My American husband finds these funny yet accurate
I moved to New York 10 months ago, filled with love & excitement from India. The only knowledge I had of New York and America, in general, was from my American husband or from sitcoms & romcoms.
While on the one hand I felt terrified to be in a new country, on the other, I was in awe of everything. My husband found them amusing and so I started to record some of my observations about the Big Apple.
1) People in New York love Balloons
Don’t get me wrong — I like balloons and we do buy them in India. But here, they are everywhere. I saw so many people carrying them around and from what I could observe, they were being carried for celebrations. Back in India, we get balloons to decorate a house for someone’s birthday but we get them home, fill the air and do the job. And you buy some crazy big plastic balloons in shopping malls and they mostly attract kids.
Here, I was surprised to see people walking with many big balloons on busy Soho street, crossings, and even on bikes. The first place my husband took me to was Central Park and I understood where most of the balloons were heading to or from. People had set up picnic celebrations with huge balloons at the park. I have seen many groups of friends walking on streets where one person in the center is carrying a happy birthday balloon -it is cute. Other instances I saw in only the first few weeks — Balloons in kids park, Central Park, our neighborhood park, backyard barbeque, dog park & on roads everywhere. They are of all kinds -huge happy birthday balloons, a big bunch of balloons, odd-shaped balloons. It is a whole new business here.
I now know one thing. If I am invited to a birthday celebration in spring, summer then I have to bring balloons. Let me know if I am wrong or else I will be that Indian who comes to parties with balloons.
2) You protect your dog and it is not the other way around
The pet dogs that I have seen in my country bark at you as you enter that person’s house. If they are on a leash in a park then they will still bark at you if they find you suspicious. You get my point — they are there to protect their owners. You can still pet them IF you are not afraid of them.
In New York, I see that dogs are like babies. They want strangers to pet them and this has been new to me. It surprises me how docile the dogs are and that their owners loved it when a stranger pets their dog.
3) You can pet & love a stranger’s dog but you cannot say a word about a cute baby
This one still makes me a little uncomfortable. I am not 100% sure this is the right observation. At least with me, I have noticed that people are not very happy when you comment on how cute a baby’s bow is vs how cute the dog is. I get a feeling that everyone is a little too scared for their babies. Now, I agree that everyone should be wary of strangers coming close to their kids. But, a gentle compliment is not a big deal.
But I might be wrong here. Let me know what you think.
4) New Yorkers shy away from making eye contact
This was hard for me to understand. During my first weeks, I was giving a big smile to everyone I was seeing — when I was able to make eye contact. I quickly realized how rare that was since most people look the other way as if they genuinely want to avoid interaction of any sort.
I asked my husband and he did not bother about this too much as he himself hardly interacts with anyone on the road. A voice in my head started to say that this was because I am not white and I brewed that thought for a few months. Then we started traveling to different states and I found people to be so nice. They love to look you in the eye and give you a big smile. This made me think that people in NYC cannot be racist as New York is the most modern city in the world.
I understood the reason when I asked my sisters-in-law who have both lived in New York. I learned that people here are so busy handling several jobs and life tasks that the last thing they want is to stop and say a few words. They do not want a smile to turn into small talk as they have kids to pick up from school & return to a day job. In the past, an interaction left them with a sour taste so they now avoid it.
I saw a few examples myself and I understand this much better now. Once we were walking in central park and this nice girl said hello to a man who was selling something on a bridge. This man said a nice hello in return and started asking that girl out. She shrugged and started walking away and he yelled at her to come to LA with him. I felt sorry for her as all she had was good intentions.
5) The New York Subway is filthy
The first time my husband took me to the subway, I kept asking him “what is this smell?” and he smiled at me. Until that moment, I was telling him ‘how clean New York is & I do not know what everyone has been talking about when they say it is dirty’.
I quickly found out that the subway was not dirty — it was filthy. The smell was a combination of years of rust and dirt. I instantly compared this with Delhi. India needs a lot of work towards clean roads but the Delhi metro is awesome.
But I know the reason now and I sympathize with it. The New York subway was built in 1904 and changes to it are stuck in political issues. Although it is not impossible to maintain it, it definitely is not easy and may also not be a big priority for the city government.
6) Everything is big here
The first time we went shopping for groceries, my senses went into overdrive. I have been to enormous grocery stores in New Delhi, but this was different. In our neighborhood grocery store, the shelves are huge and the products on them are even bigger. Not to mention, so many varieties of the same thing but they are also really big in size.
This is not limited to New York and in fact, is an even bigger thing in small-town America.
I asked my husband “who will buy this big ketchup bottle since it will expire before it is empty?”. He smiled at my question and explained to me that packaged food is heavily used here.
Forget packaged foods, even produce items like potatoes are big here. I find it funny. It is a standard dialogue in our house when we are shopping for produce, to buy or not buy 1 kg potatoes or a 1 kg potato.
It is going to be a year soon and every day I find things that surprise or shock me. My husband finds them amusing and we continue with our lives in this country I call my home now.
This was first published on Medium