New York, New York – impressions

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Voilà, I fled London due to crazy high prices, just to end up in another of the world’s most expensive cities: New York. I’ve been living here for a while now but there are still some things that surprise me (after all it’s my first time on this continent). So in good old tradition with my ‘Impressions’ posts about Bishkek: here some impressions from New York City!

Noticed: Coins

Contrary to coins in most countries where I’ve been (except crazy-inflation Uzbekistan), here many people treat coins differently. Since they are all below a dollar, many of my friends do not even pay with coins. No kidding, a friend of mine has several jars full of coins in his room, others just have them scattered on the floor. However, in New York, there is one coin that is very important: The Quarter!!! I savor them. Having bought a coffee, I’m overly glad to get change in quarters – why: because without quarters, you can’t do the laundry! Thus, your cleanliness directly corresponds with your coffee-consumption – NICE!

Disliking: flags 

As a German, I have uneasy feelings about flags and this strongly hit me in the beginning right after moving to the country. There are flags everywhere!  For me and many Germans I know, flags are directly related to nationalism and there is still a strong hesitance to pull up a German flag on your house (at least if it’s not the soccer time of the year).

Obviously Americans can’t relate to this feeling, and I have repeatedly been told that NY is not heavy on flags at all (and there are not even confederate flags here :)). By now, I have mostly gotten used to them – and the even more frequent Puerto Rican flags in my neighbourhood.

Loving: a melting pot? 

There are many things to love about New York. And many of you will have been or lived here longer than me and will have much more to say about this incredible city. I’m therefore not going to talk about a lot of good things, such as $1 Pizza which is still better than some expensive ‘pseudo-italian’ pizza places in Germany, donuts, the skyline – always the skyline, donuts, renter’s rights, and donuts :). Instead I’m going to talk about – the history. Coming from Europe, the history of New York doesn’t seem quite that impressive. And so it took me some months to get a glimpse. Most clearly I could see history in one of the least beautiful parts of Brooklyn. At the Queens-Brooklyn border, not too far from where I live, is a huge cemetery which hosts a lot of different sections. From the hollow metal gravestones of the German-Catholic immigrants (“to enforce posthumous equality”), to Asian gravestones, Jewish gravestones and to the more recent Hispanic names – the cemetary is a history of immigration into the neighborhood. The diversity of the city and especially the parts outside of the city centre is huge, even though it has to be said that people are still quite noticeably segregated by districts. In high school, I remember that we had one year where we switched from British English to American English and covered the “melting pot.” It is true, in a way. And in others it isn’t – for example isn’t it fascinating that a people whose history is based on immigration (and the a lot darker parts of violent expansion and war) are now again talking about building walls. However, on the day at the cemetary, I was more positively fascinated by the tangible aspects of the different immigration waves all next to each other: at least in death there are no walls anymore.

 

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