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What I Learned from… New York City

Visiting, then living in New York City, was bigger, crazier and more wonderful than I could have dreamed, and I had been dreaming about this since I was fourteen years old, AND, have such an uncontrolled imagination, that also at fourteen, I fainted on reading an article about fainting.

Each fortnight (that’s every 2 weeks, for the Americans!) Micharne will share what she’s learned about some aspect of the US, from an Aussie perspective.

But it’s a specific journey from Oz to NYC. Here are some of my favorite Capital L, Capital O, Learning Opportunities:

The Tourist Experience

As a typical first-time tourist, you’ll probably stay near Times Square. You’ll walk around the city for 14 hours every day (it is legitimately hard to find touristy things that you enjoy while sitting down in NYC!) You’ll eat at tourist-trap or tourist-trap-adjacent restaurants… and you’ll love every minute of it! But it’s exhausting. 

So when your mate says “I love it but I could never live here”, don’t let that deter you, if the thought was rattling around in your head. When you live here, you’ll find your own little corner of the city, as there are so many different little corners across the five boroughs, you’ll find a neighborhood that feels like home.

The Unofficial Aussie Induction

So you’ve committed to finding a job or you’re moving here (for how to do this, America Josh has a ton of information about visas / immigration). 

If you go to any kind of event with other Aussies, and identify yourself as a fresh-faced, aspiring New Yorker, you will hopefully get what I am going to call the “You Need To Sell Yourself Here” pep talk. Your fellow Aussie networker will tell you that now is the time to rid yourself of the constraints of Tall Poppy Syndrome. You can let go of down-playing your achievements to not seem “up yourself”, in fact, you need to embrace all your successes, and package them into fun witty elevator pitches to really stand out over here (the level of fun and wit is industry dependent, but owning your skills and strengths is a non-negotiable). 

If this sounds like being inappropriately immodest, that is your Tall Poppy Syndrome talking! But of course you need to find your own line between selling yourself, and actual bragging. If you’re in need of this pep talk, I’m sure you can ask one of the Aussies at America Josh’s Friday Coffee & Cake for one!

NYC Magic

The spirit of NYC, which in my head takes the form of a floating Statue of Liberty, hovers over the city, putting you at The Right Place At The Right Time wherever she can. Obviously it’s a big city and she can’t be everywhere at once, but how else do you explain running in to the person who knows of a job or apartment available, right when you really need it? If you’ve been here a while you’ll remember the exact location of where this happened, and then tell the story like “I was on 7th Avenue and 18th Street”, because you could have taken 6th or 7th Avenue to walk downtown, and been on any other cross street at that exact moment. Logically the chances of this happening are higher in a place as dense as Manhattan, and where you casually walk multiple miles every day. But I like to imagine an invisible Thanksgiving Day balloon style Lady Liberty controlling the “walk” signals to put you where you need to be.

This Place Will Break Your Heart

You will likely see more public crying in NYC than any other place you’ve been. One day, it might be you. Of course the last few years have been so very hard for so many, everywhere. But in NYC you spend a lot of time in public spaces; on the subway, the street, in parks and coffee shops because you can’t spend all your time in your shoebox apartment. So grieving is public too.

Also Frank Sinatra didn’t sing “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” for nothing. The city is loud and competitive in every way, and you literally live on top of one another, in aging buildings or problematic new ones (as a side note: take the old building over the new every time!) I can’t tell you why you’ll find yourself unable to keep in the tears, perhaps on a freezing morning in a Bushwick supermarket when Kelly Clarkson’s version of “It’s Quiet Uptown” (from Hamilton) comes on and you didn’t even KNOW the song had been released for radio. But I hope when you are crying in public, a stranger comes over and says to you “oh, it’s alright now”, ideally in a fantastic Brooklyn accent.

The Importance Of Getting Out Of The City

This may seem self-explanatory; it’s nice to get away from the concrete jungle. But this is important to remember when you’re thinking “THIS PLACE IS TOO MUCH, I’VE GOT TO LEAVE”. Do you really need to leave, or do you just need a vacation? Time off is a luxury for many in the US, but there are peaceful weekend getaways or day trips waaaaay closer to NYC than I guessed before I moved here. For example, in a bit over an hour, by the Metro-North train, you can be in Cold Spring, NY, for beautiful hiking and sweet small-town vibes. Even one day out of the city somehow feels like much more than that. It’s hard to explain the feeling, but before you commit to life changing decisions, make sure you clear your head with some forest bathing or just time in a wide-open space first.  

Your New Yorker Self

It’s debatable how long you need to live in New York to be a New Yorker, though I find life-long New Yorkers are more casual about this than newbies (i.e. “you live in New York, you’re a New Yorker” Duh.) What you may not realize is that your New Yorker self will be forged from the moment you move, whether you feel comfortable calling yourself a New Yorker, or not. Your New Yorker self will be at least ten percent louder than your Aussie self, and you’ll defend your neighborhood subtly but fiercely as the best place to live in NYC (aww remember back to when you thought people lived in Times Square?!) You’ll have a favorite bagel, and be able to tell a lot from a person by their favorite bagel. You’ll have completed all of America Josh’s NYC Bingo.

You’ll have a public breakdown or two under your belt, have experienced the magic of being in The Right Place At The Right Time, and hopefully, most gloriously, your New Yorker self will be the tallest poppy you can possibly be.  

Micharne Cloughley

Micharne Cloughley

Micharne is a writer for TV and theatre. She hails from the Blue Mountains NSW, and currently lives in Jersey City NJ. Her favourite Aussie words are daggy and mate. Her favorite American words are y’all and Kansas City BBQ.View Author posts

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