March 20, 2018No Comments

The NYC Apartment Hunting Cheat Sheet

This is adapted from my book, Let’s Go to NYC, a comprehensive guide for those planning a move to NYC from outside the States.

Whether you’re moving from a different country or not, the apartment hunting process in NYC feels like a test on your patience and/or sanity. Thankfully, we created this handy cheat sheet to help you through it. Just remember these tips and you’ll be one step closer to finding your dream home in New York City.

Lesson 1 - Moving at the right time

True or false: Winter is the best time to move to NYC.

Answer: True. But when it comes to moving to New York, there is a time frame called the “Golden Period.” That time frame is usually November to January. While it might be one of the most exhausting times to move, winter is the best time to relocate to New York from a financial and logistical perspective.

This is true for several reasons. First, most people are not willing to move in or out during the winter. While this means fewer apartments will be on the market, it also means fewer people are looking for one, giving you less competition. And if there is one thing you can prepare yourself for in New York, it’s competition — on every level.

"Anytime someone asks you to wire money in advance or pay in cash, run fast."

Lesson 2 -  Searching for apartments online

Which of these apartment listings is a scam?

  1. $1,000 / month newly renovated loft in SoHo
  2. Park Slope apartment for rent: Cash only deposit
  3. Cheap Brooklyn apartment fully furnished with washer / dryer provided, free cleaning service
  4. Beautiful Manhattan apartment: Wire application fee NOW to secure it

Answer: Trick question. These are all most likely scams. No apartment in SoHo is going for $1,000 / month, I can promise you (my book includes illustrated maps of NYC featuring average rent costs for each neighborhood), and it’s unlikely any affordable apartment will provide a washer / dryer, much less a cleaning service. Anytime someone asks you to wire money in advance or pay in cash, run fast.

Especially when searching somewhere like Craigslist, you should be wary of scams and ALWAYS make sure you visit the apartment in person before signing the lease. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Lesson 3 - Preparing for your landlord appointment

Which items should you bring with you to your landlord appointment? Circle all that apply.

a. Tax returns from at least the last one or two years

b. Pay stubs from at least the last 2-3 months

c. Letter from your employer stating your annual income

d. A copy of your enrollment letter and course schedule (if you’re a student)

e. A detailed list of every person who has ever harmed you and how you plan to kill them

Answer: All except e. apply.

When searching for an apartment in NYC, preparation is key. When you show up to an appointment, you’re usually not the only one there. Lots of people will be viewing that same apartment and decisions are often made within minutes. Landlords in New York have high expectations, especially from people they don’t know. Be prepared and be ready to act fast.

Bonus points - Meeting your landlord & inspecting the apartment

Repeat this phrase three times:

“No landlord, I cannot meet you at dusk in an alley to discuss the lease.”

Handwrite this phrase in the lines provided:

“What happens if I flush the toilet more than 2 times a day?”

Memorize this phrase:

“Where is that smell coming from?”

These are just a few conversations you might find yourself having while meeting a landlord and inspecting and NYC apartment. The Let’s Go to NYC ebook includes a full checklist for inspecting your apartment, as well as landlord requirements, advice on avoiding scams and of course tips on where and how to find your dream apartment.


Nice work! You just completed your first course in New York apartment hunting. Pick up the Let’s Go to NYC ebook to learn lots more. And be sure to catch up on our article series about moving to New York right here.

February 20, 2018No Comments

How to Network on Twitter

This article is an excerpt from Let’s Go to NYC, my ebook for those interested in moving to New York City from outside the States.

As you might already know, I love Twitter. Sure, it can be a scary and depressing place at times. But I’ve made some great friends on Twitter and still find it a productive place to learn, share my thoughts and make connections. It's also one of the best tools to network and get to know people who may be able to help you land your dream job or project.

This particular article is about networking with the aim of moving to New York, but some of these lessons can apply to anyone.

The easiest way to network is of course through friends of friends, but for those moving to NYC from another country (or anyone networking from afar) that’s not always possible. If you’re in NYC on your tourist visa checking out the city, tweet at some people and ask if they have time for a few questions. But before you do that, here are some handy guidelines.


DO send a short tweet to the people you’d like to meet. Keep it simple and casual.

