A Kiwi Shares Her Big Apple Story
Started from the bottom (of the globe) now she’s here.
By Megan Guinane
When you first meet Tiffany Low, you’ll be able to tell right away that she is the ultimate NYC Cool Girl. Not only is she super stylish and well traveled, she is also a whip smart Account Executive in the jewelry industry. However, her New York successes were not handed to her. She moved here from New Zealand and with hard work and a fearless attitude, she was able to conquer the Big City. Tiffany shares her story about why she decided to move abroad, how she handled the expenses, and her candid advice about packing up and starting a new life in New York.
You moved to NYC from Auckland, NZ almost 5 years ago. What made you make that decision to travel and live in the other side of the world?
T: I’ve always been quite a spontaneous person. While I was completing my Bachelor of Business, majoring in International Business and Management, I moved to Australia. It was there that I caught the travel bug, as I knew I wanted to see more of the world. I’d always been interested in New York, but it wasn’t until one weekend when I was away at a friend’s fashion show event, a friend of mine said she was moving to New York. Convinced that New York was going to be my next destination, I went home that weekend and told my mum, “Hey, Mum. I’m moving to New York!” I had never even set foot into America, but months later, I moved to New York with no job lined up, no friends in the city. Sometimes, I think that’s just the way to go.
What was searching for an apartment like when you are unfamiliar with your surroundings?
T: Well, one person I did know in New York was a fashion blogger from New Zealand who I had met a couple of times. I reached out to him once I booked my trip and, as luck would have it, he was heading back to New Zealand for the holidays, so I sublet his room in Williamsburg while he was away. From there, his roommates had decided to move out, so I ended up moving in for five months, before deciding I was more of a Manhattan girl. It can take a while to figure out which neighborhood suits you best (this can be different for everyone — some people like to live closer to work, some people like to live in lively areas with plenty of restaurants). I would suggest to do a month-to-month sublet situation (very easy to find on Craigslist), so if you decide that the commute from one neighborhood to your work is too much, you can move closer after a month, without breaking a 1-year lease. I’ve moved around so much in New York — from Williamsburg, to Upper West Side, to Nolita, to Murray Hill, to Midtown East, and now Midtown West — if that gives you an idea of how I “figured out” what neighborhood worked best for me.
What did you do for work when you first moved here? Were there any struggles in the job hunting process?
T: The struggle was so real. When I moved to New York, I figured that all of my experience working in New Zealand and Australia would be wiped clean. I was ready to start working from the bottom up (cue Drake “Started From The Bottom”), and I knew I wanted to get into the footwear industry, so I found an internship program in which I was offered a job I stayed in for three and a half years. For the reason that the pay was so minimal, I also had to work two other jobs. I found a job as a hostess on Craigslist, and at that job, I met a friend who referred me to another job where I was maître d’ during the weekends. I literally juggled three jobs for about 10 months — going from my “Big Girl” day job working in the footwear wholesale industry, running straight after work to hostess all night at a bourbon bar in Flatiron, to wake up and repeat it all over again. End of the week, while everyone was enjoying the weekend, I’d be in SoHo as a maître d’ both weekend days. I had no life, but I worked hard and it got me to where I am today.
Was it hard adjusting to NYC life?
T: Not really, because I’ve always been the type of person to be very, very busy. From a young age, I always had extra-curricular activities after school (piano, violin, school soccer, club soccer, netball, tennis, dance, etc). As you can see, I like to keep busy, and I’ve always had a full-time job(s) whilst studying full-time at university. Moving to New York was just another tick on the checklist, for me. I was used to the fast-paced lifestyle, which I love.
What were some unexpected costs that incurred during your moving process?
T: Firstly, “the rent is too damn high!” Moving into a new apartment, you are required to pay one month’s rent, security deposit, and sometimes, last month’s rent, so that was a lot of money to pay upfront as well. Then of course, buying a new bed, mattress, bedding, furniture, comfortable shoes (we walk a lot, here), winter coats for the harsh New York winter (brrr, it took a while to get acclimated!) — it all adds up!
