Why I Don’t Like New York City

*Edit 2/21/2017- I am pretty embarrassed by this post. I was very naive and close-minded when I wrote it. I’m so tempted to edit it, but will preserve it as a reminder of how I’ve grown in the past four years. Please read it with a grain of salt and dash of humor!*

I have lived in New York City for three and a half years. Fordham’s campus in the Bronx is a nice, quiet bubble. I have found that the more I have to interact with Manhattan due to classes or internships, the less happy I become. I lived and interned in Manhattan from June to August and I think it was the least happy I have been in my entire life. I could give you a litany of things I hate about the city, but instead I have an argument for why NYC breeds stress and unhappiness.

I am going to structure my argument around something I heard while watching a documentary called Happy. Please stick with me, as this will be my longest post to date. I’ll sprinkle in some fun music to distract you and lighten your spirits. I promise this won’t be too depressing (unless you live in New York City…then I’m sorry).

 

In a small segment of the film, Dr. Tim Kaser of Knox College spoke about his studies of extrinsic and intrinsic goals. According to him, examples of extrinsic goals are money, status, and image. Intrinsic goals are personal growth, close personal relationships, and community feeling or desire to help the world become a better place. He explained how value systems that support extrinsic desires are at the opposite end of, and in opposition to, value systems that support intrinsic desires. In his studies he found that people who are intrinsically oriented are happier. His theory made me realize that I do not like New York City because it is an extrinsically orienented place.

Money: Everything from food, housing, transportation, and recreation in New York is expensive. Most people I have met are out to make as much money as possible. Since moving to the city, I have learned to avoid human contact on the subways or in the streets because if some one approaches me it is because they want my money.

 

Community: The awareness that strangers are out to get me is extremely inhibiting when trying to foster a feeling a community. For example, one early evening over the summer I was standing on a street on the Upper West Side talking to some friends. A woman approached us and asked for money for food. I took my wallet out and offered her a dollar. She saw the corner of a five-dollar bill sticking out of my wallet and grabbed for it, knocking my wallet out of my hand. Fortunately, I was quick enough to scoop it up and run away without losing anything. Before this incident, I was aware of people on the street, but now I am afraid of them. It is hard to feel happy and at home in a place I am afraid of. In addition, I no longer give money to anyone begging on the street. Instead, I pretend not to see or hear them and it makes me feel awful.

Image: New York might evolve around people’s image more than money. Money is made in order to buy power symbols (like designer brand clothing) to convey to others that one has money and, more importantly, status. This desire for image and status also creates a hierarchy. It is hard to create meaningful relationships with people in a community when everyone is constantly trying to prove that they are better than everyone else. I worked between Madison and 5th Ave this summer and was always frustrated with the crowds of tourists window-shopping. It seems like even the tourism in the city relies on images of 5th Ave., Fashion Week, etc. that are conveyed in the popular media.

 

Status: Being a senior in college, I am flooded with advice from Career Services. Being a liberal arts major, and therefore unskilled, they always stress that I network. “Meet as many as people as possible and hope one of them knows somebody who knows somebody who can get you a job” they seem to say. This mentality almost comes at the sacrifice of personal relationships. I find myself only interested in people who might be helpful to me. It got so bad that in my internship over the summer I made no effort to befriend the other interns. There were about thirty other interns in the building and we met weekly for “Lunch and Learns” hosted by the company. These were people who were in the same position in life as myself, so I probably had a lot in common with. I had the opportunity to make some great friends. Instead, I thought, “I’m on my second internship and a New Yorker*. This is only the first internship for some of them. Most of them commute and some are from New Jersey. I am so much better than them. They have nothing to offer me.” Because I was looking for people with a high status in the publishing industry who could improve my own, I missed out on connections that might have made me a much happier person over the summer.

Personal Growth: In my experience in New York, earning money to improve my image and status came before personal growth. This seems contradictory, but the point of personal growth is doing something just for the pleasure of doing it. Since moving to NYC I’ve heard the expression, “Time is money” a lot. To me, this says everything anyone needs to know about NYC. It implies that one should only spend time doing things one is going to get something out of. Time wasted is money lost. This sentiment leaves no room for time for family, friends, or relaxation (i.e. the keys to happiness).

In summary: I don’t like New York City because people value status, money, and image over personal growth, relationships, and community. I mentioned in an earlier post that I am a country girl at heart. I just don’t have the right personality to thrive in a city. If you live in NYC and love it, I really hope I didn’t ruin it for you. If you are happy in the city please ignore everything I said. OR LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW I hope my lil’ post ignites some argument. Thanks for reading 🙂

*I don’t know what it means to be a New Yorker. I don’t think anyone does, really (except for people who hate New Yorkers).

