#2150 What’s It Like Living In New York City?

Photo: Katherine Lowe (from here)

Anonymous asks: How long have you been an expat? What’s it like in the big apple?

I left New Zealand for Singapore on June 9 last year. From there I went to Milan, then Paris, and I arrived in New York on August 8. So I’ve been gone from New Zealand about 10 months now, and in New York about seven. This city is amazing. You have ready access to the best people in the industry, you’re surrounded by your heroes and the opportunities are insane if you can seize them. You learn very quickly that you have to be confident and sell yourself in order to get ahead, and if someone gives you their business card, you chase them up. In my experience New Yorkers are always keen to give you a chance (both professionally and personally), and because everyone came here to reach great heights, those who have seem to be able to relate to your quest so there’s a real sense of nurturing young talent or giving people a leg up.

On the flipside, it can be a lonely experience living here at times, despite the fact that you’re surrounded by millions of people (I suspect it stems from leaving your family, friends and support network back home). Like with everything, what really matters is the people that you surround yourself with – so building a core group of friends is key. I also talk to my parents on the phone every day of the week – it helps remind me that there are still people out there who really do care.

On the plus side – for boys in particular – unlike back home in New Zealand, you can strike up a conversation with a girl without her automatically assuming you’re a creep or that you’re trying to pick her up or that you’re a freak for even looking at her. That’s true across the board – strangers are constantly just making conversation with each other; on the street, in cafes, in the supermarket checkout aisle (but like everywhere else in the world, random elevator conversations are not greeted as warmly – I found that out the hard way).

New York is the most hedonistic place I’ve ever experienced – everything is on tap all day every day and there’s nobody around to tell you that moderation is key. So you have to be disciplined, otherwise you’ll end up going out every night and chasing the endless party. That’s what I did when I first got here, and I assume that’s what everyone else does. It’s a great way to meet people and make friends but it’s definitely not sustainable in the long term. It’s also really tempting to just catch taxis everywhere instead of having to deal with the subway – unless you’re a baller, that’s not really sustainable in the long term either.

I’m glad I waited until I was 27 to come here, and that I had achieved a small level of success back home before I arrived. But then I see people like Noah Emrich of NOVH fame who got here at the age of 18 and who is already working with the biggest names in the business. Some people have the maturity at a young age to handle what the city throws at you; I don’t think I would have.

I always used to say that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to my career, and while that was true in terms of propelling my blog into the public eye, coming to New York was definitely the smartest move I’ve ever made. It’s the greatest city in the world and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

*Good Question is a new weekly segment I’m debuting today – it will sit in between The Likes List on a Sunday and The facts of life on a Tuesday. I’ll choose the best question I receive each week on Tumblr, and answer it in full here on the blog. Special thanks to Katherine Lowe, who told me I should do this about six months ago. Sometimes it takes a while to listen.

Click here to ask me a question!


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  1. Melissa Scott says

    Isaac, so glad I found your blog.  I remember hearing about you in NZ years ago…congratulations on how well you’ve done since! 

    I visited NYC last year, and might be back this June, fingers crossed.  Instantly fell in love with the place, felt so ‘at home’, the atmosphere, the people, walking everywhere, the bikes, the restaurants and all round Americaness!  Battery Park was a favourite chill out spot, but there is still so much I didn’t get to see.

    Best of luck and keep up the blogging stuff, it’s brilliant!

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