If I can make it here, I’ll make it anywhere
As it comes up to a year since moving to New York, I look back and wonder where it went! It has been a year of amazing highs as I pinch myself every morning realizing I am actually living here. But nothing is served on a silver platter and a lot of work goes into making it happen.
Moving to a new city is one of those daunting ‘real life’ moments that comes with a lot of highs and lows. I definitely spent many sleepless nights wondering if I should just pack my bags and go home. If you do manage to follow through I can tell you it will be one of the most fulfilling moments you will look back on.
You may already be here in the States or planning to pack up all your belongings and jump on a plane half way around the world. Either way here is a list of things I had to do when I first touched down.
Job and Visa
Finding a job in this city IS a full-time job in itself. It will be the most testing time and there will be days when you feel defeated. America, and New York in particular have very specific rules, that to be honest I found a little bit ridiculous, but ultimately ended up trying to follow them to a T. It is, unfortunately, like a game – and not the type of game where contestants go home with a consolation prize.
Sorry to be barer of bad news, but finding an apartment in New York is also no easy feat. There are a few things out of your control as a new transplant such as credit history. Click here to find out how I managed to get an apartment in the city along with the little mistakes I made and how you can avoid them.
Social Security Number
A Social Security Number (SSN) is how you are recognized for taxation and identification purposes. It is similar to a Tax File Number is Australia and how your employer will pay you. Getting this done in the first couple days is ideal and the card is sent in the mail. There is a location in the Financial District and it is a very simple process. There is a form you can print out online otherwise there are extras at the office. You will need your passport with your visa as well as another form of identification and proof of employment. If you go in the first days from going through customs, chances are you won’t be in the system yet, but you can still apply and they will submit the form a few days later.
Getting a Sim card is more important than you might think when moving to a new city. You will need it to connect to potential landlords, potential employers and new friends. There are four major carriers in New York,
Unfortunately you will most likely be limited to AT&T or T-Mobile as they run on the GSM network, which uses a removable Sim. Verizon and Sprint use a CDMA technology, which embeds the network information directly into the phone, therefore you will not be able to use your pre-existing mobile phone. The cheapest option at both AT&T and T-Mobile is a $40 pre paid monthly plan that gives you unlimited talk and text and now unlimited data.
Open a Bank Account
There are a couple main banks in New York including Chase and Bank of America. Many charge a $12 monthly maintenance fee, which is avoided if you meet a certain requirements each month. I opened my account with a bank that is affiliated with my bank back home, but there are Chase ATM’s all over the city, which is something to consider.
Set up Utilities
Now that you have found your perfect apartment you are going to need basic practicalities; water, heating, gas and electricity especially if you have arrived in the thick of winter. The beauty of most apartments in New York is that water and heating is usually included in the rent. So it is only gas and electricity left to arrange. ConEdison is the main provider, which your landlord or superintendent will confirm, and with a simple phone call, they will be happy to start taking your money and provide you with those basic needs.
Internet and Cable
One is a luxury, one is a necessity, and the same company can provide both. The three main providers are
You can check online which provider is available in your area. We were only able to go with Time Warner, which has a terrible reputation, but surprisingly we haven’t experienced any problems with our Internet connection. Cable hasn’t been a priority, mainly because we have a finite amount of funds, but we also have Apple TV.
Health care in this city and in fact the country is astronomical. As a non-immigrant, Obama care is not accessible, leaving private health cover as the only other option and that can set you back $400-600 per month! Depending on your intended length of stay, travel insurance is often a cheaper option. World Nomad offers insurance for up to 12 months. When the job does come around, there is a chance they will organize it for you.
Take a walk around and find your local chemist, grocery store and coffee shop. Don’t forget to make note of where your 24-hour Bodega is because midnight cravings for potato chips, soda and a tuna bagel can strike when you least expect it.
Walking is great way to explore the city and be active, but sometimes I just need a place to walk on a machine while reading a magazine and chatting on the phone to make me feel like I actually did something. There are always deals going on such as 30 days for $30.
- Blink Fitness $$
- Currently $35 per month for a member. Only downside to this gym is that they don’t offer classes. Blink is Equinox’s new budget gym. One of the best perks is a member can bring in a friend anytime, as many times as wanted.
- Planet Fitness $
- Just $20 a month and you get access to a perfectly good gym. It does lack classes but I have heard members have access to free massages. I think I need to do some investigating.
- New York Sports Club $$$
- Crunch $$$
- They offer some great classes that range from Anti-Gravity Yoga to Karaoke Spin
- Classpass $$$
- This is a great new monthly access pass that allows you to have the luxury of taking unlimited classes all around New York at some of the best studios. You aren’t tied to one place.
- Equinox $$$$
- If you love the luxury of eucalyptus hot towels … then this is the place for you. It won’t come cheap but the bathroom may well be nicer than your own.
Just remember you can always negotiate on the price.
Get Around Town
If you will be riding the subway or a bus at least twice a day save yourself some cash and get an unlimited card. They come in one-day, seven-day, 14-day, and 30-day intervals and it doesn’t start counting down the days until you use it the first time.
Where to Buy Groceries
Getting groceries in this town is very different from where I am from. I was used to jumping in a car and driving home with 10 bags without struggle. In New York getting groceries is a little bit different. Sure the little Bodega on the corner open 24 hours is convenient in the middle of winter but you will also pay a small fortune for eggs and milk. My top picks for price and quality is Fairway and Trader Joes. Schlepping it home is another story – Good Luck!
We have noe started getting our groceries delivered by Fresh Direct and found the difference in price is the same as a subway ride.
- Fairway ✔ ✔
- Trader Joes ✔ ✔
- Morton Williams ✔
- Gristedes 🙁 🙁
I can hear people screaming at me through the screens right now saying what about Whole Foods?? Look Whole Foods is great … if you plan on only eating once in the city! More like ‘Whole Paycheck’
Arghh – what an ugly word, but very necessary in this city. The best way to keep on top of things is to subtract all outgoings from incomings and working with what’s left. There is nothing more stressful than having to pull funds together to pay for rent or eating ramen for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Money goes like that here and the only Genie with a magic lamp is on Broadway.
Explore the City
Last but not least – enjoy your new city. There is always something to see whether it’s in the park, on the street or underground.