I’d worked in London for ten years before moving out to New York, so I’m used to living in a big city. New York is like an extreme version of London; everything’s higher, dirtier, busier, louder, ruder. Alongside these negatives, there are more extreme positives too and more opportunities that I wouldn’t have had in London.
The British want to be the best in Britain, but the Americans want to be the best in the world. The level of self-belief and positivity of Americans is pretty incredible. Us Europeans should take a pinch of that confidence and stop being so negative! The downside of that self-belief is that it’s pretty hard to be critical towards Americans. A lot of them take critique as if it was an attack on their person; they find it hard to separate themselves from their work, even if it would make the work better. European graphic design is stronger in my opinion, and a lot of Americans agree. Europeans just need to learn how to sell themselves and their work better!
Ask for help
One of the main differences between London and New York is the connections. Talk to anyone in New York, and they’ll know exactly the right person for you to meet. It means that you can ask for help and the positive American attitude means that everyone is willing to help, even if they don’t know you that well. In my short time in New York, I’ve felt that I've been introduced to hundreds of people and it’s always useful. I’m not a master networker, but the New York industry has helped push open my bubble of useful contacts.
Hang onto your contacts
My wife works in medical research, and there aren’t many cities that she can work in due to it being such a specialist job. We picked New York as it was good for both of us and in a time zone that wouldn’t make it too tough to keep in touch with family and friends in the UK.
Despite the many useful contacts I now have, Americans are good at being acquaintances but not being friends. It might be that I’m too late because I moved to a new city in my thirties and everyone already has enough friends, but I still don’t feel like I have many actual-friends in New York. Maybe everyone’s too busy or wrapped up in their situation. There’s a service-level friendliness to Americans that you don’t get in the UK. British people will dislike you until they like you, but Americans will just be nice to you and never let you past that. Keeping in contact with your friends in previous cities is important. Luckily, we’re in a world where we can instantly message people who would be usually hours away and even when time zone differences get in the way; it’s always good to be in touch with those friends you left behind.
Get a lawyer
My biggest tip to anyone wanting to move to New York is to talk to an immigration lawyer. It turns out that moving here is really complicated. The visa system for the US is a bit of a mess, and it sometimes feels like they actively want to keep out talented people. A lawyer will not only help you navigate the outdated system but also prepare you for any pitfalls that come up. They’ll be able to work out the best visa for you (there’s so many!) and how to sell you to the immigration services for the best chance of getting in!
Rik Lomas is a tech educator, coder and startup advisor based in New York. He is now the founder of online coding platform, SuperHi which has just released a book, and has spoken at TEDxESCPMadrid, Glug London and Shoreditch House. Read more of Rik’s advice on moving to New York here.