Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Things I've Learned Since Living In New York

It's always great to be able to do a bit of reflection every now and again. And today, as I sat on the 2 train heading uptown to my home in the Bronx, I reflected on a few random nuggets of knowledge (some street smarts and others just random things) that I've learned since moving here. Technically speaking, I've been in the area since 2002 although I was commuting in from NJ (yes I bridge & tunnel). But officially I moved into NYC in 2007. So, now that I'm entering my 4th year of NYC living, without further adieu, here are a few things that I've learned thanks to living in NYC:

1. New Yorkers aren't rude: 

It's a common misconception the rest of the world is taught, that New Yorkers are inherently rude. No, we're (and yes, after almost 10 years in and around the city and 4 years of living here, I feel I can consider myself a New Yorker) not rude, we're just very direct. In a city that has a lot going on and very tough competition for every industry imaginable, attention spans, free time and availability are at a premium. Whether you're vying for a job interview or even a date, you need to get to the point and ASAP. Hemming, hawing and stumbling all over yourself will only get you ignored here!

2. Saying you're from New York = instant street credit worldwide

Seriously...the minute you say you're from New York (unless you clarify to say that you're from "Upstate" and not the 5 boroughs) people automatically consider you cooler by default. Whether you're talking to someone from the 50 states or someone in another country, New York = awesomeness.

**There is a caveat to this: Saying you're from NY can also backfire in the States. Being that I'm originally from Indiana, I do know that many other people in the rest of the country think that New Yorkers think that they're better than everyone else in the country. New Yorkers do have a tendency to act as if the part of the country between NYC and LA is barren with nothing in between. Hence, a lot of people in other states tend to find New Yorkers pretentious...use caution when repping NYC in the'll usually get a mixed bag of responses.

3. When getting hit on by dudes, it's almost a 95% failsafe that saying you're from the Bronx will make them leave you alone. 

This one needs a bit of explaining but generally is true and works whether I'm talking to someone from the 5 boroughs (except the Bx) or someone from another place:

First of all, for better or worse, the Bronx has a reputation for being a little "rough around the edges" from the 70s - 90s period where the Bronx had a lot of negative things going on (drugs, buildings being burned for insurance money & a general decline in NYC). So, even though today much of the Bronx is safe, there are still some very rough parts (Soundview, Edenwald, etc) and unfortunately the rough parts are what people remember.

Second, by default since the Bronx is considered rough, people who live there are often typecast as being equally rough. So, when you say "I'm from the Bronx" some guys might think a Bronx girl = crazy biotch. And the next thought might be: "If I break up with this chick she might pull a 'Waiting to Exhale' AND bring her crazy relatives to come get me too!" (Seriously, I've heard it happen so even though it's a crazy assumption - it isn't entirely unbelievable.)

Third, even for a New Yorker, the Bronx can be intimidating and/or unappealing if you're not from there. It's very common for people to only stick to their borough + Manhattan. So, if you're talking to someone from Brooklyn and you tell them you're from the Bronx, more than likely they'll think you live too far away - and they wouldn't be wrong. With the exception of my annual pilgrimage to Coney Island (the very end of Brooklyn on the very last stop on the D train) I don't venture into Brooklyn very often because it usually means a nearly 2 hour ride from my house (the NE Bronx practically kissing Westchester county near the end of the 2 train). I might like you, but I doubt I'll want to ride almost 2 hours in each direction to see you.

Saying you're from the Bronx works best when you find out where they're from first and when dealing with corn balls - especially in other countries. It's the perfect line every time I go to Tokyo and random guys (both Japanese and from the nearby US military base) try to hit on me at the clubs. For maximum effect, you need to say it with a straight/slightly bitchy face. If you say it but you're still smiling and giggling like a teenager then you're wasting your time.

Note: Saying you're from the Bronx to someone who's also from the Bronx has no effect unless you mention a particularly rough neighborhood and they happen to not be cool in that neighborhood. So, in this situation, you're assed out. Suck it up and find a way to evade him.

4. People rep their borough so don't disrespect their borough unless you really do want a fight. 

Seriously, I've never lived somewhere where the borough someone lived in meant as much to them as a member of their family. With the exception of Staten Island (sorry but everyone I know who lives in SI says it slightly apologetically?!) everyone takes pride in their borough. And I must say, now that I live in NYC - and the Bronx in particular - I have to agree. I like my area, I love the fact that it has diversity and true character & personality. Never tell someone that their general hood is a hot mess unless you want to get into an argument - with Brooklyn people being the most likely to get bent out of shape. Nothing starts fights quicker than telling someone from Brooklyn that their borough sucks. o_0

5. If you can live & work in NYC, then you truly can make it the world. 

It's a much overused cliche but it's so true. Coming from the Midwest and then forcing myself to get up to speed in New York was definitely a huge hurdle to overcome. NYC will definitely show you what you're made of, you'll learn to think on your feet or fail miserably. It's expensive as heck to live here, the competition for everything (jobs, living spaces, and relationships) is FIERCE, and you always have to come with your "A Game". So, if you can do it and still keep your sanity and manage to come out somewhat successful, then you deserve to gloat in that success.

Cue Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" and then transition into Jay Z's "Empire State of Mind". ^_^

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