New York is in 5th place on the list of the most expensive cities in the world. So it is not the most expensive city in the world, but the Big Apple is without a doubt the number 1 in America when it comes to a high standard of living. A holiday here is quite affordable, especially if you come from Europe you get value for your euros, but as my mother said Kon libi nanga kon tan a no sem*. Life is certainly not cheap these days, with rising oil prices and with it inflation.
Besides the fact that you can enjoy living in New York, you will also have no problem finding an apartment. Of course it depends on where in New York you are looking for a place, but in general the apartments are more spacious than in Amsterdam and the price varies from place to place.
Where a reasonable one bedroom apartment starts at about $1200 in Brooklyn, this is the price for a studio in Manhattan. So that's an apartment without a bedroom and usually half the size of one in Brooklyn.
A big advantage is that you do not have to search for a home for months. Apartments pass from hand to hand here on a monthly basis. You really don't have to worry about finding an apartment.
To give you an idea. When I was just in America I still had Amsterdam in my mind where it was almost impossible to have a house within a month. I lived in Boston with my husband, then my boyfriend, and spent a few weekends looking at properties in New York. Within three weeks we had a fairly spacious Brownstone with a bedroom, anteroom, kitchen and bathroom. Brownstones are those old houses made of big old brown bricks. For our luck it was also on the ground floor with a garden.
A frizzy hair day in our 1st home in Brooklyn
What really surprised me in the beginning was that in the local supermarket just Bakeljauw, the same dried "Batjauw" as in Suriname, was available. The offer of the supermarkets is focused on the local resident. Where I thought we lived in a black neighborhood, I could conclude from the range that there were also many Latin Americans living in the area. On every corner there was a restaurant where you could get Bacalao with cassava as well as yellow rice with stewed chicken. Of course these eateries are next to the usual well-known American McDonalds.
My girlfriend who lived in Manhattan at the time complained about the lack of supermarkets. She paid three times as much for fruit that was three times less in quality. In Manhattan you hardly have to leave the house to do your shopping. The convenience stores are literally at the foot of almost every apartment building. It remains America, everything revolves around convenience, but you also pay for it. These beautiful, not widely-stocked convenience stores are usually much more expensive. Recently there were price comparisons on the radio and where you pay $3 to $4 for a pack of Budweiser beer in the supermarket, the price in such a luxury establishment was $13. Go figure.
Although I am certainly not dissatisfied with the range of my supermarket, I prefer to buy vegetables, fruit and tea in China Town. The offer is great. Where in the average American supermarket you can choose between Broccoli, Zucchini and a few other vegetables, in China Town you see leafy vegetables of which you do not even know the name. I have tried almost all of them and they are all delicious if you fry them with some oil, garlic and salt. They often also have the vegetables that we know from Suriname, such as Sopropo, Kouseband and bok choi. But what really freaks me out are the fruits. The other day they had Gujaves. Gujaves! The same species that also grew in our garden when I still lived in Wageiningen Suriname. Normally these cost $3.50 per pound and you pay $5 per Gujave or so. Now in the summer they were $1. I immediately bought 5 and they ran out almost immediately. Delicious! I also eat my fill of Lychees, grapes, whatever the season has to offer. By the end of the summer they will have these life-sized Pomegranates. They're always 3 for $5 and I'm already looking forward to those fruits. As a Surinamese who grew up between Manja, Gujave, Cherries, Apple and Pommerak trees, I remain a true fruit eater.
A car in Manhattan is out of the question. I don't know anyone in Manhattan with a car. Still, car owners have to live there because in Inwood, that is at the end of Manhattan, many cars are parked at night.
Besides being expensive to have a car, it's super inconvenient. During the day, driving and parking in Manhattan are a punishment. You'd rather walk. Not for anyone, even Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is a multi-millionaire, takes the subway. It is simply not possible to do it by car.
