Even if you’ve never been to NYC, you know all about it. You know it’s dirty, rude, and dangerous, but also sophisticated and exciting. You know this from movies, Amazon Prime Video, Sex and the City on Hulu, and because people you’ve met have actually been here. You know New York because of Facebook memes. You know it because “everyone” knows it. Maybe you’ve never been here, but I’m betting that won’t stop you from having an opinion.
The first time you come here, though, you’ll be surprised — maybe pleasantly, maybe not. Here are 10 surprising things you might not know about New York City.
One – The subways are dark and loud. They’ve always been that way. They’re old, and the decibels average at 80, but can crest over 100 on an express. First time I heard it, I was surprised. I don’t know what I was expecting…maybe a smooth, silent whisper? It’s not. You get used to it. Personally, I love the subway – and I’m not the only one.
Two – There aren’t any vacant lots. Real estate is at a premium here in NYC, so if you see a patch of ground that’s vacant, it’s because something is going to get built or something recently fell down. Although we don’t have vacant lots, we do have postage-stamp parks, such as Madison Square Park. NOT Madison Square Garden. New Yorkers love postage stamp parks. There are lawns, benches, playgrounds. In the trendy parts of town, there are horticulture events and Shake Shakes. In real neighborhoods, there are trees, playgrounds and maybe a few chess tables. You get statues, flags, art installations, maybe even a cannon. It doesn’t matter – they are the hidden gems of NYC and the reason our kids don’t care about having a vacant lot.
Three – No one owns a car. This surprises people who grew up in a car culture. It’s liberating once you get used to it. And, after a while, you get surprised when you meet people who DO own cars. It’s kind of like when you meet someone who owns a boat: it sounds great in theory, and you hope they’ll invite you for a ride, but you are glad it’s not yours.
Four – It rains. This is only surprising if you come from the southwest USA.
Five – New York is really expensive. This is always a shock. You go into a bar. You order a croissant and a pear martini. Price tag? Forty bucks. Next, you’ll start asking New Yorkers how much it costs to buy a tiny and cramped apartment on the West Side. You know, like the one Kramer used to live in! Once you hear the price, you scream out “Heavens to Betsy! I could buy a whole farm in Kansas for that price!” Yes, and maybe the entire state of North Dakota as well. This is called the law of supply and demand.
Six – New York is really cheap. Once you learn which places to avoid, you soon find that life here can be quite affordable. You’ll be lining up at the food trucks that have the best rice dishes for lunch. You’ll be finding the neighborhood watering holes with unadvertised happy hours and unwritten policies like “4th beer is free”. You’ll boldly march up the Met Museum’s “suggested admission: $25” sign hanging over the well-polished admissions person, and you’ll slap a buck on the counter. “One please,” you’ll say. Even worse – you’ll hand them plastic and STILL pay a buck. Bwah ha ha! Seriously, the Met deserves your money. So don’t be like me. Pay up.
Seven – It’s safer in Manhattan than in Hartford, CT. And Anchorage, Alaska. Even lovely San Francisco has double the robbery rate. NY is about the same as Seattle.
These stats are for violent crime. For scams? I am not sure if there is a chart for that, but any big city has lots of those. My civic pride leads me to believe ours are more numerous and creative than most.
Eight – Walking is not optional. I cut my milk teeth on the California Car Culture. I had never walked for more than 10 minutes at a time, except once when I accidentally tried to walk from Horton Plaza to The Chicken Pie Shop. That almost killed me. Once I got to New York, I tried to ease into walking. I started small: half a block at a time, with the whining being continuous. Over time, I could go for 4 whole blocks with only a low-grade amount of whinging. Before I knew it, I could walk almost half a mile without noticing it. I learned that everyone has their own pace, and that walking fast is easier and more efficient than sauntering along. I learned I could walk from Harlem to Chinatown, and from work to home. I’ve never stopped walking, and I highly recommend it.
Nine – There are people living in Staten Island who have never been to Manhattan. They can see it, but they’ve never been here. This is astonishing to people from across the country and around the world who have worked hard and paid dearly to set foot in Manhattan. Listen, you guys are a ferry ride away from the most amazing city in the world! And what — you can’t be bothered? It boggles the mind.
Ten – Very few people own pickup trucks. This keen observation was made by a young lady from Texas who was my houseguest. I’d never taken note of this fact, until she pointed it out. She also discovered, on a subsequent trip, that NYC is connected to the rest of the U.S and you can drive here from Texas. Presumably in a pickup.