Scene from Friends series 1 episode 5

Helloooooo from NYC! Having been here for almost a week, I feel I should write an update before I get to that point where I think “hmmmm the moment’s passed now..” which I get to often with beauty blogging because I’ve left something too long and my thoughts are no longer fresh or coherent.

The weather’s been really mild here and was gloriously sunny at the weekend. I’m gradually settling in here and the city’s starting to feel familiar already. I haven’t felt homesick yet, but I will probably feel more lost when my husband flies back to the UK tomorrow. Although at least he was here for work so I got used to not having him around and having to explore the surroundings by myself.

I’m staying in a temporary studio apartment in midtown – it’s not the most homely area to live in (it’s a bit like living in Picadilly Circus) but it’s pretty convenient so I can’t complain. I have complained however about the guy next door who seems to chain smoke from the moment he wakes up to when he goes to sleep. The cigarette smell permeates the apartment through the bathroom vent… it’s like being in a pub before they banned smoking indoors!

The studio looks like a hotel room with kitchen facilities on the side. Every day is breakfast (and lunch and dinner if I’ve stayed in) in bed due to lack of seating area and free space. Actually there are a couple of chairs but they’re by the desk which is completely covered in my toiletries. When I need to do laundry, there are shared washing and dryer machines in the building to use. My room came with one of those Friends-style plastic laundry baskets to carry my laundry back and forth. Such delight!

I’ll be looking to find a proper apartment to move into by the beginning of January. I’ve had a look at some of the popular neighbourhoods like East Village, Greenwich Village, West Village, Chelsea, Meatpacking District, DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, and my favourites so far are any of the Village areas. Chelsea was really nice but probably a tad over budget. It looked super expensive. Brooklyn Heights was really cute but not that much cheaper (and more inconvenient to get to) than say East Village.

I have no idea how the apartment rental market works here… how best to look for places, how many brokers I should be using, how fast the best rentals get snapped up etc. So that’ll be a learning experience. I’m looking forward to moving into a proper place and making it into a home though. I want to start shopping in Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel!

I’m doing some work for my previous company in their new NYC office from Monday onwards, which will help keep me occupied and get me meeting people, plus replenish my bank account which I have been ploughing into over the last four months or so.

So that’s my update for now. As if this post wasn’t long enough and irrelevant enough to its “beauty blog” roots, I’m going to list some of the things I’ve noticed about NYC from being here for a week (most of them relating to mundanities of life, which all suddenly feel new again).

Shopping

There is just so much more variety here for clothes and shoes compared to the UK. It seems like most brands have a petite section (although they keep the petite styles frumpy as if they think it’s only old ladies who are short).

Shoe shopping is a breeze… it just requires one trip to any big department store where it’s impossible to not find something to buy (even when you have awkwardly small and wide feet like mine). It’s like the shoe lounge of Selfridges but 10x bigger and with better size ranges.

I’m not even going to talk about the countless drugstores and Sephoras that have everything beauty-related you could ever want. They make even the biggest Boots store in London look like a small chemist. I still don’t understand why one city needs quite so many drugstores though… most are empty inside.

The returns policies in the States are notoriously lax, so I’m looking forward to that. My friend once got a cash refund on a pair of boots she’d worn for about three years but had never quite got them to “wear in” and feel comfortable. She didn’t even have a receipt! Nor was it possible to prove that she’d bought them in that department store… but they gave her a full refund nevertheless. Madness!

Groceries

When I first arrived, I was utterly confused as to where locals buy their groceries – grocery stores are rare except in very residential areas and even if you find one, food prices are roughly 2-3x higher than in the UK. However, I found “Trader Joe’s” which seemed relatively reasonably-priced, filled my trolley and got them to deliver it all to my door later that evening for just $6.95. Oh, and all the shop assistants are so unbelievably friendly and helpful… no scowling Tesco shop assistants here!

The microwaves in this country are some seriously powerful machines and huge to boot. I get the impression they are used for more than just reheating by most people.

People

People generally seem much more confident, laid back and friendly here than in London. If I look lost for even a split second, someone will stop and ask if I need directions. People are noticeably more groomed here too, male and female. I feel slightly ashamed of my un-manicured fingernails and lately, of my clothes that have veered towards the more “comfortable” rather than stylish side. Hey, it’s my first week and I’ve needed to do a lot of walking!

I haven’t come across the US-equivalent of chavs or drunkards here yet. Everything opens till late, restaurants don’t bat an eyelid if you turn up at 11pm, and indeed, normal people (not rowdy groups) will continue to walk in for long after.

People are generally very open here… people I’ve just met casually offer invitations like “we should do brunch/lunch/dinner” and share with me places they’ve found for eating out, shoe repairs, manicures etc. It’s nice.

