Are you thinking about moving to New York City? You thrill seeker, you.
There’s no adequate way to describe the way living in New York City feels. The Big Apple casts both shadows and spells and your experience will depend entirely on you.
But there’s no denying that living in New York City is an extraordinary feat, any way you slice it. The city tempts people in hoards and millions of residents are willing to overlook the inevitable cons of life in NYC because the pros are too hard to resist.
Read on to learn about the my personal list of the HONEST pros and cons of living in New York City.
Living in New York City
“New Yorkers are born all over the country, and then they come to New York City and it hits them: Oh, that’s who I am.”— Delia Ephron
First, the pros of living in New York City
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
#1. New York City is (truly) the land of opportunity
Cue: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” New York City is where dreamers go to make their dreams come true. In my experience, this is true in two ways:
- If you’re an entrepreneur (way to go, you!), there’s no better place than New York City to try and make it big. The opportunities and networking connections you can make while living in New York City are hard to beat.
- Career-wise, New York City has the biggest names in tech, marketing, apparel, journalism, sports, you name it. So if you can’t follow your dreams (yet), there’s definitely a job for you, but I highly suggest having a gig lined up before moving to NYC otherwise you won’t be setting yourself up for success.
New York City is home to 65 Fortune 500 companies, the second-highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the world, outside of Tokyo.
In terms of finding a job in New York City, you need to be keenly aware of finding a gig that works well with your lifestyle. Because one thing you’ll quickly learn after moving to New York City is that you will need to hustle hard and that means long hours at the office.
With a population of 8.4 million, competition is fierce. Securing a job and keeping it will require more effort than it does in smaller cities, which is why New Yorkers are often considered workaholics (I’ll cover this in more detail below).
But at the end of the day, one thing is certain: if you’re passionate enough to move to New York City then chances are good you’ll find a way to make it work, one way or another.
This is the city of dreamers and time and again it’s the place where the greatest dream of all, the American dream, has been tested and has triumphed.Michael Bloomberg
#2. New York City is a safe place to live
It may surprise you to learn that living in New York City is not unsafe, as most folks assume. It’s hard to blame anyone for thinking that life in New York City could be dangerous. With 8.4 million residents, NYC is the most populous city in America and things are bound to happen.
However, relative to its size, New York City is considered one of the top 5 safest large cities in America.
After living in New York City for 8+ years, I can honestly say I’ve never felt unsafe in the city and that’s mostly because I’ve never really been alone on the streets.
There’s so many folks exploring the city at any given hour that you’re seldom alone. You just have to know which main streets to stick to and which areas to avoid.
For instance, I don’t walk through Central Park after dark.
Instead, I stick to the main streets where eager tourists and locals alike meander through the city streets while returning home from late night meals or libations. There’s powers in numbers.
I currently live in Manhattan and understand that busy streets are not as common in the other boroughs, so make sure to do deep research on the area you plan to move to NYC.
If you’re seriously considering moving to New York City, I suggest reading: Don’t Move to New York City Without Knowing These 20 Crucial Things First
#3. Exposure to the arts (and history)
New York City is often described at the cultural capital of the world, and I’d be damned if I didn’t confess that this is quite possibly my favorite thing about living in New York City.
New York City is home to a whopping 83 museums, including the fifth largest museum in the world, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially known as the MET).
NYC is also home to one of the most gorgeous libraries in the world, the New York Public Library, which is also the third largest library in the world.
If history is more your thing, why not visit the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt, grab a drink at the bar where George Washington bid an emotional farewell to his troops or check out Alexander Hamilton’s final resting place?
The point is, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more culturally exciting city than New York.
For example, my friend starts every weekend by exploring a museum with her kids and at the rate she’s going, her kids will see more world-renowned art by the age of 7 than most people do in a lifetime!
Love museums? Read: The 15 Most Exciting Museums in NYC (& What to See at Each)
If you want to become a real New Yorker, there’s only one rule: You have to believe New York is, has been, and always will be the greatest city on earth. The center of the universe.– Ellen R. Shapiro
#4. New York City is diverse
It’s probably no surprise that with more than 200+ languages spoken on a daily basis, the habits, food and dress reflect the vibrant diversity of life in New York City. In fact, New York City is the most diverse city in the country.
As a result, no matter what you do, you will always “fit” in. In many ways, it feels like there’s zero judgement while living in New York City. I personally feel like I can be whoever I want to be – seriously.
This realization, and subsequent freedom, makes me more confident and allows me to take risks I normally wouldn’t. Talk about liberating.
For example, within two months of moving to NYC, I found that my wardrobe had completely changed.
