When millennials move to a new city, there’s a fairly decent chance that the city in question is either New York or Los Angeles. What can I say? Twenty-somethings are fairly predictable in their migration patterns.
However, there is considerable cocktail party debate over which of these metropolitan cities is “better.” As someone who has lived in both of these cities (I tried to type that without sounding obnoxious, I promise), I have determined that it really is like comparing apples and oranges. There is no better or worse, really — but they are vastly different experiences.
Here are some important questions to ask yourself when consider a move to either of these major coastal cities:
Which seasons do you prefer?
If you’re an Autumnal darling, fascinated with the notion of wearing a light jacket and some cute ankle boots, Los Angeles’ perpetually sunny disposition may not be your cup of tea. While there are certainly brisk days to be had, the odds of you requiring many layers are pretty slim. New York, on the other hand, is pretty much the picturesque ideal of Fall. The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and everyone is losing their ever-loving shit over Pumpkin Spice-flavored food and beverages.
If you are particularly adverse to snow or frigid temperatures, be forewarned: you’ll find them both in spades in New York. Not to mention that, when temperatures get low enough for the snow on the sidewalks to melt, you’ll fight yourself hopping over freezing pools of trash water in order to cross the street. Fun times.
What sort of pace are you looking for?
If you tend to get bored with slow-paced living, you will probably pull your hair out in Los Angeles. While there are certainly plenty of things to do and see in this city, the general vibes are not particularly bustling or urgent. So, if you send an email to someone and expect an answer within the hour (or even within 24 hours), you’ll be sorely disappointed. Everything just tends to move a tad slower in La-La Land (including the traffic). However, if you’re looking for a metropolitan locale that’s actually relaxing, look no further.
If you’re highly ambitious and want to feel like you’re getting shit done (even if you aren’t), New York might be more your speed. The pervasive sense of constant movement may start to make you feel perpetually anxious, but you’ll learn to appreciate it — and that’s what trips upstate are for, after all.
What is your ideal transportation situation?
Everybody bitches about Los Angeles traffic. The truth is, while it definitely exists, it’s not nearly the horror story that people claim. All you have to do is Google where you’re going, and you’ll get a recommended route with the least amount of traffic. That said — if you hate driving, you may not want to move here. Driving is inevitable, and you will almost certainly require a car. (But you would honestly require a car in any city that isn’t New York or Washington D.C., so don’t pretend like that’s a huge surprise.)
If car ownership is not your bag, then it’s New York all the way. For a little over $100 per month, you can get an unlimited subway car, which will allow you to take as many rides as you please within the 30-day time frame. The downsides? If you’re riding the subway in the wee hours of the evening/morning, be prepared to wait a while. Also, prepare yourself for the inevitability of altered service, which will totally fuck up your commute. And then there are the unhinged men on the subways who will randomly whip their penises out.
That last one only happened to me once, but I can tell you that once was definitely enough.
How important is it for you to live comfortably?
This seems like a leading question, so I’ll be more clear: are you comfortable with the idea of living in very cozy quarters? Do you need your room to be a decent hangout size, or would you prefer to fraternize with your roommates in the living space?
Apartment-hunting in New York is one of the most fascinating and infuriating experiences, for the simple reason that you simply will not be able to find a “normal” apartment. If the kitchen is decent, the bathroom is essentially a shower stall that doubles as a toilet. If the floor space is fine, the ceilings will be weirdly low, or there will be no closets. You may end up in a room with a window into another room. All New York real estate is utter nonsense, unless your in a high enough pay grade to live comfortably. But, either way: prepare yourself for minimal square footage.
In Los Angeles, there are certainly tiny, swanky apartments to be had. But, there are also fairly reasonably sized apartments, which actually have dishwashers and aren’t in terrifying neighborhoods. Sure, you probably won’t be within walking distance to bodegas or bars, but if space is your desire, then it’s LA all the way.
What kind of nature are you into?
If you prefer more refined scenes of nature, carefully landscaped and curated (and swarming with tourists), then the limited nature in New York City will suit your needs. The parks within the city are beautiful and (in certain instances) quite spacious. The only downside is that everyone else had the exact same idea as you, and are probably all hanging out in the park right now.
If you prefer your nature to feel slightly more present and pervasive, Los Angeles (or certain parts, anyway) will probably ring your bell. In addition to many trees and views of The Hills, there are also lovely scenic drives — and, of course, a multitude of beaches.
While both cities will probably provide any nature-lover with enough greenery to satisfy their needs, it really comes down to how far you’re willing to travel to get to the Great Outdoors. If you’re not willing to take a train ride out of town, then Los Angeles may be your best bet.
What is your favorite hangout situation with friends?
If a perfect weekend night sounds like meeting up with friends at a bar or club, you will fit in well within the New York social scene. Because apartments are so small, people rarely have impromptu get-togethers at their abodes, and prefer to take their socializing to other local establishments. While this is often expensive (drink prices in New York are no joke), you’ll definitely feel like your evening was well-spent.
If the idea of hanging in a group out at someone’s house and smoking weed while watching a movie or playing aboard game sounds appealing, then you are ready for the Los Angeles hangout. Sure, there are plenty of clubs and bars — but why worry about finding parking and/or driving home after drinking? Why not just all hang out in the same place and be comfortable?
Essentially: New York is about getting out of the house, and Los Angeles is about going to someone else’s house.
How do you prefer to spend your free time?
If you’re into walking, museums, reading in coffee shops, train rides, and parks, then New York extracurriculars are definitely your style. Basically, anytime you’re out of the house, you’ll essentially feel like you’re doing an activity simply by walking down the street.
If you’re more into hiking, going to the beach, watching movies (new and old), swimming and having house parties, then Los Angeles is obviously for you. While it’s more difficult to walk to entertainment on the West Coast, the available offerings for outdoor activities are plentiful — and if anyone knows how to chill hard after a long day spent outside, it’s people in Los Angeles.
Regardless of where your tastes lie, just know that there is honestly no wrong answer — no matter where you end up, you’ll still be living in one of the coolest cities in the world.
Related-ish: 15 Unanswerable Questions About NYC