Things to Do When Feeling Disconnected with New York: Show the City Some Love

Me playing tourist at the Brooklyn Bridge
Me playing tourist at the Brooklyn Bridge

Three and a half years in a fast-paced city like New York can take its toll on you. And on your perception and appreciation of this oversized town called the Big Apple. When I came back from my trip, it took me a couple of weeks to adjust. To the ruthlessness of the people, the weirdness going on in the streets, and the eeriness of noise and chaos altogether. Well, you know, eventually you adjust to everything and friendly persons sometimes make that process easier than without.

Aside from some loyal people and lots of booze, what else is good to snap you out of the unappreciative state of mind? Find the complete list below.

1) Do typical tourist things

Sounds obvious? Well, most people who have lived here for more than a year somehow end up not doing the things tourists are attracted to in the first place. When was the last time you walked the Brooklyn Bridge? Or took the ferry to Staten Island and saw the Statue of Liberty up close? Not to mention checking out Magnolia Bakery and its tasty banana pudding! I know – all of these things are also the same items that repulse most locals and natives from ever setting foot into an overcrowded area. Just the idea of being part of the face- and characterless masses… Scary!


But seriously, there is a reason as to why Dumbo is flooded by camera-snapping Asians. Not to mention all those Europeans running into Central Park. The best part about this city is that you have some fantastic movie-set-scenes as soon as you step out of your door. Why not take advantage of them?
You can’t believe how re-connected I felt with this city after taking a first bite of a cupcake in what seemed like… ages, if not months at the very least. There is NO BETTER way to appreciate New York than through cupcakes and bagels (and perhaps that cronut, if I can ever lay my hands on it one day…).

2) Do untypical tourist things

Hike to Brooklyn and check out Greenwood Cemetery. Or take a stroll over the Pulaski Bridge, which connects Brooklyn to Queens. Find out where the trainyard cemetery in Queens is and go on a discovery adventure. Or take a free tour featured on Two weeks ago I got to see the interior of a factory that made Kombucha Tea, how cool is that? It’s all about coming up with things tourists would possibly put last on their list, if even at all.

Greenwood Cemetery on a sunny fall day
Greenwood Cemetery on a sunny fall day

And nothing beats a stroll through the neighborhood, especially if it’s in Brooklyn or Queens – far away from Manhattan, which has sold its soul to the masses. I usually make a point in catching up with some neighborhoods I am not close to at least once a year, if not more often. Recently I checked out Bay Ridge again and was reminded how peacefully people spend their lives in this secluded part of Brooklyn.

3) Do local things

Go for brunch, even better if it features unlimited mimosas and Bloody’s. Get a manicure and pedicure done at one of those cheap salons all over the city. Enjoy the free days at museums and other cultural institutions. And here is a good one: Be an extra in a movie (even if unpaid). This site takes $36 out of your pocket to sign up, but if you get a deal with the Michael J. Fox Show or True Blood, you can earn up to $200 a day by just standing around or jogging down a path. I kid you not. Of course you have to be selected from the highly competitive crowd. It might be worth the try.

Sushi around Union Square
Sushi around Union Square

My point is: Just go out there and explore this city. Watch the people around you (and put that phone aside!). Participate in a bootcamp class. Or explore some culinary tastes only you as a local will know of and appreciate.

And maybe one day, at Columbus Circle, on the B-Line to Brooklyn you will get that feeling again. Amidst the Mexican street performer strumming tunes on his guitar or the two students who took the wrong train and are jumping off, very last minute. The guitar being the perfect background music for the scene unfolding in front of you (I’m telling you, NY by itself is a movie.) There you might have it again, that once-upon-a-time feeling you had almost every day in your first year here:

1 Pulaski Bridge at night.jpg

New York is special. New York is unique. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

Mexico: On Culture and Latin Warmth

latin warmth in mexico

When I got back from Mexico, I was feeling blue for the first 2 weeks. It wasn’t the lack of sun, because New York has a wonderful summer. It wasn’t adjusting back to the horrendous prices in America, because I can get used to that fairly quickly. No, it was an awareness of social differences and feeling lost when approaching American people and dealing with social situations. Latin warmth is something found in Spanish-speaking cultures. It’s what I’ve been missing ever since I came back to New York .

When in Mexico, the most impressive thing I discovered (aside from the food) was the great way I was welcomed by my friends and their families. To take in an almost complete stranger for the duration of 2 weeks takes a lot of hospitality. And tolerance. While I had met my friends for one night in Heidelberg four years ago (those good old student days), I hadn’t seen them ever since and only stayed in touch via social networking sites. How great was my surprise when being offered a home for 14 days, after such a long period had passed.

I was impressed by how nonchalant my friends took time out of their busy schedules and showed me around almost every day. While one was working, the other one was a student pursuing her degree, and both had busy schedules to keep. But did this come through even once during my stay abroad? Not in the least!
From day one, I felt invited, welcomed, and like part of their families. The endless invitations did not only come from them. Their friends suggested several good events (such as Las Luchas), in which they happily participated in. Parties thrown at their houses, spontaneous elote- and quesadilla-sessions, driving on top of a mountain to get a breathtaking view from the city – it was all too good to be true. And yet, it is a crucial component of the Latin culture, or rather, the Mexican culture – to be as warm and welcoming to guests as you can (even when they are practically strangers).

After leaving the rude and sometimes mean individuals of New York, Guadalajara showed me a different type of people. I’d somehow forgotten how to say “please” and “thank you”. But in the Mexican culture it is very important to keep repeating those two phrases until the conversational partner is satisfied. After one week I had gotten used to the “por favor” and “gracias” expression. To such an extent that my friend jokingly told me: “But don’t say it TOO often, otherwise the people will think you’re a Chino (Chinese)!”

Latin warmth – dealing with personas who are friendly, open, and welcoming most of the time – displays how happy Mexican people are. In fact, this article illustrates the disparity between Mexico being one of the poorer nations but also one of the most satisfied (judging by its people). It confirms what I saw throughout the streets: Happy, smiling persons, chatting with each other and not being too bothered by life’s circumstances (the inequality, the long working hours, the great gap between rich and poor). 80 percent of the country’s population practically earns nothing and yet they are not bitter, sour, or mad. They are quite the opposite. How can this be? You see rich European countries who are less satisfied than this industrial land. Mentality and culture play a role in these two circumstances.

Giving so much when you have so little – a mentality I wish I’d see more in Westernized nations.
This is why my heard was broken for a long time after returning from my trip. Because I left a warm country like this and committed to the coldness of New York.