DON’T say things like, “Can I pick your brain?” Nobody likes that and chances are low that someone replies with excitement. People in New York tend to be busy, and asking someone if you can pick their brain sounds like extra work.


DO try to meet for coffee or lunch. Lunch is the best option because it’s a limited amount of time, and everyone has to eat anyway. You will have a better chance meeting someone for lunch at their company than trying to schedule a couple beers or dinner. Beers and dinner have no designated time limit — 30 minutes is too short, 1 hour might seem rushed, 2+ hours is too long. Save that for your second date. 

DON’T be complicated with the specifics. If someone agrees to meet, propose three example dates for lunch and offer to come to their office. And don't end your note with the famous, "What do you think?" No one likes to think, they like solutions. Remember this isn't about them, it's about you.

DO make it as easy as possible for the person you’d like to meet. They’re doing you a favor, after all. Put yourself in the shoes of someone you are contacting. Think of how you’d like to be approached by a stranger. 

DON’T be afraid to follow up. You might not get a response the first time, so give it a few days and send it again. But don't be discouraged if they say no or you don't hear back at all. I personally get a lot of messages from people who visit New York and want to meet. I decline most of them because if I said yes to everyone, I would have a full-time job meeting up with people. It’s not that I don’t like to meet people, but I simply can’t afford it all the time. 


DO have a goal in mind when you meet or approach a person. Just "meeting up to chat" is not bad at all, but chances are high a busy person isn't in the mood for that. Small talk might ease the tension at first but if you want something, make it clear as soon as possible.

DON’T talk around the subject for too long. Don't let the other person play a guessing game and more importantly, don't waste their time. Once you've lost the attention or respect it will be hard to gain again.


If you want more advice about living in and working in New York, check out Let’s Go To NYC. It’s the full guide to finding a job in the city, getting your visa, finding your first apartment and more.

P.S. You might also be interested in this article about emailing a busy person. If Twitter is "first base" in your networking relationship, email is second. And there's a right and wrong way to network there too. I hope these tips will help in either case 🙂 

January 8, 2018No Comments

New York Expectations vs. Reality

New York City: The subject of countless songs, the setting for beloved TV shows and movies, the City of Dreams, the Capital of the World. Thousands move to New York every day in hopes of experiencing that magical Something the city promises.

I did exactly that when I packed my bags and left Austria with nothing but a few dollars and my own dreams for the future. Six years later, I’m still living in New York City and loving every minute. I even published an ebook about my move last year, in hopes of helping others move to the States and live in New York.

That book inspired this article, and hopefully it will inspire many more. Pop culture gives us big and romantic ideas about living in New York, and some of them are perfectly accurate. Others, not so much. Let's compare some of my expectations with the harsh reality.


Expectation: Most of us imagine getting our big break in New York City. That’s what happens in every movie and TV show and Broadway musical, isn’t it? You hop off the bus, the cloud of exhaust clears to reveal you, smiling and arms thrown wide, ready to finally be discovered.

Reality: Job hunting is hard everywhere, and the NYC job market can be especially tough. Thousands move here every day looking for work, so companies have their pick from the best talent out there. Just like anywhere, you’ll have to work hard, be persistent and take what you can get until you get your dream job. Depending on where you come from (I like to compare it to Europe) there isn't much job security really. In New York, you could technically quit (or get fired) from your job in the morning and start a new one on the same day. While that may sound exciting it's also pretty scary knowing that nothing really is safe. Especially for those of us on work visas, we can't just switch jobs whenever we like.

And we haven’t even talked about the most unromantic part about working in New York: Getting a work permit and visa. I’ll spare you the visa stuff here at least for this article – there’s also a whole chapter about this in my ebook.

So basically, the reality is that we always have to prepare ourselves for the worst, while at the same time stay optimistic and try our best. It's always harder in the beginning. The pace of New York and the way of working will feel like home after you've experienced it for one or two years, but it all can be quite shocking and stressful in your first year of living there.


Expectation: When we think of NYC, our eyes turn to dollar signs. I mean, why else do some of the biggest companies make their home there?

Reality: Yes, you might score a larger salary than you ever saw in your hometown. But remember the cost of living in NYC is outrageous. Pay your rent and buy your food and suddenly your salary will feel pretty much the same as the one you had before. It’s all relative to the city you live in. New York most likely will pay you more, but it will also cost you more.

