From making new friends to dealing with homesickness, moving to a new city can be hard for anyone. But it can be particularly tough for people who are used to the lively, free Big Apple to adjust to the more buttoned-up, politically-motivated US capital. We talked to blogger, author, and journalist Joi-Marie McKenzie about the struggles of moving and where she finds NYC vibes in DC.
Meet Joi-Marie McKenzie
At just 31, Joi-Marie McKenzie has already worn more hats than many wear in a lifetime. She is a journalist, producer, public speaker, and most recently, a published author of her dating memoir The Engagement Game. At the heart of her work, however, is her writing.
“The act is instinctual for me; I have to do it. It’s almost like it chose me; I didn’t choose it. Writing, and sharing stories, has led to my becoming a producer, an author, a public speaker, but it all starts with putting words on the page.”
A Maryland native, McKenzie made the move to NYC after feeling she had “topped out” in her journalism career in DC.
“I wanted a new challenge that would hopefully bring more opportunities.”
Now, she lives in Harlem and she certainly notices the difference between the Big Apple and the nation’s capital.
“In New York, you can wear tennis shoes to a party; but in DC everyone wears black,” explains McKenzie. “In New York, there are so many people who are passionate about different industries like Wall Street, tech corporations, and creative endeavors; in DC it’s all about Capitol Hill. I can get the best oxtails this side of heaven at eight different restaurants in New York. In DC, there was only Sweet Mango and that closed down.”
“It’s hard — especially when you have perfectly good friends back at home. The first few years after I had moved to New York, I drove home every weekend to hang out with my friends. And when I got sick of driving, I took the bus and later the train.”
“It started to wear on me and my bank account. And I figured I could never truly invest in friendships in New York when I kept running home. So at year four, I made a rule that I couldn’t go home unless it was absolutely necessary. And soon enough I formed amazing friendships here.”
“Craving a Soho vibe? Head to Georgetown. Want a West Village experience? you can find that on U Street. If you’re looking for a DC Waterfront type of day, head to South Street Seaport in New York.”
Start Where You Are
The best way to meet people and make friends? McKenzie says it’s always a good idea to “start where you are”.
“When you’re really fresh in a new city, your best bet to meet people is to start where you are — at work or at school. Because it’s hard enough adjusting to a new city — finding the grocery store, getting a new gym and securing a new dry cleaner. Like, who has the time? But if you start where you’re planted, you’ll have an easier time.”
“Also, most cities have culture blogs — like the one I created, The Fab Empire — that list cool events to attend. My favorite blog right now for young black professionals (aside from my own!) is my girl Genese Jamilah’s blog, I Don’t Do Clubs.”
Find Neighborhoods with Similar Vibes
And despite the differences and the difficulties that come with moving, McKenzie insists that you can find bits of New York here in DC.
“Different neighborhoods in New York have similar vibes that you can find in DC,” says McKenzie. “For instance, if you’re craving a Soho vibe, head to Georgetown. If you want a West Village experience, you can find that on U Street. If you’re looking for a DC Waterfront type of day, head to South Street Seaport in New York.”
As for McKenzie, when she’s in the area, she has her own list of go-to places in the city.
“You can find me catching live music at The Fillmore in Silver Spring. I love the food and ambiance at Lincoln. I have a soft spot for Smith Commons. And if you’re not too bougie, meet me at El Rinconcito Cafe for the seafood soup.”
Feature photo by Alex Read