Things to Know Before Moving to New York City

Ever thought about moving to NYC? To live in the city of dreams, the city that never sleeps?

In this article I want to include tips not only for Americans moving to New York but also for foreigners, since of course this adds some extra complexity.

So read on for essential information to consider before you decide to move to New York.

Things to Know Before Moving to New York

1. Visa Requirements

woman looking out over New York after moving there

If you are moving to New York from outside of the US, obtaining a Visa will be your first step. And it will most likely be your most difficult step. 

The USCIS website is a useful resource. It provides details on each visa and the eligibility requirements.

For example, if you work at a company that has offices in New York, your employer may be able to apply for an intra-company transfer visa for you.

Moving to New York will be easiest if you already have a job lined up. Especially when it’s a job with a larger company since they will then likely have immigration lawyers at their disposal to guide you through the process.

But, the process of applying for a visa is not easy or straightforward. So if you decide to try and tackle this alone, you might want to consider hiring your own immigration attorney.

Also Read: Interview With an Expat About Living in New York

2. Moving to New York Means Getting Used to Walking and Public Transport

Grand Central Terminal in New York
Grand Central Terminal in New York City

Yes, while most of the US heavily relies on cars, this is very different in New York.

Having a car in New York can be a hassle because in many neighborhoods it’s difficult to find parking. And on top of that, parking can be very costly.

Plus, public transport in New York is readily available and, according to, New York is the most walkable city in the USA.

It’s also very enjoyable to walk in New York – admiring the architecture, iconic sites, and exploring different neighborhoods. It’s a great way to soak up the city’s unique vibe.

Note: New Yorkers walk fast! They might come across a bit hostile or aggressive, especially when they bump into you when you weren’t walking as fast. But they are just busy New Yorkers getting to wherever they need to go.

And when you don’t feel like walking or have to get a bit further there are also taxis everywhere, plus there is Uber and Lyft.

Tip: give yourself some time to get used to New York’s subway system. It might feel a little confusing at first, but once you figure it out it’s a fairly efficient way to get around.

3. It Takes a Long Time to Get to Places

traffic in New York

New York is a big city. And even with a good metro system it can take a long time to get to your appointments, meetings with friends, etc.

Distances are deceiving. It can easily take an hour to get between two neighborhoods that look so close on a map.

Tip: Leave early, and plan for delays, especially when you are first moving to New York and are still getting used to the city.

4. Culture Shock

things to know before moving to New York

Moving to a new city is a big change. But if that new city is also located in a new country, it becomes a huge life change.

When I first moved to the USA from the Netherlands I moved to San Diego, California.

I naively thought that the US would be quite similar to northern Europe. Plus, I grew up watching American movies and TV shows, so I understood American culture… right? I was so wrong!

It took me a while to get used to life in a big American city, to all the choices in the supermarkets, to the more fast-paced way of life.

No matter where you come from when you move to New York, it will simply take some time to adapt to your new surroundings. You have to get adjusted to a new way of life.

Know that you might have good days and bad days after moving to New York. That’s normal. Give yourself time to get used to this life.

And, when you then finally visit your home country again, you may experience ‘reverse culture shock’. Things at home stayed the same yet feel strange. That’s because you have become used to a different way of life.

But, although getting used to life in New York might take some time, it’s well worth it!

Also Read: Why Moving Abroad is Such a Valuable Experience

5. It Rains a Lot in New York

rain in Central Park

The summers in New York are warm and humid, and the winters are very cold and windy. But it is wet and partly cloudy pretty much year-round.

And it frequently rains heavily. So make sure to get an umbrella!

Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 85°F to 28°F (30°C to -2°C) and is rarely below 14°F (-10°C) or above 92°F (33°C).

Occasionally, as you may have seen on the news, the city shuts down for hours, or days, because of a giant snowstorm.

6. Groceries

grocery shopping in New York

Yes, the cost of living is high in New York. And that included anything from rent to eating out and groceries.

Also, unlike in other American cities, there are no superstores in New York City. So you’ll probably find that you need to go to several different places to get everything you need.

That being said, there are so many amazing places to eat out in NYC that you may rarely go to a grocery store!

Try different places and figure out what works for you.

Good options to check out are Trader Joe’s (their prices are probably the cheapest and they offer a good selection), Target (for things like cleaning supplies and toiletries), and neighborhood places such as Brooklyn Fare or Morton Williams if you only need a few items (these are always more expensive but conveniently dotted around the city).

Tip: there are a handful of grocery delivery services such as Fresh Direct. And Seamless is a popular app to order food from restaurants in New York. But of course, using these services do make life in New York even more expensive.

7. Finding an Apartment in New York

finding an apartment when moving to New York

Depending on where you are moving to New York from, the apartment hunting process here may be very different from what you are used to.

The Main Things to Know When Looking for an Apartment:

1. Take some time to decide which neighborhood you want to live in.

Each neighborhood in Manhattan is distinctly different and as I mentioned, getting to a different part of town takes time.