Photo by Daryan Shamkhali


Expectation: When I moved to New York I had grand visions of living in a trendy SoHo studio (spoiler: the word “studio” in NYC basically translates to “your bedroom is your kitchen is your living room is your whole apartment”).

Reality: I hopped from shitty apartment to shitty apartment when I first moved to NYC and had to fight for those (apartments go faster than jobs here). Even the nicer apartments will have their quirks – almost every building in NYC does. Lower your expectations, then lower them some more. Unless you have some high power job or a large family inheritance, you’ll likely be living in a shoebox like the rest of us.

Depending on where you come from, the quality of buildings and apartments in New York will seem low. It's either new buildings with horrible build quality, or it's old buildings that are slowly falling apart but still cost as much as the most expensive apartment in your little hometown. Just to give you a little hint: Average rent for a one bedroom in Manhattan are around $2600 to $3000. And we're talking one bedroom apartments.

"Of course there are exceptions and I’m typically not chatting up strangers on the subway, but the negative reputation New Yorkers receive is hardly deserved."


Expectation: People in New York City are mean and cold, always in a rush to their next destination with not even a moment to meet your eyes and say hello. They’ll steal the purse off your shoulder before shaking your hand.

Reality: In my experience, New Yorkers are the nicest. Of course there are exceptions and I’m typically not chatting up strangers on the subway or in an alley, but the negative reputation New Yorkers receive is hardly deserved. Most people in New York are incredibly helpful, probably because many of them also moved here from somewhere else and can understand the struggle.


Expectations: Pizza, every day! Then maybe gyros, and then you’ll try that Indian place everybody’s always Instagramming, or get Chinese delivered for lunch, and yay for the hot dog stands I've seen in the movies! It’s NEW YORK. You gotta take a bite out of that Big Apple, right?

Reality: Food poisoning, for a week! OK, that’s not everyone’s experience, but it was mine. Yes, New York City is the food capital of the world, with some of most diverse, authentic and celebrated cuisine anywhere. But you have to beware restaurant gradings (more on this in the ebook as well) and of course, most of us can’t afford to eat out every day, nor will we want to.

After a couple years of living in New York you'll get a good eye and sense for which restaurants and food stands you can eat, and which you should avoid. Funny enough, in New York these two can be right next to each other.


Expectations: Every hour a different party.

Reality: Unless you have a ton of money and an easy job, chances are that most of your days just consist of you going to work, going home and repeating the whole thing again. I remember the first year of New York for me was just me commuting from and to work, and that was pretty much it. Of course there are some parties and socializing mixed in here and there, but most people spend their days working and getting used to the New York speed of life for their first year of living there.

In the end, I don't even think there is anything negative about it. New York is the city people go to when they have an idea, when they want to achieve something and do something. That's the magic of New York, a place full of people who have a dream.



Expectations: Of course you’ll just stand on the corner and hail a yellow cab, like a regular Carrie Bradshaw.

Reality: First of all, try to get that cab. It’s not that easy — and it’s gonna cost you at lot. And then, we haven't even talked about the traffic. You'll be stuck in traffic a lot and going anywhere with a car will take ages. You'll slowly learn that using your bicycle is the best way to get around in New York, but at the same time, it's also the most dangerous way to get around. I guess you'll have to decide.

"New York, despite its craziness – because of its craziness – inspires like almost no other city on the planet."

Photo by Frank Köhntopp


Expectation: We expect inspiration to be endless in New York. That something new and exciting will always be happening, with diversity and culture and craziness all around.

Reality: It’s true. New York City always inspires. Of course there are times when you feel like you’re suffocating and might have a nervous breakdown if you have to spend another minute in this fast-paced, expensive, unforgiving city. But then you leave and realize how much you miss that weird guy at the deli on your block, and the way your A/C rattles all summer and breaks down almost daily, and how the leaves transform Central Park in the fall, and how there is always something new happening every single day. New York, despite its craziness – because of its craziness – inspires like almost no other city on the planet.


If you’re interested in moving to New York City, (whether you live outside the country or not) check out my book, Let’s Go to NYC. Moving to New York was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and with this guide I hope to make it easier for you.

