Six Weeks in New York
The summer had just started and I was finishing the day in my office in Bratislava (Slovakia). For a few months, I’d been working remotely on a project for an American client. We’d just launched its first version and the client was talking enthusiastically about its first users. Then he brought up an interesting question about my take on relocating to New York.
Well, I had no idea if I wanted to move to New York permanently. I was also quite used to my lifestyle back in Bratislava — friends, parties and sometimes work (just kidding, a lot of work). I was sure, however, about one thing. I definitely wanted to visit the Land of Opportunity, speak a lot of English and meet my co-workers in person. I made the decision to move there for 6 weeks which is long enough to experience life in a foreign country, but not too long in case you end up not liking it.
I started with Craigslist to look for rooms and apartments. Most listings wanted someone long-term and 90% of the replies I got looked like scams. I concluded that for 6 weeks it would make more sense to search on Airbnb. When I started applying for Airbnb listings, it was already quite late — one week before my flight. I was quite nervous, but managed to book a great place.
Pro Tip 1: When you travel for less than two months, just book Airbnb right after you book your flights (or Homestay). There’s usually a discount when you book for one month or longer.
Pro Tip 2: If you’re moving to a new city for longer, a smart approach is to book a few Airbnbs to test out multiple neighborhoods. Once you make your decision about the neighborhood you like the most, look for Craigslist listings in the area.
I arrived in New York at 3 AM because my flight had been delayed for 6 hours. I didn't want to hail a cab for $70 and preferred to use Uber instead. I had a hard time connecting to the WiFi at JFK and a “brilliant” idea to turn on data roaming came up. I imagined that the United States isn’t a third-world country so there would be some reasonable data roaming agreement with the European Union and Uber would need only a few kilobytes. Wrong! I ended up paying $60 for data and $50 for Uber — the most expensive cab I’d ever taken. Should have taken the offer for $70.
Pro Tip 3: Never turn on data roaming or consult your carrier before your journey for any international plans.
I got to my Airbnb exhausted at 4 AM and went straight to bed. In the morning, I went out to explore the neighborhood.
Wait!! Am I in Costa Rica again?
No! I was just staying in a latin neighborhood. Could hear a lot of Spanish and English only here and there. Even the subway pass had instructions in Spanish. Good thing I speak Spanish.
Then I went to the supermarket to buy some groceries. Seeing the prices, my jaw dropped a few more times during the first days.
Everything was expensive, but the delicious food from all over the world was worth it. Do you like Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese or Mexican? You can find it all in New York. There’s even a Slovak restaurant.
And the subway gets you everywhere. Even runs at night. Although sometimes can be overcrowded and dirty. There’s wifi and mobile signal, but only at the stations so be prepared for lags when using internet on the train.
I spent the first day in Central Park which is a popular retreat from overcrowded streets and trains.
You better not stop in the middle of the street because people push you and start explaining that you shouldn’t stop.
After the first weekend, I finally met my co-workers. I saw the whole office for the first time and discovered that there were far more people than those I’d been working with.
We went out for lunch to an awesome buffet nearby. Delicious food again (although expensive).
I stayed in New York for over 6 weeks spending most days in the office with my co-workers. I often went out for Salsa parties at night which is how I balance the hours spent in front of a computer. I also went to a few tech meetups. On the weekends, I either did more sightseeing in New York or made a trip somewhere else. I went to Boston, Washington D.C. and Beacon (a small town in Upstate New York).
So what did I like about New York?
- I loved the food. You can find cuisines from all over the world and many people choose healthy food. The American stereotypes of burgers, fried junk and fat people don't hold true for New York.
- I loved the public transport. Manhattan streets are almost never full of cars because it’s so easy to get anywhere by subway. Even at night. You don’t need a car in New York contrary to most American cities.
- I loved the diversity. You can meet people from all over the world — all nations, races and religions. There’re all kinds of events and parties. Whatever floats your boat.
And what I didn’t like?
- It’s super expensive. You have to be a software developer, lawyer, doctor or millionaire to enjoy life here. Services, groceries, transport, parties — everything costs a lot of money and is super commercial. New York gives a lot of opportunities to make money so people come here to make it. Life is all about money here.
- It suffers many diseases of large cities. Commuting takes a lot of time unless you have a chance to live close to the place where you work. The huge number of people makes the city move fast and hectic. I had a constant feeling that it was draining my energy and it was hard for me to keep a balanced lifestyle. Retreating to the parks, even Central Park, seemed artificial and you find crowds even there. And most people have come here to make loads of money and retire young — don’t have time for friends or relationships.
I really enjoyed my experience of spending 6 weeks with my co-workers and living in their city. If I have a good reason to come back again, I'll need some time and a lot of money to adjust my lifestyle to its intensity.
Writing these lines, I'm already on vacation in Mexico and heading back to Slovakia in a few days 😃