Former New Yorkers Are Networking Through WhatsApp
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In January Ryan McGarry, an emergency room doctor, was skiing in Utah when he struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to him on a chairlift.
New Yorkers have been seeking one another out in other American cities for decades
They quickly discovered they had both moved to Los Angeles from New York City. They agreed they missed the dynamic social scenes they had left behind. “What I miss is a common denominator of ambition and motivation,” Dr. McGarry, 40, said. “I think there is something really electrifying in New York City, and I’m not sure I feel that in Los Angeles.”
Later, Dr. McGarry’s new acquaintance told him about something that would change his social life: a WhatsApp group called NYC in LA. It formed in 2020 to build a community among former New Yorkers. It has over 200 members now, many of whom post multiple times a day, either proposing activities like picnics on the beach or asking for advice on cocktail bars or reliable dentists.
“I wanted that in my life immediately,” said Dr. McGarry, who joined the group as soon as he heard about it. “New York City people are just different.”
How else could they complain about the lack of public transportation, the difficulty in finding a decent slice or the fact that most neighborhood bodegas are not open 24/7? The only difference is now, apps and social media have made it easier for them to find their kindred spirits instantly.
Daniel Zahler, a health care consultant, started NYC in LA after talking to a few friends who were also transplants from New York City. “New Yorkers are a distinct subculture,” he said. “We all have had the same experiences, and there is a higher degree of trust,” he continued. “It’s like being friends with people who went to the same college.”
NYC in LA has reached capacity on WhatsApp (groups are capped at 256 people), and now there is a waiting list. While members have gotten together informally, Mr. Zahler, 43, has started organizing official events, like a soiree this year for singles, which more than 40 people attended.
“It’s so funny, I never thought I would move to L.A. and hang out with a bunch of New Yorkers,” said Jess Marvin, 39, an architect and real estate agent who is an active member and appreciates the group invitations to rooftop dance parties and art shows. “But I am trying to find my people, and New Yorkers just seem much more likely to be my people.”
Dedicated social networking among New Yorkers is happening in Miami, too. When Salma Khan, who works for a nonprofit, moved there in , she was worried about making friends who shared her worldview.
“I like to have intellectual conversations about politics and things of that nature, and I want to have a safe space for doing that,” said Ms. Khan, 40. “I won’t say no one in Miami will do that, but New Yorkers are much more likely to be aligned in that way.”
She joined New Miami Girls, a Facebook group, and soon received a message from another former New Yorker. The two women, along with a friend of a friend also from the city, met for drinks and have remained close throughout the pandemic. This has helped her state of mind during a fraught time, when opinions on public health practices have varied from state to state.
“Miami is a little more liberal than other parts of Florida, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was cautious about Covid conversations and assuming things about vaccination status,” she said. “My friends from New York all kind of erred on the more cautious side with it.”
Over the summer Ricky Berrin, an entertainment lawyer at a production company, started a Miami WhatsApp group for former New Yorkers to swap tips on house and car shares.
“I created the group selfishly,” said Mr. Berrin, 39. “I didn’t want to commit to a lease, and I wanted to see who was around, who had empty bedrooms.”
He was shocked by how popular the chat became. “We now have two separate WhatsApp groups that are completely full,” he said. “I have to kick people out now, and approve certain people. I would say there are at least 10 posts a day.”
He said that meeting New Yorkers in Miami and Los Angeles improves the experience of living in these sunny, airy cities. “There is something about the ambition of people in New York and a certain style of how they interact with the world,” he said. “They are more ambitious, adventurous and curious.”
When Patrice Novkov, the owner of a nanny agency, moved to Raleigh, N.C., in , she appreciated the space, the low rent, the mild weather and the friendly Southerners. But she also needed New Yorkers in her life.
They know where the good food is
But instead of using an app, Ms. Novkov, who is in her mid-30s, resorted to an old-school approach: just walking up to people and asking them if they had ever lived in New York. So far she has met a deli owner and a customer at a brewery. But she’s not done with her quest.
“I was at a bar on Sunday and ordering a drink, and the guy next to me owns rental properties, and he was like, ‘There is another girl moving from New York City. I’ll link you up,’” she said. “I could always do with more New York friends.”