So it’s much easier if you choose to live in a neighborhood you also enjoy spending your free time in (and that’s not too far from your job).

Give yourself some time to get to know the city before you commit to a long term rental agreement.

2. Apartments are small

Apartments in New York are small and expensive.

So unless you landed an incredible job you’ll probably be downsizing.

Just don’t bring too much stuff and again, give yourself some time to get used to your new lifestyle.

3. Real Estate Agents have access to every single apartment across the city.

You may want to use an estate agent when you are moving to New York. It will make the process easier and they can help you find places you wouldn’t have found yourself.

Every estate agent has access to all available apartments in New York which means you can just work with one broker.

Share as much information as possible with them about what you are looking for and let them do the work of finding you suitable places and making appointments.

Of course they do charge a fee, but in this competitive housing market, it might be worth it. They guide you through everything and save you a lot of time, which can make moving to New York a lot smoother.

4. Your annual income must equate to 40x the monthly rent, and your US credit score must be higher than 650.

These are the minimum requirements for renting in New York City.

If you are new to the US and don’t have a credit score, this will make renting more difficult.

Using an estate agent can be helpful here.

8. Setting up a Bank Account

One of the first things you want to do when moving to New York is setting up a local bank account.

This is one of those catch 22 situations though: the bank will want to see proof of a US address (which you might not have yet) and any apartment you are trying to rent will first want to see US bank statements.

The easiest way around this is to use your New York office address to open a bank account. Just remember to change it to your home address once you have found an apartment.

I’d recommend setting up a bank account with a bank that has a branch close to where you plan to live. This way you can easily go to the bank if you need to deal with anything in person.

9. Healthcare

a couple going for a run across the Brooklyn Bridge

Depending on where you live now and what kind of healthcare system you are accustomed to, the US system will likely take some getting used to.

Healthcare costs in the US are extremely high. Even with employer-subsidized health insurance, expect to pay upwards of $150 per month per person for medical insurance. And on top of that, there are the out of pocket costs every time you go to the doctor or file a prescription.

You may be shocked at how quickly medical bills can rack up.

The costs don’t stop at doctor’s visits though. There is big money in the pharmaceutical industry in the US so prescriptions and over the counter medications are also very costly.

Tip: if you are moving to New York from a different country and plan on regular trips home, stock up on things like painkillers back home. Most over-the-counter drugs are much cheaper outside of the US.

10. Taxes

a stack of dollar bills

A very dry yet important topic.

NYC has some of the highest taxes in the US. And if you are moving to New York as a foreigner the tax system here might be very different from what you are used to.

Figuring out how much to pay in taxes and filing your taxes prior to April each year is not straightforward. The worksheets and instructions on the IRS website may as well be written in a different language.

A general rule of thumb is that individuals should expect to pay between 30% to 35% of their income in taxes.

If your taxes are relatively straightforward you may be comfortable using tax preparation software, such as TurboTax or H&R Block.

They have free options and they have varying payment levels if you want to be able to ask a CPA questions and have them review your tax return.

If your taxes are somewhat complicated by overseas property or other income, you may want to hire a CPA to file your taxes for you.

If you are moving to New York as an expat, your employer may offer a tax preparation service for the first year as part of your relocation package.

11. Is New York Safe?

a view of New York City

New York has had a bad reputation in the past when it comes to safety.

But, a lot has changed. I would say you should take the same safety precautions here as you would in any big city.

NYC experienced a vast clean up in the 1990s and changed drastically. As a whole, it is one of the safer large cities in the US.

There are still certain areas you might want to avoid, and I’d recommend asking coworkers or other locals for up-to-date information about your area. And there are also plenty of public resources to find out more about crime statistics, such as the NYPD’s website.

But, most New Yorkers you’ll ask about safety in New York will say it’s just fine. Plus, there are always so many people on the street and there are so many lights on that even at night you won’t feel unsafe.

Be aware of pickpocketing though, especially on the subway.

12. Don’t Forget to Leave the City Once in a While

Yes if you are thinking about moving to New York I’m sure you are someone who likes big cities and the energy they give.

But you need a break from the bright lights, honking cars and endless number of people.

So get out of the city for a weekend and enjoy some more peaceful surroundings!

Conclusion – Moving to NYC

Ultimately, I would say that NYC is one of, if not the greatest city in the world, full of excitement and energy.

Yes it’s expensive, yes it takes time to get used to living here.

But it truly is what dreams are made of and if you are thinking about moving to New York… JUST DO IT!

I’m sure you won’t regret it!

Also Read:

Like this article about moving to New York? Pin it!

things to know before moving to New York City


Sanne Wesselman

Author: Sanne Wesselman
A traveler, wanderer, digital nomad, and entrepreneur. Owner of marketing company A to Z Marketing.
I spend most of my time living and working abroad and use this website to share "the good, the bad and the ugly" of traveling and living abroad. Visit the About Me page for more info.

Leave a Comment