A Native New Yorker Reads “Ask a Native New Yorker”

I’m not the target audience for Jake Dobkin’s new book “Ask a Native New Yorker.” As a fellow New York City native I’m probably the last type of person Dobkin would want to have picked up his book, as born-and-bred New Yorkers tend to viciously nitpick through advice anyone else offers about surviving in this city. And to be honest, that’s exactly what I planned on doing when I first got my hands on a copy of “Ask a Native New Yorker” a couple of weeks ago. But to my surprise, instead of poking holes, I ended up taking notes. Lots of them. 

In “Ask a Native New Yorker,” Dobkin offers valuable advice on everything from dealing with a friend with bed bugs to public school vs. private school to when you should leave New York City for good (Answer: never). Several of these tips are most useful to NYC transplants, but I picked up some practical advice, too, like how to navigate the streets using the position of the Sun.* 

But the most useful thing I got from this book, which makes it valuable for both real New Yorkers and wannabes, is a change in perspective. New York is a difficult city to live in and Dobkin will tell you that over and over again (far too often, in my opinion), but he’ll also tell you that once you accept that things are tough here, it frees you up to enjoy the many other things that make NYC a worthwhile place to live. Because no one comes to New York for an easy life; they come for the food scene, the culture, the opportunities. They come because they want the honor of becoming real New Yorkers, people who are gritty enough to survive all the things this crazy city throws their way. Dobkin reminds us that real New Yorkers never give up:

New York will always be a tough place to live… and that toughness can lead anyone with alternatives to consider getting out. But the real New Yorkers never do. Somehow, they always find a way to keep going here, right to the end of their lives. If you’re doing that, or trying to do that, you’re a real enough New Yorker for me.

So whether you’re a newbie trying to get your footing here or you’re a worn-down lifer like me who could use some words of encouragement from someone who understands the NY-specific things you’re going through, give “Ask a Native New Yorker” a read.

*The sun will always be in the south. In the morning it’s in the east; in the afternoon it’s in the west. Voila! No need to walk 3/4 the way down an avenue to figure out if you’re going in the right direction anymore.

Have you read Ask a Native New Yorker yet? What were your takeaways from it? Share them in the comments.

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