The Hutong Alley

Posted on May 31st, by matt_schiavenza in Beijing 2011. No Comments

Saying that a certain place is a ‘land of contradictions’ is probably the most hackneyed phrase in travel writing, but the contrasts in China do stick out more than in many other places. This summer the office where I work is located on Jinbao Street, an elegant boulevard lined with high-end dealerships selling Aston-Martins, Lamborghinis, and Ferraris. While walking along the street looking for a place to eat this afternoon, I ducked down an alley and soon found myself right in the middle of an old-fashioned hutong settlement. As I walked along I peeked inside several homes where people were going about their day; folding laundry, preparing lunch, lying in the shade. At last, I found a small noodle house with cheap plastic tables, from which I could easily hear the sound of the noodles being stretched and smacked. In a few minutes, a bag of noodles in hand, I walked the 200 feet and 20 years back to the office and chowed with delight.…

New York, NY by Juliana Capaldi

Posted on May 30th, by matt_schiavenza in City Project. 1 Comment

Image courtesy of allpostersimages.com

For a full explanation of this series, see here.

Other cities:

Austin, TX by Jascha
Los Angeles, CA by Andrew Culver
Shanghai, China by John Pasden
Boston, MA by Ella Chou
Toronto, Canada by Erik Schomann
Washington, DC by Sarah Hassaine
Beijing, China by Jeff Crosby
Chicago, IL by Ben Ross
Atlanta, GA by Valerie and David
San Francisco, CA by Sandra Possing
Tokyo, Japan by Polly
Singapore by Edna Zhou
Mexico City, Mexico by Anna Trott
Portland, OR by Lydia Beyoud
Hong Kong by Jon Picker
Brisbane, Australia by David Jorm
Guangzhou, China by David Abrahamson
Melbourne, Australia by Hayley Ward

The city series continues with my own place of residence: the Big Apple, New York City. Our next ambassador, Juliana Capaldi, grew up in Philadelphia and moved to New York to attend Barnard College in 2001. Following a stint in London, she moved back to Gotham five years ago and recently completed her degree in Arts Administration at Columbia University. Juliana spends her time eating, running, and getting lost in the country’s biggest city.

Matt Schiavenza: What brought you to New York in the first place? What keeps you there?

Juliana Capaldi:  I first moved to New York in 2001, as a college freshman. I always knew that I wanted to go to college in New York, and a last-minute acceptance to Barnard finally brought me to the city. I lived here for four years during college, and was ready to leave by then. I went to grad school in London for a year after that, headed home to Philadelphia for a lost year, and ended up back in New York in the summer of 2006. My sister got placed here for Teach For America, and she needed a roommate. Her college roommate and I volunteered for the task together, and I’ve been here ever since!

MS: What are the best things about life in New York?

JC:  Anything that you want you can get here. I mean that in terms of material goods and experiences. Walking up and down certain streets will bring you through little mini-worlds that envelop you intensely, but only for a few blocks. Lots of the traditionally ethnic neighborhoods in Manhattan have become diluted, but many of these areas in the outer boroughs have not changed in years.

I’m sure that everyone says this about their own city, but the food here is so astonishingly good.  Some of the cheapest places in the city offer the best food, and if you’re willing to explore, the rewards can be phenomenal. Also, my life without pizza or bagels would be a hollow shell.

As an arts nerd, New York is absolutely the best place to be.  Everything from the Metropolitan Museum to the Sports Hall of Fame, from The Lion King to Off-Off-Off Broadway  is fairly easily available, and you frequently find tourists and natives enjoying these experiences together.  I’ve seen hundreds of shows, ranging from popular Broadway shows to fringe-festival performances, and there have only been two bad ones. The variety and quality of museums combined with the art galleries showing the newest work by young artists means that you can experience the entire spectrum of the artistic world.

The public transportation system, while not as clean as DC’s Metro, is a really great thing about living in the city. For $2.50, you can ride for about two hours in either direction, and end up in so many different places. I love that there’s no zoning for the subways, it’s pretty easy to navigate, and it costs me the same to go to the boardwalk at Coney Island as it does to get to work in the morning. Everyone uses the system, and while it certainly has its problems, the level of access that you have to so many different areas of the city makes it one of the best parts of New York.

MS: What are the worst things about living in New York?

JC:  As much as I love it, living in New York is frequently a giant pain. It’s incredibly expensive to find housing of a decent size in a safe area, and what realtors pass off as multi-bedroom apartments is laughable. I lived in a bedroom without a window for 6 months, which is illegal and not a great idea. And I paid a thousand dollars a month for that privilege!