Mobile phones

Mobile phones over here have had me complaining like an old biddy. My God, this country is SO BEHIND with mobile phones and phone plans! It’s not just the fact that they still charge for incoming calls and incoming texts… I can just about deal with that in my head. Let’s just say they make it as difficult as possible for consumers to get a good deal or the handset they want. It’s particularly bad if you need to use data on your phone. I went with a T-Mobile prepaid simcard in the end so I could continue using my iPhone… but the amount I’ll be paying a month is 5x higher than my plan in the UK, for a worse package.

I found a small shop at 1 E 28th St (just off Fifth Avenue) called “Today’s Mobile” that will unlock an iPhone in an hour for $35.

I’ve also embarrassingly had to use the word “cell phone” on several occasions.

Getting around

It’s pretty easy to get around in NYC once you get used to the layout, but it gets a little more complicated around the Village areas where the easy grid layout suddenly stops and streets start having names rather than numbers. I have a famously bad sense of direction so I really should get hold of a map.

I keep getting bamboozled by Metro station entrances. The other day, I ended up walking in very high heels for 20 blocks because I could only see entrances for “Uptown” but needed to go “Downtown”. In the end, I gave up and walked. It was peak time, so no taxis were available either.

Taxis are much, much cheaper than in London (perhaps 3x cheaper?), thus I feel less guilty using them when I’m being lazy. They’re fast too as long as it’s not peak hours.

People don’t seem to take buses as readily as the subway, I guess because they’re not as fast for long distances. But I love buses for getting from one end of the city to the other… it means I can stare out of the window and get more of a feel of the orientation of the city, rather than blindly travelling underground.

There’s a lot of ambient noise where I am at the moment… lots of horn honking, and charity collectors ringing their bells, droning “Happy holidays..” It feels like stepping into a sitcom or film based in NYC. The background noise feels oddly familiar.

Despite NYC being so densely packed, the air feels less polluted than London air. If I walk around London for thirty minutes and maybe take a short Tube journey, my face gets covered in all these black sooty bits that spread into sooty streaks if I try to wipe them off. Really disgusting. And don’t get me started on when I blow my nose after a day in London! I haven’t had the same problems in NYC at all.

Any regrets?

None at all! I love it here so far. It seems like an amazing city. I would have preferred it to be a little easier on my personal life side of things, but as I keep telling myself, it’ll all work out in the end.

Phew this was a long post, I wonder whether anyone’s still reading. Oh well it’s nice to get it down… maybe I’ll read this in a few years’ time and cringe at myself for being so uncool in such a cool city.

I’ve managed to leave my camera behind in London, as well as a huge box of beauty products I need to review. But luckily I took a load of photos in bulk before I left, so I can still manage a few beauty posts until I ship my stuff over. I’ve been purposely avoiding Sephora while I’ve been here because I can’t cope with any more clutter in my apartment!

Anyway, readers who have got this far, I hope all is well wherever you are reading this from!

20 comments on “New York update

  1. I loved reading your post! It’s like my impressions after moving to UK, except in reverse. :) :) :)

    I do have to say that I miss the service quality in US… here in UK I’m encountering scowls and UNhelpful service. And for me, everything in UK seems cool and exotic. One thing I noticed is that in UK you can try cosmetics even for drugstore brands, when in US (where I lived) it was only available for expensive brands. Is it the same in NYC?

  2. Such a cute post Helen. When I visited recently I stayed with my friend on Orchard St: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orchard_Street_(Manhattan) It’s a really cool area with lots of residential housing and cool bars/restaurants/shops. You should definitely check it out Re your apartment hunt. My friend’s lived in NY for seven years and it’s her favourite area. You can walk along Broadway into the midst of things in a few minutes.

    I couldn’t believe the number of drug stores either! Duane Reades everywhere! I liked NY a lot and could imagine settling in there. I’m sure you’ll make a fabulous life for yourself. I can’t wait to hear all about it. xx

  3. I really enjoyed this post, it was like being there with you almost! I hope you really settle in soon xxx

  4. Oh, and regardless mobile phones in UK vs. US, I was pleasantly surprised that I can get a FREE phone with a plan. Not like that in US :( But in US you have free nights and weekends, which doesn’t exist in UK. And mobile phones work just like landlines, meaning there is no extra charge when calling long distance or any landlines (not sure if there are charges like this in UK, but it does seem that mobile phones are quite different from landlines), or any toll free numbers.

  5. Welcome to the U.S.
    I was born in Bronx, NY….raised in Miami, FL and I’m now settled in Charlotte, NC.

    New York is such a melting pot, I love it! My dad is from Brazil and my mom is from Jamaica & they met in New York and married.

    I hope you enjoy it : )

  6. Absolutely loved reading your post-I can honestly say I am so jealous of you, I would love to live in NY, even if just for a few years!

    Sounds like you’re having so much fun exploring, and I’m sure you’ll continue to do so!

    Hope you get everything sorted with an apartment soon.

