Emigrating to New York? Top Four Considerations for Brits

by Alexander Beard, on Oct 1, 2015 4:46:32 PM

New York is one of the most popular destinations that Brits emigrate to. With plentiful international companies making the city their home, and an exciting city environment in which to live your life, it’s little surprise that many choose to make ‘the big apple’ their home in the US. If you’re heading to New York from Britain, your main questions are likely to be financial, something which Alexander Beard Group, as cross border financial advisers, can help to answer .

But what should your other questions be about New York? The language may be familiar (in many cases at least - 18% of the population speak Spanish!), but the city is a very different beast to many locations in the UK. Here, we consider our top four questions and ideas that Brits should familiarise themselves with, before making the journey ‘across the pond’.

Can you name the five boroughs and, more importantly, which one do you want to live in?

New York is made up of five boroughs, each of which have their own personalities and draws for those moving to the city. Wealthy Manhattan, as the island in the middle of the city, is likely to be the one you’re most familiar with. Head directly North from Manhattan and you’ll find the Harlem river, with borough number two, the Bronx, on the other side. To the East, there’s the large expanses of Queens, which houses JFK airport and, further South, Brooklyn. Even further South than that, across Upper Bay and with New Jersey on your right, Staten Island makes up the final one of the five.

Deciding which one of these boroughs you are going to make your home before you make the move to New York is a big decision and one which will play a big part in deciding your standard of living once you complete your move. Manhattan might seem the obvious, central, choice but rents are extremely high for even very small apartments. Brooklyn used to be more affordable but even there, the cost of living in the city is increasing. Heading further South, perhaps to Staten Island, can see a saving, but take care; the Island can be 45 minutes by car from the centre of Manhattan. The Staten Island Ferry takes around 25 minutes.

Tipping, tax, deposits and more. Are you taking enough cash with you?

Getting used to the American system of tipping is difficult in any city but beware, in New York in particular tipping is almost zealously expected, so try to get hold of some small bills as soon as possible! Deciding whether to tip in grocery stores, hairdressers and anywhere else where money changes hands can be difficult but, if in doubt, it’s probably best to assume the answer is yes! If you’re out for drinks then forget working out percentages: a good rule is to add an amount per drink to the bill; $1 at least. Anywhere else you’ll have to get your maths head on; 18-20% of the pre-tax bill is normally what’s expected.

Tips and tax are examples of the added extras that can make a move to the city expensive. Beware, for example, that many prices quoted do not include tax, which is added to your bill before paying. A cup of coffee at, say, $10 (unfortunately not uncommon in an upmarket deli), will have the New York standard 8.875% tax applied to it, plus something like a $2 tip. Final cost to you: at least $12.87. Add that on for everything from your morning bagel to a taxi ride and it soon starts to stack up. Apartment deposits are another added cost to consider - some require two months rent in advance which, even for a relatively cheap Manhattan apartment at $2,000 per month, is a significant initial cost to bear.

Blocks, laws and your locale; know the local rules!

Central New York’s block system should, in theory, be easy for newcomers to follow. The large numbered Avenues in Manhattan run roughly South to North, starting at 1st Avenue on the East side and running to 12th Avenue on the West.

Criss-crossing the avenues are the Streets, which go up in number as you head from South to North and change from West Street to East Street at roughly the halfway North/South vertical (or 5th Avenue). So, West 30th Street eventually becomes East 30th Street when you travel along it from West to East, from 12th Avenue to 1st Avenue. East 1st Street is towards the bottom right of Manhattan, whilst West 170th Street is towards the top left. Beware though, towards the South of the island the streets have names again and, despite the system offering apparent uniformity, amongst the tall skyscrapers, it’s still easy to get lost!

Whilst you’re wandering around, trying to remember your Streets and your Avenues, try to get familiar with the local laws. As mentioned, this might sound like a big British city, but some of the city’s rules are different. New York does, for example, have little pockets of green space, like London. Unlike London, however, you can’t sit down for a glass of white with friends on a beautiful Summer’s day, as drinking in public places is banned. Much has also been made recently of the Mayor’s ‘zero tolerance’ jaywalking policy, so probably best to wait for the green man in most, if not all, cases!

Getting to know the locals… who have an English accent

And finally, the myth about standing out if you have a charming English accent just doesn’t really apply in New York. As a multicultural city, most New Yorkers have heard it all before, so strike that one from your list of inherent ‘strengths’ you’ll be taking on your move stateside!

On the plus side of things, this does mean that you’re likely to find a burgeoning British community in the city. Even a quick Google search shows a number of well attended and managed groups of ‘Brits in NYC’. A good starting point then, for helping you to settle into your new life in one of the US’ most exciting cities!