It might seem like stating the obvious, but I think that one of the biggest differences between NYC and the cities I’ve lived in/grew up in are the people. New Yorkers are straightforward, up-front and (at least in most cases) brutally honest. It’s almost like the fast-paced lifestyle doesn’t give them the time to be shy. Then it’s the confidence – not only in the way they talk but mainy in the manner they carry themselves – walking with a purpose, their quick steps matching the rythm of the city that never sleeps. Self-confidence seems to be given a different value here in NYC than back in Europe. Here, it’s almost considered a virtue not only to know your self-worth, but to be confident enough to show it; in Europe, the real, self-assured confidence is often mistaken for arrogance, and looked down on (I realise this might sound like a generalisation but that’s how I feel about it).
A common misconception is that New Yorkers are rude – to me, they are the friendliest people on Earth (unless, of course, you cross them which I do not recommend – NYers don’t mince their words!). I’ve always thought that the chatty, always-ready-to-strike a-conversation attitude was a part of a small-town mentality, where everyone knows each other and has the time to be nice and interested in other people’s lives, but NYC has proven me wrong. People here seem to love small talk and are happy to help. On my first bus ride in NYC, I was greeted by a smiley bus driver who not only spent a good few minutes patiently explaining how I can get from point A to B, but started telling me about his life in the city and asked questions about my hometown. Just this week, I strained my knee so I’ve been limping around the city with an IcyHot knee sleeve on. Passers-by and people on the subway would come up to me and ask what happened; a random (and very friendly) guy asked me what brand the sleeve was cause he needed one himself; I even got a free taxi ride!
Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t start a conversation with me, compliment my outfit/accent, randomly wish me a good day or invite me for a drink. People in England and Poland (places I lived in) are friendly but this was something new! I was wondering where this friendly spontaneity was coming from, and I came across a brilliant article by Joan Acocella. According to her, New Yorkers make less separation between private and public life and therefore tend to interact with strangers the way they do with their friends. Now that I had a chance to observe the New York City lifestyle, I couldn’t agree more – people here spend most of their days among strangers – think of the crowded subways and busy city streets; so it’s only natural that, instead of distancing themselves from their surroundings, New Yorkers interact with them in the most natural way possible – simply by being themselves. And this is why I love them! 🙂