Everything that’s wrong with NYC

Sarah McBride
7 min readMay 15, 2019

Anecdotes from d̶r̶o̶w̶n̶i̶n̶g thriving in the city that never sleeps.

I’m about to move apartments again. That’ll be apartment #5 since I moved to New York City in September 2018. 5 moves in 8 months. FIVE MOVES IN EIGHT MONTHS. Hello and welcome to a cry for help, by Sarah McBride.

My whole moving-to-new-york was a wonderfully unexpected, vaguely planned and, quite frankly, an extremely out of character thing for me to do. I landed a ridiculous job making GIFs for a VC fund and I figured all the life stuff, like finding somewhere to live, budgeting responsibly, making friends, dating, etc would just figure itself out. This is a blog post about my continued inability to figure those things out. May this post serve as:

  • the aforementioned cry for help;
  • a starter guide for newbies to the city;
  • a vague product roadmap for the enterprising product manager who wants to quit Google and build a startup.

Having the craic on Craigslist

I suppose we’ll start with accommodation, the real impetus behind this post. Moving to NYC as a solo Sarah, with no family and ~3 friends in the entire United States of America, meant that I was without a pre-made group of buddies to live with. Which is fine, really. It’s great to meet new people, expand your circle, challenge your fears etc. *Enter the US credit score system*. Turns out, when you are foreign like me, you cannot sign a lease without a credit score. Best case scenario, your landlord will acquiesce and accept a guarantor. That is, someone willing to vouch (read: pay) for your rent if you default on it, who is a resident in the tri-state area. With my lack of friends + family in the tri-state area, landing long-term accommodation has been impossible.

So here we are, month 8, 4 apartments down, and back on Craiglist looking for (potentially illegal?) sublets to tide me over a little longer. Craigslist is great, really. One time, I went to see an apartment on the waterfront that seemed too good to be true. I had been in text correspondence with the Italian roommate and, after meeting, received a text to say that he had given the room to someone else but did I “want to go for a drink seeing as we live in the same neighborhood ;)”. Turns out Craigslist is the new Tinder!!

The light at the end of the tunnel here is that Bank of America made me pay $300 for their “secure” “credit” “card” which I must spend $100/week on and then pay off immediately for 9 months in order to build credit history and thus a credit score. It’ll be another ~3 months of this ridiculous enterprise until the coveted credit score will be bestowed upon me. You’re all invited to my credit score unveiling party in August.

Spending more $ in Wholefoods than your entire student debt

Wholefoods is a cultural phenomenon. Granted, not an entirely unfamiliar phenomenon to those coming to NYC from other US cities and towns, but a true experience for foreigners like me. I’ll never forget the night I arrived here. Exhausted, confused, lost… I ventured out of my Williamsburg apartment (sublet #1, it was a good one) and towards the shining beacon of hope that was the Williamsburg Wholefoods. I spent $21490314 on 1 can of La Croix, 1 (dairy-based) yoghurt, 6 olives, and organic oatmeal. People have been known to sell their kidney in order to financially support the #WholefoodsLife, including taking on monthly financing for AirPods — mandatory for all evening shoppers.

So obviously this is a slight exaggeration, but sticking to any sort of budget in this city has been an absolute brain melt. Never have I been in a place of such concentrated wealth and consumer consumption. It’s hard to stay fiscally responsible when there’s temptation anywhere. Wholefoods. Everlane. Glossier. Sweetgreen. SEPHORA!!! Not to mention the need to protect against health and safety hazards. With the chicken-bleaching fears so deeply instilled in us Europeans by some very effective pro-European Union propaganda, shopping for non-bleached chicken in Wholefoods has become a mandatory health precaution.

Spending time with humans

The final piece of the puzzle is social life. This is a city of high-flying, high-performing, living-their-best-lives individuals and they’re very hard to make friends with. You see, everyone is very, very, very busy. As a newb to the city, people are very friendly and will intro you to a bunch of people. Great ✅. But finding time on their calendar for a coffee, drink, walk of the High Line is a challenge of great magnitudes. I once went back and forth with someone I was intro’d to for 4 weeks until we both gave up trying to find time to meet. That person was Emily Weiss. No I’m joking. And when you do get a first meeting, you inevitably do get on with each other! You’re likely both young professionals trying to make it in this crazy city. But try setting up meeting #2. Try building a connection with someone that you see for 42 minutes every 4–6 weeks. It’s tough.

Which leads me onto dating. The problem here is probably solely with me, as, to be really candid, I’ve never dated just to date. I’ve dated to meet someone, have a connection and then, like, you know, be in an exclusive relationship. People in NYC date. And date multiple people. At the same time. This transactional approach to relationships has only been amplified by the proliferation of dating apps. It’s a damn minefield out there.

If you can make it here you can make it anywhere, apparently

An alternative title for this post: 22-year-old moans about living in the best city in the world for 5 minutes straight. If you’ve made it this far, then I hope you realize that I’m being intentionally over-dramatic. Sure, it’s been really, really tough to move here and navigate these obstacles. And in the first few months here, I truly did feel very, very alone. But I’m still here. And every so often, another piece of the puzzle falls into place and I get one step closer to figuring this place out. One step closer to thriving in this city of endless opportunity.

Moving 4-soon-to-be-5 times is a complete pain BUT I’ve had the extreme privilege of being able to truly experience 3 different neighborhoods by living there, finding the best coffee shops, getting to know the local crazies. They haven’t all had hot water. They haven’t all been conducive to a full night’s sleep. And none of them has been for more than 90 days. But every apartment I’ve lived in has been safe and homely. For that, I can be very grateful.

I have severe food allergies, which probably makes me a bit of a princess (👸🏼) when it comes to over-spending on food for the sake of not going into anaphylactic shock. But I can honestly say that of all the cities I’ve lived in, I’ve never had as much choice as here in NYC. They’re considerably better at allergies! They have allergy-safe bakeries! And a variety of healthy options! This is the best my diet has been in years. For that, I can be very grateful.

And finally, I’ve connected with a ton of extraordinary, one-of-a-kind humans. Humans that I would have never met, had I not persevered with NYC. For the first time, maybe ever, I feel like I’ve found my tribe. I’ve got my Irish friends who know how to have the craic and keep me going about being from the North and how British I am. I have my tech friends, the people who continue to blow me away with their ambition and intelligence. I feel energized by the people I’ve built connections with here and I know they’ll be friends for life. When you’re trying not to drown in this crazy city, and you’re all in it together, it’s hard not to make a connection for life. For that, I can be very grateful.

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So look, that was very therapeutic for me. But I think there’s something bigger here. Technology isn’t and shouldn’t be the solution to all of today’s ills — but I do believe many of these problems can be solved with the help of a little tech.

There are a number of startups out there trying to solve the credit problem, Credit Nova being the most commonly cited (although, unfortunately, didn’t seem to work for me). Smart budgeting apps can keep you out of Wholefoods and keep you in the green. And finally, platforms like Trolley.to, help forge connections between newcomers to the city (started by my friends Jesse + Stephen and live on Product Hunt TODAY!! upvote upvote) (also full disclosure I lived in Jesse + Stephen’s apartment when they went to YC, that was apt #3).

This is a city of great opportunity. Of great people. Of frickin’ great salad bars. Its downfalls and its sticking points are merely sources of more opportunity to build something great.

Ok, *cue Alicia Keys*

If you have thoughts on this piece, app ideas or an apartment that I can live in, then I’d love to hear from you: sarah@sarahmcbride.co (make sure that’s .co — I couldn’t afford .com)



Sarah McBride

Comms + ice cream @ Zenly. Writing about organic marketing & Gen Z musings.