NYC Expats Struggle With Their Decision to Leave

Strong place attachment makes it difficult for New Yorkers to settle into their new homes, but many are finding ways to recreate their favorite parts of the city elsewhere.

2 minute read

August 15, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Manhattan Bus

Michele Vacchiano / Shutterstock

Some New Yorkers who moved away during the last year and a half are struggling to fit into their new surroundings, writes Jennifer Miller. "Many of the estimated 400,000 New Yorkers who left the city in the early months of the pandemic have since returned, but among those who moved permanently, many have found the transition to be emotionally fraught." The challenges have "some people grappling with their decision to leave, even if they know they aren’t going back." Former New Yorkers "also prioritized access to public transportation above the average renter, even in cities that are not known for their transit systems," leaving them more dissatisfied with the walkability–or lack thereof–outside of New York.

Katherine Loflin, a consultant who studies emotional and sociological attachments to place, "helped pioneer the study of 'place attachment'— how our bonds to a specific location help individuals and communities thrive." According to her research, "strong place attachment depends on three factors: the ability to enjoy social opportunities, pleasing aesthetics and a sense of belonging or welcoming." People thrive when they find a familiar sense of community and what Loflin calls heart. "Heart is what Ms. Loflin calls 'the secret sauce' of place attachment. And New Yorkers have a lot of it." 

But for many who have made the move elsewhere, the reward can be worth it, says Laura Young of the New Denizen blog. "Worst case scenario, they move back to New York; best case scenario, they are living a happier, more fulfilling life.

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