Going about your everyday life can also be generally inconvenient in New York, depending on where you live. Grocery shopping is a giant pain when you have to haul your food up five flights of stairs, and doing laundry can become an aerobic activity.

Also, and I am not alone in this, I loathe Times Square. It makes me insane. It’s so ridiculously crowded and unpleasant, and I can’t seem avoid it no matter what I do.  One of the perils of being a theater fan in New York!

MS: If you were the mayor of New York, what would be on your agenda?

JC:  Can I outlaw pigeons? Music being played in air shafts and waking me up at 5am? No?

I read a suggestion somewhere to make designated local/express walking lanes on the sidewalk. As a fast walker, I fully support that.
I actually think that the city does an OK job of running itself. There are too many people crammed into too-small spaces, but there’s not a lot that the municipal government could do to fix that.   Yeah, the subways get really hot in the summer and the garbage stinks, but I’m not sure the mayor would be the one to change it.

One thing I would do is to take a closer look at the MTA’s(Metropolitan Transit Authority, responsible for all public transportation in NYC) spending. People got really fired up about the recent fare hikes, and there is a perception of overcompensation at the executive level. Clearly it’s a very difficult topic and there are serious budget constraints to be dealt with, but some transparency could go a long way towards creating goodwill towards the MTA.

MS: What’s something about New York that can’t be found in a guidebook?

JC: It’s hard to write anything about New York that hasn’t been said already. Honestly, the thousands of guidebooks and websites have probably covered it better than I can.

MS: What kind of person would be best suited for New York?

JC: Because of all of the different areas of the city, I think almost anyone could find someplace to call home. There are areas of the Bronx that feel almost like small towns, depending on where you are, in contrast with downtown Manhattan that feels like constant chaos. It might take a few tries to find the right neighborhood, but I think almost anyone could find someplace that suits them.

MS: What kind of person would be worst suited for New York?

JC:  If you’re someone who needs to be alone a lot or needs a lot of quiet, New York is not for you, or at least not Manhattan. Even if you live alone,  you can almost always hear your neighbors or street traffic. I used to live over a bar, and people had absolutely no qualms about hashing out their relationship problems underneath my window. If you’re germophobic, New York will probably be torture for you.

You basically have to be able to deal with the pain-in-the-ass element of living here, and be able to roll with whatever changes come your way.

MS: What’s something about New York that runs contrary to popular perception?

JC:  As much as I like to complain about how expensive everything in New York is, there are so many deals and discounts available. I almost never pay full price for an exhibition or a show, and have gotten to see some incredible things for either free or cheap. The proliferation of social-buying sites like Groupon means that restaurants, shopping, bars etc can usually be visited for far less than full price, and these sites can open up all sorts of experiences that you otherwise might have missed.

MS: Is New York suitable for all age groups, or would it be better for some age groups rather than others?

JC:  I think it may be a phase-of-life issue rather than an age thing. For older people with some mobility issues, New York can actually be a pretty great place to be. You can get everything you could ever want delivered, and all of the buses are well-equipped with wheelchair access.

If you’re young and energetic, New York really does earn the nickname of the City that Never Sleeps. There is always something happening, no matter the hour, and as long as you can keep up, there’s something for you to do.

The people that I’m most impressed with are the families with small children in New York. I can barely manage carrying all of my own stuff around the city, let alone a baby and all of its paraphernalia.

MS: Do you feel optimistic about New York’s future?

JC: I can’t imagine New York not surviving and thriving. Even in the worst times of the past ten years, like just after Sept 11 and during the recession, there were still people streaming into the city. Different areas of the city go through phases of vitality, but more and more people keep showing up, either to live here or to visit.

MS: If you could choose, which other city would you like to live in?

JC: I love London dearly, and would like to really live in Italy at some point. I’ll probably end up in Philadelphia at some point in my life.

MS: Can you sum up New York in a word, phrase, or sentence?

JC: It’s hard to do this without sounding like a cliche, but I would say “diverse”. Even in areas that are thought of as fairly homogeneous, there is still such a wide range of people crammed into these tiny spaces.

Questions, comments, suggestions, and criticisms should be directed to matthew.schiavenza (at) gmail.com or in the comment section below. Thanks!

