As I get closer to my one year anniversary since I moved to New York, I have began reflecting on the experiences and the things I have learned since. As an outsider looking in, there was a lot of things I didn’t understand which now I do, and other things New York natives need to accept and let go. Below I share what New York living from a “Cali” girl’s perspective has been like this past year.
“Why are New Yorkers always in a rush? Leave your house earlier dam it!”
Sure this mentality definitely makes sense for someone who was used to driving everywhere. The only thing I really had to take into account when I commuted from one place to the next in California was distance and traffic. However, in New York I have learned the hard way that leaving 15 minutes earlier than usual isn’t enough. Just when I thought I had this commute thing down, I realized sick passengers are my problem. I’ve been stuck on a train with a delay due to someone feeling sick, now all of the sudden my extra 15 minutes are spent with my ass glued to the train seat. You also have to consider mechanical delays, construction delays, suicide delays, and police activity delays just to name a few. Let’s not forget train schedule changes which are always everyone’s favorite.
On my 3rd month in, after a closing shift I went to catch my usual, the “A” train. When I arrived to the platform there was only a couple others waiting for the train. I pranced my way to the middle feeling like I had won because I knew there would be plenty of seats for me to sit on. After waiting for approximately 20 minutes, I got annoyed and started paying attention to the announcements, which is when I learned there was no “A” service that night. I am pretty sure a few tears rolled down my face, I began reevaluating my life and my decisions when my boyfriend’s text came through saying “Just take the 1 train instead”. You learn really fast that improvising is an art, and backup plans with backups are a necessity. So to make this long section a bit shorter, I have not criticized anyone who’s in a rush since because I now know you are late even when you prep to be early.
“Traffic lights and what they really mean”
Before moving, I visited New York 5-6 times, any time I wasn’t with a New Yorker on the street, I always waited for the light to turn green before crossing like any good citizen. For the first few months since moving, I did the same thing, I only crossed when it was in red if I was with another New Yorker or with my fast-adapting sister. Part of it was fear and the other part was habit. However, on a winter morning, while holding my coffee cup without a sleeve to warmup my hands, I approached the red light and noticed a group of tourists waiting for the light to turn green. I had already lived life on the edge a little that morning by skipping out on the cup sleeve, so I rushed by the tourists, looked both sides and crossed the street with the light being red. It is kind of pathetic now, but I felt so bad ass in the moment. I am pretty sure the tourists thought I was crazy, just like I did of others before, but the cold breeze made me toughen up and cross the street. Since then, I crossed in front of cops and till this day haven’t gotten a ticket. However, I refuse to cross when there is a constant flow of cars passing by, that is where I draw the line and wish others would too. I see cars in the middle of the street waiting on pedestrians although the light is green for them. Since I use to drive a lot before moving, I can relate to the drivers here. Pedestrians need to respect the people behind the wheel when the light is green for them. I am seriously surprised there isn’t a higher number of people getting ran over in the city.
“Why do New Yorkers look like they hate life all of the time”
I always felt like they did everything and anything to avoid cracking a smile. Since living here, I am convinced that the tough face has to do with the stress of commuting. I have caught myself multiple times annoyed at life thanks to the MTA. I have also learned that walking around smiling at people, like I was used to prior to moving, is an open invitation to all the creeps this city has to offer. One day, I was sitting on the train on my way to work and this older man sat next to me, I looked up, we made eye contact and I gave him a half smile and looked back down. Apparently, the combination of all those gestures is creep universal code. This man immidietly sat down and started telling me how he was convinced the government was out to get him. His story was so elaborate, others around me would glance over and give me the “I feel sorry for you” face. Hell, fifteen minutes in, I felt sorry for myself too! A very important lesson was learned that day: always have my headphones in, whether there’s music playing through them or not is irrelevant, and avoid eye contact at all costs. If you ever happen to make the mistake of engaging in either one of these gestures, do anything you can to abort the mission!
“There’s bad service, horrible service and NY service”
They say NYC is one of the most expensive cities to live in, however, it’s difficult to make this assumption by the type of treatment you get at any business establishment. It is almost hard to believe that people rely on their jobs to pay their bills. The majority of people I have encountered act like they are doing their employers a favor by showing up to work! It doesn’t matter where you go, people often treat you like you are causing them trouble by asking them to do what they are getting paid to do. I’ve experienced people roll their eyes at me while coming over to take my order, ring up merchandise I want to purchase, or even while asking them for the bill! I think what’s worse is that employers allow and reward, this type of behavior. I have experience this type service from people in management positions as well. In fact, a manager at a store once said “That’s just the type of attitude this person has” in regards to a service complaint by someone else. This wouldn’t fly in most of the business In California. Yet, it seems to be the norm in NYC and it doesn’t look like employers mind. If you have ever been to NY, you know exactly what I mean. I still can’t get use to it, but most of all, I refuse to be part of it. I always remind myself of this while I’m at work, and try to make an effort to voice my appreciation when I experience good service anywhere.
A few other things I have learned…
-I have found it extremely hard to make friends with other females. I’ve lived in and visited, a couple cities before, and this is the first time where I have experienced this. Not sure really why that is. I have, however, noticed women here are a lot more skeptical of anything and anyone. Perhaps it has to do with their experience growing up in NY.
-When catching a cab, don’t stand outside and ask if they will take you somewhere. Instead, you are supposed to get in and then tell them where to go. My friend and I learned this the hard way two years ago when visiting. We sat at Colombus circle for 30 minutes, getting rejected by cabs, because we kept asking if they went to the Bronx. Now I know and do better.
-Apparently, outsiders are aware of the seasons and weather change in New York but locals are not. I can’t tell you how much people complain every time it is the end of one season and the start of a new one. It does not even matter which season it is; it is always too cold, too hot, too humid, too perfect, for most locals. I always ask myself: how are you not used to the weather of the place you have grown up in?
-New Yorkers don’t “hate” tourists, they just hate tourists who are on their way. To help you get an idea of what I mean, reference back to the pains of commuting. I want you to choose your favorite train delay reason mentioned above, and imagine rushing through a crowd of people blocking off the sidewalk taking pictures. I am definitely guilty of wanting to shove a few people here and there when there’s a line of them blocking the whole sidewalk I am trying to walk on. However, we all fail to remember that at some point or another we all play the tourist role. Unless, of course, you don’t ever travel at which case I feel bad for you.
-Unless a Mexican tells you it’s Mexican food, assume all other food will be “Mexican infused/inspired”. I got my heart broken a few times every time someone pointed me towards “good Mexican food” only to find out it was imitation. Also, can we get real hot sauce out here please? This vinegar and spice thing New Yorkers call hot sauce is messing with my emotions and my heartburn.
So, there you have it, a “Cali” girl’s perspective on New York living. I hope you were able to take something from my experiences thus far, whether it is from a visitor’s or a local’s perspective. At the end of the day, your outlook shapes the experiences you have. New York was always a dream for me and for this past year I have been living that dream. I am thankful for what it has provided me with thus far, regardless of the pains that come along with it, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me.