We are at letter C of our A to Z of life in the New York City series.
There is something about this city that is both mysterious and magnificent. My last year in NYC was like a dream and from what I have observed, it is many people’s dream to move here. Having said that, you will find a cultural difference when you first move, and frankly, it can take some time to figure things out the nitty gritty of life here. When I moved to NYC, I had some pleasant and couple of rude shocks. So obviously, the culture of this city became a big observation point for me and this blog is the summation of all those big points. I hope this helps you feel at home right when you walk into the NYC skyline. I felt at home within the first 2 hours of stepping out of my long flight from India.
So without further ado, let’s dig into the Culture of my favorite city in America (yet at least).
Move Fast Or Stay Home
New York is the hub of commerce with big and small organizations store owners to a large population of street cart vendors. No matter what kind of work you do, there is something for you here. Work is valued a lot in NYC and people are hard working. That is why you see a lot of people just in the city, at all times of the day. Someone is always going to work and someone is coming back from work. The city runs nonstop.
One tip: walk fast or match your walk speed with people. Everyone is running, trying to get somewhere on time so they walk FAST and nobody likes a tourist stopping in the middle of the street to take a selfie. Please don’t do that. Okay, moving to the next point.
Get Your Closed & Intimate Social Groups
New York City is home to many cultures, communities, citizens, immigrants, and visitors. Chances are, if you move to the city then you are a part of some form of the social fabric. Maybe you are part of a big ethnic group with ties to at least a few members of that group. Or maybe you are a part of a religious group and have social ties with members. Or maybe you have a colleague from previous first or friends of friends. The point is that mostly you will know someone and you will be a part of that small intimate group.
If not, then it will take some willpower to make new connections in the city. You can always try groups like meetup to make new friends. But it does take time and since the viral outbreak, meetup has thinned out a lot. In my observation, if you are not a part of some social group then you either need a dog or have a baby to meet other people. That was a joke but was it?
But you will make friends so don’t lose hope.
Eating Out / Takeaways
A lot of ethnicity equals a lot of really good food. The food scene of New York is in fact the best I have seen. It’s not like, just having a lot of places to eat but the food is actually pretty good. There are options of pricey and affordable in all neighborhoods.
Personal note: when I moved, I observed that in my small neighborhood as well, there were many restaurants and cafes. The practical question I had was that ‘how are they all surviving?’. Like how are 5 Spanish restaurants & 2 Spanish carts within one block able to keep their business for years? The reason is in the culture of the city. I am not sure why is this or if this is any good but a lot of people eat out and do takeaways. Maybe because a lot of people live alone or work long hours so do not want to cook meals every day of the week. The good thing is that it is not that expensive to eat out, the bad thing is, no matter how decent the food is, it can not be as healthy as a home-cooked meal.
But to each its own.
Rent Now, Own Later
Most people rent in the city. Why? It is just so expensive to buy a house in New York City. Also, most people move to the city with an upper cap on the number of years they would stay there so why invest in a really expensive house that will be the size of a matchbox. I mean, people do buy but the majority of people just rent which means, they move out a lot.
It just becomes normal when you live there.
Public Commute Is Better Than A Car
New York has a lot of inhabitants, a lot of apartments/houses for them and very less space for the car park. If you end up living in one of the newer high rises then you will most likely have a parking garage or if your parents lived in a rent-control apartment which had its own parking then you got it but if you ended up not getting parking that comes with your house, you are going to highly dislike the parking situation. Most people park on the streets then and there are always these rules where you have to move your car from one parking location to other when the time is over and it can get painful. Plus finding parking near your apartment can either take hours or a lot of good luck. Plus you can not choose to drive every day either – a lot of traffic.
So what do New Yorkers do? They take the subway or the bus. The New York City subway is not pretty, really it’s not. BUT it works. The subway has routes covering the whole of the city plus the buses too. The public commute is simply very effective and easy to understand.
Well, not that easy for someone coming from a different country but it deserves an article of its own.
Well, what can I say about this? Let me tell you a story first. When I first moved to the city, I was all smiley and making small talk everywhere I went. But I started to feel like people didn’t really respond the way I had expected and when it happened a lot, I started asking people the reason behind this. My lovely sisters-in-law, a new friend I made, and the internet, all gave me these insights-
- People are busy and want to reach their destinations without getting stuck in a situation they will feel obliged to engage in so a good rule of thumb – mind your own business, do your work, and go home.
- You might end up interacting with a weirdo. It is better to just avoid the interaction.
- Most people when they move to the city are advised by friends & family to mind their own business and not get into an argument with anyone. It can get scary sometimes when you have altercations.
The truth is that people are friendly. You just want to avoid having an interaction with someone who might not be the right person to interact with. Imagine a city crowded with so many people, functioning more or less peacefully – the people have to be nice and friendly for that to happen. Also, whenever I did end up interacting with someone, it was pleasant.
Walking Is The Way To Live
If you come to NYC, then you walk. Period.
You walk to the subway, from the subway, in the park, to pick up the food, to pick up groceries, to go out and have fun, to explore the city, to literally do anything in the city – you walk.
It can get tiring and it took me some time to adjust to this. I walked in India a lot also but I always had the option of taking an electric rickshaw or auto if I got tired. Here, there is no alternative, if you have a subway /bus route where you are going then fine but otherwise, you will end up walking or spending quite a lot of money on cabs. Also, did I forget to mention that there will be moments when it is pouring or snowing and you will walk?
The first time Jonathan took me to our nearest YMCA, we walked for 30 minutes to reach there ( it was 2 subway stop away) and I was so tired that it felt like I had already done the workout. Over the period of time, it became easy peasy and looked more like a warm-up of 15 minutes.
So, you will get used to it but if you are coming to visit then bring some comfy sneakers. No one walks in stilettos like Carrie Bradshaw. I have seen some girls carrying a heel in their bag though. So you can do that if you like.
The Way To Relax
New York has many outdoor options for singles, families, couples, friends, or anyone. With amazing parks like Central Park and Bryan park, you will see people just chilling there. It is fun to go to the park. You can bring a mat, and some food and just have a quiet picnic or just on one of the many benches and enjoy a hotdog from one of the trucks.
Or you can visit one of the many cafes/restaurants in the city. If you are a foodie then you may spend all weekends exploring a new cuisine all over the city and you will never finish the options.
Explore the city and just walk to the new area or use the very affordable city bike to move around. There is no dearth of public places to have fun. There are so many waterfronts, neighborhood areas with benches, libraries, open performances, shows around the city, and many more things.
The people of this city have enormous power to face challenges and keep their momentum strong. No matter what happens in the city, it stays on track. If something really disturbing or tragic shakes people then also they soon get back on track. I can say this for people who work in corporate America, children who brave all weather to go to school, people doing grocery shopping in thunderstorms, and whatnot. Hats off to people of New York City.
The culture of any city is created and carried by its people. New Yorkers has made what New York is and has always been – a never-ending dream and also a place where dreams come true. New York is where the American dream is made.
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