An article in the Gothamist last year highlighted the influx of Australians to New York City. Armed with the E3 (or E3D), O1, or J1 visas, Australians are coming to New York City in droves.
But after the tearful goodbyes, promises from friends and family to visit (they will), the rush of navigating the dreaded apartment broker system, Craigslists, setting up a bank accounts, and more, you finally feel like you settled down, right?
But what if that settled feeling never comes?
While we’re meant to be busy conquering New York to the tune of Empire State of Mind or Frank Sinatra’s My Way, for many, the tunes are mixed in with a sense of disorientation, anxiety or intense homesickness. You may be supposed to make it here, but you’re barely making the most of your work opportunities. Here are some common issues adjusting to this city we now call home.
New York can be GRITTY. And I don’t just mean the poverty, homelessness, or poor health care (which are all present and heartbreaking). But in a pure visual sense, New York can be very unattractive when you don’t live in the West Village or Park Slope in perpetual spring. The grime of the subway, fecal matter on top of aging snow, and bags of rubbish on the street can be very tiring. Feel free to escape to nearby parts of New York. If you loved the great outdoors back home, you can find great walking trails within 1-2 hours through a train or Zipcar ride. A day trip can very be soothing for the soul. At least the snow there will still be white.
Over-stimulation and noise
It’s not an exaggeration to say that there is always someone, somewhere, who is partying in New York. Sometimes that person is always next door. The persistent amount of stimulation in lights, people, and sound, can drive the most enthusiastic extrovert mad. In a recent Skype call with a friend, she yelled that she couldn’t hear me over the loud sound of sirens passing through my street. To my surprise, I had not noticed it at all. Despite ‘desensitizing’ to some sounds, the constant hum of the city can wear us down. Learning to be mindful in this city is can be a lifesaver. You can either do this through learning to meditate, or by engaging in everyday activities with a sense of awareness and presence. See blog piece on urban mindfulness .
Also known as Fear-Of-Missing-Out, this is a truly new age affliction. There are so many options in New York. Any given night, you can see the best theatre performance, your favorite band, or dine at the best restaurants. For many, FOMO causes a lot of anxiety or simply exhaustion. Going out every night can be fun, but the secret to sustaining the marathon is endurance and taking small breaks. There’s no shame in hibernating at home with the whole season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. Now that’s a reason to move across the seas! If you suffer from FOMO, try to skip one event this week as an experiment to fight against FOMO. Here’s a secret – there’s always more going on next weekend.
Adjustments are tough
The common phases in people’s lives where they are most susceptible to psychological distress are any periods of transition. Primary school to high school, high school to college/university, study to work, work to retirement, you get the idea. Obviously, this also applies to moving homes, jobs, and/or countries. At a time when people need social support the most, the support can be hardest to find. When you move away from your stable social network - homesickness, adjustment difficulties and anxiety are not uncommon or unusual. Try to schedule regular chats with friends and family back home, find that local restaurant or pub that you can become a regular and start building a new community. And go easy on yourself, stress makes coping more difficult. We will need more TLC at this time, not less.
Making new friends as adults in the big city
In my experience, people in New York tend to be very friendly, very happy to network and connect you up with a friend/colleague/college buddy that can help with career advice or finding an apartment. However, making long lasting relationships can be trying in such a busy city.
Try to persist with the new people that you connect to and remind yourself that you are awesome! That American assertiveness can be great and treacherous for Aussies. Obviously a lot of ex-pats make friends through their workplace/school, but if you want to engage further afield, look for people that you would have made friends with back home, so if you were into cricket – try hockey or baseball. Or try a book club on Meetup. Or brush up on your understanding of American politics and social issues at free talks by the New America Foundation. Another great place to learn a lot of great and random stuff is the Brooklyn Brainery. A weekend workshop in Kickstart Your Creativity or learning about the sanitation program in the city can be inspiring and beneficial/efficient in making new friends!
Stay tuned for Part 2. We'll be dealing with some deeper issues such as relationships and experiences with mental health difficulties in NYC.