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'I walk around New York in cowboy boots': how a Muscovite conquered Manhattan


Alina Prikhodko

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One day a guy from Moscow came to New York and fell in love with him forever. Tim Chistov has been living in Manhattan for two years now. Sometimes he misses Moscow restaurants, cheap taxis and communication in Russian.

How much does it cost to live in New York, why is it so difficult to rent an apartment there and is it true that the locals always smile - Tim spoke about this and much more in an interview Moslente. The following is a first-person story.

About the first visit to New York, garbage and Times Square

One of the reasons I moved here was my friends. It’s always easier to move if someone is waiting for you in a new place. Another reason is that I fell in love with New York when I came to this city as a tourist: its beauty, energy, people. By the way, Moscow and New York are similar in energy: very lively, hectic, but at the same time nourishing you.

I remember my first visit to New York very well. This was in 2021. As soon as our plane landed, I realized that my dream had come true. A chidhood dream! New York for me has always been some kind of distant city from films. On the way from the airport, I looked at the city streets from the taxi, looked at Manhattan and felt very happy. Unforgettable feelings!

Of course, then you realize that the picture from the films and the real city are slightly different. You begin to notice the disadvantages: a lot of homeless people, unpleasant smells on the street, a lot of garbage. But at the same time, the people around are incredibly smiling and friendly, there are huge buildings of incredible beauty everywhere. And what is it worth to see Times Square in person!

In general, the match with the city happened instantly. It was so comfortable, as if I had already lived here in a previous life.

About problems with rental housing and credit rating

The biggest problems I encountered when moving were paperwork and finding housing. At first I lived with friends. This is, of course, a nice bonus. I know that not everyone has this opportunity. As a result, I quickly found a suitable apartment - I saw an ad on one of the social networks. I honestly wrote to the landlady that I had just moved, but I had money two months in advance. We immediately signed an eight-month contract, and I moved in. In fact, this is a real miracle. Not everyone is so lucky.

On the subject: The main fears of Russian-speaking immigrants in the USA, and how to cope with them

After living in this apartment for a while, I decided to look for a more suitable option for myself. I wanted to live in a brighter space, with a stylish renovation. And I was ready to increase my housing expenses. The first apartment cost me fifteen hundred dollars a month. Now I was ready to pay three thousand dollars. This is where the problems started.

In America, your credit rating is very important. I didn’t have a single loan, I never even used credit cards. Accordingly, I cannot prove my solvency to the landlord in any way. Realtors shrugged their shoulders; no one wanted to move me in. They showered me with refusals or took away the options I liked from under my nose.

Three months passed, during which time I was able to live with friends again. I was almost in despair, but then one of my friends, who was also looking for housing, offered to join our efforts and rent an apartment together. Luckily, she had a good credit rating. And landlords themselves are more willing to rent apartments to couples and friends: this way, the likelihood of non-payment is much less, because you split the rent in half. After literally two weeks of searching, we rented an excellent two-room apartment in Manhattan. We've been living here ever since.

About the metro, traffic jams and taxi prices

I most often travel around the city by metro. In Manhattan, it is generally not very convenient to travel by car, since there is a risk of being stuck in traffic jams all day. The roads here are narrow and there is a lot of traffic. The metro is the best option for me.

I also often use a bicycle if the distance to the desired point is not too great. Sometimes I take a taxi and... yes, it's expensive. Much more expensive than in other states and even more so in other countries. But I'm already used to these prices.

About product prices

Restaurants are a different story. The service, the atmosphere of the establishments, the quality of food - all this is much better in Moscow. American and Mexican cuisines are very popular in New York, and there are Asian restaurants. Sometimes I come across good Georgian cafes. There is variety, but the food is quite bland. Not at all the level to which I am accustomed in Moscow.

The average price tag in a restaurant is $100. I usually order a main course, salad, dessert and a glass of wine. With rare exceptions, I get around 60-70 dollars. And drinking a cup of coffee in Manhattan costs five to seven dollars.

About once a week I shop at the grocery store. There is a very popular Trader Joe's supermarket here, where all the locals shop. It's considered cool, hipster, and reasonably priced. It usually costs me a hundred dollars to buy groceries for the week. There is also a premium supermarket Whole Foods, like our ABC of Taste. The quality of the products is better there, the choice is richer and the prices are correspondingly higher. There, the same grocery basket for a week will cost me 160-170 dollars.

About real New Yorkers

My favorite thing about New York is the local people. Incredibly smiling people. Some people say that this smile is hypocritical, but I don’t agree with that. It’s just that positivity is baked into their cultural code. They are used to smiling here, they are used to giving each other positive emotions. This is cool, very energizing! On the street, passers-by often compliment each other, everyone is open to communication. By the way, every second person here has a dog.

Real New Yorkers are in a constant career race. Because of this, there is little soulfulness or depth in them, or something. Money and prospects are at the forefront of their minds. It is difficult to find friends precisely because of this. But we must pay tribute, these are very purposeful and energetic people.

Why it's hard to find friends

When I first moved, I acutely felt the thirst for communication, I wanted new acquaintances. I was lucky because I already had friends living in New York who had moved before me. But I wanted to surround myself with new people too. First of all, you are looking for company among people who speak the same language as you. It turned out that this is not enough to call people friends. I realized that I don't want to consider someone a friend just because we speak the same language. It is important to me that we have the same interests and life goals. There were difficulties with this in Moscow, although everyone there speaks Russian, let alone New York. It turns out that I needed to find like-minded people among a very small number of Russian-speaking people.

It would be logical to look for friends among English-speaking people, but this required first stepping over one’s complex. I can’t communicate fluently with people in English yet, but I’m working on it. New York is generally a city of emigrants, and all newcomers are drawn to each other. Here everyone understands you, everyone is happy to see you, everyone shares what you are going through. So you definitely won’t face loneliness in this city.

About changes in style

A lot has changed since the move. Even my clothing style. Everything happened as organically as possible. You just look at how people look on the streets, what they are wearing, how they sometimes combine these clothes in unusual ways. In New York, passers-by rarely look at you; they don’t care what kind of rags you’re wearing. Because of this, you become more relaxed and begin to experiment. The clothes I wear here I would hardly be able to wear in Moscow, although they are not something overly extravagant or pretentious.

For example, one day I went outside wearing green shorts, a T-shirt and tall cowboy boots. In Moscow, I would never dress like that, for some reason we perceive such people as freaks. But here in New York, it's commonplace. Young people who are interested in street fashion calmly allow themselves some incongruous combinations. And I like it!

My attitude towards moving has changed. I realized that it's not so scary. Of course, I really miss my family, there are some problems with documents and a lack of communication with like-minded people... In Moscow, everything was established in terms of work and connections. Here I am going through this game again. It's difficult and wildly interesting at the same time. Everything from scratch, and in a different language. But I see growth in this - I don’t regret moving here one bit.

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