I can’t pick which song from this band to leave you with. I like this one best:

 

But this one reminds me of Breaking Bad:

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11 Comments

  1. My favorite things to do when I lived in NYC had nothing to do with money – going to Central Park – specifically Sheep Meadow in the day, roller blading the streets from Wash. Square to Central Park at 5 AM after the bars closed, picking up returnables on the street on roller blades with friends until we had enough to get a quart of cheap beer, exploring weird, decrepit areas (this was the 80s – there were lots of them). Or seeing what kind of adventures we could get have for $5 or less. And skating at Wollman Rink.
    Now my favorite things in NYC still involve free – the Staten Island Ferry – one of my favorite images of NY is from that park on the bottom of Manhattan, a sunny day, a happy family of Africans in flowing white robes, all wearing foam Statue of Liberty hats, all peering through the binocular machines at the Statue of Liberty. Or walking or roller blading over any of the bridges…and still Central Park.
    I loved NYC when I was a student, but hated it when I was trying to make a living there.

  2. Hey Kim! I saw this on my newsfeed and figured I’d check it out. I’m not trying to convince you to love the city or anything and it’s cool to be a country girl but I feel like you went to all the wrong places in the city and that that might have given you a bad impression. All of the places you mentioned I avoid like the plague. I’d have also hated Madison and 5th. Anywhere around there I really don’t like and a lot of the reasons you say you don’t like the city are the same things that I don’t like (i.e. money, status, etc.). I think the areas you described are very focused on that but you just have to explore elsewhere to find places that aren’t. I’ve found tons of cheap places to eat and have fun. I think I’ve also explored a lot of the city with people who grew up here and that has led me to love the city more. I think a lot of New Yorkers have a humor about them and it has encouraged me to just laugh things off with strangers. Even NYU I’m not too fond of because so many people at NYU are focused on money and status. I think it’s just important to explore. Anyway I enjoyed reading your post and I hope everything’s going well. I can’t believe we’re seniors again…haha.

    1. Hey Nicole! I know I can’t believe we are seniors! Ah! I really should explore some of the cooler spots in the city. What are some of your favorite places? I wish I had more time to go on city adventures. This had just been my experience so far. Maybe if I work at it, I can grow to like New York.

  3. I just moved to Manhattan 4 months ago and sometimes think to myself, “oh my god, I live in NYC. EVERYONE all over the world knows New York City. This is crazy.” And then the feeling goes because I am not attached to it. While I find it exciting and new and sometimes beautiful and enchanting, I am not a New Yorker in my opinion- I just live here. And this is partly because I do not work in Manhattan, nor do I do anything that has to do with status, money or image; I teach middle school in the Bronx. It also has to do with the fact that I try to stay away from all that status/money stuff… And when I can’t, it physically and mentally hurts me… it all boils down to the fact that I do not have money to spend like New Yorkers. I also grew up very familiar with and fond of city life in Boston, but New York is it’s own monster. It can be a beautiful place, but I think you have to have the right way about it. And that is by no means easy to do. It really is inhumane.

    1. Wow I’m so impressed that you teach middle school in the Bronx. Some of my friends student teach in the schools around Fordham and I have heard some crazy stories! Definitely not the typical NY job!

  4. I found your blog through a Facebook post by your brother. This is the first post I have actually read. I vacillated between journalism and publishing as a career; though I have chosen journalism. While interesting, I have certain problems with your assertions. Intrinsic values may be in opposition to extrinsic values, but the warm fuzzies of intrinsic values don’t pay the bills. I live in a small Southern town and, while my history is here, my future probably is in a large city; such as New York. Image and status is important to one degree or another everywhere and it is promoted. It is up to an individual not to get swallowed up by that. I get the same advice about networking almost every day that I am on campus. It is still up to me to cultivate any relationship that is important to me. The same goes for you and every other person on the planet. Liberal arts professors and college career centers promote networking as imperative to the job hunt, but they don’t add in that personal relationships should be sacrificed. Arrogance is not promoted; either. Someone believing that they are better than others, as you admit to doing in your second internship, is arrogant. I would hope to meet great people, and possibly make friends, in an internship, but I couldn’t be friends with someone who treated me as someone to be stepped on as they climbed the ladder of success. Regardless of career level differences, I would need to be treated as a human equal.

    1. Thanks for reading my post. I’m glad it interested you. Yes, intrinsic values don’t pay the bills, but one of my points was that I would rather put my happiness before money. In my opinion, happiness is harder to find than money.

      I’m not an arrogant person, but I do regret my attitude during my summer internship. It was still an important learning experience though. Sometimes internships are as much about finding what you don’t want than what you do. I hope you are happy in your career in journalism!

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