JT Ripton is a freelance writer out of Tampa, covering a myriad of topics, real estate and home improvement being a couple of them. You can follow him on Twitter @JTRipton!
From the moment you step foot into your new place, it will become very clear that big city living is much different from life in a small town or suburb. It’s faster, bigger, maybe even stinkier. But you’re here! You’re excited. And you have no idea how to behave.
Any big city has a certain culture that locals are expected to adhere to, so you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the city’s vibe. These aren’t exactly rules, but knowing a few things about the concrete jungle will make your transition smoother.
It’s Time to Size Down
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: “Friends” is a lie. Not because no group of people could be that cool, but because Monica’s apartment has given big city newcomers unrealistic expectations about apartment living. Unless you’re making some serious money, you’re going to meet with a lot of disappointment if you think all affordable big city apartments are huge dream spaces with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The truth is that you’re going to run into a lot of small, oddly-shaped apartments that seem outrageously overpriced, but they aren’t. That is just how much things cost in big cities. Apartments listed as “cozy” will probably mean your bed will have to double as a kitchen table.
So, plan to store or sell most of your belongings if you’ve accumulated a lot of stuff back home. While you may feel cramped at first, try to look on the bright side. You’ll learn how to make the most of a small space and appreciate your new ability to say no to clutter.
Public Transportation Is Your Friend
For many people, buying a car is one of the most important purchases they’ll ever make. If you have one, you might consider storing that thing in a garage or selling it for extra cash. It’s nice to have your own set of wheels, but big cities aren’t exactly car-friendly.
Traffic. Everywhere. All the time. Not rush-hour traffic (there is that), or car accident traffic (there is also that), but perpetual traffic that will make you crazy. Instead, take advantage of public transportation systems. If you come from a rural area, you might not be used to taking the bus or a cab, but you’ll appreciate it here. Learn to hail a taxi and familiarize yourself with the subway system.
Yes, You Read That Price Tag Correctly
“Cost of living” is a scary, adult-sounding phrase, and, unfortunately, it’s very real. You’ll quickly realize that everything is way more expensive in a big city than your small hometown or the suburbs. You’ll spend your first couple of weeks doing constant double-takes at the prices of groceries, fast food, gas, clothes, etc.
You will need to have a firm grasp on your finances in a big city. A death grip, even. Maybe you ate fast food three nights a week before, but if you want to have enough money for bills and toilet paper, you will probably have to scale back. You’ll want your money to stretch as far as possible, so keep track of every expense, at least until you get a feel for the economy.
Cash Is King
This one is simple. Some people don’t like to carry cash with them, but you should try to keep some with you in a big city. If you want a hot dog on the fly or if you forget your metro card for the subway, some good old greenbacks could save the day.
Your Day Starts Earlier
Say goodbye to the days of walking out the door 10 minutes before you need to be somewhere. You’re going to encounter delays everywhere you go, all the time. Even public transport can’t save you from this. Don’t take the bus that gets you to your destination right on time. Take the bus that pulls up to your stop 45 minutes before you need to get there.
Depending on how you’re traveling, plan to leave at least 30 minutes sooner than you would have left before. Traffic, of course, is often a nightmare, and public transportation suffers because of it. Sometimes buses will run late, so it’s up to you to account for that.
Parking Laws Might Blow Your Mind
If you plan on parking any kind of vehicle on the streets, take the time to learn the parking laws in the area. Parking signs will start to feel like Hogwarts staircases to you, constantly shifting and playing tricks on your mind. The laws often vary from street to street, so scope out your typical roosting points and get to know what the regulations are.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Finally, make friends! The locals will be your lifeline to learning the ropes in your new city. Find people you mesh well with and let them show you where to find the best slice of pizza and the cheapest cocktails. You’ll need a support system, and who is more qualified than someone who knows the ins and outs of the city you now call home?
Friends give you the confidence you’ll need to flourish, not to mention the tools that will keep you safe. Have a buddy show you around town, and keep one close by if you’re traveling at night.
Moving to a new city, especially a big one, can be a stressful, trying time for anyone. If you feel overwhelmed, that’s OK. You aren’t the first small-town wonder to have a rough start in the big city, and you certainly won’t be the last. But, with a little finesse and a lot of confidence, you’ll soon find yourself smiling sympathetically as you watch your new, completely clueless neighbor try to shove his oversized couch into his matchbox apartment.
Got any advice for our other readers? Let us know in the comments below!