Culture shock

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Corner of 34th and Madison Avenue.

My arrival to New York has been a whirlwind. I went from awkward uneasiness to falling completely in love with this city.

I was greeted with impeccable rudeness from workers in the supposed “customer service” industry upon arrival. The employees in subway stations are the most unhelpful people on the planet, and they will be extra condescending to make sure you feel awful about being another newcomer to a city that doesn’t need any more excitement-seeking and confused young people.

The trip to my temporary residence in New Jersey was surprisingly smooth. It consisted of an hour drive, two hour plane ride, an AirTrain ride, ย an hour subway ride, then an hour bus ride. As someone who’s severely directionally challenged, I can’t say I’m not impressed by my successful navigation in a city completely foreign to me. I’d like to thank intensive pre-trip research and the power of google. (Although many things turned out different, like AirTrain was not actually free.)

It took being in a huge city like New York to realize how much I’ve been spoiled by the convenience of owning a car in the now seemingly small town of Bloomington, Indiana. The metro system looks like a web of madness, and its unpredictability and constant changes due to construction doesn’t help the situation. There’s really no way to approximate how long it takes to get to a destination, which is generating some nervousness about showing up to my internship on time.

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The beautiful and hectic world of Wall Street on a warm Friday afternoon. I felt obligated to wear business attire.

The biggest and most unexpected culture shock is the shameless and aggressive flirting by the men in New York. In just four days, I’ve had a man whisper “hey cutie” into my ear as he walked passed me on the street, a man say “you’re beautiful” in Chinese (an obvious aim at my race) on the sidewalk, and countless approaches by short Hispanic men with compliments that somehow don’t feel flattering. This is an experience completely foreign to me. In all the places I’ve lived, including Taiwan and Indiana, nobody is that aggressive. But hey, what’s so wrong about being called beautiful constantly on the street? Ain’t nothing wrong with a daily dose of confidence boost from strangers, right?

In a city full of more foreigners, tourists and dream-chasers than permanent residents, nothing you do is ever held against you. People and coming and going so fast that reputations don’t retain. This seems to bring a new sense of fearlessness and confidence among people, who have given everything just to be here and get their own taste of the fast-paced biggest city in the world.

As a newcomer, I’ve realized that to enjoy your time at this city, you must embrace the flaws. Look past the filthy subway stations, high costs, and the harassment. Expect your wallet to be dented and the inability to generate savings, and learn to laugh at the horny men who can’t keep their dirty thoughts to themselves.

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