Directly following my college graduation in 2009, I picked myself up and with approximately 3 bags in tow and moved to New York. Having lived in a lot of different places up to that point, I thought I pretty much had a handle on what to expect. I had lived in suburbs of big cities and small cities as well as watched episodes of Seinfeld and Sex and the City, so I pretty much knew all there was to know, right?
I think I can hear you laughing at me from all the way over there. Rude.
Anyway, I quickly found out that despite my best efforts at “research” I was in for some serious culture shock. Well, over the course of five years, shock turned to tolerance which turned to love. New York really is the perfect city for the single woman. And Single Man. And Married Woman. And Married Man. And those its complicated with. Well really, its kind of the perfect place for anyone seeking adventure and fun.
Here is a list of a few of the things that are strange in most other places in the world, but totally normal (and often celebrated) in New York City. There are many, many things. Let’s start with 5 shall we?
1. Public Nudity.
I am not joking here. I had just moved to the city a month before my first incidence of public nudity occurred. I was laying on the benches of Washington Square Park with my new friend Ashley (who was well more versed in this city, having been a resident for years) when all of a sudden, hundreds of naked people rode in on bicycles. Men and women. Butt naked. I believed some of them held some kind of sign but that’s not exactly where my eyes went so I couldn’t even tell you what it said. They then proceeded to jump into the large fountain and play, splash water, and dance. There were cops around and they didn’t even flinch. I walked away totally amused and confused.
My second incidence was in my first apartment on the Upper West Side. I guess it technically wasn’t public, however, the moment was shared publicly. Outside my window, just across a narrow street, was a window belonging to the kitchen of a male neighbor. More than once I saw him chopping vegetables in the buff with the lights on and the window totally open. That seemed incredibly dangerous, as I am sure you can imagine why. I thought, maybe he forgot his window was open? So I decided that I would wave to alert him to this. Well, he waved back and then closed his blinds. Halfway. So not helpful.
This was not the last incidence about public nudity either. I just figure if I go on and on I am going to have to title this post “New York: Come for the shows, stay for the Nudity.” Just be warned, if you ever spend an extended amount of time in New York outside of normal tourist areas, please know that it is totally legal for both men and women to be topless. And apparently legal for them to be bottomless in large groups?
2. Eating alone at restaurants.
This is probably the best part of my list. I think most people know that New York is known for its amazing restaurants and yet many have a phobia about going alone. Let go of that fear in New York because everyone eats out alone. They eat out with friends too, but if you want a certain kind of food you go and eat that food whether or not other people want to go. I am going to devote an entire post to this as it is my favorite thing in the world, but just know that on all your New York trips, you will not be alone, when eating alone.
3. Living with 2 or more people who are unrelated to you.
I lived with 2 guys and a girl in my first apartment in the city. I decided to live there after I found out that the two guys had stable jobs and didn’t murder me when I showed up to view the apartment. My second apartment in the city, I found my roommate on Craigslist and I lived with two other girls in a luxury high-rise. Both experiences were mostly good and mostly normal.
Unless you come from money, you live with roommates. As New York is filled with go-getters who left it all behind to pursue a dream, many come alone. Ergo, to afford said dream pursuit you have to save money somewhere in a market that definitely favors the seller. So you rent with a roommate. You can find an apartment with a realtor, but I tried this and they charge steep fees so I DO NOT RECOMMEND THAT. I know a few Craigslist incidents haven’t turned out so well, but I actually found that the best way to find a roommate is through connections from a friend, getting to know someone who knows realty well and can give you a list without a fee, or Craigslist.
No matter where you live in the city, it is normal to share a kitchen space, living room, and bathroom with another person you just met. This is because the space is usually small anyway and most people don’t come to New York to create a cozy home. They are up and about and usually use their apartment as a place to crash, the occasional Netflix binge on their computer, as a place where their food can be delivered, and entertaining guests (ahem, in the evening if you so choose).
4. Running around in circles. Literally.
I got really acquainted with running trails in the city when I got the delusional idea in my head that I wanted to run the New York City marathon. After two attempts at training for it (the first time I dropped out of a training program because of sheer laziness, the second time the marathon got cancelled two nights before due to Hurricane Sandy), the third time was the charm. Gym tredmills in NY tend to have a time limit of 30 minutes during busy hours and anyways the race was outside, so I hit the pavement to train.
Central Park has amazing running, walking, and horse riding loops throughout. There are roads for car and bus traffic and on the side they have two lanes for walkers/runners. Bike traffic is also welcome. You can consult a Central Park Running Map where it shows you the routes and the length of each one. The great thing about running these circles around the park is that you have easy access to entertainment, restrooms, and water fountains along the way.
If you are in need of a longer route, you can run a much bigger circle: the entire island of Manhattan. There are interconnected parks along the way that have amazing views as well as the same access to bathrooms and restrooms. I used to run from my apartment on the Upper East Side, across Central Park to the West Side highway and start my path around the island. I would jog all the way around and back up to 95th street, a route of about 20ish miles.
There are so many people running and biking alongside you that you are always very safe and it actually helps you forget the fact that your legs are on fire and all you want is Chipotle. Or maybe that is just me.
5. Thousands of drunk Santas run around at Christmastime.
One word: Santacon. Every year in December, adults in New York City gather for some holiday fun. Also booze. Here is how it works. In December, the date of Santacon will be announced. You sign up for text updates for the event and prepare your livers. On that date, everyone is texted the name of a certain neighborhood in the city, usually somewhere around 8/9 am. Swarms of people show up in that neighborhood and into various bars, clubs, and restaurants that are participating. They are dressed as santas, slutty santas, elves, slutty elves, reindeer, but not usually slutty reindeer, and people in ugly Christmas sweaters. They enjoy drink specials in that area for a couple hours and then receive a text to go to the next neighborhood where the fun continues. Then the next, then the next. Until you end up with a group of very drunk, jolly people at around 7pm. After which you stumble into a cab and go to bed. If you’re sane.
The year I went, my friend and I started in Hells Kitchen at a club. Honestly, not the most fun. However, I got a text from a friend who was at a bar where her friend was hosting a Santacon drunk, holiday sing-a-long for her ivy league alma mater so I decided that would best suit my type of fun. So we went. Well, we lied and say we knew the guy whose name was texted to us by my friend and we went. That was very fun. Then, the party moved to midtown. We went and finally got a little food in our systems to keep the alcohol company. We ended the evening at a bar called Joshua Tree in Murray Hill where we danced our butts off. That is, until my friend was reminded of sad, boy related memories that happened during a previous stint at Joshua Tree, so we left. All in all a really fun time that I will have once, and only once, in my life.
So, whether you are thinking about visiting New York or making a more permanent leap, make sure you have fun. This is the perfect place to do so and step out of your comfort zone. Leave your judgement behind and maybe get in on the fun during one of your adventures. Maybe not the nudity though.