I started wearing clothing that just didn’t make sense in my previous city (Portland, Oregon) because there was seldom an occasion to get dressed for. After living in NYC, I’ve realized that the city is occasion enough.
All this to say, if you need a fresh start in life then moving to New York City is a great place to start. I swear, this city makes you self sufficient.
Further reading: 25 Thought-Provoking Facts About NYC (You Probably Don’t Know, Yet)
#5. Networking & social scene
One of the biggest pros of living in New York City is that you’re in the heart of everything. This is the city where trends are born and million-dollar ideas take root.
In fact, New York City was home to more billionaires than anywhere else in the world, before being surpassed by Beijing not too long ago.
And since everyone is hustling hard to get their piece of the pie, you will make some serious connections while living in NYC.
If you’re open to meeting new people and putting yourself out there, you’ll find that there’s never a shortage of new folks to grab dinner or drinks with.
I will add, the social atmosphere in NYC is downright addicting and has changed me. I went from hanging out with close friends once a month to grabbing drinks with friends 2 times a week after moving to New York City.
When in Rome, right?
#6. There’s (always) something to do
When you live in New York City, it’s hard to justify staying home because there’s ALWAYS something going on.
Whether it’s a new exhibit at a museum, a famous musician playing at the Blue Note, sunset yoga in Central Park or a five-course meal at a Michelin-star restaurant, you’ll never have a reason to be bored while living in New York City.
Even random walks sometimes end on a magical note.
For example, my husband and I took a morning stroll through Central Park and stumbled across a film production at Bethesda Fountain where we watched Sarah Jessica Parker film a scene for the Sex and the City reboot.
I couldn’t believe it, it was so cool!
Another time I was once crossing through Washington Square Park on my way home at midnight. Lo and behold – there was a full blown piano concert in the park.
The best part? Visitors were invited to lay under the piano for a unique experience, it was so magical.
All this to say – long gone are the days of “there’s nothing to do around here” because when you move to New York City, that excuse is no longer valid.
In the country, there are a few chances of sudden rejuvenation–a shift in weather, perhaps, or something arriving in the mail. But in New York the chances are endless.E.B. White
#7. The food in New York City is incredible
We can’t talk about the pros of moving to New York City without mentioning the food. Oh my goodness! If there’s one thing I love most about living in NYC, it’s the incredible food scene.
With 69 Michelin-Starred restaurants, New York City is has the 5th highest concentration of Michelin-Starred restaurants in the world. And sure, you’ll need a trust fund to try them all, but you know the best part?
You don’t need to eat at these fancy places to enjoy a memorable meal because NYC’s culinary abilities range a diverse spectrum and you can find great cheap eats.
New York City is a melting pot of different cultures so you are privy to the best-of-the-best regarding all types of cuisine.
After living in New York City, it’s hard to find other cities that satisfy my cravings for good food.
I mean, let’s get real real, you haven’t lived until you find yourself with a hot bowl of award-winning ramen at 1am. But fair warning, you’ll never be the same.
P.S. I’m currently working on a post about the best cheap eats in NYC, so sign up for the email list to be notified when it comes out. I share gems and photos, not spam.
#8. New York City has great public parks
The amount of public parks sprinkled throughout the city is a huge perk of living in the Concrete Jungle.
Obviously Central Park takes the cake, spanning nearly 850 acres, this gem is bigger than the country of Monaco and is the most filmed location in the world.
And it’s true, Central Park is picture-perfect, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking the other 1,700+ parks in NYC.
It’s clear that New York City understands the importance public green spaces and acts on that knowledge.
In fact, 22% of the city is dedicated specially for public parks and 99% of New York City residents are a mere 10-minute walk from a park.
I can attest that having access to green spaces makes living in NYC easy because when the city feels overwhelming it’s not hard to find a little slice of greenery to escape to.
Further Reading: 10 Enchanting & Iconic Parks in New York City (Local’s Guide)
#9. The street fashion
For the most part, New Yorkers dress very well, especially when compared to other US cities.
Now, I’m not saying we’re held to European standards, but close enough.
Living in New York City means you’re constantly exposed to new trends and you can’t help but benefit.
There’s something exciting about living in a city where people take pride in the way they dress that makes you want to put your best foot forward, too.
Personally, I noticed this change in myself. As mentioned earlier, my wardrobe has substantially changed since moving to New York City and I love it.
There’s no pressure to dress a certain way, so you can wear whatever you want.
I’ve been noticing a lot of maxi dresses this year and it turns out that I absolutely love wearing them, even though I never wore them in Portland – go figure.
It’s funny, sometimes I leave the house feeling like a 10 only to see a mom pushing a stroller in a killer dress and realizing that if I’m a 10 she must be a 20. It cracks me up.
