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Now that I’ve lived in both “alpha cities” New York City, USA and London, UK I thought it would be helpful for other expats to write a comparison so hopefully you can make informed decisions

Remember this is just all my opinion – others may have had totally different experiences, there is no replacement for actually being in a place and finding out what it’s like for yourself.

Public Transport 

The London Underground is cleaner, quieter, more efficient and newer than the New York Subway, which generally smells of urine. It also connects to the Overground, DLR and many regional trains making the network much more extensive too. In London I have never seen a homeless person sleeping on the trains, nor have I seen people relieving themselves in the stations, nor have I seen rat infestations… things I wish I could say about NYC.

The only thing that really bothers me about London transport is the constant set of verbal and written instructions that bombard you as you try to get to work. “Stand on the right,” “Walk on the right,” Walk on the left,” “Let passengers off the train before boarding.” In New York common sense prevails. They drive on the right and walk on the right. People stand back from the door to let people off, not because their told, but just because it makes sense.

Winner: London

Friendliness

New Yorkers and Londoners are both known for being rude. I simply don’t agree. I find New Yorkers extremely helpful, even if they come across as a little abrasive and Londoners seem to go out of their way to apologise and smile if they bump into you. In London I noticed many more people smile at me, acknowledge me and speak to me than in NYC. Although I must say I find it hard to know where I stand with British people, they can be friendly beyond the point of being genuine. With New Yorkers you know where you stand and their friendliness seems to be more sincere.

Winner: London (at first glance) 

Energy 

Both places have that big city buzz. There is an undeniable energy in both places. It’s hard to compete with the energy of NYC though. It is as they say “the city that never sleeps”. London on the other hand gets it’s full eight hours.

Winner: New York 

Creatives and Crazies 

It’s not even a competition. New York is full of these types and it’s considered normal – just one of the things I love about it. You can be and do whatever you want and no one judges you. In London it’s still somewhat taboo to draw too much attention to yourself.

Winner: New York

Weather 

In London you know where you stand with the weather. It will rain, it will be grey and it will be cold for most of the year. My Dad pointed out that in London you can basically ignore the weather, which is weird considering how much British people like to talk about it! In New York ignoring the weather is not an option. Summers are hot and humid – and when I say hot and humid; I mean hot and humid. AC becomes a necessity rather than a luxury. Then winters are cold… like really cold. Fall and Spring, on the other hand, are fairly pleasant. Personally I prefer the extreme conditions in New York – it means there is something to look forward to, and, most of the time, the sky is blue.

Winner: New York 

Price 

Both places are really expensive, but I found London cheaper to live in. Although things like food, drink, clothes and public transport are much more expensive, I am earning more than twice what I did in NYC and am paying less for rent – albeit in an area further from the city. Numbeo ranks New York rent prices as 17% higher than in London. There is also more opportunity to make money in London than in New York.

Winner: London 

Sights 

Both London and New York have amazing sights to visit. London’s Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath, Oxford Circus, The Shard, London Eye and O2 Arena compete well with New York’s Top of the Rock, Empire State Building, Central Park, DUMBO, Brooklyn Bridge, Prospect Park and Governors Island, but not well enough. New York is just simply more visually amazing than London.

Winner: New York 

Cultural Experience

As an English speaker there is a very small cultural shock with moving to NYC and London. Admittedly NYC is quite a bit larger than the farm I grew up on and there are definitely more people in NYC than my home town of 16,000, but everyone speaks English (albeit a different English to me) . Culturally England and New Zealand are very similar in attitude, values, language and outlook whereas there are definite differences in the way Americans speak and see the world, which can take some adjusting. For example, Americans have never heard of tall poppy syndrome, have a very different sense of humor and have confidence beyond compare.

Winner: New York 

So who wins?

Although I lived happily in London I have to admit that New York City is the better in almost every way. There is just no other place like it on earth, so perhaps one day, once I’m done exploring the rest of the world, I’ll be back.

Winner: NYC 

Fancy moving to one of these cities? Here are my tips:

Moving to New York

Moving to London