So you’re thinking of heading to the Big Apple?

Despite what Hollywood movies tell you, there’s much more to this beautiful city than speedy yellow cabs, angry commuters, and busy Manhattanites. Here, you’ll have five unique boroughs to explore – each with its own interesting architecture, delicious food joints, eclectic bars, and luscious green spaces.

With so much on offer, expats are sure to find a niche community that they can fit in with. But before you start packing your bags, there are a few things you should know about New York.

Night york buildings

The City That Never Sleeps truly comes alive once the sun goes down

1. There’s more to New York City than Manhattan

When people think of New York City, their mind typically jumps to Manhattan’s tourist destinations – think Times Square, the Empire State Building, and Central Park.

But there are five different boroughs to enjoy in New York:

  • Manhattan – As the cultural epicentre of New York, this borough is truly at the heart of it all. Head here to find Broadway, Times Square, Central Park, and other famous landmarks
  • Brooklyn – This area has a bit of something for everyone: live music, exciting eateries, huge sports events, and lots of history
  • Queens – This area’s diversity is reflected in its unmatched food scene. Make your way through tasty Greek souvlaki, delicious Chinese dumplings, and much more. Queens is also a major destination for sports fans, nature lovers, and modern-art admirers
  • The Bronx – Interested in sport, nature, or hip-hop? Head to the Bronx. This borough is also home to the New York Yankees and the biggest park in the city
  • Staten Island – Perfect for people wanting a mix of suburbia and city life, people living in Staten Island can easily commute by a scenic ride on the Staten Island Ferry

2. There are peaceful areas – you just need to know where to look

If you find yourself frustrated by the hustle and bustle, that doesn’t necessarily mean New York isn’t for you. There are plenty of peaceful neighbourhoods dotted around the city – most with good connections to central New York for those times when you miss its electric atmosphere.

Window Terrace, for example, is pocketed between two of Brooklyn’s biggest green spaces, and is perfect for anyone looking for a mixture of city life and nature. What’s more, this charming residential area is only between 30 and 50 minutes away from the popular working districts.

Forest Hills also has small-town vibes. Here, you can settle down in an idyllic area with tree-lined roads, and still only be 15 minutes from Manhattan.

3. It has some of the highest taxes in the US

New Yorkers have to pay three different income taxes: the federal income tax, the state income tax, and the city income tax. 

To give you an idea of how much your salary will be taxed, we’ve outlined the brackets below.

Taxable income bracketTax owed
$0–$8,5004% of taxable income
$8,501–$11,700$340 plus 4.5% of the amount over $8,500
$11,701–$13,900$484 plus 5.25% of the amount over $11,700
$13,901–$21,400$600 plus 5.9% of the amount over $13,900
$21,401–$80,650$1,042 plus 5.97% of the amount over $21,400
$80,651–$215,400$4,579 plus 6.33% of the amount over $80,650
$215,401–$1,077,550$13,109 plus 6.85% of the amount over $215,400
$1,077,550–$5,000,000$72,166 plus 9.65% of the amount over $1,077,550
$5,000,001–$25,000,000$450,683 plus 10.30% of the amount over $5,000,000
$25,000,001+$2,510,683 plus 10.90% of the amount over $25,000,000

4. Healthcare isn’t free

If you’re moving to New York, it’s worth looking into which healthcare options are available to you.

Unlike many other countries, the healthcare system in America is completely privatised – meaning the network of hospitals and doctors surgeries across the nation are all run by independent companies.

Once someone has received treatment, they’re left with a bill, which is usually pretty hefty – this is where insurance companies come in. To cover these costs, 91.2% of Americans have some form of medical cover. By paying money each month to their provider, they won’t have to foot the bill once something bad happens.

If you’ve already decided that you need private medical cover in the US, we recommend the services of Cigna. With 95 million customers worldwide and four different pricing plans, they’ll be able to sort you out with just the right cover. Start building your customised plan today with a free quote from Cigna.

5. Most people don’t own a car…

This might not come as a surprise to most people, but there are much more efficient ways of getting around the city than driving. In fact, less than half of New Yorkers (48%) own a car – though, this is estimated to have gone up slightly during the pandemic.

In fact, having a car in New York generally causes people more stress than not having one. Drivers have to put up with regular traffic and often have to pay for parking – if they can find a spot, that is.

6. …and the ones that do can be pretty angry

We don’t usually like to give in to stereotypes, but this one’s pretty spot on. When they’re not stuck in standstill traffic, New York drivers have a tendency to exceed speed limits.

So whether you’re wandering down Madison Avenue or strolling on a local side street in Brooklyn, make sure to pay attention to the roads. It’s also safer to assume they have right of way, unless you want to live life on the edge.

7. The weather gets extreme

Expect sweltering summers and wet snowy winters in New York.

Winter weather averages at just above freezing (0°C or 32°F), but can also drop to about -10/-15°C (5/14°F) – meaning you can also expect a lot of snowfall. Summer, on the other hand, can see temperatures reach 35/38°C (95/100°F) – with the highest record getting to 39.5°C (103°F) in August 2001.

The reason behind the fluctuation in temperature and weather is because New York is located on the eastern border of the US, where different air masses collide – the cold coming from Canada and the warmth coming from the Gulf of Mexico – which triggers an unstable climate.

8. It’s very expensive

Most people living in New York will tell you that monthly paychecks run out fast here.

Overall, New York’s cost of living is 129% higher than the US national average, and its housing market is even more expensive – 369% higher than the national average.