    XXXX

  7. Hey Helen! Welcome to the States! Are you going to do a meet/greet with your readers? My husband’s family is from Bergen County, NJ right across the bridge, and if you’re doing one before Thanksgiving, I’d love to meet you! Watch out for the Black Friday sales!

  8. I loved reading this post and seeing the differences between here and NY. I’ve never been to the US so this was really interesting.

  9. I love reading your posts! This was so interesting, I have been New York twice and I love it! My 2nd favourite city after Hong Kong.. even beats London and I chose to go University there!

    By the way, I found this blog cause of your younger brother (I am his friend) so thank you to him :)

  10. Hey Helen, I really enjoyed reading this post! I’ve never been NYC and this post gives a great insight! I can’t believe you’ve managed to avoid Sephora, after hearing so much about it, I think that shop would be the fist destination i go to if i ever went America!!
    I’ll really miss your posts from London as all the items you review are accessible to me! But i can’t wait to read your American reviews, i know they have loads of cool stuff (so jealous).

    Hope you settle in ok!

    Lots of love from London! p.s. you’re not missing much over here, the weather is still freezing, rainy and dull!! xXx

  11. I just wanted to say that if moving to the city you may want to look into places like long island (where i live) and brooklyn. you can get considerably more space for considerably less.

    Additionally the comute is not long at all to manhattan. From the middle of nassau county it only takes about 40 minutes to get to manhattan.

  12. well, i’d made it to the end of the post. and i’m glad that i did. i was so engrossed in reading your post that i didn’t even notice that my supervisor walked in and stare at me **ooppss** (yeah, reading blogs during office hours ain’t a good move). glad that you settled down. ^_^

  13. Fantastic post, I’ve been dying to return to NYC for over a year now, this makes me want to go back even more.

    Can’t wait to read more!

  14. Hope you settle in soon, moving country is hard but it will get easier!! I would love to visit the US!
    Good luck, look forward to future posts!
    Please take a look at my blog wholelottalove-manths.blogspot.com
    sam x

  15. LOVE this post, I’ve recently come from off holiday from New York and miss it so much. Hope you’re settling in well, I totally agree with the friendliness of New Yorkers, beforehand I got the impression that they were too busy for your time, when actually it’s the complete opposite! Looking forward to more posts…p.s I soo know what you meant about finding grocery stores, very strange! Be sure to go to Hells Kitchen Flea Market on a saturday or sunday in Manhattan, it’s amazing and has vintage clothes, handmade jewellery – like a very very very good car boot sale! xx

  16. Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions! Sounds like I’m not the only one who loves NY!

    @Lyuba-chan: I didn’t know what you meant about not being able to try out drugstore brands and then I had a proper look in Duane Reade last night and realised that it’s true, there really is no way to try out the colours!! That’s terrible! How are we meant to work out which shades match our skin tone, and how the products feel to apply?? London drugstores win on that one! The mobile phone plans in the UK are really good if you shop around. Many plans no longer make the distinction between mobiles and landline.

    @La: Ooh I’ll keep Orchard St in mind! I think I did wander around that area but not that specific street.

    @Marcella: Yeah I love the diversity of people here!

    @Candice Lee-Wang: I’ll let you know if I do! Haha I’m going to give the Black Friday sales a miss… they sound crazy!! And I don’t want to get trampled on in the crowds!

    @Katie: No way! I can’t imagine my brother telling anyone about my blog… I think he’s embarrassed of his sisters haha!

    @PinkOrchids: Don’t worry I’m sure I’ll still be reviewing loads of products you can access in the UK. Most brands are so global now it’s hard to get away from them! I did pop into Sephora today though and loved seeing all the brands we don’t get in the UK.

    @Jayme: I looked at Brooklyn Heights and loved it but the price wasn’t that much cheaper than Manhattan. But then I decided that if I’m only going to be here a few years (and it was something I wanted to do before I “settle down”), I might as well go the whole hog and live in Manhattan. Also I’m a terrible commuter – I always envy people who have the stamina to commute long distances to work everyday.

    @vivthediv: Thank you for the tip!

  17. welcome to NYC! I’m originally from California but have been in NYC for quite some time now, and met my now husband here and the rest is history. If you ever need any suggestions on where to go, even though it sounds like you’re doing great on your own =), or a friend to shop with, I’m here! =)

  18. I’ve jsut loved reading this post, you’re so lucky to be living there its my dream! Its great to get an insight of the more normal things that will change living there as aposed to England, it makes MYC seem more real rather than just some place in a load of movies. Enjoy! xx

  19. Loved this post Helen, thank you for sharing I was completely engrossed and right there with you at times!

    Good luck with the adjusting, it’ll be hard at times (as you’re probably all too aware).

    Things will fall into place once the crazy has settled down… just think, you’ll be able to play tour guide to your mister and show him all the cool things you’ve discovered!

    Much love xxx

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