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DSK and the Franco-American Moral Dance

Posted on May 29th, by matt_schiavenza in Current Affairs. No Comments

I really enjoyed reading this Nation article by Katha Pollitt entitled, mischeviously, ‘Your Movies Were Boring Anyway, France’. Well, not all French movies are boring but the admonition has less to do with film than an indictment of certain aspects of French culture in the wake of l’affaire DSK.

At some point in the past decade a clever person coined the expression”Americans are from Mars,  Europeans are from Venus”, a play on the supposed masculinity and femininity of the two sides. Yet everyone knows that ‘Europe’ just means ‘France’. Conservative Americans are fond of vilifying France as everything that their ideal America is not: unindustrious, libertine, morally clouded, self-indulgent, wasteful, and irritatingly anti-war. American liberals, though, quietly regarded France as something of a utopia in which everyone got health care, six weeks of vacation, fabulous wine, and topless women on beaches. One’s position on France functions as a litmus test for where one stands on a whole range of other, seemingly unrelated issues.

One of the interesting side-effects of the DSK arrest is that this romance between the American left and France has been shattered. I don’t mean that American liberals will cease visiting France or drinking French wine or watching French movies (though Pollitt just might). But the romance with France’s supposed moral superiority has ended with a thud. As Pollitt notes, the reaction of leading French public figures to the arrest has been ghastly:

“It was just a quickie with the maid,” said the famous journalist Jean-Francois Kahn, using an antiquated idiom (troussage de domestique) that suggests trussing up a chicken. Former culture minster Jack Lang was outraged that DSK was not immediately released on bail since after all, “no man died.” (He probably didn’t mean to, but he did say “no man” — Il n’y a pas mort d’homme — not “no one”). And let’s not forget Bernard-Henri Levy, whose pretentious drivel has to be the worst thing you’ve exported to us since pizza-flavored La Vache Qui Rit. Levy can’t get over the way the New York justice system is treating his friend: “I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other.” Treating a master of the universe the same as anyone else — even the African immigrant who cleaned his hotel room, quoi— isn’t that what justice is? Didn’t they teach you that in high school philosophy, M. Levy?

What these men don’t understand is that DSK’s alleged attempted rape of a maid had nothing to do with sex. It had to do with power. It has to do with a powerful, wealthy man with everything he could possibly want in life trying to take advantage of the single most defenseless person in society- the working-class immigrant. You would think that given France’s fondness for social welfare that more public intellectuals would be rushing to the maid’s defense. Yet instead you have the disgusting spectacle of French elites defending their own, all the while having the temerity to criticize the vulgarity of the American criminal justice system.

The French- and other Europeans- have long maintained that they do not care about the personal peccadilloes of their leaders provided they perform their duties competently. When the Republican Party attempted to crucify President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s for lying about an affair he had with Monica Lewinsky, many American liberals found this attitude to be enlightened. Yet while attempted rape and a consensual extra-marital affair are by no means equivalent, I wonder whether the DSK incident will lead liberals to reconsider this point of view.

As fate would have it, we immediately have a test case- as Dominique Strauss-Kahn attempted to diddle the maid in his Manhattan hotel, Arnold Schwarzenegger revealed that he had fathered a child with his Guatemalan maid and had kept it a secret from his family for well over a decade. Did this act affect his ability to (rather badly) govern the state of California? Probably not. But in considering what damage he has done to his wife and children, my one thought is that I was ashamed to have voted for him in 2006. If any positive can come out of these events, I hope that leaders will think twice before abusing their power in this way. I’m not holding my breath, though.

 

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Asian Women and Food Photography

Posted on May 27th, by matt_schiavenza in Food and Drink, Navel Gazing. 2 comments

From the random observation department…today, while perusing my VPN-supported Facebook feed, I realized that nearly every Asian woman I know has at least one oft-updated photo album containing photographs of food. By Asian I mean East Asian but not specifically Chinese. Among Asian-Americans this trend seems to exist but not quite to the same degree. Has anyone else noticed this or am I simply crazy?…

From the Apple back to the Dragon

Posted on May 26th, by matt_schiavenza in Me. 5 comments

Since moving back to the States last fall, I have written about the concept of reverse culture shock caused by going home after several years abroad. Now, I’ll have the opportunity to write about reverse-reverse-culture shock (if such a thing exists). For after ten months away, I am back in China.

