image of surprising things about NYC

Moving to NYC means lots of surprises.

Let’s face it: A good percentage of NYC residents are not native New Yorkers. We have come from near and far, drawn to the city for many reasons — among them the need to check off that “must live in NYC” item on our bucket list. Below, 10 StreetEasy colleagues reflect on what surprised them the most about coming to live in NYC. What surprised you most? Tell us in the comments below.

What? No Liquor in Supermarkets?

Name: Kimberly Turner
Hometown: San Jose, CA
NYC Neighborhood: Bed-Stuy 6 years, Fort Greene 1 year
Time in NYC: 7 years
Job Title: SEO Marketing Coordinator

“I did not know that you cannot buy liquor in most grocery stores. Back home I could just go to my local Trader Joe’s or Safeway and pick up food and alcohol in one place. I miss that. Also, it is incredibly difficult to find ripe avocados in the grocery store, nuts are way more expensive, and public restrooms do not have paper seat covers, unless you’re in a nice office building or an airport.”

Riding the Subway Is Like Being Stuffed in Sausage Casing

Name: Jordan Greek
Hometown: Woodinville, WA
NYC Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Time in NYC: 8 months
Job Title: Business Development Manager, Rentals

“I was excited about the subway. Public transportation to get me just about anywhere in the city? I was all in. That was until I tried to catch my first ride. I wish someone had told me that we’re going to be stuffed like a sausage casing!

“It was even more surprising to see other people somehow force their way onto the train only to disappear into a mass of others. First train came and went. I couldn’t do it. Next one came, and same thing. Completely stuffed, but I had to give it a go. Everyone else was doing it!”

“Oh, and watch out for the closing doors.”

Let’s Face It: Summers Are Not Cool

Name: Sara Anissipour
Hometown: Seattle
NYC Neighborhood: NoMad
Time in NYC: Almost 5 years
Job Title: Director, Enterprise Sales

“I wish I knew that nobody truly looks forward to summer. The massive tourist invasion, the heat and garbage-lined-street-odor combination, the weekend flee of the who’s-who out of the city, and inability to walk anywhere without sweat streaking across your face — all make summer not cool. So unless you have endless financial means or that trust-fund friend with a house in the Hamptons, look forward to bundling up and making puffy coats chic again, because fall and winter are when the magic happens.”

Walking Is (Sometimes) Faster Than Uber or Subway

Name: Matt Dominguez
Marysville, CA
NYC Neighborhood:
Time in NYC:
4 months
Job Title:
Senior Business Consultant, Rentals – East

Here are a few things that surprised me once I started living in New York:

  • The city is extremely walkable. Don’t just take the subway or an Uber because it may be faster to walk a few blocks.
  • Ask for directions. New Yorkers may seem like jerks, but they’re usually happy to show off their knowledge of the subway.
  • Avoid Times Square like you would the plague.
  • Your shoes will become the most filthy thing you end up owning.
  • The alarmed exit gate in the subways are never on, so if you have luggage, don’t use the turnstiles, just open the alarmed gate.

Rundown Exteriors Do Not Mean Rundown Interiors

Name: Antoin Campbell
NYC Neighborhood: Crown Heights
Time in NYC: 2 years
Job Title: Software Engineer

“Here are the things that have surprised me about living in NYC: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Walk in and check things out, as it pertains to restaurants and shops. Also, the best places that I have been to in the city look run-down and foreboding from the outside, but are full of life on the inside.”

Wish I Knew How Much I Would Sweat!

Name: Dan Kagan
Hometown: Leesburg, VA
NYC Neighborhood: Park Slope
Time in NYC: 4 months
Job Title: Web Designer

“Having spent a lot of time living in Florida, I wasn’t too worried about the heat once I moved to New York. One thing that I wish I knew was just how much I would sweat, regardless of the weather or season. Whether it’s getting up to your fourth floor walk-up with no AC in the summer, or standing in a packed subway car in a winter coat and scarf, don’t plan on leaving home without breaking a sweat. Now I know how everyone here stays so fit!”

Subway Lines Are Not Created Equally

Name: Philipp Kats
Hometown: Kazan, Russia
NYC Neighborhood:  Prospect Park South, Brooklyn
Time in NYC: 2 years
Job Title: Data Scientist

“Before I signed a lease, I really wish I knew the difference in the subway lines — their frequency and quality. Don’t trust Google maps! Even very similar lines (take the 5 and Q, for example) are very different in their quality and number of suspensions. BTW, this presentation can help with understanding the differences.”

Amount of Culture and Diversity Is Mind-blowing

Name: Kenneth Oms
Hometown: Orlando, FL
NYC Neighborhood: Astoria, Queens
Time in NYC: Almost 2 years
Job title: SEO Marketing Coordinator

“One of the things I wish I knew about NYC before moving here was the culture. NYC is a city made up of a lot of cities. I know that sounds a little funny or cliché, but it was mind-blowing learning how diverse the city is as a whole, whether you’re in Manhattan listening to a poet at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, or exploring the weekend festivals in one of the outer boroughs. People of the city love to share their respective culture, and ask you about yours with genuine curiosity. Culture matters in this city, you can see it in the architecture, in the art, writing, and comics that are produced here, and in the fact that people still think that New York is one of the greatest places to live because of it.”

Rats Really Are Everywhere

Name: Kara Robinson
Hometown: Topsfield, MA
NYC Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Time in NYC: 1.5 years
Job Title: Product Manager, Naked Apartments

“What did I wish I knew before moving to NYC?  That humans and rats cohabit the city. No, they will not hesitate to scurry across your toes on the sidewalk.  And no, they will definitely not fit through the tiny little holes in the mouse traps you bought from the hardware store. You’ll see them almost every day on your commute home, chasing each other between the Q train tracks. Rats are the squirrels of NYC!”

Your Corner Bodega Will Become Your Lifeline

Name: Casey Roberts
Hometown: Dallas, TX
NYC Neighborhood: East Village
Time in NYC: 6 years
Job Title: PR Manager

One thing that surprised me about living in New York is how valuable the corner bodega is. Whether it’s a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a Saturday morning, a household item you’ve run out of, or an emergency pint of Ben & Jerrys, having a go-to bodega nearby is crucial. New Yorkers are very loyal to their bodegas (but actually, mine’s the best in NYC), and it pays to get to know yours. For those of us who don’t have a doorman to rely on: If you befriend your bodega workers, they may even help you out with other crucial favors, like accepting your packages or holding your keys for a friend who’s visiting.

What is something about living in NYC that surprises you? Tell us in the comments below.

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