You can expect a rented apartment in Manhattan to set you back around $4,265 each month, whereas an apartment in Brooklyn will cost an average of $3,124, and one in Queens will be roughly $2,769.

As for other costs of living, NYC’s grocery prices are 28% higher than the national average, and utility prices are 25% higher.

If you’re about to move to New York, you’ll probably need to convert some of your savings into dollars.

However, it’s best to avoid using big banks for this process, as you’ll usually have to pay high fees, and you won’t get the best exchange rate.

That’s why we’ve done our research and compared all the major money transfer services on the market, so you can choose the right one. Check out our expert ratings and find the best money transfer provider today.

9. You might have to pay a broker’s fee to rent an apartment

New Yorkers typically have to pay estate agents a hefty commission to rent an apartment, which can be anything between one month’s rent and 15% of the annual rent.

Some renters might be able to swerve this cost by checking out ‘no-fee apartments’ – but you’ll have to be fast since they get snapped up pretty quickly. Alternatively, you can skip broker’s fees by using a service or website that puts you in touch with other people searching for a flatmate.

New York skyline

New York’s bold skyline basking in the sun 

10. The food and drink scene is out of this world

New York’s food and drink scene is constantly evolving, and includes delicacies from all corners of the world.

Today, you can make your way through the city and grab a pizza from Little Italy, noodles from Chinatown, spicy stews from Koreatown, and Russian delicacies from Brighton Beach.

And if you want to see a proper representation of New York City’s diversity, head to Harlem and try food from Ethiopia, Mexico, Japan, Jamaica, Somalia… you name it.

11. It’s pizza heaven

Can’t get enough pizza? New York will be the perfect place for you.

New Yorkers take a lot of pride in their NYC-style pizza, so it’s no wonder why there’s practically a pizza joint on every corner. Some traditional pizzerias still use coal-fired ovens, and only serve whole ‘pies’. But there are also plenty of places that serve pizza by the slice, so you can get your fix on the go.

12. The tap water is top quality

If you’re moving to New York, prepare for everyone to rave about how good the tap water is. The government website even states that New York City has “some of the best tap water in the world”.

What makes this water so prestigious? It partly comes down to where the water has come from – springs from 125 miles away, in the Catskill Mountains. According to GreenNYC, the Department of Environmental Protection also carries out more than 900 tests each day, from up to 1,200 locations throughout New York.

13. There are plenty of green spaces

It may be a concrete jungle, but New York is also home to a lot of green space – roughly 28,000 acres of it.

Although Central Park is by far the most famous green space in the city, it’s not the biggest – that would be Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, which is over three times bigger.

Brooklyn’s Prospect Park also offers luscious meadows, winding pathways, and a majestic boathouse. Alternatively, you can head to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 to enjoy nature and snap a shot of the Manhattan skyline.

14. It’s home to some of the country’s best universities

Students are spoiled for choice in NYC. The city is home to some of the most prestigious universities and higher learning opportunities in America – not to mention there’s a huge international-student community here.

Some of the best colleges and universities include Columbia University, New York University (NYU), Baruch College, Barnard College, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and Pratt Institute.

15. It’s a cultural capital 

New York is jam-packed with cultural experiences.

If you’re into all things art, head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), or the Frick Collection.

Want an educational day out? Spend hours delving through historical goodies at the American Museum of Natural History, visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, or wander through the Morgan Library and Museum.

And if it’s entertainment you’re after, you can always head to Broadway to catch the latest show.

16. Remember to look up 

New York is home to a lot of architectural gems, including The Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, and Rockefeller Center.

Often, the easiest way to spot the tourists from the locals in New York is to see who has stopped in the middle path to gawp up at the skyscrapers – and who can blame them?

17. Grand Central Station has a whispering gallery

New York’s iconic rail station has a quirky feature – you can whisper something at one side of the chamber and it will be heard from the other side. This incredible acoustic phenomenon is caused by the unusually perfect arches in the gallery.

If you want to try it out, all you need to do is stand with your ear right up against the tiles in the domed intersection of walkways on the lower floor of Grand Central Terminal.

18. The apartments are tiny

New York is famous for its tiny apartments and cramped shared housing – but just how small are they?

Well, the average apartment in Manhattan is 702 square feet. But it’s not all bad news, according to the research firm Urban Digs, the size of New York apartments has grown by roughly 5% over the last five years.

19. It’s super diverse

You can find people from all corners of the world in New York. The city is home to roughly 3.1 million immigrants, which is why it’s often thought of as America’s melting pot.

Currently, about 36% of the city’s population is from other countries, and you can hear as many as 800 languages spoken, making it an ideal location for expats.

20. New York City isn’t actually that big

Geographically, New York City isn’t huge – covering just 301 square miles. To compare, London is twice as big, spread over 607 square miles.

This is even more surprising, considering about one in every 38 people living in the United States lives in New York City. 

So when we say this city is densely populated, we mean it.

21. It’s a 24-hour city

There’s a reason why New York is often nicknamed The City That Never Sleeps. Here, you can roam the streets in the early hours and find everything you need – bodegas, drugstores, gyms, restaurants, spas, you name it…

And with bars being legally permitted to open at 7am and close at 4am, you can rest assured that the night out will never get cut short.


There you have it – 21 things you need to know about New York before packing your bags.

Feeling excited to start your life in The Big Apple? You might want to suss out a few more things first. To get a better idea of what you need to get organised, check out our articles below: