Sunday, June 6, 2010

My First Impressions of New York City

I've been in New York City for almost a week now, and have already started to get a feel for the place.  First impressions are sometimes right, and sometimes proven to be surprisingly wrong, but I'm going to take a stab at outlining mine anyways. 

Impression Number One:  New York is loud.

This city is nothing if it's not noisy.  It's noisy in the morning, noisy during the day, and even noisy at night (and overnight), thanks to  variety of activities such as the DJ who was spinning Euro beats in the courtyard behind my apartment yesterday evening. The soundtrack for this city is a never-ending stream of honking horns, roaring traffic, and an assortment of everyday sounds created by people living their lives. You could argue that New York is loud because it's a big city, but Paris is a big city as well, and I would never describe it as "loud."   When it comes to decibels, New York is on a whole different level. 

Impression Number Two: We're free to be you and me in New York. 

As far as I can tell, New York is quite possibly the most come-as-you-are city on the planet.  There is no standard way of being, of looking, of dressing, or of enjoying life.  Here you are free to be as you are, and no one will pass judgment.   Contrast that with Paris, where staring people down on the Métro is a popular local sport.  You know all those guides telling you how to "Dress like a Parisian" or "Eat like a Parisian" or "Carry Yourself like a Parisian?"  I can't imagine them existing for New Yorkers.  How do you classify the people of a city who seem so eager to let everyone simply be who they are?

Impression Number Three: New Yorkers are Nice.  Really Nice.

Big cities are usually known for their self-absorbed residents who can't be bothered to take time out of their über busy schedules to engage in the pleasantries of polite society.  So far, New York seems to buck that trend (or stereotype, depending on how you see it).  Everyone from my office building's security guards to the guy who sold me coffee out of his curbside cart has been incredibly friendly.  Please and thank you and "here you go, Miss" are genuinely used in all circumstances.  No one has ever called me "Miss" in Washington.  Forget "Minnesota Nice."  Here it's all about "New York Polite." 

Have you ever been to New York City?  What were your first impressions?  And just for fun, tell us your first impressions of Paris as well (mine: dirty and overrated...they've since changed).


Zhu said...

I've never been to NY so it's interesting to see your first impressions! And I've been to Paris so many times since I was a kid that it's hard for me to give my "first" impressions, although I still think the city is dirty ;-)

I did find people in Toronto much nicer and polite than the rest of Canada claim they are though.

Katrina said...

Hi, Tanya - I totally agree with your impressions! NYC is so 'anything goes'! It's so loud, big, and fast, yet, at the same time, the people are very nice, polite, and helpful. I think that most New Yorkers would say that they have a 'love-hate' relationship with the City, but the 'love' part is really intense...My departure produced visceral pain for me...