What questions should someone who is thinking of moving abroad ask themselves before going for it?
T: Am I financially stable for this move? — Moving to a metropolitan city such as New York, you realize that money runs out fast here.
Am I someone that is comfortable in my own presence? — Traveling alone can get lonely. It takes a certain personality to be able to be by yourself for long periods at a time. When I was working three jobs in my first year in New York, I seldom had time to see my friends. Even though I was always at work and surrounded by people, I was alone a lot of the time, but I didn’t mind it.
What is my end goal/why am I moving here? Do I have a plan, or am I going just for the experience? — Either, either answer is fine here! Sometimes, you just need a change (as I did!)
Now that you have lived in the city for a while, what is some financial advice you would give to someone who just moved here?
T: Save as much money as you can before moving. Have at least 2 or 3 months’ worth of rent/life money, so in case you don’t find a job as quickly as you think you will, you at least won’t end up “stuck”. If you have friends in the city, ask if they can help you get settled in. Also, in New York, if you want to rent an apartment on a lease, they usually want you to prove that you earn at least 40 times the rent, so take that into consideration. For job-hunting, don’t be afraid to start off in a “temporary” job. I knew I wasn’t going to be a hostess forever, but I also wanted to be able to pay rent and eat, so I took the job and made it work. Networking is also key — go out, meet people, talk to everyone you know. People can be friendly here; people have the wrong impression of New Yorkers, sometimes.
How did you have fun while you were living on a budget?
T: They say New York is a very expensive city, and while it is, it can also be very cheap and cheerful. You can find great cheap eats if you know where to go. Nightlife experience is also very different here — if you know the right people, you can get into the right places without any cover. If you’re into art, sign up for a NYC ID card. By signing up, you receive a membership to numerous museums in all five boroughs, for one year, so you can access for free. There are also museums you can visit that are donation-based, or have “pay as you wish” days, so just check for those days.
Side Note: Tiffany is my “right people”.
What are the most underrated yet inexpensive places to visit in the city?
T: Nom Wah Tea Parlor (the oldest tea parlor in NYC) is one of my favorite spots. I also love Shu Jiao Fu Zhou, where you can get 10 dumplings for $3 or a takeaway bag of 50 frozen dumplings for $10. Lam Zhou Noodle has great fried dumplings as well. As much as I love fancy fine dining, I also love the “hole in the wall” spots. When I travel, I love seeing where the locals eat, and they usually steer clear of the tourist traps where the prices are jacked up. In New York, we are so privileged to have numerous options of cuisine, so it depends on the types of food you are looking for. If you like Italian food, Piccola Cucina is one of my favorites. They have three locations — each with a different menu — downtown, and it is authentic Italian, not American-Italian. It’s very reasonably priced, and very delicious. I would stay away from Little Italy. For Thai Cuisine, Little Basil or ViV are my favorite spots for take-away (read: Seamless). Also, don’t ever underrate $1 pizza. That grease-filled cheese slice as big as your face is a huge part of what makes New York, New York. Don’t forget — the “fold” is the real way New Yorkers eat it.
Do you plan on staying in NYC forever, are there any there any other places you would like to live?
T: I’m currently on a work visa, so at the moment, “forever” isn’t an option. Ideally, I would like the option to live here for as long as I like, but I would also like to explore the world more. London has always been my “back up” plan, but I also really love Europe, so anywhere there would be nice, too. Maybe Italy — they do have the best pizza, pasta, cheese, wine, gelato! Plus, my boyfriend is Italian, if the other reasons aren’t good enough!
Tiffany’s New York story started with a spontaneous decision to move almost 9,000 miles away from her comfort zone. It is just one stop on a life long adventure of travel. You can check out her many adventures on her travel blog, A Kiwi Can Fly.