Wednesday, June 22, 2011

First Impressions of a Whole New Culture

We have arrived in New York! So maybe it wasn’t the best idea to do all my packing the night before in lieu of sleeping but so far it has worked out as well as I could hope for.

New York has a completely different vibe than anywhere in California. The first difference I noticed was hinted at by our shuttle driver’s driving and confirmed by our chaperone Mrs. L. In New York pedestrians do not have the right of way. It was quite exciting to see our driver shoot straight toward startled pedestrians and to watch them scamper out of the path of the van. As a somewhat assertive pedestrian myself, I will have to make sure to adjust accordingly.

Another difference I noticed was that the people in New York, or at least those whom I have interacted with to this point, are super nice. I’m not saying people aren’t kind or polite in the Bay Area, but so far people here seem to go out of their way to be helpful and courteous.

Take the hotel bellhop at the Empire Hotel. Not only was he much gentler with our luggage than the shuttle driver in the Bay Area, he went out of his way to kindly provide with answers to my plethora of questions. He provided directions to the stairs, the location and hours of the gym, and even joked and posed for a picture with me, all with a gleeful, genuine smile.
Then there was the waiter in the restaurant. Now, I have ordered plenty of drinks at restaurants, but this waiter still posed a question to me that I had never before encountered. After not minding that I ordered my soda well after he had taken everyone else’s drink order, he brought my drink to me. Then, just a few sips into a perfectly good glass, he asked me if my drink was flat. Now, possibly there was a problem with sodas in the kitchen and he was just following directions, but I’d like to believe he had a desire to make certain that I was drinking the best possible soda. Having only been in New York for a few hours, I will have to wait before passing final judgment on the etiquette and behavior of its citizens.

After dinner, in the flamboyant hotel lobby, which attracts considerably more male than female patrons and is full of cheetah and jaguar chairs and cushions, our entire cohort had a meeting to discuss tomorrow’s agenda. The gathering was methodical and efficient and Mrs. L systematically determined what time we have to meet in the lobby tomorrow in order to safely catch our train.

We haven’t started our class and we haven’t taken any tours, but already the Ivy League Connection has been providing me the thrill and exhilaration I was hoping it would.


  1. Better to learn the Pedestrians' Rules of the Road from the INSIDE of a van rather than from outside on the pavement. It is refreshing to read a visitor's assessment of New Yorkers as kind and polite. It will be interesting to see your assessment at the end of the trip. Animal skin themed lobby an appropriate setting for first meeting in the Jungle of New York City. Will report to Grpa & Grma.

  2. Masao,

    Sirius is 100% right. We certainly don't want you to be the lead story on the 6:00 o'clock news: "Stupid Californian bloodies and dents the fender of polite New Yorker."

    Most of us--me included--know nothing more about New York City and New Yorkers than what we've seen on TV and in the movies and it's not particularly flattering. The people you've described here are NOT the same people I've seen on TV.

    Like Sirius, I'd like to get a report from you at the end of your sojourn to see if your observations stay the course.

  3. A young man I know once wondered if there are any studies showing that people who grow up in Berkeley or go to school there and then move to other parts of the country die or are injured in traffic accidents at significantly higher rates than the average traffic victim. Berkeley pedestrians appear to have no idea that their bodies are softer than motor vehicle fenders. New Yorkers seem to have a better understanding of physics, if not of traffic laws.
    I was not able to access the photo of you and the cheerful bellhop until now. It is wonderful.