10 things that surprised me when I moved to New York from the south

Travis Lyles/Business InsiderThe author and his friend Cainan during their first time in New York.

Moving to the Big Apple can be daunting, especially for someone from the southern US, a place with a totally different culture. 

I moved to New York City from Newport News, a small city in Virginia, about two months ago. Now that I’m settled in, the differences seem drastic.

New York is very fast-paced, and lots of scenarios require quick thinking, which is very different from Virginia. 

New York definitely surprised me. I was stretched a little out of my comfort zone at first, but the city definitely grows on you. All in all, through the growing pains, New York has become home.

Here are the 10 things I’ve found most surprising about life in New York:

1. Minding your own business is not rude — it’s the norm.

Down south, everyone is always asking people how they are doing and other random questions about their lives. In New York, I was surprised to find out this doesn’t really work.

People like to keep to themselves and get to the places they want to go. New Yorkers will ignore you, act like you don’t exist, and keep walking. It’s not because they are rude, but because they have places to be and want to get to them. 

2. Everyone wears headphones everywhere.

I couldn’t believe the number of headphones I saw as soon as I got here. Whether they are walking somewhere or riding the subway, New Yorkers seem completely glued to their headphones.

I don’t know if people in New York just like music more or if they like zoning out, but I was surprised to see how ubiquitous headphones are here. I learned that a lot of New Yorkers wear headphones to zone out and not be bothered by other people — even if they aren’t listening to music. 

3. New York is very crowded and people are used to tight squeezes.

Southerners love their space — everything down south is spread out. So of course I was really uncomfortable when I first moved to a city where people are often so close together. From the cramped housing to the jam-packed streets and subways, everything seemed very crowded to me. 

When I first moved into my apartment, it was a huge adjustment because I was used to a large house in the suburbs. The first few days I felt squeezed, but I eventually got used to my space and to living near other people.

The first time I rode on a New York subway car, I felt almost claustrophobic and wanted to get out. I was totally caught off-guard by the jammed car that had people standing up all around me. I eventually got used to it, but was definitely shocked at first.

4. The city is incredibly fast paced.

In Virginia, the pace of life is slow and easy going. I had heard about how fast everything is in New York, but I didn’t understand the pace until I experienced it. 

There are 1.75 billion New York City subway passengers each year, and the trains run 24 hours a days. It seems like people are constantly buzzing around the city, and it can be difficult to keep up.

5. New York is insane about coffee.

This city runs on coffee  —  63 % of New York’s population drinks coffee, and they spend an average of $US25 per week on their habit. Southerners love coffee themselves, but I was blown away by how New Yorkers take their passion to a new level. 

6. There are no Cracker Barrels.

Segal groupThe beloved southern food chain.

Cracker Barrel — the famous chain restaurant and convenience store that is ubiquitous in the south —  just doesn’t exist in New York City. Though there are some stores in the area (nine in New York state, compared to32 in Virginia), you won’t find any in the city.

7. You just can’t find ‘sweet tea.’

There are some restaurants that serve sweet tea — the sugary signature drink of the south  —  in New York, but it just doesn’t measure up. The South’s sweet tea can sometimes taste like you are about to get diabetes on the spot, but we’re used to it — the sweeter the better. New York sweet tea tastes watered down. I’m in withdrawal for true southern sweet tea.

8. New York isn’t nearly as dangerous or scary as you think.

TravistimessquareTravis Lyles/ Business InsiderThe author in Times Square for the first time.

I had this preconceived notion before coming to New York that it’s the most dangerous place in the history of the world. But, I was surprised to learn that’s not the case at all. Crime numbers have been down across the city over recent years, and since the 1980s, the city has truly been cleaning up its act.According to FBI data, New York is actually the safest big city in the country. 

Of course you have to be aware of your surroundings, but I’ve found New York to be a super fun place where people just aren’t trying to hurt you.

9. New Yorkers stay up very late.

When I moved to New York, I was astounded by the difference in the hours of operation — bars, clubs, restaurants, and even stores are open until very late at night, if not 24 hours a day. Bars are typically open until 4 am. and clubs run until the early hours of the next morning. 

Down south, 2 a.m. is what a lot of people would call a really late night. 

Also, most New Yorkers don’t go out to dinner until 8 p.m., or even sometimes as late as 10 or 11 p.m — much later than what I had been used to.

10. It’s very expensive.

I had heard horror stories about how expensive the city is before I moved, so when I got here, I tried to be as optimistic as possible. It didn’t work.

The average cost of an inexpensive meal in Virginia Beach (an expensive part of Virginia) is $US12. In the city, a cheap meal costs about $US18.

Gas is also incredibly expensive. In New York, it’s over a dollar more than in Virginia Beach. It’s worth noting though that most New Yorkers don’t drive.

But the biggest expense in New York City is housing. Virginia Beach’s average rent for a one person apartment is $US950. New York’s is over triple that at $US2,970.

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