Living in new york is just like any other place, you realize it is a lot smaller than you are led to believe, and you will bump into a lot of the same people a lot. But you will also have the possibility of bumping into a lot of people who are doing crazy shit, that you rarely have the opportunity to find in other places [although they still are doing those things there].
The thing that makes New York a place that stands out amongst all of the other cities for me is that everyone is making shit happen here all the time. They are always talking about making shit happen, and then they are doing it. They are talking about their portfolio's, their jobs, their resumes, their projects, their grants, their proposals, their internships, their college programs. But then they are all working hard to do something with it.
Being around that on a daily basis is something that doesn't really allow you to sit back and let yourself just 'live' in New York. You get swept into the lifestyle of wanting to have something to back your name up with as well. So you work harder, you learn more, you network - when you never networked before, you build your resume, and attend courses, you go to meet-ups, and participate in 'no-pants' subway rides - just so you can say you did it.
At the end of the day you become a part of the New York hustle, or you do it until it burns you out, or you stay until you've gotten yourself to a level your comfortable with - or that is acceptable for some other city that will have you become stagnant and be okay with that, and you will be satisfied with that as well - you've done your NY time and feel you deserve where you are at now.
Sure there are a million things going on in New York at any given time, but anyone with an imagination can find plenty of things to do in any town they live in, it just takes a bit more effort granted, but where there is a will there is a way.
Another thing about living here is that somehow just by living here it makes you travel more. A lot of the people that I know who have lived here a long time say that it is necessary to get out of the city for periods of time, because the city will start to get to you. I believe it, but people are always escaping this city on a whim, and quite easily - especially with all of their competitive jobs [and sometimes because of their jobs]. People are always inviting you to travel with them, and making friends outside of the city or in neighboring states are easy to find since they are always coming into the city to party as well. New York makes it really easy and cheap to bus as I found out when I went to Philly, and all of your friends and family want to come to NY to hang out and have fun as well so they are flying in here and hanging out.
The restaurants aren't better, there are just more of them, and more options. I've had amazing food in all of the different cities I've lived, and all different kinds of food, from shitty to high-class. Each place does have it's special places that stand out, but I wouldn't classify any of them as having the best restaurants.
Where New York loses in lush landscapes and picturesque mountain-top views they try to make-up with rooftop access. Anyone who knows someone who has rooftop access boasts about it. It's a place where friends join and gather for drinks, debauchery, and bbq's. Where you are sure to land a kiss at the end of a date while the sunset turns the skyline of Manhattan into a silhouette. And where you can seek refuge from the small apartments we are all cramped into to live here in the first place.
Anyway you take it public transportation, your own vehicle/bike, or taking a taxi you are pretty much fucked most of the time. There is no escaping traffic no matter which avenue you go. With the subway you are bound to get harassed by some kids trying to stay off the street by selling you packs of peanut M&Ms, the bus is just pointless it takes longer than any other form, taking your own car requires a lot of patience if you plan on parking anywhere that is free. Cycling is the most economical choice for the city but has loads of hazards in the fact that no one in vehicles hardly knows where they are going and even if they do they don't care about cyclists and running you off the street. Taxi's are the most expensive option and the quickest, but as big of assholes as taxi guys can be in traffic they still can't make it go any faster when you are in traffic on the b.q.e. which there almost always is.
The New York solution to transportation is always leave an hour early and pack your ipod/iphone/ipad/book/magazine/newspaper or else you will have to awkwardly stare at someone for a long time, or make the mistake of falling asleep and missing your stop.
Also although this is supposed to be the Fashion Capital of the world, people still dress like bums here and don't care. You are still in the minority if you dress up and put effort into your outfit - so that is also the same as in any other city. Just like in any other city you have that random transvestite who comes into your store and shops in full drag and it ain't no big thing, it just happens a bit more frequently in New York.
Dating is the one things that is VERY different from any other place that I've ever lived. People here like to trade up. Where in other cities people do this with cars. Here it is all about having the next new hottie to have on your arm. It is rare to have multiple dates with a single person. People are less forgiving of quirks here because they know there are so many more people out there to choose from. Where if you are living in a small city with a limited population that doesn't waiver much you probably would deal with some crazy ass-baby-mama bullshit that girls and guys here mostly will not stand for. The single people of New York are what make the night-life thrive here, all those who settle down just make Park Slope thrive.
Craigslist is a necessity of life in New York. From posting a missed connection to the cutie you saw on the subway but were too shy to say something to, to buying your one day old mac product that someone waited in line for two days to get only to say they waited in two days to get but they didn't need it so they sold it on craigslist to you. You need it to find a place to live that doesn't have brokers fees or bedbugs, and for all of those millions of random gigs you are going to work for just to get a few extra bucks in your pocket.
Living in New York really is like living anywhere else with it's own certain quirks that only come from living in New York, but every place has things like that. New York is not a place for people who don't have ambition and who want to just let life happen to them. New York will kick your ass in many different ways and you have to learn to take it and deal with it - adjust to it, or leave. New York is in no way my forever place, but it is a good place for someone like myself who is aggravated by people in other cities I have lived in that don't do shit and just work and live. I am going to suck as much out of it as I can, and then be one of those people who takes all of my New York experiences and settles them into my memory box to recollect on them whenever I am feeling that nostalgic beat.
That's what Living in New York is like to me.