A new week and a new inspiring story for my Blog Series World Through My Eyes. This time let´s talk about the big city life in New York. You all know I´m a big fan of Autumn New York and NYC Christmas lights. But how being an expat in New York really feels?
If you can make it there you´ll make it anywhere, right? This girl is on her way to conquering the Big Apple. I´m so happy to introduce to you this amazing, positive and inspiring young lady, who went all alone overseas to pursue her childhood dreams. Lidiia lived and studied in Ukraine, Cyprus and even in Chicago, but in her dreams, she was always a New Yorker. But what does it take to be successful in NYC?
All about being an expat in New York
Hi, everyone! I´m Lidiia, 23-year-old Ukrainian living in New York. I came to the US on an exchange program from my university two years ago. Since I was a little girl, the US was always one of these places I wanted to see the most. So even though it was far away from my home and I knew no one there, moving to the US wasn´t a hard decision for me. But I must admit – many things didn’t turn out the way I expected. These two years were the most challenging ones in my life. Nevertheless, being an expat in New York has also brought me the most unforgettable and incredible experiences that have changed me forever.
I would sum up my life in a phrase that I learned from my Latin class 6 years ago: “Per aspera ad astra” (“through hardships to the stars”). It is my motto. Each time when I want to give up, I remind myself that nothing good comes easy and I’ve already made it so far! You have to work hard for everything in life and never forget to hope, believe, and love.
I’m grateful for every good experience in my life because it made me happier and more appreciative. I’m also grateful for every bad experience because it made me stronger and smarter. And above all, I´m grateful I was able to live all these good and bad experiences in a city like New York.
New York through Ukrainian eyes
New York is a one-of-a-kind city. I would even say that it’s a whole different country in the US. It’s so versatile that you can never be bored as an expat in New York. It is all about hustle hard – there’s no time to gaze around at the scenery, you have to always be present in the moment or the crowd will carry you away. This city is not for everyone, you have to love the fast-paced environment and be ready to work hard 24/7.
I like that people are ambitious here: everyone I meet wants to achieve something in life. But what I like most about NY is that it has literally everything you can imagine! All the best events happen here and every minute something big is going on somewhere. Food is also a separate topic: in New York you can find every cuisine of the world and try the most innovative gastronomic inventions! Moreover, this city never sleeps: it is extremely convenient to have 24/7 access to whatever you may need.
New York has the most multicultural environment I´ve experienced in my life. Almost everyone here comes from somewhere outside NY or even outside the US. People don’t care where you are from as long as you do your job well and behave. I don’t feel left out here.
Being an expat in New York: Reality vs. Expectations
I´ve always had this perfect image of New York that I got from all the Hollywood movies we´ve all grown up with. And yes, when you visit as a tourist you can experience only ‘the movie side’, but living here reveals you many other faces of NYC.
The cost of life
First of all, when it comes to rent, choosing the right neighborhood is really important. I currently live on the Upper East Side: a safe, calm, and beautiful neighborhood. The rent is quite pricy, even though I´m sharing an apartment with my best friend. My dream would be to move to Greenwich Village or Tribeca one day. And that’s where comes the second issue – money, cause Greenwich Village and Tribeca are really expensive neighborhoods in Manhattan.
I knew that NY was expensive, but damn, it’s much more expensive than I´ve ever thought! Even though the city offers so many choices, you have to pay a lot for everything. Saving money is extremely hard. One of the ways to save money on your rent is to have roommates. There are various websites and apps (SpareRoom, Roomi, Roomster, etc.). I’ve personally used Roomi and it was a very good experience, I got two really awesome roommates. Roomi also has an app, so it’s convenient to go through the new listings whenever you have free time.
Are New Yorkers rude?
Another cliché I was warned about by some friends: “New Yorkers are rude!”. Well, it depends. I’ve had far worse experiences in some other cities. But it is also true that everyone in NYC is busy and running somewhere. So, if you ask for directions and get no answer – don´t take it personally. I’ve been helped many times, but I see where people are coming from when they say New Yorkers are rude. NYC is unpredictable: most of the people are too busy to care and it´s better not to expect anything from anyone.
My biggest surprise
The best surprise of being an expat in New York for me was food. I’ve heard so many stories about how bad the food in the US was. It’s true that there are many fast food options, but if you want to eat healthy – you still can do so. Yes, it’s not cheap, but you can save on something else and spend it on good quality food. Even more, if I want to eat authentic Ukrainian food, I go to one of the local restaurants and it immediately feels like home.
Also read: Burger Challenge – Shake Shack vs In-n-Out
New York is an amazing place for foodies: you can literally find everything. I definitely didn’t expect it to be that diverse when it comes to food. There is always a new restaurant opening in NYC, so you can never get bored with options. You can check some of my favorite places to eat here.
The NYC Challenges
Finding a job
My life in the States was full of ups and downs. After I´ve graduated from college in Chicago with 4.00 GPA, I´ve decided to move to New York. I was full of hopes that my good grades and knowledge of four languages would easily get me a job. I was wrong. Finding a job in NYC was the most challenging thing for me. In general, it’s hard to get a job being an expat in a new city, where you don’t know anyone: in New York it´s even harder. Recently I´ve started working as a Brand Ambassador for an Italian chocolate company. But I still have a long road ahead of me in order to become successful in the Big Apple. I would suggest looking for a job via Linkedin or Indeed, as with those you have fewer chances to get scammed. Yes, that happens a lot in NYC, especially if you’re offered a job in Marketing. You think you’re going to do something interesting, but it turns out that you will have to do door-to-door sales. So please be careful when reviewing the job offering and be sure to know what you’re signing up for before accepting the job offer.