#10. Efficient public transportation
I know that most everyone likes to hate on their city’s public transportation, but New York City’s public transportation is pretty dang efficient.
We chose to move to NYC without a car and are glad we made the decision because you definitely don’t need a car to get around.
Honestly, I can’t imagine the headache of owning a car while living in NYC. Plus, the savings are starting to add up. We don’t pay for gas and regular vehicle maintenance, not to mention the savings on car insurance.
A monthly subway pass will set you back $133 but is worth the cost if you take the subway more than twice a day. Or you can opt for the weekly passes which give you unlimited rides for 7 consecutive days for $33.
In my opinion, NYC’s public transportation is efficient and affordable. Using it is a no-brainer for us and we don’t dread it, which is saying a lot.
We’re on time 80-90% of the time and can get wherever we need to go in a reasonable time, even the airport.
But don’t just take my word for it, more than 10 million people ride the subway daily.
All this to say, if you’re moving to New York City, leave the car behind because you won’t need it here.
#11. The city never sleeps
You may not realize how big of a perk this is until you move out of New York City but just wait until you move somewhere else and find yourself craving cookies at 2am. There’s always something lively going on in the city, so you can find something fun to do after work even if you get off closer to 9pm.
Great bars, awesome jazz clubs, romantic restaurants, you name it and it’s at your fingertips well into the evening.
Yeah, this pro of living in NYC can’t be overstated because (for foodies and party alike) it’s a lifeline. We recently met up with some friends from Portland and found ourselves out until 2am.
We capped the night with a slice of pizza before heading home. We didn’t even have to search hard to find a restaurant open near us, we had 10+ options within three city blocks.
And New York is the most beautiful city in the world? It is not far from it. No urban night is like the night there…. Squares after squares of flame, set up, and cut into the aether. Here is our poetry, for we have pulled down the stars to our will.Ezra Pound
Cons of Moving to New York City
#1. Honestly, the rent is too damn high
Let’s be honest, living in New York City is not realistic for a lot of people because of the astronomical cost of housing in the city.
New York City is not even in the same time zone as affordable!
I first fell in love with NYC after visiting for the first time after college, since then, I’ve spent 6+ years day dreaming about living in NYC but it felt out of reach because of the cost.
I saved as much as I could to finally make the big move to New York City, but boy — I don’t want to fool you, it was far from easy.
The high cost of housing is why so many people live with roommates or find themselves far from the center (and then have to commute 45+ minute each way).
If helpful, our current rent for a 600 square foot apartment on the Upper West Side is $2,800. It’s charming but TINY!
The bathroom door doesn’t open all the way because of a small trash can, it’s hilarious and sad at the same time. But as most New Yorkers will tell you, you pay for the access, not the space.
Anyways, I’ll post photos of our apartment soon and will send an update through the newsletter, if you’re interested.
#2. The summer humidity & winter chill
You quickly learn after moving to New York City to take advantage of the blissful spring and fall seasons. The temperatures are perfect and the spring blooms and autumn leaves dazzle the city in breathtaking color.
However, summer is an absolute bear! It’s hot, muggy and oftentimes stinky. The average summer temperature hovers around 85 – 90° and the humidity is no joke.
As you may or may not know, trash bags are tossed on the sidewalk to be picked up by sanitation workers. So if you’re walking by during a 90° day, you can expect to pick up a few unpleasant whiffs.
All smells become amplified but the summer heat, brace yourself.
The winter weather sits on the other end of the spectrum. A brutal bone-chilling cold awaits you from November to March and you better be sure your tiny closet is full of good coats and wool socks.
Need help getting through New York City winters? Don’t move to NYC without getting this super handy device first, it helps drastically with the dark gray winter skies. My therapist recommended it and I use it daily, I can’t recommend it enough.
#3. Living in New York City is expensive
I know, understatement of the century, right? But bear with me. New York City is the 7th most expensive city in the world.
Let that sink in.
I guess this goes hand-in-hand with the atrocious rent prices but that’s only the beginning.
Expect every day things, like haircuts, groceries and experiences, to be much more expensive while living in New York.
For example, an average cocktail in NYC will set you back $18-22, pre-tip (ouch). And since daily life in NYC is much more social than other cities, you can expect your friends to suggest meeting up at bars more often than not.
In fact, the high cost of living in New York City was the hardest adjustment for my husband and I. We had to have some serious talks about reigning in our finances shortly after moving to New York City because it became evident that our previous budget wouldn’t work here.
We mentioned this to a friend who has lived in NYC for 10+ years and he said that when people first move to New York City they feel like they’re on vacation.
