SEA to NYC: Relocation Reflections Part II

Previously I elaborated on my relocation to New York from my hometown Seattle, and addressed the various challenges I faced during that process. Today I am going to share the key differences I have observed since my move. Seattle and New York City have a few traits in common. Both are known for being politically liberal and having a high cost of living. However, the Big Apple and Emerald City diverge in several ways.

When I resumed work in the summer, I found that mo’ money did lead to mo’ problems. When I reviewed my first paycheck in June, I was taken aback by the numbers. Before moving, I was aware that taxes were higher here. But seeing how much was taken from my salary for taxes was upsetting. To paraphrase a lyric of Biggie Smalls, I felt like the state, and municipal treasury wanted to stick me for my paper! I had negotiated a higher salary for my current position, taking into account the higher cost of living in NYC. However, I’d neglected to deeply consider New York’s taxation, an oversight that I regretted. My frustration was compounded further in December when taxes reduced my employer’s generous end-of-the-year bonus by nearly fifty percent!

I first noticed the change in mid-October. Whether I was home in Westchester or ventured into Manhattan, women’s outerwear was the same: knee-high boots and bubble coats that fell mid-hip to mid-calf in length. The bubble coats were dreadful to me. Pairing knee-high boots with a long bubble coat on my 4’ll frame would surely be a fashion disaster! I made a vow not to dress like them. But by the first week of November, I understood better why the high boots and coats were the standards. The reason can be summed up in four words: the Hawk is out. The phrase refers to the extreme, bitingly cold wind and weather common throughout the Northeast and Midwest. In the Pacific Northwest, our winters are so mild that they don’t warrant a nickname. But the sting of the Hawk against my cheeks reminded me I was not in Seattle anymore.  

A quite accurate description of NY weather from November to March!

The wind chill was so intense that my hands would begin to feel frostbitten in less than ten minutes of exposure! I started wearing gloves all the time…along with the dreaded knee-high boots and bubble-coat I vowed to avoid. I discovered that it was not realistic to care about appearance and fashion and that I valued staying warm more than being cute. My winter outerwear is not flattering to my build or height. I think I look like a midget version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow(insert picture). But if that is the price I have to pay not to freeze when I go out, so be it. Also, there is one upside to the colder temperatures in New York. I can get my hair pressed in the winter and not worry about humidity ruining it!

Traffic in New York is comparable to Seattle, but driving there has a significant advantage over NY: the roads’ condition. The relatively smooth and frequently paved lanes of I-5, I-90, and 405 honestly spoiled me. I was so used to comfortably navigating them that the bumpy parkways and interstates of the greater NYC area were an offense to me. Then there is the disposition of New York City drivers, who are a breed unto themselves! I get around Westchester County just fine on my own. However, when I must go to the city, I refuse to drive and hand the keys to my husband instead. As a born and bred New Yorker, he has the skill set needed to deal with the aggression and insanity common in the city. I am still amazed at how frequently drivers in The Bronx and Manhattan double park, careless that they are inconveniencing others! Seattleites do not even attempt such shenanigans!

The demographic makeup of New York is a drastic change for me as well. As a native Seattleite, I was used to feeling like a minority the majority of the time. Unless I was at church or with my family, I was either the only Black person or one of a few anywhere I went. However, that minority feeling is now a memory. New York City and its suburbs alike have so far lived up to their reputation of diversity. New York’s diversity is more profound than race. The Greek, Italian, Russian, Jamaican, Haitian, Dominican, orthodox Jewish, and West African enclaves throughout the area are a testament to the ethnic and religious mix, a reminder of New York’s beginnings as a Dutch colony.

One demographic that has a significant influence in Seattle that I regretfully have not seen in NY so far: Vietnamese-Americans. As a child of Seattle’s South End, I am used to seeing colorful Vietnamese storefronts and being able to grab a bowl of yummy pho with ease. Vietnamese restaurants in the South End are as ubiquitous as Starbucks shops in affluent areas. I took the prevalence of Vietnamese food in Seattle for granted, my life in New York showing me that you genuinely don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone! Access to a variety of Vietnamese cafes, along with decent Thai food, is one of the top five reasons I plan on visiting Seattle this summer.

Finally, there are behavioral differences between New Yorkers and Seattleites. While New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude and mean, I personally prefer them over Seattleites. Even before I moved to New York, I did not think New Yorkers had nasty attitudes. They are merely direct and do not mince their words. I do not interpret that as rude. Compared to the passive-aggressiveness that is the norm in Seattle, New Yorkers’ bluntness is a relief.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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