I feel that I have sometimes not been too fair to the red-cheeked apple of New York. If you’ve gotten the impression that I talk badly about her on an occasion or two, it is merely because I like to approach issues from a critical standpoint. A view like this is essential in gaining a healthy outlook on the City and it nourishes the all-so-typical hate’n’love relationship to it. So publishing this post was really just a matter of time, as there are too many good things New York has given me and many other people. Most points will be touched upon in the following weeks and elaborated to a greater degree. For now, time is overdue for a post on the great and truly entertaining advantages of living in New York City.
I had great nights out in Germany. For Europeans, being pushed into the entire game of drinking, flirting, and dancing starts earlier than here. Legal age over there is 18. Which kind of made me want to puke when I saw 18-year-old teenagers in a bar while I was 22 already. New York is like most of the rest of the US: No chance to get in or buy drinks when you are not 21 years old (or haven’t found a sufficient fake ID yet). I have to say that it makes things a bit different – in a better way because you are not surrounded by drunk teenagers or are hit on by 20-year-old youngsters.
I love going out with my friends at home but here the entire night scene is yanked up a few notches – to the better! I rarely went out by myself in Germany, here I do it all the time. And I have fun by walking into a spot alone, believe it or not. It doesn’t take much here to be involved in a conversation with another person. You are as independent as you want to be when it comes to deciding where you want to go, what you want to do, and how long you want to stay. No limits, and certainly no whiny friends who want to move on – just you and your own demons. All of this while being able to choose from a great bunch of THE best night clubs in the entire world, which have only been waiting for you to enter – or so it seems! And if you become bored in one area – well you have a quazillion other places to choose from.
I already hinted how cold German summers can be. Which is basically the main reason I LOVE New York summers and I want to embrace them as long as possible! They are far away from rainy, chilly days spent inside. Up to this point, I’ve only witnessed one and a half summers but it made me want to stay here just to experience another summer after these awfully cold winters. New York offers an incredible choice of things to do outside once the higher temperatures kick in: free outdoor concerts in Central Park, Prospect Park, Pier 6, and elsewhere; cheap boat tours on the Hudson or East River; affordable commutes to its beaches and even Long Island, if that is what your aiming for; music festivals at remote areas which will rock your world, and so on. Matter of fact, there is so much going on, I have started to compile a list of things to squeeze into my week and weekend calendar – already noticing that it is almost impossible to check off some of the plans I’ve initially had.
A summer starts early, around late April/ beginning of May, and ends in late September or mid-October. That’s well over 5 months of fun, I say!
3) Free Events
Free concerts in the parks during the summer are my favorites, as mentioned above. On top of this, don’t miss out on Shakespeare plays in Central Park, during which you can witness high-class actors and actresses perform for absolutely free. The Brooklyn Museum offers entrance at no charge every first Saturday of the month- its so-called “Target First Saturdays.” Aside from seeing crucial parts of their institution, it hosts guest speakers, bands, and even a party DJ who play music to entertain the crowds. Bryant Park and Dumbo have movie nights during which films are played on a wide screen for anyone interested. Art galleries in Soho and Chelsea sometimes give you the chance to take a look at their exhibitions when they are about to wrap up. You just have to keep on digging until you find those hidden treasures, but they are entertaining and well worth a visit!
And, contrary to my roommates’ believe, free things are not called this way because they are of bad quality – a common misbelief of persons who have been blinded by the hideous NYC glamour side. Yuck! My favorite word is: RSVP! This is an E-Mail list you get on and it will slip you through to the finest bars, clubs or other events – sometimes even including a free drink, depending on the event. That’s how I made it to a couple of rooftop bars throughout the season.
4) Cultural Experiences
No other city in the US offers as much culture as this town does. Broadway shows, comedy stand-ups, poetry readings, museums, galleries, concerts, music festivals– the list goes on! Sure, some things are more expensive than anywhere else. But this city continues to attract high-class actors and singers who give their very best even though they are completely underpaid in the job they are trying to accomplish. The options by itself present a nice setting which will never leave me bored at the end of the day. Important landmarks of American history are scattered throughout the area, too. Just take a look at the Statue of Liberty, the first settlement around Battery Park, Harlem and its African-American story, and other classics. New Yorkers who are educated know a great deal about their city and are eager to tell you more in some of their city tours.
5) All the Cultures in this City
Let’s face it: This city is not the salad bowl version but an ethnic mishmash of every possible culture out there. It combines an innumerable amount of different ethnicities and it does this in a rather unconflicting way. We do not have the gang troubles of Philly or LA, we don’t have the high crime record Chicago shows. Whites move into Black neighborhoods, and vice versa. Italian communities go over into Chinese immigration areas, Spanish-speaking parts switch to Indian and Bangladesh habitants. All this in a rather peaceful way, I have to say. Sure, you have people causing trouble, crying gentrification out loud, or pointing out other problems. You still have a criminal statistic, because, after all, the staggering number of 8 million citizens are not completely controllable. But do those things really have to do with cultural differences or are they just generalized hatred? Who knows!
(continued in Part II)