You can download the Meetup app, put in your interests and straight away see what events are scheduled for the next few days. It can be daunting turning up to an event alone but the more time you spend in New York the more you will see how normal it is and thats actually what the majority of people at these groups do. Its a great way to meet new people and if it turns out not to be your thing, you can just move on to something else.
I thought Bumble was just another alternative to Tinder but it turns out that it has a “bff” function which you can turn on to match with girls in your area on a strictly friendship basis. If your sick of the dating scene and just want a good old dance on a girlie night out then look no further!
8. NEVER bring your passport out with you
I made the epic mistake of bringing my passport out with me and yes, I lost it. I thought New York bouncers wouldn’t even know what an Irish driving license was (which is wrong btw, they accept them everywhere) It was an absolute nightmare trying to get a replacement in time as I was sitting a bar exam Saturday and had lost it the Saturday before. After jumping through lots of hoops I finally managed to get it on time but I’m still kicking myself that I even brought it out in the first place. Don’t do it just don’t
9. Beware of Tinder
The men over here couldn’t be any more different from the men back in Ireland, at home you’d be awe struck if a fella asked you out on a date whereas here you’ll be inundated with offers. At first all the attention seems great but be careful about who you decide to spend your time with. Because of the sheer volume of people in the city the dating scene is like a never ending conveyor belt, if one guy turns out to be a pleb theres another right where he came from so don’t waste your time on people your getting bad vibes from, always trust your gut!
It goes without saying, never arrange to meet at a strangers apartment, always choose a public place. Let your roomies know where your going and who with. Keep your wits about you and don’t drink too much. If its past midnight don’t brave the subway, get a Lyft or an Uber or even better, download the Via app which is a cheaper alternative for getting taxis around the city.
10. Don’t forget to go see the sights, your in the Big Apple!
It’s so easy to fall into the typical New Yorker routine of working, eating, sleeping but don’t let the humdrum take control! If you have a day off or some spare time push yourself to go out and tick at least one thing off your to do list. There is so much to see and do the options are endless, so while sitting in your pj’s watching Netflix sounds appealing you can do that anywhere. The Top of the Rock has amazing views of the whole city, take the Staten Island ferry for the best views of the Statue of Liberty (and its free) take a stroll through Central Park and visit the turtle pond, have a cocktail at one of the city’s many rooftop bars or visit a secret speakeasy and bask in the atmosphere. (Attaboy and Dear Irving are two of my favs). Head over to New Jersey on the PATH train for arguably the best views of the infamous New York skyline and go for a stroll across the Brooklyn bridge. Head to a warehouse rave in Brooklyn or out for an evening of freakiness at The Box.