At this point in the semester, I think it’s safe to say that my fellow students and I are more than tourists--though perhaps we aren’t quite yet locals, either. Speaking for myself, I’ve learned to navigate the streets and the subways with relative ease, but I’m still frequently finding myself in a state of mild culture shock. Because there’s nowhere else like it, misconceptions about New York and its inhabitants seem to run rampant among those who haven’t lived here. That said, there are many things about the city that vastly differ from what I’ve grown up with in Texas. So, I’ve compiled a small list of interesting little differences I’ve noticed--free from complaints about crowded sidewalks or “rude” locals.
1. Yep--it’s The City, alright
Alright, this one’s painfully obvious, but I wanted to start with the basics. In the past, I always waved it off when my New York friends would jokingly call places like Austin or L.A. “fake cities.” But after having live in New York for a little while, I’m sort if inclined to agree with them! New York is so quintessentially THE city that it feels almost wrong to bestow such a moniker elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong--Austin will always have a special place in my heart, but it’s a city in name alone.
2. The subway
I think the most common complaint about New York--one that I once parroted--is that the subway system is just too big and confusing. I won’t lie, it certainly takes some getting used to. But thanks to apps like Google Maps and MYmta, navigating the subway is easier than ever. Once you’ve figured out your uptowns from your downtowns, taking the train as your primary mode of transport becomes a breeze. Back home, I appreciated the privacy of having a car, but nothing beats the convenience of hopping on a train and letting it take you where you need to be.
3. Fast food chains
Do you know about Raising Cane’s? Let me tell you about Raising Cane’s. It’s a fast food chain that basically only sells chicken fingers, except they’re also the best chicken fingers you’ve ever had in your life. Cane’s is amazing, everyone I know loves it, and it’s nowhere to be found in New York, which is possibly the most devastating thing about living here. Obviously this is only one example of the difference in fast food chains that can be found here. Sure, they’ve got your McDonald’s and your Wendy’s and all the other nationwide favorites, but it’s hard not to miss all of your area-specific comfort foods. Of course, the silver lining here is getting to find new ones! I hear Checkers is famous for its fries.
4. “Yes ma’am” is not in the vocabulary
Story time. I was at the checkout counter of a Michael’s crafts store in Brooklyn. The woman at the register asked if I would like a receipt, to which I automatically responded “Yes, ma’am,” because that’s how my mama raised me. The woman gave me an odd look, laughed, and said, “Ma’am? You’re not from around here, are you?” She was very good-natured and we laughed it off together, but this was how I learned that it’s not only unheard of, but sometimes considered rude to refer to a woman as “ma’am” in New York. Apparently, “ma’am” implies age, and it’s more polite to use “miss” when referring to a woman you don’t know. Also, a simple “yes” or “no” is more than sufficient when answering questions. Suffice it to say that this adjustment has required some pretty significant mental re-wiring on my part.
Of course, there are lots of little cultural differences like this in the city, and it’s more fun than not to encounter them! Don’t be afraid of letting your “not from around here”-ness show.
5. Places to go, people to see
Possibly my favorite thing about the city is that there is never not something to do. Events are always popping up nearby, no matter what part of the city you live in, and there’s always somewhere new to explore. You’ll never see the entire city in a lifetime--namely because it’s always changing! Whether you’re looking for an evening of live entertainment, a night out with friends at a nearby bar, or food delivery for your weekly game nights, New York will always provide.
Written by: Sarah Beard