New York City Culture – My First Month Living on the Upper East Side
You’d think moving to a different part of the same country wouldn’t be that big of a change. I mean, the United States is the United States, right? I’ve lived a lot of places in my life – Idaho, Utah, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, London, Virginia, Michigan, and Spain. But I’m here to tell you that living in New York City on the Upper East Side is quite the change. I’ve almost had a mini culture shock this past month. There is so much to adjust to.
I’ve had a lot of family and friends message me and ask how life in New York City is going. To answer all the questions and give some insight to the culture on the Upper East Side, I’ve made a list of the most startling and exciting parts about moving and living in New York City. I hope you enjoy!
Upper East Side Wealth
I was at the park a few days after we moved in, and I started up a conversation with a mom who was there with her son. She had lived on the Upper East Side with her husband and two kids for the past 9 years, and she was telling me stuff about the area and helping me get adjusted. She made a comment about one of her friends, and how they had to sacrifice when they had twins, enrolling them in public school instead of in private school. She was saying that with the twins, the cost of private school, ranging from $50,000- $80,000 a year depending on the school, would be just too much, so they opted for public. She said, “I mean, they could afford it if they wanted to, but then they wouldn’t be able to vacation as much, and they would have to give up their house at the Hamptons… and what kind of life would that be?” It was at that moment that I had an awakening of where I was. It was eye-opening to me right away of the lifestyle that I had stepped into. Houses at the Hamptons, private school costs, elaborate vacations on the regular. This was a whole new world for me. The show, Gossip Girl, was a pretty accurate depiction of what life is actually like on the Upper East Side. If you haven’t watched it, you should. It’s a hoot.
Just walking up and down the avenues on the Upper East Side is an experience in itself. The wealth is incredible. People have their own private drivers that drop them off and pick them up as they please. Women will be completely decked out walking down the sidewalk in their Christian Louboutin high heels, while holding their signature Channel purse. And the dogs! The dogs here are the prettiest dogs I’ve ever seen. They are all the high-end breeds, no mutts here. The poodles here have better hair than I do most days. It is perfectly brushed and washed, frequently making its appearance at the groomer. Every hair is in place. The white dogs are perfectly white, no dirt to be seen. And, it isn’t the owners walking the dogs. People here hire dog walkers to walk their dogs a few times throughout the day. When it’s raining, the dogs have clothes that they wear to protect them from the elements. I’ve seen the cutest sweaters and rain jackets on the dogs here, ones I’d wear myself if they were my size, and of course in human shape instead of dog shape. It’s quite the sight to see! And the kids at the parks are all wearing the most high-end brands of clothes, each sporting their Moncler coats as the weather gets colder.
Jimmy was in need of a haircut so I casually Googled some haircut places around the Upper East Side. I made some calls and reached out to a mom’s group that is based in my area for some suggestions of places to go for kids. It all seemed great until I asked the price. I was floored. The kid’s cut were $145. I felt stupid when I paused on the phone for a bit. When they asked what day I’d like the appointment, I awkwardly ended the conversation and said I’d call back later. I called another place. They wanted $80. A little better, but still too much for me. It seemed that most places averaged around the $50-100 range. I finally found a place that would do it for $55. It seemed cheap to me after seeing the other prices. It’s crazy how fast your perspective changes here. I don’t even want to know how much it is going to cost when I need my hair cut and colored.
Kid’s Music Class
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jimmy and I attended a music class with other kids his age that he absolutely loved. I wanted to get him involved in something like that here as well. I found out about the top music class in the city, and was so excited about it. Tina Fey lives near me and she supposedly takes her kids to it. After finding out it was $42 for a 45-minute class, I was a little less excited. I’m still on the fence about whether or not to sign up. We shall see.
There are some grocery stores in my area that are incredible. Jimmy and I ventured out to them one day to check them out. I was on the search for a good quality vanilla. When I got in, I was floored at the prices. They were almost laughable. I felt like I was on the show, Candid Camera, and that suddenly someone was going to jump out and say, “Smile. You’re on Candid Camera!” Nope. These prices are real and people actually pay them. $5 for a yogurt. $5 a pound for pears and apples. Organic ones, but still. $10 for a small tupperware of fresh salsa. And the most crazy of all, the vanilla that I was searching for – 4oz bottle of vanilla was $69 and a 2 oz bottle was $37. Astonished, I put the vanilla back and quickly left the store.
