Before coming to New York City, we did extensive research. What we wanted to see and do, where we wanted to eat. Still, nothing I read online could have prepared me to some elements of NYC. And I wish I’d known this things before arriving in the Big Apple!
There is too much to do
Which isn’t a bad thing, quite the contrary! But it can get very overwhelming when planning your trip, and even once you are there, hopping from activity to activity. Between the museums we wanted to visit, the parks and places we wanted to see and the restaurants we wanted to try, there was enough to fill at least two full weeks… And there so much more we could have done!
The MET wasn’t even on our list, despite so many other museums we did, and the cold, winter weather prevented us from doing so many thing we could have done in the summer. As a traveller, there is something both exciting and disappointing in that. First, because you are never bored and will always find something to do. But also because you just know you will never be able to do everything, see everything. Unless, of course, you decide to come back.
The city is really dirty
For a very long time, I believed Paris was a dirty city. Oh, how wrong I was! It doesn’t compare to the smell of New York City, especially in the subway. And with how much time we spent in public transportations to go from one place to another, it’s a miracle we even survived. (Dramatic? Me?!)
Even the state of the streets before the garbage truck goes by is a sight to behold. For such a big city, it’s a big puzzling that no clean solution has been found yet to make every look and smell… nicer? It’s as if the entire city is in need of a good pressure wash to make it slightly better on everyone else.
People are way too friendly
I’m a French girl living in England. Neither of those countries are known for their sympathetic, introvert population. So when I’d read that New Yorkers are not exactly the friendliest of the lot, I wasn’t particularly worried or upset. I’m used to a simple ‘hello’ and nothing more, when it comes to paying in a store, and it is more than fine with me. I’m not exactly going shopping for the chitchat, after all.
So, let me tell you, the friendliness of New Yorkers was quite the shock! I do understand it in waiters, because they live of tips and are forced to go the extra mile… But it was everywhere! And I’m not used to it! And it was scary, in a very “why are you so nice, it’s suspicious!” way. A man even tried to help us find out way when we were confused about the subway, which is something you’d never see happen in London.
It sure took a while to get used to it, and I’m not exactly certain I was. I was almost glad to be back home to my local corner store in London, where the cashier barely gives me two words before asking me to pay, and where bus drivers ignore your existence until you forget to pay for your ticket.
The subway is a big mess
I’ve heard it about both London and Paris but, gosh, the subway system in New York City really is confusing. You have the Express and the Local lines, all the stops named after numbers, you need to remember if you’re going uptown or downtown, three different lines stop on the same platform but don’t go the same way… A freaking mess!
More than once we got lost and had to go back the way we came to find the right stop again. And that’s without counting on that one time we waited half an hour for a subway to get us from the Museum of Natural History back to Lower Manhattan. Which meant we didn’t have time for our last activity of the trip before having to go to the airport and catch our flight.
Even being city-smart and with maps on our phones, the whole thing was too much of a mess. I totally understand people who’d rather waste their money in taxi fares than to take the subway now! (Though, let’s be honest, it remains quite cheap for such a big city.) (Looking at you, London!)
Everything leads to Rockefeller
Well, for us at least! I have no idea how it happened exactly, because we had planned so many activities that would take us all over Manhattan and Brooklyn. Yet, somehow, we always ended up back at the Rockefeller Center. At least once a day we saw its big tower looming over us, even though we only planned on going there once. If all roads lead to Rome, then all New York streets lead to Rockefeller!
It was actually quite funny after a while, this moment of “wait we’ve been here already,” only tu turn around a street and face the building. It became a running joke of our trip and I’m pretty sure that we know the different shops (and bathrooms) of the Plaza more than any other place in New York City!
Which elements of New York City surprised you the most?