Another major challenge that I had from the very beginning was a language barrier: I was very shy about my accent and thought my English was not good enough. But one way or another, I had to study in college. So I´ve learned to deal with it and worked a lot on improving my language skills. Moreover, it turns out that your accent is what makes you unique. People in NYC were complimenting my accent on multiple occasions. All in all, don’t be afraid to turn your weakness into your biggest selling point and work with what you have.
Even though New York is so multinational, cultural differences could still be an issue here. Generally speaking, I feel like the Ukrainian way of seeing things and spending money is closer to the American lifestyle than to the one in Western Europe.
Nevertheless, there were still many things that I had to adapt to. For example, for most Americans sport is like a religion. I really like how people gather in bars to watch sports or go to the games, whether it’s football, baseball or basketball. Sports really unite a nation. I don’t have it in my culture, so I had to get used to it. Moreover, since NYC is a mixture of many cultures, you have to learn and adapt to all of them. It can be difficult sometimes, but the more you live there, the more you learn.
The system of measurement
Finally, the last challenge was the system of measurement. It was a disaster for me! I’m still learning, by the way. I just mess up the calculations in Fahrenheit and pounds all the time. So if you’re going to visit the US (especially if you’re coming from Europe), do some research in advance and learn as much as you can about the system of measurement!
My recommendation to anyone moving or traveling to New York – this city is brimming over with life, so don’t miss any minute and go enjoy it to the fullest! Living in New York is challenging, even draining at times, but if you feel like it´s your kind of city – don´t give up easily
The dating life of an expat in New York
I might as well start my own Comedy Show about my dating life in NYC. It’s that part when I don’t really know whether I should laugh or cry. Don’t get me wrong, I have friends who are in stable and happy relationships in NYC, but my experience is a little bit different. First of all, relationships move fast just like everything else in NYC. I think that’s one of the reasons why dating apps are so popular in NYC. It saves so much time! You don’t have to go anywhere and invest your energy trying to meet someone. You can stay at home in your pj’s, watch a movie, eat, and choose a person to go on a date with.
Moreover, I have a rule of not dating anyone from work, so dating apps help me to meet people who have no connection to my friends or people I know. Of course, it doesn’t work perfectly all the time. But I’ve had awesome dates, and I met people I’d never meet in my everyday life just because we move in different circles.
More personal tips for girls
- be picky, don’t just go out with the first guy that swipes right on you. There was only one time when I went on a date just because I was bored and it was the one bad date I had.
- make sure that the person you’re talking to is not a catfish. It never happened to me, but I’ve heard stories about it. You gotta be careful.
- try using different apps to see what works best for you. I’ve checked different apps, but ended using only one – Bumble. It has fewer weirdos (at least in my experience) and you also have to verify your profile, so in a way, it gives extra security. Furthermore, a woman has to write first and I like that because I’m always in control of who I’m talking to. Finally, it offers different versions of the app: Bumble Bizz (where you can expand your network or find your mentor) and Bumble BFF (where you can meet new friends).
- don’t go in with a mentality of finding your next boyfriend/girlfriend. It doesn’t mean that you can’t find them online, you can. But it puts extra pressure on you and the person you’re going on a date with. Just take it easy and have fun!
To sum it up, NYC dating life is complicated and unstable most of the time. But remember, most people in NYC are there to make a career, so don’t take it personally if you can’t find a boyfriend. Go on dates, meet new people, and don’t forget to take care of yourself first. Because if you aren’t happy and don’t love yourself, then who will?
Favorite Story from New York
If you are an expat in New York, you’re going to meet celebrities all the time. Once, I was walking on 5th Avenue when Amal Clooney passed by. Another day I was invited to the party, and it turned out to be Drake’s album release party, where I saw Gigi Hadid, Haley Baldwin, Patrick Adams, and many other celebrities. Recently, I was lucky to get free tickets to MTV VMA and see some A-list celebrities like Beyonce, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian, etc.
I also got free tickets for the tapings of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Late Night with Seth Meyers. If you wonder how I was able to do it all, it was actually quite easy. All you have to do is go to 1iota website, sign up, and start attending the celebrity events in the city. What makes it even better is the fact that it’s all FREE (Yay!).
And my final advice is: You never know who you can meet in NYC, so don´t forget to look around!
Before and After New York
You never know what’s coming next
NY is a unique city. Every day it overwhelms you with new emotions: surprises you, inspires you, disappoints you, challenges you… you never know what’s coming next and that’s what I love the most about my life in the Big Apple.
NYC is the city of contrasts: when it’s good, it’s the best. But when it’s bad…oh, it’s the worst. I feel like this city challenges me every day. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and I start questioning myself and thinking whether moving here was the right decision. NYC is complicated and intriguing at the same time. Sometimes it gives me anxiety, while other times it inspires me. I must admit it’s also difficult when you can’t afford going to different restaurants every day. NYC is much more entertaining when you’re rich (I know it’s the same for every city in the world, but here it’s especially applicable because of all the opportunities).
Greedy for life
And yet, at this point in my life, I can´t imagine living anywhere else on this planet. In New York I always learn something: living here has made me grow up and become more confident about myself. Even though I’ve experienced some of my lowest of lows in NYC (especially when it comes to mental health), I’ve also had some of the happiest moments of my life here. I don’t think I’m gonna stay in NYC forever, but I’m forever grateful for being an expat in New York. It made me stronger and it helped me realize that my career is important, but my mental health and work-life balance is even more important.
As Pam Nelson once said: “If you are greedy for life, that’s what New York is all about. If you’re trying to get as much as you can every day, this city is the place to be.“
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