Having been in New York just over 5 months now, friends and family are always curious in their calls and messages about how I’m liking the experience and how it compares to life at home. The truth is, I love New York – there is just something about this city that hooks you. I come from a tiny village in the west of Ireland where it’s quiet and sleepy with green fields for miles. By contrast, New York is like a concrete jungle, filled with constant sound, bright lights and people, and there is always something happening no matter what part of it you are in. So, in terms of how it compares to home it’s like apples and oranges, but both are equally good in different ways.
Today I thought I’d share some of the weird, wonderful and sometimes mildly irritating things I’ve noticed or encountered here. So, let’s go:
Weird: They give you a bag for EVERYTHING
When you go to any shop in this city, they will put your stuff in a bag no matter what you’re getting. The strangest I’ve encountered was recently I popped in to buy a pack of chewing gum and the cashier put it into a plastic bag for me. Bizarre. Maybe I only find this weird because I come from Ireland, where you’d sooner carry all your shopping on your head than pay 22 cent to buy a plastic bag, and because surely giving out all these plastic bags for next to nothing couldn’t be good for the environment.
Weird (and kind of irritating): Pricing
When you do your shopping or eat out, prices are displayed without the tax added in. Obviously this is a normal system here, but when you come from a place where it’s all included in the price, it takes a bit of getting used to. Especially when eating out, as you not only have to account for the tax being added, but also the tip.
Irritating: The wastefulness you sometimes see
The best example of this is what you see people throwing out. Trash is just left on the sidewalk here for collection, and as well as bin bags and cardboard you will see people throwing out perfectly good stuff. I’ve walked by sofas in pristine condition, expensive looking homeware stuff such as lamps and rugs that have barely been used, and prams that babies have barely touched the inside of. It’s strange to see this type of thing, because in my view, if you part with your cash to get something, make sure to get the most out of it.
Irritating: TV Advertising
Trying to immerse yourself fully in a TV show or movie here is insane. Every few minutes you are dragged out of what you’re watching and bombarded with adverts. It makes it proper hard to unwind and get into something, and increases the runtime significantly. If you sit down to watch an 1 hour and 1/2 long movie, you can expect to be there for the next there hours because of adverts. I don’t watch much TV here, because I’m either working or out and about, and usually my go-to is Netflix anyway. But the constant advertising doesn’t entice me to throw myself in front of the TV.
Wonderful: $1 Pizza everywhere
I mean, who doesn’t love pizza? If you are a pizza fanatic, you’ll love New York because you are never too far from somewhere that does cheese slices for a dollar. And although you’d imagine it wouldn’t taste all that great due to the price, it usually does, and they are a decent size slice too. Not the healthiest option to be having all the time, but it will fill your belly in those times were money is a little tighter.
Weird: Traffic lights
The traffic lights system is just plain weird here. Back home, when you’re crossing the street, everything stops while you have the green light to walk. Here, the light signals you to go but the cars stay driving at you. At first this took some getting used to, but after a while you realise the drivers aren’t out to run you down.
Wonderful: The Subway
I know some people can’t bare the subway, but I love it. Not only is it convenient (they are constantly working to improve it, so there are of course delays and changes, but for the most part I find it good) for getting around the entire city, you encounter some of the strangest and funniest people you’ll ever meet in your life in the stations and on the trains.
Weird: Referring to distance in blocks
If you ask somebody here how far away a place is, they will usually say something like, “it’s about 10 blocks/head that way for 5 blocks/it’s 20 blocks away, you’ll never make it in time”. Certainly not a bad thing, but something that takes getting used to when you are used to being given travel times in minutes.
Wonderful: The ability to order food in the early hours of the morning
Can’t sleep at 3am and feeling peckish? Just get out your phone and place an order for delivery. There are loads of places across the city where by you can order food at any time of the day. You can even order cookies late at night here. Haven’t done it yet, but it’s on my to-do list.
Weird: Rats, Everywhere
This is probably more disgusting than weird, but it’s true what people say, New York is full of rats. Nobody bats an eyelid at them though when they come scurrying across your path, they are that common.
Wonderful: People in New York love the Irish
I’ve had so many instances for the past five months where people hear my accent and get excited to ask me about Ireland and where I’m from. New Yorkers love the Irish, and of course a lot of them consider themselves Irish to some extent or have lots of Irish relations
Wonderful (and a bit weird): Street Meat
If you hear a New Yorker talking about picking up some street meat, they are not talking about road kill or a random hookup from the street. New York streets are filled with food carts that serve all kinds of foods, and despite it being a bit weird or seemingly sketchy for foreigners who first arrive here, most of them are actually quite tasty.
Weird: Empty subway cars
Usually, no matter what point of the train you get on, you always have a least a few people in there with you. If you encounter a completely empty section, the rule of thumb is to avoid it and move to another. A completely empty subway car is a shady thing.
Wonderful: Suggested admission at some attractions
Lots of attractions have pricing that is only a suggestion. You can pay what you want/can afford. It’s great if you want to experience places like The Met on a budget.