If you’ve visited New York, how did it meet or not meet your expectations? Send me a tweet @vanschneider and let me know 🙂

April 20, 2017No Comments

How to Survive as a European in NYC 

In 2011, my partner and I moved to New York. Straight from Austria without knowing what to expect. It was not only my first time in New York or the US, but the first time I ever crossed an ocean.

Since then I fell in love with the city. But I noticed a lot of small little things that are very different compared to Austria or Germany where I grew up.

Here is what I learned:

1. Walk as if you're on a mission

To survive on the sidewalk and not bump into other people follow these simple rules:

a. Walk two times faster than you would normally do. Pretend you are overly confident and imagine you are going somewhere. You’re not just walking, you are marching towards a goal, you’re on a mission!

b. Hold a “latte to go” in your left hand, and your iPhone in your right. You can pretend to be on a call or just check your Tweets. You don’t need to look at the street in front of you, just keep your tempo and crowd will take care of you. It’s like magic. The moment you look out for other people or turn around, you will bump into someone.

c. Never stop walking, ever. It’s like a highway. If you just want to stand around doing nothing go to Times Square. Real New Yorkers don't go there.

2. Don’t smile at people, unless…

Don’t smile at people on the street. Unless you are interested in “BUY GOLD CHEAP NOW!!!!” or people trying to change your religion. Avoid eye contact at all times. In the streets, and especially on the subway. While I find New Yorkers are generally very social and approachable, there seems to be a different set of rules on the subway train. Eye contact in a bar is totally fine, but on the train please mind your own business.

3. All doors seem broken at first

Doors lock and unlock the opposite way compared to Germany or Austria for example, which takes some time to get used to. In Germany you usually turn your key away from the direction of the lock to unlock a door. In NYC it’s exactly the other way around.

4. The subway, aka the Fight Club

The majority of people in New York are very polite and helpful. But when it comes to getting on the train from Brooklyn to Manhattan, they show no mercy. And no, not even the lady in her 80’s will make a difference. She needs to get on the train, and she will get on the train.

Being polite and letting other people on the train means missing five trains and never getting anywhere. So when it comes to catching a train, throw away your European manners because all that counts is YOU being on the train.

5. Magnolia Bakery?

The hyped Magnolia Bakery is expensive and I don't think it's even good. And no, I never watched Sex and the City 😛

6. Tip your friendly staff

How complicated can it be? In Austria, tipping is voluntary and you usually only do it if your experience was beyond amazing. And even then, you just round up a few cents. In New York you should always tip at least 15–20% for food or riding a taxi. Technically it makes sense because service people in the U.S. rely on the 20% to make a living. The service fee is not included in their salary, like it is compared to most European countries.

Dining with 6+ friends means tipping is usually included on the final check. I know, it’s weird. That just means you don’t have to tip, otherwise you will tip 40%. Happened to me a lot. You would also assume that dining as a party would mean you get separate checks. But no, that would be too easy. Have fun going out with a group of seven friends for dinner.

A little trick I do is: On the check, they usually show the taxes below the final amount which is always 10%. Just take that amount, double it, and you know how much you need to tip.

7. McDonald's

I went to McDonald's maybe two times since I've lived in New York and got sick every time I went there. There is a huge difference in quality between European and American McDonalds. I had one of my first dates with my girlfriend in McDonalds in Austria, and I did not consider that a bad spot to pick for a date.

8. Heating madness

The heating system in most apartments is madness. Unless you are rich, or lucky to get an apartment in a new building, your heating essentially works at random and out of your control. That means, waking up at 3 a.m. sweating (even though it’s winter) and just leaving the windows open because there is no way to turn off the heating.

In most old buildings the heating is essentially controlled by one party in your building. In most cases that's the person who lives in the ground floor. So unless that person isn't freezing, you won't get any heat yourself.

9. Hey, How are you?

Instead of just “Hi” or “Hello” like we say in Austria or Germany, here in New York people say “Hi, how are you?”.  That might be confusing at first, but you get used to it.

The trick is that you simply reply with, “I’m fine thanks, how are you?” Then the other person will say exactly the same and now you can FINALLY start your conversation, for example ordering that latte to go.

