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I'm a Houston native who visited New York City - here are 9 things that surprised me




 
New York vs. Houston. Tayler Adigun/Insider
New York vs. Houston. Tayler Adigun/Insider  
  • I traveled from Houston to stay with a friend in NYC for five days during New York Fashion Week.

  • I noticed a few differences between life in the two cities.

  • You can easily get around NYC without a car, and the city is taking vaccination mandates seriously.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

I stayed in Brooklyn, New York, with a friend for five days earlier this month.

Photo of a drink and the New York City Line
Photo of a drink and the New York City Line  

I've been to New York before but this was my longest visit and the first time I've stayed with someone who lives there. It allowed me to see what life in New York City is like beyond the tourist experience I was familiar with.

After landing at the airport, I found out that Uber and Lyft prices were much higher than I expected.

Photo of a Lyft screen
Photo of a Lyft screen  

I expected things to cost more in New York City because the cost of living and median salary are higher than they are in Houston.

However, I thought maybe my Lyft from the airport would cost less since the distance wasn't that far. I was wrong. A Lyft to my friend's apartment was almost double what it would cost me to get to my local airport at home despite both distances being around 13 miles.

There was also more traffic in New York City than I anticipated.

Selfie of the author in an Uber
Selfie of the author in an Uber  

I hear a lot about how horrible the traffic is in Los Angeles and other major cities, but I've actually never heard much about New York's.

This could be because New York has such an expansive public transportation system compared to other cities (including Houston), so I probably hear more about people traveling by subways and buses than by car.

As we drove from the airport, I was shocked to learn how brutal the traffic can be.

The rent in New York City is higher for less space.

Side by side photo of a kitchen and a sink
Side by side photo of a kitchen and a sink  

This one was kind of a no-brainer, but my friend's Brooklyn $1,600-a-month apartment was smaller than the typical one-bedroom apartments I see in Houston, even though it was around the same range in rent.

According to RentCafe data, this is typical: The average rent in Houston is $1,205 for 880 square feet, while the average rent in Brooklyn is $3,010 for 654 square feet.

Many apartments don't have in-unit washers and dryers.

Inside the laundromat. Tayler Adigun/Insider
Inside the laundromat. Tayler Adigun/Insider  

Probably one of the biggest differences about living in an apartment here was having to leave to do laundry. In Houston, in-unit washers and dryers are the standard. Some places in New York City have this as well but it's not as common.

Thankfully, it was only about three blocks or a five-minute walk to a laundromat from where my friend lives so it wasn't too far. The weather was nice when we walked there, but I imagine it's inconvenient during the colder months.

I was surprised to find large grocery stores in New York - I expected them to be smaller.

Side by side photos of a Brooklyn grocery store
Side by side photos of a Brooklyn grocery store  

Typically, my friend orders groceries online, which makes sense since it can be quite difficult to haul a bunch of groceries on the subway.

However, I wanted to see what a physical store looked like so we stopped by Super Foodtown near her neighborhood in Brooklyn. This particular store surprised me because I was expecting something much smaller. This is one of the largest grocery stores in Brooklyn, and I would say size-wise it is pretty comparable to similar grocery stores in Houston.

That said, despite the space and the popularity of grocery delivery, the line in this grocery store was still very long.

Unlike in Houston, driving is not the primary mode of transportation.

Taking the subway in NYC. Tayler Adigun/ Insider
Taking the subway in NYC. Tayler Adigun/ Insider  

A subway in Houston seems pretty unlikely at the moment, and our light-rail system doesn't serve many neighborhoods, so if you don't have a car you might have a hard time getting around on your own.

However in New York City, it seems to be more cost-effective to avoid owning a car altogether - plus you don't have to worry about the stress of where to park it. During my stay, we used the subway system, and I thought it was very efficient for the number of people it transports daily.

Also unlike in Houston, you can walk to get pretty much anything in New York.

Side by side photos of a smoothie shop
Side by side photos of a smoothie shop  

I walked more during this five-day visit than I have in the past month in Houston. That may sound like hyperbole, but we did walk a lot more than I'm used to since everything is so close together in New York.

For example, I was craving a green juice and Google revealed there were three places within walking distance of us. In Houston, I would have to drive at least 10 minutes to find a similar place.

I was surprised that the cost of dining out wasn't as high as I'd expected.

Side by side photo of someone cutting a sandwich and a reciept
Side by side photo of someone cutting a sandwich and a reciept  

The meals were a bit more expensive in New York City, but I think it had more to do with the type of food we had that week. Overall, our totals were comparable to what I would spend on nights out for dinner and drinks in Houston.

One restaurant we went to did charge for chips and salsa which I've never experienced but that could be a one-off.

Unlike in Houston, vaccination cards are checked regularly.

side by side photo of a vaccine sign and a vaccine caard
side by side photo of a vaccine sign and a vaccine caard  

This was one of the most pleasant surprises I found in New York. Most restaurants and bars won't let you in without proof of vaccination. Starting September 13, New York City required indoor diners to prove they've had at least one shot - my visit to the city was actually before this mandate went into effect, but multiple businesses still asked me for proof.

While some individual businesses in Houston have vaccine rules, so far no establishment in Houston has inquired about my vaccination status.

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