You saw the photos. You follow them on Instagram. You read the stories in the real estate section of the New York Times. Living “upstate” is an idyllic wonderworld of farm-to-table dining, matching-flannel-outfit-apple-picking, farmers’ markets, and backyard chickens.
On any Sunday evening, you are dour and depressed about your NYC corporate life and beige cubicle existence. Yes, you’re in New York City, but most of your waking hours are spent under fluorescent lighting, listening to your coworkers complain, and waiting in line for $10 lattes.
You decide to bite the bullet – go rogue (or at least remote) – and buy a house UPSTATE!
Well, the Hudson Valley – let’s not go crazy. We’re not going THAT FAR “upstate”. The New York Times Sunday Real Estate section is not writing articles about Brooklynites moving to Syracuse or Glens Falls – at least not yet.
The articles are rosy and cheery, the countertops are clean and sparkling, and everyone is baking bread from the same mother “scobie”. How much more back-to-nature can you get? Life is a dream!
There’s a dark side to moving “upstate”, a culture shock. It’s the same state, but a different world. No one warned you, until now.
You may not survive.
Before you buy that $800K fixer-upper that needs a new roof, a new foundation, and asbestos removal, read this post. I’ll give you the warnings that no realtor will.
You have to be nice to everyone
I mean, relatively “nice”. In NYC, where you are anonymous, you can yell at the person who cut you off on the FDR and never see them again. However, if you do that upstate, tomorrow, that person could show up to your door as your plumber, or they’re now dating your best friend, or you have to sit across from them at a dinner party.
Even though you’d like to tell people what you really think about them all the time, maybe don’t. Find a friend or therapist to whom you can vent, and do that instead. These are small towns, and your negative energy will come back to you – threefold.
Everyone knows everything about everyone
You think you’re anonymous, you’re not. Life upstate is like living in a fishbowl. You never even knew your neighbor in the nextdoor apartment on the Upper West Side, but upstate, everyone will know your life story – and if you don’t work to control the narrative, they’ll make something up about you.
Even if you never talk to ANYONE and only leave the house, via your alley, to buy Stewart’s orange-flavored seltzer water, you will be known as the person who drinks Stewart’s orange-flavored seltzer water – and they’ll add that you’re on the lam from the law. THAT story is much more interesting, and they’ll have something to talk about at the Farmers’ Market. People are bored, and yes, some really have nothing else better to do.
The city sleeps
There’s a reason why they call New York City, “the city that never sleeps” – it’s because other places DO SLEEP – and early! You want Chinese food at midnight or six different flavors of oat milk from a 24-hour bodega across the street, well, good luck finding that upstate. If that was a priority for you, then you should have stayed in New York. That’s why you’re paying those high rents in NYC, for the added amenities and services.
Go shopping at the grocery store and have food available when everything is closed. Yes, you now have to PLAN your life.
True story – when I first moved here in 2006, I walked into my local corner deli and asked for a Diet Coke, the response was, “Buy Fat Coke”.
Your business idea might not work
“But, Trixie, you could really clean up if you opened up an all-night Chinese food place!”
Oh, really? Thanks.
If your great business idea is SO GREAT, then do it yourself…with your own money. I understand, you were the VP of Marketing and Sales at Blah & Blah Corporation, and that you can transform my blog into this huge money-maker without any more work. Or, my cookies can be sold just like Tate’s. Don’t you want to make more money, Trixie?? (*eye roll*)
Trixie, I’m only trying to help you and give you some tips! (*unsolicited advice*)
Like the head of a venture capitalist firm, I’ve heard a lot of business plans for Hudson.
There’s less than 6,000 people in the City of Hudson – that’s enough people to fit into ONE Manhattan office building, or about as many people who live on one city block. Just because something worked somewhere else, does not mean it’s going to work here. Sometimes, it’s simply a numbers game.
People may or may not tell you that your business idea is a mistake, they might let you “figure it out on your own” (*fail*). Watching arrogant, know-it-all downstate New Yorkers lose money is a pastime, a Schadenfreuden hobby, for some.
Find a good contractor/plumber/electrician/roofer and be nice to them – always and forever
If you find a contractor, plumber, electrician, and/or roofer who is good, reliable, and reasonable, be very nice to them. That person may become your most significant relationship. Bake them cookies, buy them lunch, pay the invoice on time, (sexual favors, if they let you). Do anything to keep them happy.
You’ll wait for their phone call like a teenager in love, and become giddy when they finally give you some attention.
You need them. They have all the power (tools) in the relationship.
When they do something well, let them know you appreciate their work.
When there’s a storm, and my basement does not flood, I still send my contractor, from a job he did eight years ago, a text thanking him for the work.
Your other (non-contractor) significant relationship may not survive upstate life
This is a harsh one.
The two of you are such a good couple – but that was when you were both working twelve-hour days, Miami this weekend, LA the next, that show at the Met, and brunch, lots of brunches!
Well, now you’re upstate, in a farmhouse that cost you your 401K, and you’re with your partner ALL THE F**CKING TIME – EVERY SINGLE MINUTE – CAN’T THEY FIND SOMEWHERE TO GO?!
You find yourself wandering aimlessly through the aisles of Lowe’s, just to “get away” – to have a moment of peaceful respite. The phrase, “I’m going to Lowes,” becomes a euphemism, and a way to end an arguement.
The distractions of NYC, that enabled you to overlook certain “personality traits” of your partner, those distractions are gone. The annoying “personality traits,” which you once found “endearing,” remain.
You have to feel all the feelings, now. Upstate can be kinda like rehab.
But, Trixie, if it doesn’t work out, I can always go back, right?
Since you’ve moved up here, your former apartment/condo/coop in NYC has doubled in price, and your job is about to replace you with some kid from the Midwest, who’s just SO HAPPY to live in The Big Apple, that they’ll do your job for half your salary and come into the office five days a week!
Or, your department has just been outsourced to India. Namaste.
You can be happy upstate, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.