“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…” Everybody knows these famous lines about one of the most famous cities. I’m probably one of the few people though who moved to New York without having them on my mind. I didn’t care much about ‘making it’, I just thought it sounded like a fun place and wouldn’t it be cool to go to college there?! Still I arrived probably just as starry eyed and naive as any New York movie heroine only to get a somewhat rude awakening. My expectations based on what I had ‘seen’ and New York reality differed quite a bit…

unsplash nyc

Sex and The City

No series taught us more about dating in New York City than Sex and The City. Or so I thought. I was still on the other side of the big 30 then and felt quite safe. Safe enough not to wonder too much how unromantic the people of this very romantic city could really be. I only once knew someone who knew a friend of a friend who fell in love with a stranger at an ATM. I like to think they got married and lived happily ever after. The reality is probably that they dated non-exclusively for a couple of months before realizing that chance encounters at a bank are not enough reason to make a relationship work. Reality was usually a lot more grim and included dinner and a movie only when you were very lucky. There was neither as much sex nor many sexy furniture builders and a friend recently told me that even Big has to take the subway these days and was seen on the N train.


Coyote Ugly

I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I am a big fan of Coyote Ugly, the ultimate small-town-girl-makes-it-in-the-big-city movie. However, I was lucky enough to have my dad’s emergency credit card and so I didn’t have to hide my last dollars in the freezer, dance on a bar or eat plain cornflakes at the end of the month. Then again, while my flat looked decent enough, it was a shoebox compared to Violet’s. Nobody I know in New York can afford a flat like this on their own in Manhattan.


On the note of New York realties – my other favorite New York show, Friends, showed us how it was done in the city: find yourself a job at a coffee shop and use your salary to pay rent at your friend’s West Village loft. Just kidding! No, the reality was that we had to huddle on my roommate’s twin bed and her windowsill to watch the latest episode on a TV that was mounted on the wall like in a hospital room for a lack of storage space. But still, we didn’t care, the flat was ours, came with a New York City postal code and really – who wants purple walls??


Gossip Girl

I never understood how these kids could get into bars and drink as they did; I got ID’ed by bouncers who were obviously younger than me all the time. When I started in the fashion industry I worked on a charity fashion show sponsored by a big designer for his daughter’s fancy school. She and her classmates were modeling the sponsored dresses and there was a lot of drama involved. It usually started with who could wear what and ended with tears and cocaine in the bathroom. Let’s just say that these girls made Gossip Girl look like a country bumpkin. Realizing the stereotypical Upper East Side and its inhabitants were that accurately depicted was a sad New York moment.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The ultimate classic with everything a girl could possibly want: a flat in New York City, a handsome neighbor, and diamonds. But I wasn’t fooled. I already knew from Sex and The City that there was no breakfast at Tiffany’s to be had anymore. Quite alright for me because I had discovered the concept of brunch and had made friends to have said brunch with. Once I started working fashion, I also realized that Tiffany’s is overrated. If you want diamonds I recommend Harry Winston across the street.


How I Met Your Mother

For them, it was McLaren’s for us it was Bua in the East Village. That bar was basically our extended living room. When we hung out there and the line for the bathroom got too long, we would simply go upstairs. It was the place for a quick drink, a first convenient date, and my flatmate even got proposed here after too many Irish car bombs. While I don’t call it a romantic New York style love story per se, they are still happily married with two kids. So yes to the local watering hole where everybody knew our names!


The Devil Wears Prada

I have written a whole post already of my life being very much like The Devil Wears Prada when I worked as a fashion assistant. And yes, sometimes a movie will mirror life perfectly minus designer clothes for the minions. But I did take a ton of awesome memories and fun stories to tell away and also valuable connections that became the stepping stone of my career. So for better or worse, the movie paints a pretty accurate picture of what it means to have a job in New York a million girls would kill for.



And then there was Girls. I must admit this show isn’t my generation anymore and while it probably comes closest to real life in New York for twentysomethings, I’m still hoping that I was never that neurotic. I might be wrong, but one can hope…


In the end, expectations and reality didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that every flat we lived in had mice and that we could barely afford an exterminator. It didn’t matter that dating here was a game with such intricate rules most of us didn’t master it in years. In the end, it didn’t matter, because we could call one of the greatest city in the world home.

Up until today when I close my eyes I can see my twenty-year-old self, a newly minted New Yorker, standing at the corner of Lafayette & Broadway. It was pouring rain and I had no money and only a drenched doggy bag of fruit salad. But I was never happier than in this moment: I had truly arrived here. Something New York does to you – it makes you feel home – and sometimes it only takes a New York minute and some rain.

This post was written by Annika Ziehen who was a Travelette until 2019. Originally from Germany, Annika has lived in New York and Cape Town and now travels the world full time. She considers herself a very hungry mermaid and writes about her adventures, scuba diving and food on her blog The Midnight Blue Elephant. You can also find her on Instagram here!