The Ultimate Guide to Living and Working in New York City

By December 14, 2020For Talent

”Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today..”.

If you’ve ever dreamed about packing up shop and moving to the Big Apple then this article is for you.

New York is the greatest cultural hub in America. Each year millions of young professionals move to the city drawn by the promise of an exciting fast-paced life and the chance to chase the American dream. In fact, 25% of the city’s overall labour force is from outside the States.

Here is everything you need to know about life in the city that never sleeps, from affordable rent to public transport, we’ve got you covered.

Average commute

NYC is a sprawling metropolis so it’s no surprise that New Yorkers have the longest commute in the whole of the US.

New York dwellers spend an average of 6 hours, 18 minutes per week travelling to and from work. In fact, their commute is almost an hour longer than workers in San Francisco, who have the second-longest average commute at 4 hours, 57 minutes per week.

As a result, New Yorkers have the longest working week in America (slightly more than 49 hours).

In recent years there has been a rise in extreme commuters. Workers in places like New Jersey and Connecticut travel huge distances every day in order to make the most of affordable housing outside the city centre.

These lengthy commutes are made possible by New York’s transport system.

So many commuters pour into Manhattan from other boroughs for work that the island’s daily population doubles from 1.6 million to 3.1 million. So, how do these people get there? 


New York’s subway is a lot cleaner and safer than it was 20 or even 10 years ago. Trains run around the clock and a single flat fare ticket will put you back just $2.75, while a monthly metrocard pass will cost you $121. Local trains stop at every station on the line while express trains stop at major stations only.


White and blue MTA buses are usually the best way to travel crosstown and a pleasant way to travel up or downtown, as long as you’re not in a hurry. The $2.75 fare is payable with a MetroCard (see above) or exact change (coins only).


New York City is served by various different train lines including Long Island Railroad, Metro-North Railroad and PATH Trains. These commuter trains connect Manhattan with NYC’s hinterland.


The ferry is a popular choice for commuters in places like Long Island. While ferry operators are usually more expensive than the bus, the commute is generally shorter.


Okay, not for the fainthearted or water novices but believe it or not some people kayak into the city for work. Well, at least these two guys do.

Main industries


New York City has been a huge financial centre for centuries. Finance is the largest industry in New York State when ranked by total payroll and 90% of all finance jobs in the state are located in the city centre. High paying jobs in banking, stock trading and analysis dominate this sector. Most of NYC’s finance companies can be found near Wall Street in lower Manhattan.


The largest industry by employee headcount is health care and social assistance. This industry includes large hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and services for the elderly. As the population of NY continues to age, this sector is expected to grow in order to meet the demand.


NYC has a bustling and exciting tech scene. This sector accounts for approximately 291,000 jobs and more than $1124.7 billion in economic output according to the city’s Economic Development Corporation. NYC’s tech scene was originally located in the few blocks surrounding 23rd Street (Silicon Alley), however, it has now expanded north to Harlem and the Bronx as well as out to Queens and Brooklyn.


New York is famous for its world-class shopping so naturally retail is a huge industry. Retail includes things like food and beverage retailers, clothing retailers, electronic retailers and auto retailers.

According to the Retail Council of New York State, there are greater than 800,000 workers in more than 75,000 New York City retail businesses. Most of these jobs are spread throughout Manhattan.

US work permits

Oh boy! Here comes the tricky bit. America is a bit of a stickler when it comes to immigration (we can thank Donald for that!). If you want to move to New York City then you need to make sure you have all the necessary paperwork complete or else you can kiss your American dream goodbye.

To work in America you will need to obtain a visa. You can apply for a visa from the US Embassy or Consulate that is closest to you. You can find your nearest one here.

The type of visa you apply for will vary depending on your circumstances. Just make sure that your visa covers the type of work you will be doing.


America’s tax system is…complicated. Well, at least it seems that way if you’re used to an easy breezy European system but fear not because you will get the hang of it.

America has a city, state and federal tax system. Tax is deducted from employees pay directly depending on your job and rate of pay.

The IRS is in charge of monitoring taxes and performing audits to make sure that tax returns are being appropriately paid. Tax may be rebated or more may be required after annual accounting done by citizens before 15th April.

New York City has several city-specific tax credits that benefit homeowners and those with children.

You can calculate your estimated tax here.

Average wage

The average full-time worker in New York City earns about 16% more than the average full-time worker in the next 29 largest cities in the US. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Manhattan has a weekly average wage of $2,954.


Guess what? Rent in New York is really expensive. I can practically hear you rolling your eyes at that statement because everyone knows that NYC is a dear place to live.

As of December 2017, the average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in NYC is $2662, while a two bed will set you back $3374 according to Rent Jungle.

As you can see from the graph below, rent varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. While places like Tribeca and Battery Park tend to be at the top end, other areas like Oakwood and Midland beach are much more affordable.

Average cost of living

When you’re in New York you will need to budget, it’s as simple as that.

According to the Council for Community and Economic Research, a trip to the grocery store in NYC will cost you between 28-39% more than the national average. Two tickets to the cinema will cost you $31 while a pint in your local neighbourhood bar will probably set you back around $7 according to Expatistan.

It’s a high-cost city but you can get by without resorting to eating pasta for every meal. There are some steps you can take to make your time in New York more affordable. Eat at home, don’t get takeout, shop around for goods before you buy and use websites like The Skint and Nifty NYC to find weekend activities.

Top tips for expats

We reached out to four people who have lived and worked in New York to find out their advice for newbies. Here’s what they had to say.

‘’Mastering the subway takes a little getting used to, but once you crack it it’s the most efficient (and surprisingly affordable) way to get around. You need to swipe your card to get in (what is it about Americans and swiping cards? There are more efficient ways, people!) which can take a bit of getting used to. Beware: if you have an unlimited travel card rather than pay-as-you-go, if you don’t quite get through the turnstile in time you’ll have to wait 18 minutes to use your card again.’’- Alice Cruickshank, Freelance Journalist and Lifestyle Blogger.

“My advice to anyone contemplating, in the process of, or just moving to NYC is to take the time to get accustomed with the city and everything it has to offer. New York lives up to the reputation of being the city that never sleeps. It’s easy to get sucked into the 9-5 work week and never truly get to experience everything the city has to offer.  It’s safe to say that New York is a cultural melting pot, allowing anyone who gives themselves the time to truly explore its entirety a quick glimpse of the whole world.”- Jamie Rath, Jameson Brand Ambassador.

‘’If you’re moving to New York bring a decent pair of shoes with you. Seriously! You’ll probably need to find a good cobbler/shoe repair person when you get here too. Always carry plasters. During your first few weeks in New York you will end up walking everywhere. Make the most of the experience. Exploring NYC by foot is a great way to familiarise yourself with the city.’’- Tim Watson, Nurse Practitioner.

‘’If you’re thinking about moving to NYC, one of the most important pieces of advice I can give is to try and build up a network of social contacts before you move. NYC is amazing but it can be a lonely place. Before I moved there last summer, I spoke to some of my friends in London to see if they knew anyone in New York. Thankfully, they did and they put me in touch with their friends. It was great because it meant there were people there I could reach out to, and these people knew the city very well! I was very lucky to have Abigail, a friend of a friend; she gave me tips on where to go and what to do, and we also met up and went out for drinks and dinner several times.’’- Allie Abgarian, Freelance Journalist

Author Jobbio

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