Outside of Manhattan, in queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn, a car is useful, although parking is becoming increasingly difficult. Buying a car is not too expensive in itself. The prices are much lower than in the Netherlands, but the insurance is abominably high. Especially for foreigners whose insurance companies assume that we do not have enough driving experience. As a non-American, auto insurance will cost you about $300 to $400 per month.
The metro is quite affordable, but also gets more expensive. In a few years, the price of a ticket has increased from 1.50 to 2.00. That doesn't seem like much, but those 2 dollars can add up quite a bit. A one-day pass that was $3 4 years ago now costs $7.50. Such a one-day pass is useful if you are going to use the train at least 4 times in one day. You can also use this "One day Fun Pass" on the bus. You have to be quick because it looks like the price will go up again this year.
People here speak of train or subway rather than metro. The ratio is also different from, for example, the Netherlands. Where the train from Amsterdam to Utrecht takes about half an hour, you go with a metro from Manhattan to Brooklyn or from Brooklyn to Queens. You could compare this with a trip from Amsterdam center to Amsterdam South or something. The idea is the same but the distances here are much greater.
For a basic fee of about $40 per month you can join NYSC (New York Sports Club) or Bally's Fitness, the largest sports club chains with facilities in various states such as Washington, New Jersey and Boston. The equipment, which is usually top of the line, is always strategically placed in front of a large glass window. Besides being an effective display for many a passer-by, it is also useful for the athlete. While you're sweating on a treadmill or bike, you can enjoy the view the city has to offer. If you don't feel like that, you can choose between different TV channels that are built into the devices. So you will not be bored. Even exercising is made easy for you.
Photos of our club. To heal my injury I wanted to swim 3 times a week. That's why I chose a gym with a pool. For my luck they also have sauna and Turkish bath. I really can't complain about my gym except that the chlorinated water didn't do my hair any good.
Each club has its own program with Yoga, Aerobic, Spinning and other classes at set times. The basic fee provides access to the equipment during non-busy peak hours. If you want to follow these lessons, you can pay a little more monthly or pay per lesson.
Some clubs are more luxurious than others, but most include clean towels, shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. That saves looking. Your sports bag is much less heavy. Some clubs even offer the possibility to wash your sports clothes. So you just leave your sports clothes behind and you can pick them up washed and ironed the next day. Of course you also pay extra for this.
In New York you can eat delicious whether you have little or a lot of money to spend. Besides the well-known $1 satays in China Town, you can easily get a taco for under $5. For those with a bit more to spend, there are the $500 per place restaurants. For a 'regular' burger I would refer this group to DB Bistro. There you pay $50 for the best known and most expensive hamburger in the US, but you also get truffles in your burger. I don't know if it's good. Except I don't being such a burger freak, I am by no means a millionaire.
My favorite dish changes every few months and so does my favorite eating place, but I think you can never go wrong with a Thai, Chinese or Japanese.
There is something to do in New York any day of the week at any hour and there is something for everyone. For $10 you can grab a movie of your choice. In addition to the larger cinemas, there are at least 20 smaller independent (self-produced) films from all over the world. They can be more interesting than the predictable blockbusters. The most recent "indie" movie I saw was "Take Out" about the life of an illegal Chinese immigrant in Manhattan. Pretty good story, pretty good actors, but the recordings themselves could have been a bit better quality. The nice thing is that you can ask questions to the makers of the film afterwards. See the trailer here: http://takeoutthemovie.com/trailer.html
In addition to films, there is a range of live music, musicals, dance, theater and opera. There really isn't enough time to do everything. The last opera I saw was Margaret Garner last September. A story based on reality inspired from the book Beloved by Tony Morrison. Gospels were beautifully performed in operatic form, but actually it was about quite heavy history. Margaret was a slave who had been charged in 1850 by her owner for murdering the children he fathered with her. It turned out to be a historically complicated lawsuit. Should she now be tried for murder or destruction of property?
The dark decor, the sensitive expression and the singing dragged the audience from one emotion to another in a quiet and packed hall. We didn't have the best seats, but my girlfriend and I had a blast for a reasonable ticket price of $40 per person.