Whether you’ve been living in the city for your entire life, commuting into it for class, or studying abroad, there are some things you need to keep in mind about being a part of one of the most famous cities in the world. I’ve been a part of the big city for as long as I can remember, and these are definitely things that have helped me make the best of it.
1. There are going to be tourists everywhere
Whether it’s New York City, Washington, DC, or London, you’re going to be surrounded by visitors just about every day. Some will be the quiet ones you don’t even notice, while others will most likely be stopping in the middle of every sidewalk to take a picture of everything they see. So prepare yourself to walk straight into people who look lost and are carrying a lot of stuff. Be nice about it when it happens, but go ahead and huff and puff about it later if you really have to.
2. And you should blend in with them every now and then
Don’t take the “Oh, I live here, I can go see that whenever” route – you keep saying it, but there’s a chance you never make time for it. I live in New Jersey, only 30 minutes away from NYC, and I’ve never been to the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, or any of that touristy stuff in New York. My home university on the other hand is in DC, and I’ve found myself at various monuments at all hours of the day and night, and it’s been one of the best things I could have ever discovered.
3. Take pride in knowing you’re a local
When someone asks you for directions, and you know where they need to go, tell them with a smile. If your friends ask for ideas of places to go for date night, tell them about your favorite place that’s never full of tourists or tell them about a good place to people watch. Embrace what makes this city yours and share it with other people.
4. Public transport is both your best friend and worst enemy
Learn all of the different ways to get home from anywhere in the city. Walking. The underground. A bus. Download the Citymapper app for London on your phone, and everything will be okay. Set your address for “home,” and no matter where you end up, there’s always a “Get Me Home” option that works straight with your GPS signal. It’s brilliant and saves you the stress of a convoluted route after a long day.
5. So you’re probably going to get lost every once in a while
But even if you do master the means of public transport – which I believe is near impossible – learn to get lost. You don’t have to blindly go out and say, “I’ll get off here and see what’s around,” but go ahead and take a detour home and take in everything that’s around you. Or if you do end up going the wrong way, make the most of it while you try to find a new route. Whether you’ve lived here for five months or five years, I can guarantee you haven’t seen everything yet.
6. You’re probably going to fall into a routine
You’ll start noticing that after a while, if you commute to work or class, you know exactly what time to leave, how fast to walk and which way to go on a platform once you’ve made it down the stairs. Sooner or later, you discover the exact place where you need to stand for the train to stop with its doors in front of you – and you strategically place yourself near the doors that open in front of the way out at the next stop. It gets scary, but you learn.
7. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring or stressful
Routine doesn’t have to be all bad. At least you know you’ll never be late for a lecture or an important meeting. When you’ve got a routine all figured out for your weekdays, you begin to pick up on the amount of free time you have, and you can change what you do with that time whenever you want. Take advantage of your free time and find different ways to escape the hectic city life if you need to for a bit.
8. Take advantage of free things
Go to the park for a stroll, browse museums, see exhibitions, go to a show or even get a free haircut. Sure, city life is expensive, but big cities are packed with all kinds of free things, and you should make it a point to take advantage of it from time to time – especially on a student budget.
9. Or student discounts
Speaking of student budgets, student discounts are just about everywhere nowadays. Whether it’s retail, a night out, or travel, there’s bound to be a student discount of some sort. Always carry that ID with you, no matter how ridiculous you think your picture might look, and give it a shot. The discounts start to add up after a while, and you’ll be glad you remembered to leave your ID in your wallet.
10. Use the Internet as much as possible.
City websites are the best thing you could have asked for. While you’re out in the city learning everything there is to know about your home, there are probably a bunch of things you’re going to miss. No, you’re not slacking – it’s just the way living in a big city works. There’s always something going on, but not everyone knows everything. So take to the Internet and look things up. It might seem like a tourist trap, but trust me when I say you’ll find things that you never would have even thought of. Make new friends at events, meet up with old ones and make a night of your city.