travel

Grace always wanted to live in New York. The problem is she's homesick.

Moving to New York is a pipe dream held by so many Australians.

The “make it there, make it anywhere” promise grabs the imaginations of ambitious young professionals, of course. And there’s the romantic portrait of Manhattan fostered by Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, who famously spent her weekday evenings trotting from Upper West Side apartment to fancy bar wearing designer shoes (can anyone tell me who paid her that journalist’s salary? I need an introduction, thanks.)

Having made the move a year ago, I’m living the reality of New York life. It’s all the things I expected it to be: Dizzyingly fast-paced. Intoxicatingly full of life. Filled with quirky people harboring big plans. Oh, and packed with celebrities; I’ve seen David Schwimmer so many times now, I’ve stopped pointing him out to my friends.

But I won’t be here forever. Because living here in the most exciting city in the world now makes me appreciate just how lucky we are back in Australia. I’ve started to daydream about the little things that will eventually lure me back home, and they’re not the standard Vegemite-and-snags clichés I expected to miss.

So, rather than clutching at a long-held dream of moving to New York, take note. Here are a few of the things Sydneysiders and Melbournians can be grateful for:

Radio City Music Hall. Image supplied.

Healthy food.

Australia is the land of top-notch brunches and artisanal bread, and it seems New York can’t keep up.

Maddi Crow, originally from Shepparton Victoria, tells me she misses: “Bread that doesn't have sugar in it, baked beans that doesn't have sugar in it, quality produce that doesn't have sugar in it.”
She also notes that many places in the US don’t accommodate vegetarians well.

“All the chemicals and fillers in food here drives me crazy. Can't even get a salad with dressing here because it's usually got chemicals or bad oils like canola on the dressing,” Alyson Clarke, a 43-year-old consultant from Sydney says.

“My friends buy potato bread and sausages from Costco and it lasts for weeks and weeks because it has so much stuff in it,” Nela Abey, a 26-year-old communication professional agrees.

“I have not found a quality sourdough that rivals Melbourne’s yet,” Abey says. “I just feel like quality of produce like vegetables and fresh fruit isn't as good… unless you spend loads at [upscale supermarket chain] Whole Foods.”

via GIPHY

Australian tampons.

American tampons tend to come with a long plastic or cardboard device on the end called an applicator – and it’s pretty hard to find the applicator-less versions we get back in Australia.

Because of said applicator, packs of tampons are pretty enormous; you can’t just discreetly carry them in your evening clutch.

“I stock up on Libra tampons when I go back. I have like a two-year supply now,” Clarke says. I know several Australian women who do the same.

So divisive is the tampon issue, it’s become customary among my Aussie girlfriends in New York to offer to bring back packs of Australian tampons.

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SEE? Enormous. Image: iStock.

Nature.

After a few months of being yelled at to “move! I’m walkin’ here,” on the street (Unbelievably, New Yorkers still actually say that) you’ll start craving green spaces.

“I only miss space, and the balcony and fresh ocean breezes that wafted through my wide open doors and windows,” businesswoman from Melbourne, Annalie Killian, tells me.

If getting away to the sand and sea is your way of de-stressing in Australia, you’ll have to find an alternative in New York. The beaches in New York aren’t known for their surf or clean sands. Some of them even charge an entry fee, a fact that tends to scandalize Aussie friends who visit me.

Georg Thomas, a 34-year-old security director, agrees, noting that the beaches don’t compare unless you travel south of Manhattan, which isn’t an easy commute. “Getting out of the city in Australia is a lot easier,” Thomas says. “Here, you have to pay a fortune to rent a car if you live in Manhattan.”

Another warning: in Manhattan, sirens will be your lullaby. “I miss and hearing birds when I wake up and hearing nothing when I go to bed,” Killian says.

I hear you (and the sirens,) Killian. I regularly buy six-packs of earplugs at the pharmacy.

Surprise, surprise. You'll miss this. Image via iStock.
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Masterfoods Barbeque Sauce and other Aussie items.

Forget the Vegemite. What Australians in New York miss most are the little things they barely even realized were Australian to begin with: Eclipse mints at the supermarket checkout. Mars bars. Tonic water to mix with gin (there’s a lot of club soda, but very little tonic water, curiously.)

Clarke tells me she misses Eclipse mints, Berocca, and Master Foods barbecue sauce. “I always stock up on those when I go back to Oz,“ she says.

There are tales of relatives bringing litres of sauce to New York when visiting.

Affordable rent.

You’ve heard New York is expensive, but you probably didn’t expect New Yorkers to be spending most of their salary on rent.

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is $3,895 per month, according to the January 2015 Citi habitat market report. And yes, that’s roughly equal to the entire monthly income of the typical US worker, according to Smart Asset.

“ You get a lot less space for your money,” Thomas says. And I agree: My husband and I paid less to rent a three-level loft in Sydney’s Surry Hills than we now do for an old, 1.5-bedroom apartment in deep Brooklyn.

“What makes it tough is the salaries are generally lower [in certain industries,] so when considered as a percentage of your income it's tighter than you realise it's going to be,” 30-year-old Australian actor in New York Shaan Elise says.

Our first NY shoebox apartment. Image supplied.

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… And that’s before even mentioning the complicated and expensive healthcare system. Gulp. Or President-elect Donald Trump’s proposed changes to the healthcare and immigration systems, which many Aussies here report feeling nervous about.

Don’t get me wrong. New York is a stunningly exciting city, filled with inspiring people and seemingly endless career opportunities in most sectors. So when I do move home to Melbourne, I’ll carry a warm little glow of nostalgia with me. When I remember the brownstone buildings and the fresh bagels that characterised my Sunday mornings in New York, I’ll feel a tug of longing.

But then I’ll go out for brunch at a stylish but uncrowded Melbourne cafe, order some perfect poached eggs then sit in my sunny backyard as I listen to the Rosellas.

And I’ll think about how very lucky I am to call Australia home.

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