I love working out, especially doing group fitness classes. I love yoga, pilates, kickboxing, HIIT, and Zumba. You name it. I love it. I even taught Zumba for a few years at some local gyms. Well, if you want to join a gym here on the Upper East Side, you better be ready to hand over the bucks. It is normal to pay $200+ a month for a membership. Often times childcare is extra, as well as other little things. They seem to have fees for everything. There is even a joining fee that is outrageous. It’s nuts I tell you. Nuts.
I started doing my own laundry when I was 14. I remember the day that I mom called me into the laundry room and announced that I was going to start doing my own laundry. Grudgingly, I agreed, and did it on my own from then on. So when we moved into our NYC apartment with no washer and dryer, I was a little nervous.
I started Googling all the laundry services near me and seeing what the options were. There were so many options online, from laundry mats to sending it out, and there were so many places that did it. I was a bit overwhelmed. With technology there are also many laundry companies where you submit your whole order through their app. You take photos of the stains on your phone and submit the pic and location details of the stain on the article of clothing before you submit your order. So fancy!
After doing some research, I decided on a place to do my laundry. It had great reviews online so I went with it. They do free pick-up and delivery and have it back to you in 24 hours. It seemed too good to be true. I scheduled a time for them to come, and I got my laundry ready. All of these worries ran through my head - What if they lose an item? What if the stains don’t come out in the wash and then they dry it, making the stain permanent? What if they mix up my stuff with someone else’s? What if they dry my cashmere sweater that I requested for hang dry? I was a mess. They were coming in an hour to get my clothes, and I was ready to have a panic attack.
The guy buzzed in. I opened the door nervously and expressed my worry to the man. He laughed and promised me it would be ok. I cautiously gave him my laundry basket of precious goods and shut the door. It felt so odd to hand it over to a complete stranger. Dirty underwear and everything.
24 hours later, my buzzer rang again. I opened the door and it seemed like magic. Without me having to lift a finger, my clothes were washed, dried, and perfectly folded in little stacks. The darks and whites were wrapped separately in different bags. The requested hang dry items were still slightly damp and hanging on hangers. My sheets and towels were soft and folded, ready to be put away. It was amazing! I tipped the guy a few dollars and closed the door. I couldn’t believe how easy that was. All my worries about sending out my laundry were diminished. So much time saved.
Online Grocery Shopping
What’s funny about NYC is that the cheap grocery stores to shop at are Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. These used to be the higher end stores in my mind. You have a couple of options when it comes to getting your groceries in the city. You can either walk to a store and shop in person, carrying everything home or taking a taxi, or you can do it all online. I’ve done the carry it all home option, and my arms and hands weren’t too happy about it, so I decided it was time to start ordering everything online.
I was a little apprehensive about grocery shopping online at first. (Maybe this post shows how much of a control freak I am and how I need to learn to let go of things out of my control? Maybe.) I actually love grocery shopping. I find it relaxing and fun to go through the aisles, see all the choices and get my creative juices flowing of what I could whip up for dinner. Doing it online seemed to suck all the fun out of it. I also enjoy picking out my produce, (again the control freak thing), reading the ingredients labels, etc, so I didn’t know how this whole online thing was going to go.
Well, I am here to tell you that IT IS AMAZING. I am converted. It is so nice to be able to sit on my comfy couch, in my pj’s, and order the food on my computer. No fighting the crowds, no standing in long lines, no carrying heavy grocery bags home or fighting to fit it in the bottom of my stroller. None of that. All gone. I just search what item I want in the search box, change the quantity if needed, and then click, “add to cart.” When my cart is full with everything I need, I submit my order, pick a delivery time that works for my schedule, and I’m done. It’s so great! So many stores here do online delivery. So far, I’ve only used Whole Foods through Amazon Prime Now, but I’m sure there are other good ones as well with good coupon options. Whole Foods delivers right to my door, hours after I order it. It’s incredibly fast. Like magic, my food is carried up my three flights of stairs, right to my doorstep. All I have to do is put everything in the fridge. I think not roaming the store in person also helps me save on impulse buying, which saves me money in the end. No more shopping when I’m hungry.