The decision to come back after a year at school wasn’t really hard. I knew that I was likely to do an unpaid internship of some sort, and ‘unpaid’ is a lot cheaper in China than in the United States. Also, I missed engaging with the language, wanted to have time to do more writing and thinking, and wanted to visit and hang out with old friends again. For these reasons, I have decided to spend my summer living in Beijing, sickly yellow skies and humid weather notwithstanding.

I arrived here just a couple days ago and have not really had time to adjust yet, but my first impressions have thus far been positive. Beijing has the great gift of street energy, a sine qua non of a vibrant, happening place. I love the little hutong areas and back alleys with hole-in-the-wall restaurants and shops. For a city with such wide boulevards and tall skyscrapers, this intimacy is a big plus.

A few other notes…

  • The internet situation here is as bad as I’ve ever seen it. In years past only computer geeks bothered to get a virtual private network (VPN) in order to get around the elaborate Chinese internet firewalls. Nowadays, living without one seems impossible for just about any internet user. Now, the firewall has gone beyond mere social networking sites and now threatens essential functions like gmail. Unfortunately, the government now seems adept at disrupting VPN service, too. One really wonders how much the hassle of using the internet in China has affected business practices here.
  • The new subway lines are fresh, clean, fast, and efficient. I love the system of simply tapping your card against a sensor while walking in (why can’t New York implement this?) Also- being able to use a transit card for the subway, bus, and even taxis is a brilliant innovation that I hope will be copied in other cities around the world.
  • The much-discussed smoking ban implemented recently in Chinese businesses seems to be unenforceable. The only difference from what I can tell is that one has to ask for ashtrays rather than just use ones located right on the table.
  • The ease with which one can acquire a Chinese telephone number continues to amaze me. Life would be so much easier if we in the US banished our cell phone companies and their idiotic ‘plans’.

I’ll have more thoughts to follow as I recover from jet lag and get into a rhythm here in Beijing.

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The Death of a Murderer

Posted on May 2nd, by matt_schiavenza in Current Events. 14 comments

Unless you’ve been living in a cave (sorry, couldn’t resist), you have no doubt heard that Osama bin Laden is dead.

In the next few days, there will be plenty of opportunities to talk about all the implications of bin Laden’s death, but now such talk seems inappropriate.

I would like to take a moment to consider the victims of Osama bin Laden, a man who dedicated his life to achieving political aims through the indiscriminate killing of innocent men, women, and children. We here in the United States think of the September 11th attacks when we think of bin Laden’s crimes, but people in and of dozens of countries across the world counted among the many thousands of his victims. The vast majority of these men, women, and children were not soldiers, politicians, or diplomats; they were ordinary people going about their daily lives when suddenly, at a time not of their choosing, their lives were terminated by an act of violence.

I remember walking through the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, one of the most sobering experiences of my entire life. Yet what aroused my anger most was the fact that the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, died peacefully in his sleep, never brought to justice. History is full of mass murderers and butchers and tyrants who lived out their days peacefully while the memory of those killed by their actions linger on, painfully, among the survivors. I’m not a bloodthirsty man, but to think that bin Laden received what he wrought on so many others represents a measure of justice, no matter how imperfectly. For this fact alone the news of his death is worth celebrating.

I’ll have plenty of comment in the coming days, but for now I’d prefer to remember those who felt bin Laden’s terror most acutely.

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Melbourne, Australia by Hayley Ward

Posted on May 2nd, by matt_schiavenza in City Project. No Comments

For a full explanation of this series, see here.

Other cities:

Austin, TX by Jascha
Los Angeles, CA by Andrew Culver
Shanghai, China by John Pasden
Boston, MA by Ella Chou
Toronto, Canada by Erik Schomann
Washington, DC by Sarah Hassaine
Beijing, China by Jeff Crosby
Chicago, IL by Ben Ross
Atlanta, GA by Valerie and David
San Francisco, CA by Sandra Possing
Tokyo, Japan by Polly
Singapore by Edna Zhou
Mexico City, Mexico by Anna Trott
Portland, OR by Lydia Beyoud
Hong Kong by Jon Picker
Brisbane, Australia by David Jorm
Guangzhou, China by David Abrahamson

For our next profile we head down to Melbourne, Australia, introduced by ambassador Hayley May Ward. Hayley lives in Melbourne where she has the pleasure of working at Asialink – Australia’s leading center for the promotion of public understanding of the countries of Asia and Australia’s role in the region. More specifically, she works with the Asia Education Foundation, whose mission is to equip young Australians for the 21st century by ensuring that they all gain knowledge, skills and understandings of the countries and cultures of Asia through their schooling. After a lifelong interest (some might say obsession) with China and a stint living in Kunming, this young lady is very happy to have the chance to pursue an Asia-related career whilst being based in the very excellent city of Melbourne. Like all modern internerds, she is easily stalkable via Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr.

