Hello all! If you’ve been following me over the last few months you may already know that I relocated to New Jersey just outside the city and now commute into the city for school. I thought I’d chat a bit about Jersey, how and why I came to this decision, and how I am liking it so far.
If you want more of a backstory as to how and why I ended up here, you can read this post. But long story short, I was wronged by the city too many times and ended up staying here out of the generosity of a family friend and ended up liking it so much I decided to stay put.
Overall, I am really liking it. Yes, my commute is long (slightly over an hour), but I think the distance between me and the city has been good for my mental health, stress level, and our relationship (ie relationship between me + NYC).
Below you’ll find my honest take on JC thus far. Happy reading!
1. It’s Not as Chaotic…
New York is amazing, don’t get me wrong. But after 5 years of crowds, constant sirens, and tons and tons of people, I needed something different. Jersey City is much calmer. I can almost feel my cortisol level drop when I get off the PATH train. There’s more green space, less traffic, lesser population density, and you can actually hear non-pigeon birds chirping in the morning. Pure bliss.
2. But There’s Still Enough Going On that I Don’t Feel Like I Live in the Middle of No Where…
Jersey city is a happy medium. Not a big city hustle vibe, but enough shops/culture/stuff going on where I don’t feel like I’m in the middle of no where suburbia. For the record I have nothing against suburbia, but since I presently don’t have a car, I appreciate being able to walk to stores, restaurants, coffee shops and public transportation.
I can best liken JC to the east side of Milwaukee, which I’m aware is an analogy that will resonate with most people. But it makes sense in my head, so here we are.
3. Millie Likes It Better Here
When I lived in the city I used to kind of take offense when people would comment about wanting to have a dog but believing it was cruel to have one in the city. As someone who rescued a dog that needed a home while living in NYC, I feel that this comment can be off-putting to urban pet owners like myself. Millie is small, well-exercised, and does fine in cities. In fact, there are perks of urban pet parenting, including the ability to bring your dog into stores and cafes with little trouble.
Millie enjoyed being my errand buddy and being oogled at every step of the way. That said, since experiencing many different lifestyles (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, etc) I can say that I can tell Millie truly does appreciate a little more sniff space and greenery, and a little less traffic and sirens.
Millie seems to be enjoying where we live in JC. We’re right by a park with two dog runs and a locally owned pet store and an ice cream shop that has doggie froyo. As far as Millie is concerned, this set-up ain’t too shabby. Seeing her content makes me feel more content and settled here.
4. I like it Better Here
Ahh yup I said it. I have zero regrets moving out here. Honestly, I thought I’d regret it. So much in fact I opted for a short lease in case I found it miserable to be here. But I don’t at all. I love it! It has its downsides but after 5 years as a Manhattan dweller, I love this change of pace and scenery. It’s also been fun to explore and become familiar with a new place/mini culture. Every day I get off the PATH and am thankful for my new digs.
5. You Get More for Your Money
Jersey City isn’t cheap. I won’t sugar coat that. But to be fair, at this point, nothing within an hour or so of nyc is cheap. Heck, Hoboken is now as posh as the west village. So rent prices aren’t that much lower. That said, you get a heck of a lot more for your money. More space, more amenities, newer buildings, etc. I’d be willing to bet my apartment would be at the very least a solid G more in Manhattan. So if I’m gonna pay an arm and a leg on rent, I’d much rather do it for a nicer, newer, safe building in JC than a run-down craphole in Manhattan with a slumlord landlord.
6. I’m Having Fun Exploring a New-To-Me-Place
even though the program I was involved in in Minnesota wasn’t for me, I found living in another place much more exciting than I had expected. I felt the same way after spending several weeks in Denver last winter/spring.
After flopping between Wisconsin and Manhattan my whole life, I now find it inspiring and good for personal growth to live in other places. JC is a whole new set of shops, restaurants, and cultural norms I’m getting to know and love. And to me, that’s a cool experience.
So far I’ve found some barre studios I like (J.C. Barre and Jane Do), some yummy coffee shops/cafes (Prato Bakery, Milk Sugar Love, etc), and frequently walk through the mall as part of my commute, which has everything from the Body Shop to Flying Tiger Coppeghangon to Gregory’s Coffee to Just Salads (and we all know my weird obsession with Just Salads).
