Josh is a 30-year-old Australian who moved to New York City in January 2017. While everything in his life was going amazingly in Australia he felt that it was time to shake things up. He sold almost everything he owned, packed two suitcases, and arrived in the East Village.
Since then, Josh has met hundreds of expats and locals in the city and written about every part of the moving process from social security numbers to ordering sandwiches at bodegas on the site he started, AmericaJosh.com. He still lives in the same area and loves to meet up for a beer, wine, or coffee with anyone and everyone.
Read on to learn more about his experience of the Big Apple.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Adelaide, South Australia
Q: Where are you living now?
A: New York, NY, USA
Q: When did you move here?
A: January 2017
Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: For fun and an adventure! I’d run a company in Adelaide, South Australia for 12 years and decided that at 29 it was time to do something different. My friends had started to happily settle into life and I wasn’t ready just yet. I’d been to New York in 2015 for 3 days and thought there was something about it that I loved, and had to try it out for myself.
Living in New York City
Q: What do you enjoy most about New York City? How would you rate the quality of life compared to Australia?
A: New York is a unique place being so busy and so tightly packed. It’s frantic, it’s loud, and you learn to love the trash on the sidewalks. I moved here because I wanted to be part of a big city, and that’s exactly what I got. There’s always something new to explore, and there’s always somewhere new to visit. Everything can be delivered, and if you wait for something for more than 30 minutes you’re wasting your time because there’s always something better. Quality of life is good but only if you can afford it. It’s a city that will carry you through some of the best times of your life, but will also kick you on your butt if you let it.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: I recently visited Australia for the first time in a year and had forgotten how good the weather was. The weather in New York is either too hot or too cold, for most of the year. It’s also very green and clean, which is something that you don’t realize you loved until you leave.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in New York? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: While we speak English in Australia I didn’t realize quite how different our languages were. I have to think carefully when I speak to people I don’t know to ensure that everything I say actually exists in America. New York has a reputation of being a hard and cold place, however I think the truth of it is that most people are just perpetually short of time. Everyone is late for something and you quickly fall into that feeling as well.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: New York is much more expensive than South Australia in general. The most expensive element being rent which is outrageously more expensive than anywhere else I’ve ever been. That being said, you can eat and go out for cheaper if you know where to go, it just takes being a bit more thrifty.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in New York City? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
A: I would strongly recommend not owning a car. The subway, while always late, is effective and will get you almost everywhere you need to go and is how the majority of New Yorkers get around. Unless you’re venturing out of the normal areas, you won’t have a problem planning a route. The bus is also incredibly effective if you can work out where you need to go. The Transit app combined with Google Maps are your best friends.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in New York City? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: While I can’t speak personally to the quality of doctors and hospitals, coming from Australia to the US has been a shock to my wallet in regards to healthcare. Going from a public healthcare system to one based on insurance takes some adjustment and the costs are much higher. Be sure to read properly into what you might need before you move here because it’s going to come as a shock to most.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in New York City? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: New York City is a busy place and with so many people there are always considerations you need to take for your personal safety. That being said, with so many people always around, you generally feel safe. Like with any city you shouldn’t travel through dark areas late at night, and you should do some research before you move. Manhattan (as a very general rule) is safe. Brooklyn is safer the closer you are to Manhattan and is generally considered a great place to live (but there are some neighbourhoods that are not so). The Bronx has the reputation of still being a little rough and tumble, but with appropriate research you can be fine. Queens is the big up and comer with so much opportunity, and Staten Island (as far as I know) is very quiet.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in New York? What different options are available for expats?
A: Housing is abundant but incredibly expensive. You will need to adjust what you have in your mind after watching Friends or Sex and the City. Apartments are generally small, lack storage, and are surrounded by other people. You need to get savvy on your rights as a tenant and know exactly what you should and should not be looking for at all times. “Walk-ups” are common, for example, which just mean that there’s no elevator. They talk about them as if that’s a feature.
Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: I would recommend that most expats either live in Lower Manhattan (East Villlage, West Village, Lower East Side, Nolita), Upper Manhattan (Upper East Side, Upper West Side), in Brooklyn (Williamsburg for the hipsters and Bed-Stuy for the real hipsters), or Long Island City for the small families.
Q: How can expats new to the US build up a credit score?
A: Building credit early is very important. HSBC and CitiBank are very accommodating for expats new to the city and will in general help out with accounts and possibly credit cards. If you can’t get a credit card, then a secured credit card is your best bet; a card where you give them the value of the card in cash, and then use it like a credit card. This will slowly build your credit and you should be opening as many accounts as you are offered to maintain a balance. Just keep them paid off and never miss ANY payment dates or you’ll be struggling.
Meeting people and making friends in New York City
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women etc.?
A: In general people are lovely to foreigners but the US does have its issues like any country. As an Australian, I have been very warmly welcomed and the accent doesn’t hurt.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in New York City? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: New York’s reputation of being a cold place is somewhat warranted but in general I think it’s not that the people are nasty, it’s that they are time poor. There are countless networking and meetup groups that can be helpful but most importantly you want to leverage any friend of a friend because networks that already exist are easiest.
Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends? Any social/expat groups you can recommend?
A: I’ve made friends with mostly expats but also lots of locals, which I think is relatively common. It’s easy to mix with people you have lots in common with and therefore that would be my first recommendation. Then trying to join a few sports groups or community groups can really help you branch out! Your work and office is also a fantastic place if you can.
I can recommend a group that I started! You can find out more on my website.
About working in New York City
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit for the USA? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: Getting a visa in the US as an Australian is slightly easier than for other countries and therefore I took care of the process mostly myself. That being said, I would not recommend it and would strongly urge anyone who is thinking about getting a visa for the US to use a professional at every turn. There are lots of intricacies that can really trip you up and if you’re denied you are not allowed to return for 10 years.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in New York City? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job there? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: There are so many jobs on offer in New York but the competition is fierce. You need to be here on the ground if you’re applying, and you need to use every single connection or network you can possibly find. Simply relying on sending your resume in, in most cases, will not get you far. Any connection you can make and any opportunity you can take advantage of will help you immensely. A US phone number and email address is also crucial.
Q: How does the work culture in the USA differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in New York City?
A: I have noticed that work starts slightly later (9am/9:30am/10am) but goes much later and you can expect anybody in a corporate position to be at work well into the evening. There is a perceived element of having to work late because you live in NYC which seems silly but is very prevalent. Taking care of your personal physical and mental health is important as in some jobs you simply won’t have the time you used to. You need to be serious about wanting to move here because in some cases I can see people being overwhelmed by what is expected of you.
Family in New York City
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home? Do you think there are any specific challenges for a trailing spouse?
A: I do not have a spouse or partner that came with me but having spoken to many others I do know that it can be difficult to meet new people without being outside and in the workforce. Joining community groups and MeetUps is the best way forward and really spending as much time in the early months trying to engage with others will help immensely.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals in New York City?
A: You’re going to love it here if you take a deep breath and relax. People here want to be seen as LIVING IN NEW YORK CITY when in fact it can be a very accommodating and friendly place. Take a step back, and realize that most issues you might face can be overcome with some research and a small but close network of friends.