So after planning our move to New York City for the last 2 month, we finally did it. Moving to a city neither of us had ever been to was indescribable. We knew one person in this massive concrete jungle, neither of us had jobs, we didn’t know where to buy groceries or the best places to eat out. We had temporary accommodation, but beyond that we didn’t know where we’d end up. Our whole life had been tipped on its axis and there was no longer any certainty in my life.
Luckily it took less than 24 hours to fall in love with New York City. We’d often been fed the impression that Americans were rude, obnoxious and never went out of their way to help others. It didn’t take long before I took to my social media page to make sure everyone knew this was far from the truth. Two months later and Jesse and I are still amazed and how generous, polite and lovely all the Americans we’ve met have been (with the exception of one at the airport who was frustrated at my lack of knowledge about the security procedure). While Americans do have very strong opinions, everyone has gone out of their way to make us feel welcome, point us in the right direction or generally just give us helpful tips and advice. I then get surprised when other Americans tell me New Yorkers are generally loud, rude and obnoxious and in order to meet the hospitable, lovely Americans we should head down South. While I do plan to head down South at some point, I find it hard to believe they could be nicer than the New Yorkers we’ve met so far!
We arrived just in time for Thanksgiving. This is one holiday we don’t celebrate in New Zealand so we were quite excited to get amongst the hype. We woke bright and early (sometimes jetlag can be a blessing) and headed down to the Macy’s parade route. We arrived about 7am and the streets were already packed! People had laid down blankets and bought out picnic chairs so the crowds covered the pavement! Shortly after we arrived, the NYPD came past telling everyone to stand up and move forward – as luck would have it we ended up at the front, watching the most amazing holiday parade I’ve ever seen! We followed the parade with our first visit to the madness that is Times Square which was everything I’d ever imagined, and more! I’ve come to realize that nothing beats Times Square at night, but that first look at one of the places I’d most been looking forward to seeing was quite amazing. We even finished off the day by having a semi-traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the people we were living with at the time!
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
In the month that followed, we made the most of not having a job by experiencing all the city had to offer. We purchased a 3 day New York Pass and made sure we checked out all the attractions we possibly could. The Top of Rock to see if we could see how far the city stretched… we couldn’t! The Statue of Liberty – even more grand in real life than in the movies! Ellis Island – a hidden gem right there! The Empire State Building – experienced at 10pm in the freezing cold, watching the twinkling lights of the city, the bright glow of Times Square and the endless buildings. We also checked out other attractions – Madame Tussades, Radio City Hall (including a trip to the Christmas Spectacular, which really was Spectacular – New Zealand has nothing of the sort!), NBC studios, Dialog in the Dark (experiencing New York when you can’t see is quite amazing, and a little scary!), The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, The New York City Museum, Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, National History Museum, New York Transit Museum, Brooklyn Bridge, 9/11 Memorial Site, Wall Street, Battery Park and Central Park.
We managed to check out a performance at the amazing Lincoln Center, attended a Nets game with all its spectacular (dancing senior citizens, real cheerleaders, dancing mascots, elementary drumming groups… quite amazing!) watched Daniel Radcliffe own the stage in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, watched Alan Rickman give an amazing performance in Seminar and experienced the magic of Mary Poppins … not to mention all the shows I currently have on my list – Sleep No More, War Horse, Book of Mormon, Jersey Boys, Wicked, Rent and Lion King to name a few!
Now, we’re settling into life in America. Jesse is juggling three great jobs, and I’m thoroughly enjoying mine. We’re slowly becoming as local as we’re letting ourselves become (our thick kiwi accents continue to give us away!) We know how to navigate around the subway system without making too many mistakes, we know how to avoid making the locals annoyed at our incompetence, we know where to shop and where to eat. There is still a lot to learn, and see, try and do. We’ve been told me must try eggnog, and there’s so much of this city left to explore. I want to visit Bronx Zoo, and check out Wave Hill and Coney Island.
We still have itchy feet; we want to go to Florida, and DC and Boston. We want to check out other states in America – I want to see Nashville, Chicago, Texas and Alabama. I want to see the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. I can’t wait to experience Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. I’m hanging out to lie on the beach in Hawaii! There’s so much I want to see and do, of course there isn’t enough time or money to do it just yet.
America is everything I expected, and nothing I expected. It’s crazy and busy, mad and overwhelming. It’s everything I could have hoped it would be…. And more! It has its downsides, of course. There are things in New Zealand I prefer over America (cheese included!) and there are some parts of the American lifestyle I thought would be more….free! Food and living isn’t as cheap as I was led to believe (cell phones and cell phone plans are the worst deal for money I’ve come across – super expensive! Especially compared to the UK and Australia!), the country is not the free country I was truly expecting and it isn’t as advanced as I thought (America still uses checks!! What is with that! In New Zealand everything is electronic – talk about convenience!) But I love it. I still am not sure if it’s hit me that I’m here, but I love it. It’s only been two months. I have 11 more before my visa expires and I will leave somewhat reluctantly. I plan on fitting as much into these next 11 months as possible. Make the most of all this country and the good people living in this country have to offer. I want to experience it all – including a Halloween Party (we don’t really do Halloween like Americans do) and I would love to experience a Southern Thanksgiving! Where the road will take me, I have no idea. But if I’ve learnt anything in the last six months, it’s that you should take every opportunity that comes your way, and just leap. Close your eyes and leap. It may well be the best decision you’ve ever made!