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  • Alice Marks

Lessons from the Big Apple

What NYC had to teach me in 2019.

The estimated population of New York City is just shy of 8.4 million; on weekday mornings between 7 and 9 am, it tends to feel like all 8.4 million of them board the same subway carriage to work. Expect an extremely intimate, cozy commute.


Housing opportunities come and go faster than the Trump administration’s staff turnover. Put down a deposit and sign your life away before you have time to think, because that peachy flat in Brooklyn will be snatched up before you can say ‘(im)peach’.


Expect a queue. Always. In a city where no one has time for anything, the people will wait for everything. Anticipate a two hour wait for breakfast, and a line out the door of your local Trader Joe’s.


Trader Joe’s is the Mecca of snack foods. Cookie Dough Butter. Ochre Chips. Cauliflower Gnocchi. Chocolate Covered Ginger Bites. Worth the queue.


The estimated population of New York City is just shy of 8.4 million; on weekday evenings between 6 and 8pm it tends to feel like all 8.4 million of them board the same subway carriage back home. Expect an extremely intimate, cozy commute.


The B train does not take you home after 8:30pm. Find another route.


The M train does not take you home after 8:30pm. Keep looking.


A true NY pizza slice should be the size of your head, if not bigger. It should cost $3 or less. If it is smaller, there is something wrong. Or you are in an authentic Italian restaurant.


A ‘little bit’ of weed means a lot more than you think it does.


One of the best late-night activities is bowling, in a dive bar, after several beers.


Plantain chips are underrated, and a highly satisfying snack when intoxicated at midnight.


Never wear anything you are not willing to get dirty onto a rooftop. The views are great, the fabric stains are not so fun.


It is not a good idea to wear make-up into the subway station on a day where the weather is over 30 degrees Celsius. The make-up will slide off your face.


It is not a good idea to forget your gloves on a day where the weather is below 4 degrees Celsius. Your hands will crack like the sidewalk.


The definition of a New Yorker’s Armageddon is the day they get bed bugs, have to vacate their apartment and burn their furniture. A rite of passage to be awaited in dread. Stay tuned for year two.


There exists a 6 ½ Avenue in midtown. Not as exciting as a magical Kings Cross platform, but it’s a semi-concealed walkway, good enough.


There exists a street called ‘Do the Right Thing’ Way in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Preach.


The Coney Island boardwalk is a step back in time, where Sandra and Danny were falling in love and meeting the gang at the local diner. Think Ferris wheel rides and curly fries.


The Staten Island ferry stops running at midnight. Getting back from Staten Island at 3am without a ferry takes a long time.


The Staten Island Ferry is a cheap ticket to the Statue of Liberty. Use your regular MetroCard to board, and the boat passes within 20 yards of the great Lady.


The Whitney Museum of Art has the perfect hiding spot to read and contemplate, a trio of benches overlooking the Hudson River and Jersey City.


The best kind of bagel is Pumpernickel. Dense and rich, but a highly contentious opinion. Can discuss further upon request.


The expected tip for service ranges between 18%-25%. It is important to educate people, especially visitors to the city, on this matter because many service industry employees receive minimum wage for compensation, and therefore rely on tips to supplement their paycheck. Some members of the service industry are also NOT entitled to tips. It is currently a broken system.


When you find your perfect place for coffee, or mojitos, or grilled cheese, keep it a secret. Your weapon, your sanctuary.


Plants are little emeralds that make people happy, especially in a city where the greenery can be scarce. Buying yourself flowers on your way home from a shitty day will make the world of difference to your window sill and your heart.


The number of homeless individuals on NY subways has increased to nearly 2200 this year. This is 2200 too many.





Prospect Park is the unruly younger sibling of Central Park, with gorgeous secret garden vibes. An oasis from the hustle and bustle.


Planet Fitness is the most purple place on earth. No exaggeration, every single piece of gym equipment is a deep vibrant purple. The gym promotes messages of ‘’all-inclusivity” and “zero judgement” (mantras literally posted on walls), but if you don’t like the color purple, this is NOT the place for you. You will start dreaming in purple.


No matter what you wear, no matter how daring your fashion choices are, there will always be someone more daring, and better dressed than you.


People will tell you if they like your outfit. You should tell people if you like their outfit.


Dogs will accompany their owners everywhere. Dogs can be found frequenting shops, restaurants, museums, and bedrooms whether or not they are invited to be there.


Moving apartments will require several Uber trips. Uber drivers are wonderful humans who help you move your laundry bags stuffed with clothes and possessions. Please tip your Uber drivers.


A fire escape is the perfect, illicit, dinner destination.


Most wine bottles require a screw opener. Learning how to uncork a wine bottle has taken a year and has still not been perfected.


There are over 30,000 Australians living in New York City. You are not the only one who had the brilliant idea of moving here.


New York can sometimes feel so big and lonely that you have to curl up in a ball and cry.


New York can sometimes make you feel so inspired that you want to sing out loud, in public, to a stranger.


Your anonymity in the city can be used as a gift.


The city may be powerful, but so are you – you have the power to take up space within it, and be the most authentic, driven version of yourself that you have always wanted to be.


In the words of a dear friend, the only constant here is change. Ultimately, it is best to live your life from one day to the next in this city, riding the wave of uncertainty it brings.

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