Sunday, 6 March 2011

Moving to NY? This could be a book for you...

There is no doubt that moving abroad is a huge upheaval - especially if you have a young family. Over at her blog, Home Office Mum is currently debating the pros and cons of a move to Seattle, and it reminds me of when I was worrying about our imminent move to the US two years ago. I was lucky enough to receive plenty of good advice via the comments on this blog - for example, essential information about whether Marmite is readily available (it is) and what to wear on your feet in an East Coast winter (LL Bean boots - I now own a pair). For the uninitiated moving to the US, I would also highly recommend Pond Parleys, which holds weekly debates on aspects of UK versus US culture.

For that reason, a PR request to review a book aimed at expats moving to New York recently caught my eye. The book, New York New York: So Good They Named It Twice* is subtitled An Irreverent Guide to Experiencing and Living in the Greatest City in the World. The press release compared author Rob Silverman to Bill Bryson (a favourite of mine), so I agreed to write a review.

The author is a Brit but came to New York in his twenties, married an American and has never left. He's quite clearly madly in love with Manhattan, but is able to critique it quite well from a British point of view. Bryson he ain't, but he does a decent job of covering all the basics: how to rent an apartment, how to drive and park in the city, how the school system works; even how to order a sandwich in a deli (an eye-poppingly lengthy process involving many, many condiments and different types of bread). He also does a good job of explaining the tipping culture - something that completely foxed me when we arrived here.

Having said that, quite a bit of the book is not really relevant to me - I live in the suburbs, not Manhattan, and indeed the author is scathingly rude about the suburbs, citing friends who have moved there and turned into boring, Stepford-wife type families who have nothing better to do than gossip about the neighbours. Well, I have to say, I can't really blame him; I used to think like this when I lived in London, but having lived in the suburbs for 18 months now, it's not all bad - not all suburban kids spend their lives being ferried around in cars from mall to mall. I also love the community aspect of being in a smaller town - Silverman boasts that he has no idea who his neighbours are, but I've found having friendly neighbours a godsend after arriving here and knowing nobody. I'm not sure I'd want to have moved to Manhattan with two small kids and never interact with people in my apartment block....

Anyway, the book is pretty practical, and if you're thinking of moving to New York City with a family, it would be a useful read. The author is at his most amusing when describing family anecdotes - for example, having to make restaurant reservations for his wife at the last minute, or putting the phone on redial to get through to a private school's admissions number. And he's clearly passionate about his adopted home city; something I can completely understand.

*available from Broadfield Books, $17.99. I received a free copy for writing this post.

7 comments:

Iota said...

I really sense NY has become home to you...

Expat mum said...

Thanks for the Pond Parleys mention. Funnily enough - we are now discussing whether you can ever go home after a long stay abroad.

Home Office Mum said...

thanks for my mention too! Maybe that could be my new career - write a book on things to consider if you're planning on moving to Seattle (after all, there's a HUGE expat community there!)

I think once you have kids, knowing where to get a good martini becomes less important than knowing the mum next door who can watch your kids in an emergency. Hopefully you'll eventually get to the point where you can have martinis together on your Stepford-esque portch. Better than having to walk in heels to a crowded bar.

nappy valley girl said...

Iota - I think New York is one of the world's great cities - but then, so is London. And while I could imagine staying, it's still not likely to happen......

Expat Mum - interesting question! I think going back will be hard for us - but it will be do-able.

HOM - you're so right. We already have drinks on the porch - when it's not too cold, hot or mosquito-ridden!

Murr Brewster said...

I don't know anywhere in this country you can buy marmite, unless that's a countertop material, but I'll buy that book if it really explains tipping. I get so nervous. I only just found out I was supposed to be tipping my massage therapist, who I thought of as a medical person, being with an acupuncturist. I'll probably overcompensate and tip my colonoscopist next.

nappy valley girl said...

Murr - You can get Marmite in Whole Foods. One of my local supermarkets here in Long Island also stocks it (although it's a lot more expensive than in the UK). The massage therapist I go to has a huge sign virtually ordering you to tip 15%- 20%.....!

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