There’s also a lot of cool street art to look at, which is fun.
7. There’s a Non-Cluster-Fuck Target.
For the first several years of living in New York City, there were only two Targets: one in Harlem, and one in Brooklyn (neither of which were close to me). Now there are a few more. But the problem with NYC Targets is that they are literal giant clusterfucks of hell.
You know that relaxing vibe you get spacing out in Target, wondering the spacious well-light aisles? Yeah, no. Not the reality in NYC. In NYC Target runs are more like battling your way through crowds for toiletries, standing in long lines to check out, lugging all your crap home by hand, and needing a Xanax after the whole thing is said and done.
The prices in NYC Target are also (slightly) marked up. Boo.
In Jersey City, there is a non-cluster-fuck Target. More like a normal Target. Less crowded, more ability to space out, more stuff at lower costs. Still no car. But ya know. I’ll still take it.
1. The Grocery Stores Aren’t Great
There are a few places to get groceries, but no Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Boo. These places are easy enough to hit up on my commute home if I just pop on and off trains, so I do that and shop at the local stores and get by.
The local stores are okay and sometimes have really good sales which is fun, and the one by me has plantains 3/$1 which I have been really enjoying, but overall I would still love me a TJs….I’m considering buying a bike so I can venture to the one in Hoboken.
2. The Commute
Honestly I don’t mind commuting as much as I thought I would. Literally I just sit on the express train and read or study or close my eyes.
There are days, though, that if does ware on me, particularly after long days or on days with multiple train delays. I’m an early riser, so I don’t mind leaving obnoxiously early for class, but there are days where I leave campus and dread the fact that home is still an hour away. I usually just try to busy myself and make use of the time as best I can, even if that means just resting my eyes (which sometimes IS a good use of time between a long day and homework time).
3. Sometimes I wish I had a car.
Jersey city definitely feels like a place where having a car would be ideal. In Manhattan, the thought of having a car honestly sounded incredibly stressful and unnecessary. Here I sometimes wish I had one. The public transportation into NYC is legit, but within JC it is a bit lacking.
Mostly for Target runs and to get around on weekends when public transportation isn’t the best. As mentioned above, I plan to look for a bike this spring, mostly so I can bike up to Hoboken and hit up their TJs/cafes, and to explore other parts of JC, but a car would also be nice at times. For now, dividing up my errands and lugging home my groceries will have to do!
The Not Good, Not Bad, but Different:
1. Different housing laws/regulations
Turns out not every place on earth has as many regulations to protect renters as New York City does. Like indoor smoking bans and heat + hot water included. I went through this while living in Minnesota too. I’m sure everyone out there is like “duh, Katherine,” but it was new to me as someone who had their first several rental experiences in New York.
I managed to find a non-smoking building, but was quite nervous to pay for my own heat and hot water. I even set aside $300 to cover my first two month’s heat + hot water expenses.
When the bills came, I was presently surprised to only about $30 on two months of heat and hot water (granted, I try my best to conserve every drop of water and live on the top floor of a temperature-regulated building). So I guess there wasn’t that much to freak out about. Ya live and ya learn, ya know?
3. Different vibe between neighbors/strangers
Perhaps this is just my experience. So far I find JCers slightly less outgoing than New Yorkers (who I firmly believe are honestly the worlds kindest people…once you get over the rushedness of many of them, you realize it’s impossible to find a more accepting, helpful, and resilient group of human beings).
I have met many nice people around but people out there generally seem less interested in each other’s lives than in New York. I know who my neighbors are (like I can recognize their faces) but many have zero interest in knowing me personally. In New York I always knew and often bonded with my neighbors as well as local shop owners. I also felt similarly about living in Minnesota. Perhaps New York is just an overly outgoing place to live. It’s fine, just something to adjust to.
Overall, I have no regrets moving out here. I’m really enjoying exploring my new home, and the separation from the city has been so good in terms of my resentful attitude towards it.
Now when I’m NYC, I can appreciate it, and look forward to my quiet little slice of heaven home in Jersey.