Since I moved to Manhattan about two months ago to start college at NYU, I’ve been busy adjusting and getting to know the city. Along the way, I’ve definitely encountered some interesting customs and quirks that New York City has to offer. Regardless, I’m excited to continue to explore one of the most dynamic cities in the world!
This may be one of the first things I noticed about the city, but pedestrians will rarely obey traffic signals when crossing the street. Given how busy the streets always are, you would think people paid more attention to rules, but here, it’s completely acceptable to make a dash for it when no cars are passing by.
Having visited Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, I was disappointed by New York City’s subway system. I arrived in the heat of summer, so the thing that bothered me the most was how incredibly hot and humid it was down there. True, there is air conditioning aboard trains, but waiting for them was definitely a pain. The city seriously needs an upgraded subway system.
Everything in the city is pretty expensive; I found this out the first time I went shopping for dorm supplies, then again when I visited the local grocery store. From fresh food to just deodorant, stores like Kmart or Whole Foods charged a dollar or two more than they did back home in California. I guess it’s because getting supplies shipped to a big city can be expensive, but the prices really did discourage me from buying items I didn’t really need, which was a plus.
I thought California had some pretty weird weather, but it turned out the skies change fast in New York City as well. One day, I had to change midday because I felt so sweaty, and the next day, winds were blowing and a drizzle began to fall. Soon, I had to find my thick sweaters, buried in my drawers because I didn’t think I’d need them until several months later.
Let me just say, Times Square is overrated; sure, it’s home to the famous ball drop every year, and always crowded with tourists, but I really didn’t feel or see anything special in the small, crowded space. It really just made me wonder why this particular space earned such a famed reputation, attracting hundreds of visitors each day.
I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this, but water from the air conditioners often drip down onto the streets and people, an experience I’ve never experienced before. I originally didn’t know if it was suddenly sprinkling or someone was dripping water out their window, but when I realized air conditioners were attached to the outside of houses, I felt disgusted and tried to avoid the drips at all costs.
In New York City, you apparently have to give the taxi driver the exact two streets that intersect closest to your destination for him or her to take you there. Just naming your destination is not enough, but give two names like Park Ave. and 42nd Street and your driver will immediately know the way.
Because so many people live in apartments or dorms here in the city, elevators are an absolute necessity; they definitely save you from running up and down flights of stairs, but they are very annoying when you live on a top floor and need to get somewhere quickly. That’s why it’s important that you get off at a floor close to your own floor, saving others the need to wait while the elevator stops at every single floor.
At almost every block, you’ll see some sort of construction going on, whether it’s the sidewalk being fixed or a new building being built. You’ll never see the ugly works in progress in those beautiful aerial shots of New York City, but live in the city for a day, and you’ll be shocked at how many tasks the city is still working on.
I was mildly surprised by the prevalence of Asian culture in New York City. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean restaurants popped up every few blocks, so I definitely had to try a few of them. The Chinese restaurants were surprisingly authentic and reminded me of home.
Besides some of the wild driving I’ve seen so far, bikers are also quite daring, speeding across intersections with no regard to pedestrians and opposing traffic. I guess everyone wants to live fast in the big city, but I’ve learned to step out of the bike lane while waiting for the light to turn green.
Mostly seen in parks and other public spaces such as Times Square, street performers show up everyday in the city. In Washington Square Park, I’ve seen people bring a grand or upright piano to play for the masses, and in Times Square, a team performed acrobatics for the crowd. Whenever you go to a densely populated place, there’s sure to be some fast entertainment; they do expect tips though.
Downtown and Uptown
I have to admit, it took me a while to get used to the uptown and downtown lingo. Because New York City is located on a peninsula, uptown obviously meant inland and north, while downtown was south. When I had to get somewhere by subway, I had to think about whether I was going up or downtown.
New York City is full of cute, artsy cafes perfect for brunching, if you don’t mind paying $15 for some avocado toast, that is. I do plan to try out many of the cute little cafes tucked around the city, if my student debt doesn’t end up too high. It’s really an experience, though, spending Sunday morning with your friends in the city with some overpriced breakfast foods.
Weed and Juuls
Last but certainly not least, I’ve noticed a prevalence of weed here; I catch a whiff of the smell at least twice a day. And walk among any crowd, and you’ll probably see a cloud of smoke going up somewhere. Smoke shops are everywhere, making it totally acceptable to take a hit any time of day.