New York culture shock turns out different than expected
March 21, 2013
Before I moved to New York, people used to tell me all the time that I was in for a rude awakening.
As in literally rude people. I grew up immersed in “Minnesota Nice.” Everyone holds doors open, you can approach anyone on the street and guarantee that they will give you detailed directions for wherever you are going, and are actually interested in what you have to say.
From what people have told me about New York City, I was expecting none of that. I was totally OK with moving to New York and getting doors slammed in my face and angry words thrown my way. However, the very day I moved here my expectations were exceedingly broken.
New Yorkers are nice. To me, at least. Am I doing something right that I don’t know about? From my first taxi driver, to my roommates, to people on the bus, everyone is nice, nicer than Minnesotans. It throws me off, to be honest. When people continued to act very sincere and interested in me, I looked at them with side-eyes.
What’s the catch? Are they being sarcastic? Are they going to tell me to take a hike, or worse? So far, there is no catch. People are generally excited that I moved to their beloved New York. When I tell them of the big dreams I harbor for my future, they give me such good advice I make sure to always have a notebook on me to write down everything they tell me.
I told myself I wouldn’t mention my Midwestern heritage right away whenever I met new people, but it’s kind of difficult to keep under wraps when they ask me what neighborhood I’m from.
Uh, Stillwater? (Tip: no one in New York knows any cities in Minnesota. Not even the Twin Cities. Just say Minnesota; it will be confusing enough. One guy asked me if that was east of New York).
However, once it’s out in the open that I am, indeed, not actually from New York, most people are genuinely interested in what Minnesota is like. When I told my roommate Shaileen, who is from Queens, that people pull their kids out of school for the hunting opener, she was speechless. She has never been camping, and the only country singer she knows is Carrie Underwood (my kind of person right there).
Growing up in New York would be so different than growing up in Minnesota. Last week I ate lunch with my friend Dovi, an Orthodox Jew who has never eaten at McDonald’s. Honestly, we talked about a lot more than that, but I can’t get over it. He had also never eaten cheese with meat. I do not even know how to process that information. Cheese and meat is the main diet of all Midwesterners.
Speaking of religion, I have seen people of all religions while in New York: Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and atheists. And you know what? I have never lived with more accepting people. Religion doesn’t necessarily define a person. It may be one aspect of a person’s character, but it certainly doesn’t give a complete picture of him or her.
For example, to go back to Dovi. We talked about his religion and his two-year exchange in Israel, but then the conversation turned to ice hockey. I thought I had the advantage then. Minnesota is the State of Hockey, after all. But Dovi proceeded to name off Dany Heatley, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.
Honestly, my jaw dropped. How did this Jewish kid from the Bronx know about these hockey players? That was my own ignorance and unwillingness to see past his religion. He has played hockey for years and is a die-hard fan of the New Jersey Devils.
These two months in New York have opened my eyes to a lot, but mainly they have taught me to never judge someone at first glance. If I do, I know they will surprise me. I thought I was an accepting, open-minded person before living in New York, but my ignorance toward religion and people who didn’t grow up like me stunted my own growth as a person.
So thank you, New York, for showing me how to truly be New York Nice. I’m coining that term. It’s going to catch on.
Amanda White is a junior majoring in journalism. She appreciates good books, good style, and good conversation.