The important thing to know is that no one really wants to know how you are. Saying “how are you” is just a greeting, so you better not answer with how much of a shitty day you had, because that's awkward. No one really gives a fuck about how you are.

10. Paying with checks?

You pay with checks (cheques). For example your rent. Yes, checks. That old paper thingy we got rid of in Germany ages ago. But for some reason, signing a check each month and ripping it out of my checkbook makes me feel like a grown up from the 60’s.

11. They measure stuff in feet & toes.

Don’t even get me started on Fahrenheit. Even after seven years, I still don't understand any of it.  I have, however, converted one or two people to the metric system. SUCCESS!

12. Health is a luxury, apparently

When you go to the doctor in NYC, even if you have health insurance, you need to sign a paper that says, “Whatever you diagnose me with, I might have to pay for myself because my insurance might not cover it. But no one knows  just yet." In Germany it would just say: You’re covered.

PS: Health Insurance in NYC means everything except mouth and eyes, because thats apparently not part of your body. Yes, dental and vision plans are different from healthcare. I think we might be spoiled in Germany.

13. NYC makes you stronger

You’re sick a lot in the first year? That’s normal, your body is just adjusting to all the germs and dirt. At least that’s what my doctor told me.

14. I’m on drugs

Drugs are awesome. While in Germany or Austria you can’t get anything without getting a prescription. In NYC you can buy pretty strong pain killers, etc. right off the shelf. And with that I mean 200 tablets family packs for less than $10. Oh the possibilities!*

*I need to make sure to clearly tag this as irony. Drugs are not awesome.

15. Cockroaches

Before moving to NYC, I did not know that cockroaches can grow to that size, nor did I know that they are almost indestructible. I lost many good, heavy books to killing cockroaches in our apartment last summer.

16. Bed bugs

I also did not know what bed bugs are, nor that they can shut down entire neighborhoods within hours. Please don't Google it, just believe me.

17. How to yellow cab

If you want to get a classy yellow cab from Manhattan to Brooklyn, first stop the cab, enter it, and THEN tell the driver where you want to go. If you just open the door and say “I’d like to go to Brooklyn” chances are high that the cab driver will suddenly act like an alien that doesn’t understand english. If you are already in the car, they have to get you to your destination, by law. Most of them are just lazy.

18. Cash only!

Some very well established restaurants are “cash only” but have their own ATM inside the restaurant. YES! TECHNOLOGY! (I learned that the reason are credit card fees, and some restaurants just don't want to pay them, so they force you to pay with cash. Makes sense, to some extent.)

19. Find a laundry place

Until I moved to NYC I didn’t know that having a washer and dryer, or even dishwasher, is a luxury. Taking your clothes to the laundry service in your neighborhood is pretty normal. Most apartments either don’t have the space for a washer, or they don’t have the pipes to support them. Our bathroom certainly does not have either one of them. You can barely fit two people into it.

20. The best pancakes!

I never expected that I would wait three hours to get pancakes for my Sunday brunch. But then again, what pancakes wouldn’t be amazing after a three hour wait?

21. Food poisoning

I learned that when you go to restaurants, there is a piece of paper on the outside that has a letter on it stating it’s health rating according to the government. A is the best rating, B you might consider going there, C I have yet to see myself.

Going into a restaurant without a rating or “Rating Pending” means doing so at your own risk. I learned this the hard way with my first bad food poisoning in my first year. But then again, my stomach wasn’t ready for NYC I guess. In Austria there might be bad places, but you would be able to tell right away from the outside, no rating needed.


When it snows, they call it BLIZZARD here in NYC. And when it’s windy it’s called a HURRICANE and it always has a cute name, such as Jonas, Tiffany or Pancake storm. In Austria, we just say “it’s snowing."

Now you might say, but Tobias, most of the things you mentioned above seem to be negative. Why do you live in New York?

Because it’s my new home. It’s the best city I ever lived in. New York is amazing. The people are driven, friendly, passionate and diverse. There is this feeling of energy on the street I haven’t found in any other city yet.

It’s a magical city and for everyone downside there are ten things more amazing about it.

I even wrote a book on How to move to New York. It's for those people who seriously consider moving to New York and walks you through all the details you need to know. From finding a job, calculating cost of living down to all things visa and getting settled in your first New York apartment.

Have a fantastic week,