New York, New York...isn’t it the land of dreams? They say you can be anything you want in New York City. But what is life really like there? Forget the promises of opportunity and freedom for a moment, because we want to take a closer look at what living in New York is really like. The problem is, television has blessed us with shows like Friends and Gossip Girl and, amazing as they are, it gives us a somewhat warped view of the city. These TV shows have us believe that New York is this ultra cool, glamorous place where dreams come true. In reality, it has its bad sides too, just like any other major city in the world.
Every year, tourists flock to New York City to see what it’s like. Even as a tourist, you don’t always see the reality of life there. You tend to overlook the little things that make New York real, like hot dog carts, traffic jams and street garbage. Yet these are the things that, in many ways, make the city so fascinating. We want to see every side of this world-famous city: the good and the bad. Even New York City has its fair share of flaws and in this article, we intend to reveal them: the things tourists don’t see.
Here's 20 insights into what it’s really like to live in New York City. Some of these photos will blow your mind!
20 Unbearable lines
New York City is a busy place. Therefore, one can only expect to spend their life in long queues. Living in New York means waiting in line for almost everything. Whether that’s at Trader Joe’s, Starbucks or Shake Shack, you’ve got to be prepared to wait in line for at least half an hour before getting served. In other words, make sure you order everything you want when you reach the desk otherwise you’re going to have to get in line once more. Some places attract more people than others. Shake Shack serves the (arguably) best burgers, hence it gets a lot of customers. Trader Joe’s offer the best grocery prices. If you want to get a good deal, be willing to queue.
19 Construction is a way of life
Everything is always changing in the big city. Don’t expect the same street you walk down today to look the same in a few months time. It most probably won’t. Construction is just a way of life in New York and you will often see scaffolding appearing. There’s no point in allocating landmarks (apart from the famous sights of course – they shouldn’t disappear any time soon!) because businesses and low-rise buildings can be demolished and replaced in a New York minute. Construction work isn’t the prettiest thing to see in the city, but it’s a symbol of the ever-changing landscape of New York City.
18 Garbage rots on the streets
There’s nothing worse than street litter. But with over 8.5 million people living in this city, we can see how it could become a problem. Unless the Department of Sanitation picks it up, the street garbage lingers and simply rots on the streets. Can you imagine how bad that must smell? It’s such a shame that trash is such a big issue in New York. It’s such a stunning city, the garbage can only bring the place down. Even on the sidewalks, you will find litter everywhere. Maybe the locals just get used to the stench in the end. It probably just becomes a way of life.
17 The homelessness issue
You don’t have to be a local to realize that homelessness in New York City is a real issue. Some may even call it an epidemic. It’s a sad reality that homelessness is totally common in the ‘’city of dreams.’’ Sadly, it’s not so dreamy for everyone. With the cost of living in New York exorbitantly high, it’s understandable why some people end up sleeping on the streets. There are so many expenses in New York and if you’re not working 24/7 to pay them off, it can be almost impossible to keep up with the expenses. There needs to be a solution. Fast.
16 You’re never more than a block away from a hot dog cart
Hot dog stands in New York are everywhere. These are the places for fast-paced locals who can’t afford to sit down for breakfast or lunch and instead opt for the faster food option that is the hot dog. Tourists will of course notice the hot dog carts that are on literally every street corner of NYC, but sometimes they overlook them. They are so common, that it’s easy to overlook them. Plus, a lot of tourists are too busy reading street maps to notice the hot dog stands that fill the streets. But hot dog carts, bagel stands and the like are what make New York New York.
15 Don’t drive a car
It’s not really surprising that New York City holds the title for the third most congested city in the world. It’s also the second-worst city in the country for traffic jams. How many times have you seen those pictures of yellow taxi cabs lining the Times Square main street? You really wouldn’t want to work as a taxi driver in the city, would you? They must spend half their life in traffic jams. That is probably why locals swap driving for taking public transport. Your stress levels would skyrocket if you had to deal with those traffic jams every day.
14 Use the subway instead
The subway is one of the most popular modes of transport in New York City. That’s because the subway is faster and cheap than a cab or car. These New Yorkers aren’t stupid you know. In fact, you’ll meet few people more world-wise than New Yorkers. At rush hour the subway can be overcrowded. But it is the most convenient form of travel, even if it isn’t always the most comfortable ride and comprises of you getting almost squashed to a pancake. It’s still more convenient than getting stuck in traffic jams. Plus, the subway is just part of the New York culture.
13 Locals avoid Times Square
When you visit New York, the first destination you have in mind for some major selfie snapping is Times Square. Isn’t that one of the most New York spots in the city? According to locals, it’s the opposite and for that reason, they try to avoid it at all costs.
To locals, it’s a place crammed with chain restaurants and advertisements and practically an antithesis of New York.
There are also the crowds of people to bear in mind. Most New Yorkers don’t have time to get past the crowds of tourists snapping photos and so, they try to avoid the area as much as possible.
12 Bodegas are a New Yorker’s BFF
If you’re not a local, you probably have no idea what that word means. A bodega is basically a small corner grocery store and every local’s lifeline. In these little stores you will find all the essentials and amenities you need. They are open all the time and you can definitely find something greasy during a 4am crawl back home. Tourists are usually too wrapped up in the neon dazzle of Times Square to notice the ordinary little bodegas that stand at most street corners. If you live here, however, you will find yourself using them all the time – and Times Square a whole lot less.