Matt Schiavenza: What brought you to Melbourne in the first place? What keeps you there?

Hayley Ward:  I’ve only been living in Melbourne about nine months. Tropical, sunny Brisbane in Queensland is my home, but after moving back there in early 2010 following a period of living in China, I felt like I wanted a change.  Importantly, a lot of my best friends and my parents had recently moved to Melbourne so I knew I’d have an easy transition. People from all over Australia and the world are moving to Melbourne in a hurry, and there’s a reason why – this city is amazing! It’s very refreshing to live somewhere that people are arriving to, rather than leaving from. More and more of my friends from other places keep moving here, and then their friends move here, and then their friends. All in all, it is amazingly easy to live a great life here.

MS: What are the best things about life in Melbourne?

HW:  Melbourne is insanely fun, friendly, intelligent, energetic and creative. After nine months of living here, my impression is that this is a city that works hard and parties hard. I’ve adored all the other places I’ve lived, but somehow, even with my China addiction, Melbourne takes the cake so far. Life here just makes sense. Everything just seems to work really well. It’s very easy to get  around by bicycle, public transport, or by walking. There are amazing restaurants, cafes and bars everywhere. This city is obsessed with art, culture, music, sports, fashion, great food, coffee and good bars. People are getting things done and having a great time while they’re at it. This ad campaign put together a few years ago is a bit of a joke with locals now, but it does do a decent job of evoking the mood of our city.

MS: What are the worst things about living in Melbourne?

HW:  I don’t think I’ve lived here long enough yet to have a real sense of what’s not working well. However, Melbourne is definitely experiencing many of the same issues that many other rapidly expanding major cities are – urban sprawl, ineffective public transport connections for the outer-lying suburbs, rising property prices, etc.

MS: If you were the mayor of Melbourne, what would be on your agenda?

HW:  I never want to see Melbourne divert from what makes it so amazing, so in a sense it would be about maintaining the status quo of awesomeness. However, more emphasis should always be placed on looking after the disadvantaged groups in our city, and improving our healthcare and regional public transport. Melbourne as a city is also currently doing a great job at engaging with China, and it seems like our government, business, and people-to-people connections are only getting closer, more meaningful, and more multi-faceted. I think it’s a very exciting time to be a young Australian with an interest and commitment to Asia.

Hayley (second from left) and friend in Melbourne

 

MS: What’s something about Melbourne that can’t be found in a guidebook?

HW: Melbourne is very famous for it’s secret back-alley bars, restaurants and galleries. We have amazing, tiny establishments hidden in all of the cracks, crevices and lanes of our city, but you need to be with a local to find them. Most of them don’t have obvious signs, and you need to walk down dark back alleys and up shady stairwells to find them. It’s so confusing and exciting that even after nine months here, there’s only a  handful of places I remember how to get to. There’s also lots of beautiful places just outside Melbourne, such as the Yarra Valley wine region

MS: What kind of person would be best suited for Melbourne?

HW: Absolutely anybody from anywhere. That’s our secret, don’t let the other cities in the world know!

MS: What kind of person would be worst suited for Melbourne?

HW:  Perhaps a person with a very narrow outlook would be challenged by the diversity of this city. Also, it can get pretty darn gloomy and cold in winter. Don’t come here in winter without appropriate clothing and/or the willingness to drink lots of scotch in dark, cozy bars.

MS: What’s something about Melbourne that runs contrary to popular perception?

HW:  Melbourne is a notoriously “hip” and “cool” place, which you might assume would involve an element of snobbishness or pretentiousness. But somehow, this city has achieved that perfect, rare balance between being cool and friendly. I’ve lived in places where it’s seemed to take ages to be really accepted by a particular group of people; where you had to “bide your time” and “pay your dues” before you could eventually become a part of the crowd. But as long as you’re a decent, genuine person with an interesting story to tell and a fun streak, Melbourne will embrace you.

MS: Is Melbourne suitable for all age groups, or would it be better for some age groups rather than others?

