Well, things have certainly been crazy since I moved to NYC back in summer of 2017! So crazy in fact that I’ve been extremely remiss in updating this blog…!
All I can say, is I’ve been living my best life in NYC! Making new friends (who knew you could actually do that in your 30s?!), amazing memories, travelling and learning more and more about myself everyday.
I felt inspired to start writing again, as it dawned on me that this summer I will have been here 2 years – which have flashed by in a quintessential ‘New York minute’!
As I approach my 2 year anniversary, I feel so settled in NYC and have been really fortunate to have built a lovely life out here. I guess whilst it’s all happening you’re just on autopilot. But sometimes I can’t believe I upped and left all my family and friends back home, to move 3000 miles away by myself, knowing no-one but some work colleagues.
So I thought I’d share some of my experiences / tips for how I made it work for me.
Go with the flow! And expect some chaos along the way…
My first month was a complete whirlwind – settling in temporary accommodation (which randomly flooded on day three, completely ruining my visa documents which had been a whole huge process to get in the first place – I could have cried), moving apartments three times in my first four weeks here, living out of a suitcase, apartment hunting, getting to know my NYC co-workers and settling into work. It was overwhelmingly hectic BUT exhilarating too! So just take those early days, one day at a time – there will be a lot of administrative stuff to do (getting a social security number, ID, opening a bank account, signing lease documents etc) but you’ll get through it and then the hard part is done!
You’re never too old to make friends
One of my biggest concerns was making new friends. I was definitely out of practice and yet I knew getting out there, meeting people and establishing a friendship group would be critical in helping me get settled out here. I used the https://www.meetup.com/ app to join NYC groups and search for events I was interested in. A little hit and miss but it gets you out there, meeting people, going to new places and is a good place to start! Also sounds silly but make sure you have your ‘social’ hat on when you’re out and about – smile, say hi, compliment someone on their outfit. These small niceties help to break the ice and make people feel comfortable which in turn, will help you feel more comfortable too.
But trust your instincts around new people
Clearly, it’s important to put yourself out there and meet new people. I was lucky enough to find a small group of friends (all British expat girls) early on. We bonded very quickly and were soon spending a lot of time together, nights out, brunches and vacation trips. All good stuff but because we were all in the same boat of being new to the city and wanting to find a social circle, and also not having other friends and family around, these relationships developed way more quickly than they would have normally. It’s great to have a safety net of friends but it’s also important to check in and ask how much you really know about these people and whether you’d be friendly with them back home under normal circumstances. Essentially, trust your instincts and whilst your aim is to meet people and develop bonds, make sure they’re the kind of people you WANT to spend your time with.
Say ‘yes’ a lot….
My other tip for your early days is to say ‘yes’ even when you’re not particularly feeling it. Getting out of your comfort zone is a muscle, you’ve got to use it so you don’t lose it! That after work drinks session, breakfast networking event, a friend of friend inviting you out to join an activity – say yes! You don’t know where it might lead and who you might meet. One of my close friends here, S, initially reached out to me via Instagram to say she liked my blog and as we lived in the same neighbourhood, she suggested we meet for a drink. That had never happened before and I don’t think I would have gone if I was back home. If I’m honest, I was SUPER nervous to meet a complete stranger via Instagram – more nervous than some dates I’ve been on! After some subtle social media checking (!), S and I met up, clicked and now have a fabulous friendship. I also met another very close friend through S! So keep an open mind and consider doing things that you might not necessarily have thought about at home.
But remember to make time for you
My first year here was a complete social whirlwind – which had its pros and cons. I was really living life to the max – partly because I was so excited to be in NYC and just wanted to see EVERYTHING immediately! And partly because I felt like I should be out meeting people, dating and making friends. I had a lot of fun! But inevitably it wasn’t sustainable! I was exhausted, not taking care of myself (with too many late nights, too much food and too much drinking) and spending a lot of money. After about a year I really needed to – and wanted to – calm down. I got back into my workout routine, I cut down time with people who weren’t bringing out the best of me and essentially started living life in a more normal way! I realised that just because I’m new to the city, I don’t need to be partying all the time or exploring it every single moment of every single day – I live here now! It took a lot of unknown pressure off and I’ve felt more content and settled ever since. So find the balance that works for you – getting out there and doing what you want to do AND having some well deserved and often much needed me time.
Find a way that works for you to keep in touch with your friends and family back home
This one is so important! Inevitably, during my crazy first year I didn’t miss home much at all. The second year was slightly different – I was home less and there seemed to be more family moments happening that I was absent for. I do the usual, trying to keep in touch as much as possible with Whatsapp video calls and group chats and I always make sure to put in a call when I know there’s a birthday or a big family gathering. That way I get to see everyone and feel part of the celebration even if I’m not there physically. When I’m home, I prioritize family and close friends. It’s easy to spread yourself so thin when you’re back trying to catch up with absolutely everyone so I’ve found I need to be really organized, I try to see people in groups when it makes sense and as much as I hate doing this, I have to say no sometimes to keep my own sanity. Luckily I have a group of very close friends back home and they are the types of friends that even if we don’t see each other for a while, the relationship is completely the same whenever we do get together. What I’ve particularly loved is using vacations as a way to spend quality time with close friends (more on that coming soon….).
Get out and explore your new surroundings
It’s easy to get into a routine or to wait to do something you want to do until you find a friend to go with you. But try to get out and explore – on your own if need be. NYC is a pretty awesome city to be alone in, there is so much to do and so many people milling about on their own too. Tour the neighbourhoods, make a trip to that awesome ice cream store you read about online, find a new favourite fashion or beauty store, have a a breezy weekend stroll from one side of Manhattan to the other – the options are endless. Also, New Yorkers are friendly! Way more friendly than Londoners! So even if you’re alone, you often don’t feel it, as so many people smile and say hello or even start chatting to you. And yes, coming from London where you barely make eye contact with people you don’t know – at first this totally terrified me! But now I love it, and actually say hello to total strangers too!
Don’t get caught up worrying about longer term plans
I relocated out here on a five year visa with my company. And I knew I didn’t want to just do one year and head home. I often get asked how long I’m here for and what my plans are. And the answer is – I really don’t know! I’ve learnt from experience, that the best laid plans often don’t work out, in both good ways and bad ways. So rather than worrying or planning, I tend to check in with myself from time to time and simply ask if I’m happy here. If the answer’s yes (which it definitely is right now!), then that’s great and if the answer someday turns into a no – then, guess what? I’m not a tree, I’ll just move myself back home! So I guess my point is…..
If you’re lucky enough to move somewhere new and experience a different city and way of life – then good for you! There will be some ups and some downs, some highs and some lows, but soak it all in, give yourself a huge pat on the back for figuring it out and making it work day to day and most importantly – get out there and enjoy it!
Happy 2 year anniversary to me!