Faces of AWNY: Erin Van Der Meer

img_2866Erin Van Der Meer moved to New York City nine months ago. Previously working as a women’s lifestyle & entertainment journalist in Sydney, Erin decided it was time for a change. We chatted with her about on her journey to arriving in NYC, what she loves, and what she misses most about home.

Tell us why you moved to NYC?

After seven years as a women’s lifestyle/ entertainment journalist in Sydney, I was ready to shake things up. So I went freelance and headed off to Central and South America to travel, with the vague plan of ending up in New York (I’ve always wanted to live here and I’m not sure why – quite possibly from growing up watching Sex and The City. Man, how misleading that show was!). Surprisingly I did eventually have enough of eating tacos and drinking cervezas on the beach and I arrived in New York in March 2016.

What do you do for work?

I’m a freelance writer, and I write mostly about travel. I’m not sure if that makes me A Travel Writer, Indiana Jones-style hat on my head, leather-bound notebook in hand and all. Travel writing always seemed like an impossible dream, mainly because whenever travel writers are interviewed about their careers they talk about how hard it is to break into. I made the transition by traveling full-time for seven months so I had a wealth of material to work with and then just pitched relentlessly to the contacts I’d built up throughout my career until they published my travel stories.

Where do you live and why did you choose that area?

Crown Heights in Brooklyn. It’s a great neighborhood with loads of restaurants and bars, and it’s right near Prospect Park – the Central Park of Brooklyn. Franklin Avenue is a great spot to spend an afternoon or night. The stretch between Eastern Parkway and Atlantic Avenue is packed with so many cozy little places where you’re guaranteed to have a good meal: Barboncino has pizza that could make an Italian weep with joy, Chavela’s and Mayfield are fantastic. Crown Heights is also a convenient location, I can be in Midtown in 30-minutes on the 2,3,4 or 5.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about NYC?

That it can take a long time for things to fall in place – whether it’s getting a job, finding an apartment or making friends – so be patient and enjoy the ride. When I told someone not long after I got here that my living situation was ‘just temporary’, they said “Everything is in New York”. It made me realize that things may never be as stable and comfortable as they were at home in Australia, and I need to be okay with that. Certainty is just an illusion anyway. Or something.

What was your biggest win this week?

Going to a great media event at a rooftop bar that looked right onto the Empire State Building, with the champagne flowing. It was one of those moments when New York lived up to those ridiculously high, Sex and The City-inspired expectations.

Any advice for people moving to NY?

I recommend staying in different parts of the city before you settle down to see which neighborhood you like the best. Housesitting using a website like Trusted Housesitters or Airbnb is a great way to do it. Separately, don’t be shy about networking. I used to cringe at the idea of it, thinking it meant wearing a name tag and bragging about yourself to strangers. More often than not involves wine and it’s essential to make connections in such a big city, especially when you’re new in town.

What do you like/dislike about living in NY?

In New York you almost don’t need to leave, everything comes to you. In the next few weeks I’m seeing my favorite author, David Sedaris speak and my favorite DJs, the European collective DIYNAMIC perform (not together! Although that would be awesome!). In Australia those kinds of opportunities are less common because international talent has so far to go. I guess my gripes would be the same as most – it’s expensive, and a coffee is more likely to be bad than good. Thank froth for Bluestone Lane and Seven Point, the Aussie café that just opened in Crown Heights.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment/s?

Recently a picnic in Central Park led to drinks at a rooftop bar with views over the city, which led to dinner at some ridiculously late hour, which led to stumbling upon a world-class DJ in a small club in Williamsburg, which led to dancing until the early hours at a rave in Bushwick. It was the kind of night that’s not even possible in Sydney right now with the lockout laws, and it all kind of happened by accident.

Anything you miss about Australia?

Oh, there’s a lot! Apart from family and friends, obviously, the beach and bush on the Central Coast, NSW where my family live. And the bacon, it’s so much better Down Under. And Twisties! I took their cheesy presence in every vending machine for granted. And a good strong Aussie accent. How ya gaaarn? It’s like a warm hug. 

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?

  1. Stay in Brooklyn or Queens to get more bang for your buck accommodation-wise (unless you’re an oil heir and don’t need to worry about such things – in that case, enjoy The Plaza), and to have a more diverse experience.
  2. Know how to tip properly – what’s appropriate at restaurants, bars, or in taxis – to avoid any awkward moments.
  3. There’s so much to do in this city it’s easy to over-schedule, which doesn’t allow for spontaneity, or just taking it all in. Pick a neighborhood that appeals to you – Harlem, the East Village, Williamsburg – and have a couple of restaurants/bars/shops/cafes you want to visit, but otherwise just wander.

Favorite NYC brunch spot? 

I like Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg. On the weekend they do a main and bottomless mimosas or bloody mary’s for $30. Dangerous!

What do you like about being part of AWNY?

New York, or just moving to a new country in general can be an emotional rollercoaster. On those days when your accent isn’t understood for the ninth time and you’ve been disappointed by another shitty coffee and someone yelled at you on the street and you missed something important back home and just want to pack it all in, no one will be better placed to talk you off the ledge like a fellow Australian Women in New York (AWNY) member.

What are your favorite ways to connect with Aussie culture in NYC?

 Is it bad that my answer to that is coffee and food? Grabbing a flat white at Bluestone Lane or a meal at Two Hands. They really are like Little Australia’s – there’s always an Aussie accent or two, and despite being on the other side of the world, I’ll find myself talking with someone about a hole-in-the-wall Redfern café or a tiny suburb near my hometown. Then home doesn’t feel so far away anymore.

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