All the new restaurants, museums, attractions, it’s all so exciting! So it takes a while to adjust to a more disciplined way of daily life in New York.
Additionally, I can’t speak for everyone (and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this) but living in New York City has made me more materialistic.
There’s something in the atmosphere of this electric city that makes me want to buy things in a way I never cared for before. I’m still trying to get to the bottom of it and will report back if I ever figure it out.
#4. Crowds will become a part of your daily life
Do you like standing in line? Great! You’re going to LOVE loving in New York City.
Jokes aside, expect crowds and long lines anywhere you go.
You anticipate this as a tourist, but as a local, it’s a bear.
Not only will you wait in line for most popular restaurants, but the streets are crowded all the (dang) time. Comes with the territory, I guess.
I feel like all first dates in NYC should go something like this: Name, occupation, longest wait time. Because nothing proves commitment like a 2 hour line for donuts. That’s marriage material.
#5. New Yorkers are blunt
New Yorkers don’t sugarcoat. They are direct because they don’t like to waste time. You can tell this by how fast they walk … everywhere.
New Yorkers weren’t raised by southern mothers – forget manners, enter brevity. They have places to be and people to see.
It’s just the way things are around here. I can try to explain it away, but why bother? It is what it is, just don’t take it personally because it’s not.
#6. Moving to New York City? Apartment hunting is a bear
A big con of living in New York City is trying to find an apartment.
The competition is intense and you’ll need a broker to get an apartment, which greatly increases the overall expense. Most broker fees are equivalent to one month’s rent or 10-15% of your total annual rent.
It’s insane and adds an additional expense to moving to New York City.
Of course, some things have changed due to COVID and broker fees were paused for a while because landlord were having such a hard time finding renters.
But in any case, expect to find yourself refreshing apartment websites hourly and touring a handful of places before moving to NYC.
I wrote about our experience finding an apartment in New York City here. I talk about dead cockroaches, mouse traps and a few lessons we learned the hard way so you don’t have to.
#7. If you live in NYC, prepare to be labeled a workaholic
There’s no way around this. New York City is a hard working city. 40 hour work week? Sounds like a distant dream.
Living in NYC is not for the faint of heart, most come here to make a name for themselves, and it shows. Expect to put in long hours.
For example, both of our long-term NYC friends work until 8-9pm in the evening. They joke that they can hang out during the “other” 9-9.
It’s not uncommon to find them answering emails on the weekends or checking their phones during happy hour.
Some days it feels like anxiety is a second language and we are all proficient in it.
You can to hustle to make it here and everyone works hard. Some people work 150 hours a week, others have 2-3 jobs to scrape by.
Whatever you do, secure a job before moving to New York City.
#8. New York City is a dirty city
I know some people like to call New York City “grungy” because it sounds cute, but let’s get real the city is dirty. I mean, in 2018, New York City was rated the dirtiest city in America.
“When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. Clean is not enough.”Fran Lebowitz
In recent years homelessness in New York City has reached its highest levels since the Great Depression.
Homelessness is a real problem in this city and it will become a part of your daily life if you move to New York City. As mentioned earlier, I’ve never felt unsafe here, but homelessness is noticeable.
Moving to New York City?
Moving to New York city is both a fascinating and (at times) overwhelming endeavor. Give yourself some grace while you work out the details. If helpful, I found a fascinating article that covers the best time to move to New York City. You can check it out here: The Best Time of Year to Move to NYC.
To make moving to New York City as smooth as possible, I suggest doing extensive research on the different neighborhoods. As with most cities, your life in NYC will greatly depend on the area you call home.
You neighborhood determines how how much you pay for rent, how far you need to walk to your favorite spots, how long your commute is, etc.
With average rents clocking in at $3,000 per month, I can’t stress the importance of getting a feel for what your daily life will look like before you move to New York City. I found reddit to be super helpful.
How many people live in New York City?
As of 2019, the population of New York City is 8.4 million, making it the most populous city in the country and the 11th most populated city in the world.
So yeah, let your hair down. You’ll always fit in here.
What salary do you need to live in NYC?
It depends on your lifestyle and the sacrifices you’re willing to make! OK with roommates? NYC just became a lot more affordable! Value your independence? A 1 bedroom unit won’t come cheap.
Theoretically you can live in NYC with a salary of 40k a year. You’ll have roommates (probably more than one) and won’t be eating out at sit-down restaurants too often. What’s more, Broadway shows and rooftop bars will be reserved for (very) special occasions.
A salary of 70k a year in New York City will afford you a more comfortable social life in the city that never sleeps. You may still have a roommate and eat out 2-3 times a week or you might find an apartment without a roommate – bagels all the way!
