“I’m from Arkansas.”
“Oh, wow! That must be quite the change.”
“This must be like night and day.”
“Oh, isn’t that by Florida?”
and my personal favorite “Do you guys, like..go out there?”
Any variation of this tends to be the very first comment I hear from someone I meet here in New York. And of course the sentiments about how different it is are true. It is different…But really? The “do you guys go out?” part. I mean, come on, we’re not that weird, I promise.
I’ve lived in NYC for two and a half months now and have learned some valuable things about how it differs from my home state and, more importantly, how it’s really pretty similar.
1) The most obvious difference: prices. Anything and everything is more expensive here. One random exception I’ve noticed is that you can find super cheap manicures and pedicures. I’m assuming those are just sketchy nail salons but I’ve seen a lot of them. Other than that, you have to be prepared to spend more money than you would pretty much anywhere else. Hair cuts are more expensive, clothes are more expensive, food is way more expensive (but so worth it). Oh and renting an apartment? Absolutely ridiculous.
2) The dogs. A lot of NY apartments aren’t big enough for a decent sized living area (Exhibit A: my apartment), much less big enough for a large dog. The dogs here tend to be tiny and adorable, just how I like them. I’ve noticed a lot of french bulldogs, pugs, yorkies and cocker spaniels. Plus, maybe it’s the dirty streets or maybe just because New York dogs are more fashionable than most humans other places, but a lot of dogs I’ve seen have been wearing tiny little boots. Come on…it can’t get cuter than a pug in boots.
3) Brunch. Brunch is a dearly loved event in the city. I know people everywhere eat brunch but it isn’t just a meal in New York, it’s a social-event craze like no other. Brunch is pretty much code for a recover-from-last-night-and-stuff-your-face ritual. It isn’t right unless it’s “bottomless” – unlimited food and mimosas. Pretty much every established restaurant or cafe in the city comes equipped with a brunch deal where you can get an entree, coffee and a mimosa (or other drink) for a set price. A couple of my favorite brunch spots so far: #1) East End Kitchen in the UES, where Charles and I enjoyed a brunch pizza, delicious French toast and drinks for a great price and #2) Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village, where you can get coffee + an entree + bread/croissant + mimosa for $22.
4) Energy. There’s a reason they call it the city that never sleeps. There’s a certain energy to New York that is contagious, exciting and very unique. And, in general, you just get less sleep if you’re a 20-something in NYC. Unlike Dickson Street in Fayetteville, where going out at 11:30 is considered late, 11:30 here is early. Most clubs don’t even open until 11 and it doesn’t get really going until at least 1 in the morning. New Yorkers do more after midnight than most people do in their entire day. Thankfully, my roommates in NYC broke me of my habit of going out at 10 PM. Thank goodness for them.
5) Viewpoints. This may be another pretty obvious difference but it’s importance is pretty big to me. I’ve heard a lot of differing, even totally new, viewpoints on topics while I’ve been here. The three interns I worked with this summer were from Connecticut, California and Minnesota originally, which means we’re spread out all over the map and have all had the chance to hear and share different opinions on things. I’ve loved being able to hear different, unique opinions and reasons backing them up. It’s a great way to consider new perspectives and grow.
6) Public bathrooms. Just no. They don’t exist. I’ve seen maybe one the entire time I’ve been here and it was in Central Park. If you’re anywhere else that doesn’t have a Starbucks close by, you’re kind of out of luck in terms of using the bathroom.
But enough about what makes us different. Despite what some people seem to think, NY and AR do share some qualities.
1) Well, for one, the hospitality. This one surprised me and will probably surprise others but I mean it 100%. Everyone warns you to prepare for a huge difference from the “southern hospitality” you’re used to, where people go out of their way to be nice to you and help you. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I’ve really not noticed this extreme difference everyone stresses. People have offered directions, offered information about good restaurants and bars, and a random person stopped me on the street to tell me about free kayaking in the city because she heard me talking about it with a friend.
So, no, I’ve not felt this giant gap between New York and Arkansas and how kind people are. In fact, I’ve noticed such a big heart in New Yorkers, full of love for others and, especially, a love for New York.
I think the key difference here comes in the pace of the city and the time at which you meet people. It takes some getting used to always being in a rush or getting pushed by people who are (like when you’re trying to get on or off a Subway train). While some take this fast-paced mindset as a sign of unfriendliness, it is really just something you have to expect in a small area with so many people trying to get things done and go about their everyday lives. There is nothing really “mean” about it. Sure, people in NY can be somewhat more impatient than those in the south, but there are lots of places to be and people to see…so sometimes you just have to hurry up on the sidewalk so everyone can make it where they’re going.
2) Family. People wonder what it would be like to raise a family in a place like New York. Although it’s hard to imagine being a parent in a place so crazy and busy, I can see from my short time here that New Yorkers place just as much importance on family. Maybe kids grow up to be have tougher skin and be a little more street smart (like learning not to approach strange looking people earlier on and learning how to navigate the Subway instead of learning how to drive a car). But, when it all comes down to it, you’ll still see quiet neighborhoods that are more family-oriented and tons of families fill up Central Park and other parks all over the city on the weekends.
I think recognizing these similarities is so important and really shows us the need for us to see what we have in common with people everywhere. That’s much more important than what makes us different. It allows us to relate, to form relationships, to learn from one another and to grow. If you need more evidence of this commonality I’m talking about, follow Humans of New York on Facebook or Instagram. There’s a reason each post about a person resonates so loudly with people from all over – not just people from New York. There is a universal humanity that links us and gives us so much more to work with than all of our differences combined.
This is evidenced even more in the fact that New York is so incredibly diverse, with inhabits from every country you can imagine. Even with this diversity, the city retains this characteristic, iconic personality that makes it famous. Why? Because the similarities between all these people do more for this city than the differences.
“Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.” – E.B. White (1949).