NEW YORK: THE BIGGEST COLLECTION OF VILLAGES IN THE WORLD

There’s always a kind of beauty in the unknown. Why did curiosity kill the cat? Why do we always want what we can’t have? Why is the grass always greener on the other side? Good questions, no answers. Until we try it for ourselves.
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In my almost-four and a half years of living in this brilliant city I call home – New York – I have lived in many neighborhoods throughout Manhattan. Actually, my first neighborhood I lived in was Williamsburg, Brooklyn (but that’s basically an extension of Manhattan, anyway). This was short-lived, and I became a Manhattanite after five months, moving uptown (cue Billy Joel).
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Moving apartments is a pain. Let’s face it: days upon days of apartment hunting – scrolling through page after page on Craigslist or Streeteasy or going through a broker (the fees!!!), back and forth emails regarding important documents and hassling your boss for an updated letter of employment, packing and donating/tossing your items (extremely hard if you’re a hoarder like me and can’t part ways with any single item), hours disassembling  furniture which you’ll have to reassemble again in 24 hours, minutes of frustration while being stuck on hold trying to arrange transfers of your cable and Internet boxes, not to mention the amount of money you have to spend and the real-life decisions you have to make – “Is there really going to be enough storage in that West Village apartment?” The answer is most likely “no”. “Will it bother me coming from an apartment that has an elevator and laundry and ‘downgrading’ to one that doesn’t?” The answer is most likely “yes”. Then comes the actual moving day, where you either spend a good amount on movers or forego your healthy back by moving up and down several flights of stairs (it gets worse when you pick trendy neighborhoods like SoHo or the West Village) or elevators, with countless of boxes. In the end, you probably think the hassle isn’t worth it, and you just end up re-signing your current lease for another year because “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Right? Well, maybe. However, if you’re a foreigner like me (and let’s face it, most people that live in New York aren’t actually from New York), it can be nice to explore different neighborhoods and actually get a real feel for what they are about.
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Having lived in 5 different neighborhoods, I’ve come to realize each neighborhood has its own beauty. Williamsburg is trendy and just as pricey as Manhattan but you get a lot more space. The upper west side is great if you have a family or a dog (which counts as family), plus it’s right next to Central Park. Nolita is the ideal location to all the great spots downtown, but the apartments are tiny (unless you want to pay an arm and a leg). Murray Hill is young and full of frat boys from Long Island but it’s also great because there are NO tourists. My most recent neighborhood – Midtown East, right by the United Nations – is nice and quiet. You can literally fall asleep to no noise – rare when you live in “the city that never sleeps”, but it is perfect when you want to hide from the crazy, sometimes. [The photo below is definitely NOT the “quiet” I mention about Midtown East.]
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Even though any neighborhood in Manhattan is easily accessible within a 30-minute subway or cab ride, having lived in these various neighborhoods, I’ve been granted different experiences. As Ann Richards said, “People don’t know that New York really is just made up of a group of very small neighborhoods.” When you move to a new neighborhood, you need to get acclimated to the new surroundings. Of course, before you move, you already know where the closest subway stations are located, but what’s also important (as any real New Yorker knows) is where your local 24-hr Duane Reade is; where the nearest bank you belong to is; where the best place for shoe repair is (we walk a lot in Manhattan); where the best drycleaners are; post office (for all those gifts and letters you don’t really send enough of), which “Fruit guy” (produce vendor) has the best assortment of goods and what his hours are. Also vital to learn: your Seamless delivery distance (or you can just use Postmates), the proximity between the apartment and a good 99c pizza joint for those times you just really need a greasy, greasy oil-dripping slice of heavenly goodness (usually between the hours of 10pm – 5am, but anytime is good also – I’m not one to judge!), the best local Ramen spot (Totto Ramen, hands down!), and of course, your go-to local restaurant for those nights you are (your boyfriend is) too tired to cook.
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I moved to a new neighborhood one week ago, and in those seven days, I’ve already noticed different smells and noises compared to my past neighborhoods. It’s funny how 2 or 10 blocks can change certain things. This reminds me of two neighborhoods I frequented whilst living in Sydney, Australia – Potts Point and Kings Cross. They are two polar opposite neighborhoods – the former being very posh and latter being a rowdy area – literally situated next to each other.

I was recently emailing my friend Heather who recently made the move from New York to Australia. I told her about my move and she responded, “A new move is always exciting!! I moved so many times within NYC and had a different experience each time! Loved it :)”. On the contrary, I was talking to my friend Allyson over the weekend, who mentioned that she has only really lived in one neighborhood throughout her time in New York and it can feel a little mundane living in the same area and working in the same area. Change is good, so she goes out of her way to try and visit new areas when she has free time.

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As someone who adapts very quickly to new places, I’m quickly learning my new neighborhood as if it were the back of my hand. My walk to work has become a breeze, having memorized the different courtyard shortcuts on each block. While it has only been one week, for now, I’ll curiously look for the friendly face at the bodega where I will pick up fresh flowers on the way home, smile at the little old lady with her laundry cart (there used to be a little old Asian lady that wore everything purple and pushed her purple cart filled with purple laundry bags, in Murray Hill), make a mental note to bring the small amount left of my #HumansHelpingHumans care packages to the homeless people I will begin to recognize on the different corners, and deeply breathe in the dirty but wonderful New York City air.
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Until next year, when I decide maybe, just maybe, the move is worth the hassle again… if only just for a new and exciting experience literally around the corner.
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– Title of this post is a quote by Alistair Cooke.

– Feature image photo credit

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