HW:  One thing Melbourne is famous for is that it’s welcome to and inclusive of so many different kinds of people, all from different backgrounds, ages and persuasions. And it’s not even diverse in a self-conscious way, it’s gone beyond that. It just is how it is. Everybody’s just all mixed up together and it works beautifully. Melbourne is so much about the people. One lovely thing I’ve noticed here is that parents feel confident and comfortable bringing their young children along to even the “coolest” parties and art openings around town. I’ve never seen anything like that before in other cities.

MS: Do you feel optimistic about Melbourne’s future?

HW: Absolutely, yes.

MS: If you could choose, which other city would you like to live in?

HW: I will definitely live in other cities in my life. I’ve always wanted to live in Shanghai and I don’t think I’m going to feel truly settled with my life until I’ve lived there. But I think from now on, I will look at Melbourne as being my base.

MS: Can you sum up Melbourne in a word, phrase, or sentence?

HW: Simply wonderful.

Questions, comments, suggestions, and criticisms should be directed to matthew.schiavenza (at) gmail.com or in the comment section below. Thanks!

 

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New York Myths

Posted on May 1st, by matt_schiavenza in New York. No Comments

I’m still expecting to publish a New York city profile here soon, but in the meantime here are some common misconceptions people have about New York and New Yorkers.

1. New Yorkers are jerks.

New Yorkers have a reputation for being the biggest jerks in America. There are of course many jerks here- just as there are in any city with eight million people. But in my experience, feeling put out by locals simply reflects an inability to adjust to the pace of life in the city. New York- especially Manhattan- is fast. People talk fast, walk fast, and don’t have a lot of patience. Businesses in the city are designed to get people in and out as fast as possible. For the uninitiated, this brusqueness can be jarring and unpleasant. But when you are living here and have a lot to do, the efficiency with which New Yorkers operate becomes a blessing. In a real way, though, New Yorkers are as kind as anyone else, and especially tolerant. This is a city that accommodates people of all races, ages, creeds, dispositions, health abilities, and attitudes- and accommodates them well. You may not always get a “please” or “thank you” but New Yorkers compensate in other ways.

2. The climate in New York sucks.

I’ve discussed the climate in New York before in another post, but just to reiterate briefly here: the climate here, in consideration of climates everywhere in the world, is pretty decent. Having spent the majority of my life in cities blessed with excellent weather, I’m well aware that New York’s climate isn’t great. There are a lot of days where the extreme cold and heat get to you. But there are a lot of sunny days here, and things just aren’t that bad when the weather’s sunny.

3. You need to be rich to enjoy living in New York.

New York, all things considered, is one of the most expensive cities in the world, but there are a lot of things to do here without spending a lot of money. For one, New York is one of those cities where simply going for a long walk is entertaining given the vibrancy of the streets. There are also plenty of places with cheap food and drink, and the subway is inexpensive considering how extensive it is. Obviously, going to nice restaurants, drinking in expensive bars, and going to musicals and concerts all the time isn’t possible on a student budget. But with a little creativity and planning you can live pretty well on a miniscule budget. I at least manage to.

4. New York is dangerous.

There are dangerous neighborhoods in New York, sure, just like there are in any other major American city. But look at this Wikipedia page. New York’s crime rate ranks much, much lower than that of a lot of places. Is it as safe as Tokyo or Beijing? No. But for a Western city you could do a lot worse.

5. New York has the best pizza in the world.

I’m not a pizza connoisseur so feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I don’t think pizza in the city is really much better than it is anywhere else. Just because there’s more of it everywhere doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better, and compared to Italy pizza here (and in the United States as a whole) is bloated and lousy. The bagel shops and delis here, on the other hand, are extraordinary.

6. New York is a concrete jungle.

New York is a very big, dense city but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t lots of green spaces everywhere. I live within short walking distance of three major city parks- Riverside, Morningside, and Central. The latter is one of the world’s most beloved urban parks and deservedly so; some of my fondest memories from this past winter are of walking through the snowy park and feeling a world apart from the busy street life nearby. Perhaps this point of view is due to having lived in China, where city parks tend to be so heavily landscaped that they feel no less crowded and noisy than anywhere else.

7. Owning a car in New York isn’t necessary.

This is a myth that is absolutely true. I can see how in the outer boroughs owning a car might come in handy, but for Manhattan doing so would be sheer madness. There is nowhere on the island of Manhattan more than a 10 minute walk to a subway station. Cabs are plentiful. Zip cars are there for quick rentals. The only reason to have a car here would be to commute to work in New Jersey or Connecticut, and if that’s where you work why not live out there where it’s cheaper and closer?

 

 

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