If you’re wanting to shop at Trader Joe’s they do it a little different. You have to go to the store in person and shop yourself. You pay and leave with nothing. Then hours later, in the time slot you chose, the groceries are delivered to your house. Unfortunately there isn’t a Trader Joe’s on the Upper East Side yet, so this isn’t that convenient of an option for me, but we did do it once to get some staples that we love from there.
The food delivery options here are fabulous. You want Thai food? Sure! Craving Indian food? You got it! Have a hankering for a taco? Why not?! Literally any type of cuisine can be delivered hot to your doorstep in 20 minutes. It’s amazing. Growing up, pizza was the only food that we could get delivered to our door. Now the options are endless. It’s kind of bad sometimes, because they make it all too easy to be lazy and not cook dinner. We use Seamless the most, but we also love Uber Eats and Caviar.
Jimmy loves when they come. He has made himself in charge of giving them their tip at the door. He feels like such a big helper. I love it because, well, no cooking, no dishes, and no mess! What’s there not to love? It’s like I went out to dinner at a nice restaurant, right from the comfort of my own home. So fabulous and so convenient especially on those busy weekday nights.
Having a car in New York is more of a pain than it’s worth. Some people have a car, but the parking garage fees get so expensive making it actually cheaper in the end to rent a car when you need one. I actually wasn’t too sad to say goodbye to my Lexus, as I really don’t love driving or parking, especially in the snow. My driver’s ED teacher never taught my class how to parallel park because he told us, “We’d never need it.” Well I guess you’d never need it if you stayed in Idaho your whole life, but if you venture outside of the state then you definitely need this skill. Thanks a lot for preparing me for life! He also told me after my very first drive, “Well, you’re not a natural driver!” Who says that?!?
The city life of using public transportation is so easy and convenient in my opinion. The subway is efficient and on time most days. The bus is a little less predictable, but easy to use nonetheless. People are so friendly and helpful when it comes to traveling with a child. If the subway is full, someone always offers me their seat. Such kind people here. My YOYO+ stroller is so light and easy to pick up, that carrying it up and down the subway stairs is totally doable and not a huge issue to deal with. Plus, a lot of subway stations have elevators, which is nice at times.
I think moms who travel by subway or bus instead of by car actually get more one-on-one time with their kids. When Jimmy and I are on the subway together we interact and talk. We read books, eat snacks, and enjoy each other’s company. In the car, I can’t see his face and I am too busy concentrating on driving to give him the attention that he deserves. I always felt guilty about this when we were in the car for long periods of time. I love all the extra one-on-one time that the subway offers me as a mom.
I know it’s important to go on date nights and “keep the love alive,” but sometimes the thought of forking over so much money makes me think twice about it. Paying a babysitter gets expensive quickly, especially in New York City. Here, babysitters charge anywhere from $15-$20 an hour. Sometimes we spend more money on the babysitter than we do on the actual date. I miss the days when babysitters charged $10 an hour or even less. Well, not in New York City, and especially not when you live in the Upper East Side.
One of the best things about living the city life is all the natural exercise that you get on a daily basis. New Yorkers stay fit because they are constantly moving. There really isn’t an idle moment here. New Yorkers are always on the go. I love walking everywhere that I go because I think it leads to an overall better mental and physical health, without even realizing it. I’ll have walked a few miles one morning, and I wasn’t even thinking about it. It is exercise that just naturally comes with your day.
New York City is a melting pot. You’ll find all kinds of people here from everywhere in the world. It is what makes New York City New York City. Living here has really opened up my eyes to people that are different from me. I’ve become less judgmental and more loving. Having daily interactions with so many different types of people makes me see them and love them for who they really are. I realize from living here that families come in all sorts of sizes, colors, and backgrounds, and that’s ok. No one group has a lock on the “perfect family.” I’ve seen fabulous families who are white, Asian, African, as well as Christian, Jewish, or Atheist, just to name a few. We really have more in common than we think.
I hope you enjoyed my post about life on the Upper East Side. I’d be thrilled if you left me a comment below telling me your thoughts!