If you’re making a salary of 120k+ a year in NYC you will be able to enjoy the best of what the city has to offer. Getting drinks with friends after work, celebrating special occasions with a fancy dinner, attending the latest shows, and strolling down SOHO more than once a week (if you know, you know) 😉
Living in New York City (Post Summary)
In sum these are the pros and cons of living in New York City
- New York City is a safe city
- Land of opportunity
- Rich history and culture
- The food scene in New York City
- Social scene/networking
- You can be anyone here
- Central Park
- Fashion scene
- Everything is open well into the night
- Efficient transportation
- There’s always something to do
- High rent prices
- NYC is expensive
- Work culture
- Rude locals
- Apartment hunting
- NYC is dirty
- Summer and winter weather
Looking for the best things to do in New York City?
I wrote a comprehensive post on the best things to do in NYC, you can read all about it here: How to spend 4 EPIC Days in New York City. But if it’s helpful, here’s a quick roundup, too.
Catch sunset from Top of the Rock
I dare you to show me a more mesmerizing skyline than New York City’s. And if you’re looking for the absolute best view of New York City, it’s hard to beat the Top of the Rock NYC Observation Deck, especially at sunset.
Visitors can access three separate indoor/outdoor observation decks on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors. The subsequent panoramic views from this iconic building makes this one of the most popular observation decks in NYC. As such, you can expect crowds practically every hour of the day.
But trust me when I tell you the crowds are worth it. The large glass panels offer unobstructed views the NYC skyline, unlike some of the other observation decks in NYC that use fencing — an inexcusable offense!
From Top of Rock you will see the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building and the One World Trade Center.
P.S. Make sure to check the interactive Beam Walk during your visit. It simulates what it would feel like to balance on a beam 69-floors about the street while the building was being constructed (whew- I’m sweating just typing that!).
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most memorable things to do in New York City. How do I know? Well, for starters, my mom has visited me six times since I’ve moved to New York City and we’ve walked across this bridge every single time.
I don’t even fight her on it when she suggests the trek, it’s iconic and I love this popular NYC activity regardless of the amount of times I’ve crossed the bridge.
The bridge spans one mile and takes about 15-20 minutes to walk across, but you should allocate more time because you’ll want to take photos (you can see the Statue of Liberty from here!).
Visit Washington Square Park
Best known for the monolithic grand marble arch that sits at the northern entrance of the park and overlooks the central fountain, the Washington Square Arch was built to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration.
Many folks consider this one of the most inviting parks in NYC and come from all over the city to let their hair down and be themselves. The welcoming atmosphere makes Washington Park a great NYC park for people-watching. The energetic mood is contagious and you’ll notice park visitors from all corners of the world.
From suited businesswomen to relaxed college students and nervous tourists, you’ll see it all. The stars of the show tend to be the talented street musicians that give the park an easy-going vibe.
Make an effort to see Washington Park during the spring season. There’s an undeniable cheery buzz in the air as both locals and tourists eagerly flock outdoors after the dreary winter months.
Quick history lesson: During the late 18th century, this area was a burial ground for indigent victims of illness and disease. As the property slowly morphed into Washington Park, it became the epicenter of many movements and protests. As such, Washington Square Park is one of the more important historic park in New York City.
Visit the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is housed in one of the most iconic buildings in New York City. Designed in a Beaux-Arts style, this building stands in stark contrast to the glass and iron it surrounds.
When it opened to the public in 1911, the New York Public Library was officially the largest marble building ever built in the country.
No small task, considering it took 16 years to construct this monolithic structure, but the wait was worth it — more than 50,000 people showed up on opening day.
Fun fact: The two lions in front of the library are called Patience and Fortitude, here’s why.
Visit the Met
Founded in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) is often considered the best museum in New York City and it’s not hard to see why.
With more than 2 million pieces of art spanning 5,000+ years, the Met is the largest museum in the country and the fifth largest museum in the world. Averaging 6 million visitors per year, it’s also the most visited museum in New York City
If you only have time to visit one museum in NYC, this is the one. Plus, it’s conveniently located within Central Park, so you don’t have to go far out of your way to visit.
Admittedly, the museum can get overwhelming if you don’t have a game plan. I suggest picking one or two topics you’re interested in and sticking to those. There’s also some notable pieces you absolutely can’t miss, such as:
Daily life in New York City (Some Inspiration)
New York City candle: The distinctive scents of spring days in Central Park, fine department stores, and concrete capture the energy of the greatest city on earth
And there you have it, my friends. These are the honest pros and cons of living in New York City. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have. Always happy to help!