I’ve lived in New York City for almost five years, and throughout this time, I’ve thought a lot about how to make this crazy place feel like home. For as long as I can remember, I have loved New York. But no one will argue that it takes a certain amount of strategizing, mixed with a little bit of letting go, to make it work for your individual needs. So I’ve outlined five ways to make New York City feel like home.
There is a clear distinction between loving something for its novelty and loving it because it works for you. There have been points over these five years that I’ve let self-doubt creep in when I meet people who seem so totally in their element here: whether they’re living in the apartment of their dreams or have found climbing the corporate ladder a fulfilling journey and have been rewarded in kind with a yearly bonus almost as big as my take-home pay.
What I’ve learned through this early loop of comparison, self-loathing, attempting to change myself to look like others, and back around again, is that this is a never-ending cycle. If you decide to sit down at the table to play a game with New York as a city of immense wealth, status, and 24-hour activities, you will inevitably lose.
Instead, I’ve found that focusing on the things that make me truly happy, city-glamour aside, to be the long lasting strongholds that have turned this wild city into my beloved home.
Remind yourself of this city’s narcissism when you feel like the world is watching your mistakes.
Hear me out on this, I promise it’s a good thing! I spent SUCH a long time denying New York’s narcissism. I thought everyone was putting a microscope to my career choices and new clothing purchases. But in reality, no one really cares. This city is too fast and self-absorbed to be worried about what you’re doing.
I actually think New York’s narcissism is one of its charms. When you’re not bothered by what others are doing, it gives you space to be unabashedly you. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Find the affordable resources for hobbies you’re interested in, and don’t give up until something sticks.
You’re probably going to try that pottery class, sign up for that book club, and attend that alumni networking event and walk away from all of them feeling frustrated, that your time would have been better spent staying home to watch Netflix. Resist that urge. When moving to a new city, (especially one with so many options that it could make you go insane), it will take some time before you find the things outside of work that bring you excitement and a sense of belonging.
I recommend trying as many as you can, and turning to resources like The Skint and Time Out for entertainment, and the wide array of educational offerings, anywhere from Craft Jam to General Assembly.
Don’t wait for a group to make you feel like you belong.
There are so many types of people in New York, living invariably unique and interesting lives. You’ll never meet all of them, or even begin to scratch the surface of understanding each type of daily routine, career choice, or favorite bar.
Chances are, if you’re moving to New York for reasons other than school, you won’t be swept up by the tidal wave of a new friend group that all live in the same neighborhood, go to happy hour on Thursday and cook dinner together on Sunday. If you’re waiting for others to make you feel that you belong here, it might not happen.
Human connection is extremely important when making a big move or going through a new experience, I would never suggest not seeking out companionship. But I’d also make a case for creating more individual relationships and trying things out on your own!
Be honest if you’re having a hard time settling in, you may find a friend through it.
Vulnerability is very on trend right now, so I wouldn’t let that go to waste! I remember when I first moved to New York I tried to pretend like I immediately had it all together: great job, perfect commute, ideal neighborhood, affordable yet trendy gym. Check. Check. Check. But I didn’t!
And as soon a I started to speak up and ask for advice, I began to make deeper connections with coworkers and friends. Everyone has to start somewhere, so why not be honest about where you are in your journey?
Pinpoint the moments, locations, and people that make you stop and take a breath - and spend more time with them.
I remember when I first moved to New York, I l wanted to mirror the day-to-day lives of my coworkers because I assumed this would be a quick fix for figuring out life in New York. Many of the young women around my age belonged to boutique fitness studios, had one super tight knight and homogeneous group of girlfriends, and partied pretty hard on the weekends. Since I was working long hours and around them for most of my waking hours, I assumed this was a typical New York lifestyle.
But as I mentioned previously, there are so many lives lived here. And that is a precious thing to always remember. I’m more of a wake up early, visit a museum on its free entry day, and catch up with different types of friends over happy hour rather than at 1 AM type of gal. And I wouldn’t trade those qualities for anything.
Find that favorite bench in Central Park, the friend you made through a random networking event you both found kind of lame, or the bookstore with the warm elderly staff. And keep returning to them until this place feels like home.