11 There’s no north or south
At least, there’s no north or south in the vocabulary anyway. Technically, of course, there is a north and south in the city. But for the Manhattan locals, they don’t say it that way.
New Yorkers will either say ‘’uptown’’ which means north or ‘’downtown’’ which means south of Manhattan island.
It’s worth knowing just in case you ask for directions and have no idea what they’re talking about. Then again, we get why they would choose these phrases. They sound way more interesting than just north and south.
10 Pedestrians live in comfortable shoes
New Yorkers love to walk. Or maybe they don’t love to walk as much as they need to walk. With traffic jams and the crowded subway, sometimes walking is the easier option. That’s why you will see most New Yorkers wearing comfy shoes. They know they’ll probably be walking a few blocks to get to their location, so wearing stilettos would be totally unwise.
When you’re in a big city like New York, it’s nice to walk around because there’s always something new around every corner. You will always see something happening in NYC!
9 Headphones are a must
Locals who walk also rarely take out their headphones. When you have several streets to walk through, headphones make the whole process a lot less tedious. New Yorkers also wear their headphones while taking a cab. At least this way, they won’t have to listen to the cab driver’s reasons for driving through Times Square at the rush hour. It’s not really like you’re missing out on much by wearing your headphones anyway, cause it's guaranteed to be loud wherever you are in the city. In New York, it’s all about sights. As long as you don’t cover your eyes, everything else is cool. Who wouldn’t want to listen to their favorite music as they walk along the streets of Manhattan?
8 Never miscalculate the size of NYC puddles
NYC isn’t known for its beautiful weather. In fact, sometimes the weather can be make you downright blue. That’s probably why locals enjoy taking a yearly vacation to a sunny spot like L.A or Florida. In the winter especially, rain and snow can make your days in the city a lot less fun. You’ve probably seen it before in the movies, where a character is having a bad day only to be made worse by stepping into a giant puddle in a bid to catch a cab. Well, that doesn’t just happen in the movies. It’s a reality for New Yorkers. Puddles, ice slush and snow are the enemies.
7 Basement level businesses
We’ve all seen them in those New York-based movies and TV shows: basement level businesses. It makes you wonder what’s going on in the underground world of NYC. There are endless basement level businesses and from what we’ve seen in the movies, isn’t this where the shady stuff happens?
Most tourists miss these businesses when they visit the city. Of course there are more interesting things to see, but if you want to experience NYC culture, the underground businesses are a part of it. We guess we’re just a little apprehensive because of what we’ve seen in the movies regarding basement level companies.
6 Air conditioner juice
How frustrating it must be for the females of New York. You’ve accomplished a fabulous blowout and then, out on your walk to work, a shower of air conditioner juice rains down on you from the apartments above. This is actually a daily occurrence in NYC.
Air conditioner juice is always falling down from the apartments and it’s the most frustrating thing when you find yourself under it.
It’s sure to put you in a bad mood for the day. If you are already having a pretty so-so day, it is guaranteed to make your mood ten times worse. That’s why it’s good to steer clear of walking under apartments.
5 Central Park isn’t the only beautiful park
When we think of parks in NYC, we instantly think of the most famous one: Central Park. Yet, there are way more beautiful parks in the city that a lot of people overlook. Tourists flock to Central Park because it’s the most notable but they are missing out on other gorgeous parks like Fort Greene, Bryant Park, Fort Tryon and Riverside Park. These should not be missed because they really are beautiful.
Even though NYC is an industrial city, a lot of people forget that it does have a lot of greenery. Some of its parks are wonderful and allows you to escape the hectic city.
4 Locals require a carry-all bag to go
Part of the lifestyle of NYC is living life on the go and that would be impossible without a carry-all bag. With a large tote bag, you don’t have to keep trekking back home to get something. It will already be there in your bag and as a result you will save a stack of time.
Most New Yorkers head to work, the gym, and maybe even a restaurant for dinner with friends all in one day without even going back home. The secret? Carrying everything you need for the day in one large tote bag - or backpack, if that floats your boat a little more. This way, you have everything you need at all times.
3 Dog biz on the street
Behind all the glitz and glamour of NYC, it’s just like everything other city in some ways. Even in New York, there are people who let their dogs do their business and don’t bother cleaning it up. You can imagine how annoying that must be for the locals. As if they don’t have enough stress to deal with on a daily basis, without standing in dog biz on their way to work. That can’t be the best start to the day.
Because NYC is a concrete jungle, it makes the whole dog biz situation a whole lot worse because it’s on the sidewalks too.
2 The prices keep on rising
Unless you are willing to work extremely hard, don’t even bother moving to New York. It’s way too expensive. Not only are rents expensive and totally unaffordable for the average person, simple things like a dozen eggs from the local bodega will set you back a few dollars. In addition to the real estate, basic amenities are costing more and more money in NYC.
We guess you’ve really got to love NYC to want to stay here, because it’s clearly not the easiest or the cheapest city to reside in. And prices are only going to keep on rising – that’s what we call inflation.
1 Job competition is huge
New York City is, without a doubt, one of the coolest places on earth. Still, if you’re living there it’s not always so cool, particularly when you have to deal with real life things like job competition. The competition is fierce in NYC and you have to be better than the rest to land the job. You also need a thick skin because, no matter how great you are, you’re still going to get criticized. With so many people applying for the same job, you can see why it’s so hard to get a job there. But most locals would agree that it’s worth it to call yourself a New York citizen.
References: tracysnewyorklife.com, ny.curbed.com, quora.com, travelandleisure.com, timeout.com