Expat tales: Life in the Big Apple
Kelly Reid knew little of the Big Apple when she accepted a job there at the end of her OE.
Why did you move to the city?
All I knew of New York before I moved there was Public - the restaurant that had procured my visa - that Frank Sinatra song [New York, New York], Danny DeVito in Taxi, and Twinkies. Prior to boarding a plane bound for the US you would have found me crying on the steps of The Providores (a restaurant in London that I worked at and from where I based my OE) lamenting at how cruel it was to be leaving the Commonwealth for America.
But my requisite two years had flown by and I wasn't ready to return, so The Big Apple it was. And as I celebrate 10 years this July living in New York, I couldn't be happier that Her Majesty wasn't able to keep me.
What do you do there?
Like most New Yorkers I do a bunch of things. I wait tables at nights and during the day I design and make my own leather goods line for my label, reid.damnit, out of my apartment in Brooklyn.
What do you like/dislike about it?
There are so many things I like, nay love about living in New York.
1) That it is literally the city that never sleeps. Both dairies, or bodegas/delis as they are called here, and public transportation run 24 hours. You can be out with your girlfriends having a catch-up over a couple of Negronis, ride the train home around midnight and pick up a pint of Ben'n Jerry's icecream on the walk home.
2) That the city is constantly evolving and changing.
3) That the population is so large that you can be super niche in your business - like being a storefront that focuses solely on selling anything from popcorn to pickles to pet apparel. Amazing.
4) It attracts people from all over the world and, by and large, we have all made sacrifices to be here. It gives the city a sense of positivity and willingness to help you get where you're going and celebrate your successes.
What do I dislike?
1) Crowded subway cars - the worst, stinky armpits anybody?
2) Sometimes the frenetic energy that I love can overwhelm you and it's good to switch your phone off for the day and take a moment to remember it's OK to just sit in a friend's back room and debate who has the best hairdresser.
How does the cost of living compare to New Zealand?
I think overall it's less expensive than home. I felt in New Zealand it was a financial decision to have roommates - here if you have a decent job you can easily live alone
What do you do on the weekends?
Since my work-week is Thursday through Sunday, my "weekend" is when everyone else is at work - which is just how I like it. It'll vary, but usually I'll be working on production or ideas for my line. But it can be anything from maybe watching a matinee with the theatre practically to myself, ride my bike to other alternate weekend buddies' apartments and cook or craft.
What do you think of the food? What's your favourite thing to eat there?
I love the food here! I'm pretty crazy for the fact their junk food has peanuts through almost everything and that you don't have to travel far to satisfy any nationality of craving - Italian, French, New American, Mexican, Spanish or Thai - and they'll probably deliver if you're already two episodes deep in a Law & Order: SVU marathon.
What's the best way to get around the city?
New York is probably the easiest city I have ever encountered to get from place to place. For me I spend most of my time on my bicycle, but for longer errands I'll take the subway and if I'm out late at night those ubiquitous yellow cabs are frequent and inexpensive.
What's the shopping like?
Shopping is second to none. Do a quick Google search and you can find pretty much anything. That out-of-print cookbook for your mum on the Upper West Side, that guitar for your friend in the East Village whose visiting and has a romantic notion of writing music and staying up all night at the Chelsea Hotel, or just some classic Converse sneakers.
What's the nightlife like?
There is something for everyone, live music everywhere, ballet, the opera, Broadway shows, bars open till late, restaurant kitchens open till midnight and, through to the wee hours, burlesque. You name it and you can find it.
What is your favourite part of the city?
Generally biking around Brooklyn, taking different routes, looking at all the houses and people and stopping to take photos and drink coffee. But specifically, nothing beats swimming at Rockaway Beach and eating tacos in summer. I love the sculpture garden at Moma, it's super quiet and a nice place to read a book, or laying out in Central Park and swap gossip over guacamole and corn chips.
What time of year is best to visit and why? A
ny time between early September and mid October. The weather is still warm during the day with the need for only a light jacket for evenings, and the kids are back at school so the city doesn't feel so congested.
What's your must-do thing for visitors?
Most of what I do when visitors are in town is walk around and eat out. Where I live in Brooklyn, it has a real "neighbourhood" feel, so I love to take visitors around to all my favourite little cafes/bars and stores. If we are going to tackle any "touristy" venues, Rockefeller Centre for the spectacular aerial views of Manhattan, a walk down the promenade of Brooklyn Heights for the views of downtown NYC and definitely Moma, for the photo exhibits alone.
What are your top tips for tourists?
New York is one of the safest cities I've ever lived in, but I would avoid public transport after 2am unless it's a Friday or Saturday night. Avoid hotels in Times Square and stay in a friend of a friend's apartment while they're out of town. Have a list of things you're interested in seeing/doing before you get here, because time will fly.
How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand?
Geographically it is a pain in the butt. To fly direct it's 18 hours with two stops/plane changes.
If you know an expat who wants to share the inside knowledge on their home away from home, email firstname.lastname@example.org with Expat in the subject line.
Sunday Star Times