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Do You Belong In New York City?

December 6th, 2011 |  Published in Living in New York, The Spirt of The City, Working in New York  |  5 Comments
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After living in New York City for a few months, I started getting asked two questions a lot: 1) What is it like to live in New York City and 2) What are some tips for living in New York City?   That realization eventually gave rise to this entire site, which is hopefully helping to answer those questions for the curious.  In the same vein, my friend Erica Zucco recently sent over a link to a blog post from Penelope Trunk: Do You Belong In NYC? Take The Test which touches on some of the nuances of living here in New York.  Penelope breaks the decision down to 3 simple questions:

  1. Are you a maximizer?
  2. Do you want to be at the top of your field (or marry someone like that)?
  3. Do you value an interesting life over happy life?

I think this perhaps over-simplifies the way of life in the city and skews heavily towards the midtown/downtown Manhattan-driven lifestyle of achievement and competition, but those are important views to understand since it is what brings most of us here in the first place.

I found the most interesting aspect of Penelope’s points to be in her second question, focusing on competition and professional drive.  New York City is incredibly competitive and it does not take long to realize that the people and clients you work with on a daily basis tend to be more demanding, more driving and generally in a higher gear that you find in many smaller markets.  I know that after working as a Project Manager in the technology field for a few years here, I had the sense that I could move home to a small town in Missouri and perform at a much higher level than if I hadn’t ever lived in New York.  That sounds a bit pretentious at first, but in reality, it is kind of like gaining experience in a pressure cooker: you might be able to condense 5 years of work experience in a smaller city down to just 2-3 years of work experience here in NYC (which might explain why most New Yorkers are functioning alcoholics compared to the rest to the country as well).  It is evident after working for a while that New York attracts people of similar motivations and that makes it a bit daunting to get started, but I’ve found that rather than being cutthroat, a sort of a mutual-motivation occurs and you help push each other.

Despite this, there are plenty of people who don’t live in this race to the top- there are about as many varieties of life experiences here as you could imagine.  It certainly may not be for everyone, but I do think Penelope’s framing of the question and the requisite qualities for living here is a decent (if slightly soul-crushing) stating point.  You could ask the same question of “Do you belong in NYC?” by asking:

  1. Are you driven?
  2. Do you want to work with motivated and dynamic people?
  3. Do you want to live somewhere where each day presents unique experiences?

It is impossible to answer the question of Do You Belong In New York City in a single post- that is what this whole site is about and we hope to make that question a little easier for everyone to answer as time goes on.  I think there are a few ways of looking at life here in NYC and the perpective Penelope describes is definitely one everyone should be cognizant of before coming here… give it a read, but don’t get too wrapped up in any one perspective- after all, no one is here for the same reasons so no one can really tell you if you should be here or not.

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Image Credit:
Steve Kelley

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About the author: Andrew Cafourek

Andrew Cafourek Andrew lives in Brooklyn, and just got back from drifting around Eastern Europe for a few months. He makes stuff on the internet including Become A New Yorker, Alumni Spaces and a variety of other goodies with A022 Digital.

Andrew came to New York from the Midwest in the fall of 2008 after selling his car for $350... just enough for a one way plane ticket.


Email Andrew | Follow @acafourek | All posts by


  • Tim LaGrone

    Awesome read!  I had a nice and healthy laugh when I got to this part, ” … (which might
    explain why most New Yorkers are functioning alcoholics compared to the
    rest to the country as well).” 

  • Brittany_x

    This is such a good read – I’m planning on moving over asap! I want to live there and achieve as much as I can. If there’s anyway you could help me decide on how to get over, I’d love it!! New York is my number one. I feel that I need to be there to be happy! I don’t even want to holiday there first. I want to come, live, and be happy!

  • becomeanewyorker

    Stay tuned- putting the final touches on a basic “how the F do I move to New York?” post.

  • http://www.therapyiseffinexpensive.wordpress.com Zan

     Now THAT’S the one I’m looking forward to…and you should add a section for those of us who aren’t going to have $5-10K saved up…or a job before getting there…basically dumbasses like myself who will have a couch to sleep on initially and who will job search like it IS my job. Haha.

  • soon a newyorker, Marie

    I love NYC to, and as you said “I feel that I need to be there to be happy! I don´t even want to holiday there first. I want to come, live, and be happy!” That is exactly how i feel to!! Just want to start my life there och live. I live in Sweden and i am going to move there and be successful as hell. Haha, the American dream… 

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