Saturday, December 12, 2009

New York, New Yorkers, and No Work

There's a lot that can be said about New York City.

Of course, it would be impossible to talk about this city without first mentioning the people. I love New York as a city, but I think that I love New Yorkers more. When one thinks of a 'typical New Yorker', most times you'll think of very busy, rushed pedestrians, trying very hard not to be delayed from getting where they're going. I was prepared to be exposed to a people that are rude, arrogant, and opinionated. That's the impression I had got from television, and some friends and family.

But I was wrong.

New Yorkers aren't rude, they're focused. There is so much going on in this city with all the lights, signs, homeless people, pan handlers, people handing out fliers for the latest musical/play/charity event, that in order to survive in this city you really need to just put your blinkers on and focus on getting from A to B. Otherwise you risk suffering information overload in a city full of stimuli (and tourists).

The thing that has actually really impressed me about New Yorkers though, is that they are genuinely very helpful, even to tourists. If you ask for help, or if they see you struggling, they will go out of their way to make sure you know where you're going, and what you need to do to get there. New Yorkers are, in fact, the friendliest and most helpful people I have met on this trip so far. Without their help, I would have been seriously lost and confused for much longer than I have been.

It may also have something to do with my accent. I have certainly noticed that having a New Zealand accent has done me many favours in terms of making friends, getting assistance, or even a girl's phone number. I don't know quite what it is about it exactly, as New York is so full of tourists and immigrants that it can't be the exoticness of it. But I don't ask questions of something that works so well in my benefit (Your Honour), and so I just enjoy the extra attention. I have been told however that I sound more British than Kiwi, and tell me that I certainly don't have a typical NZ accent. Since I haven't met too many kiwis in NY (other than the ones I already knew) I can only assume that they mean that I don't sound like the Flight of the Conchords. Thank you, Bret and Jemaine.

I am making friends too. I'm not meeting as many people as I would have liked, which I believe is largely due to my only just moving to the city, and also with not having been able to find a job. I think that there have been opportunities for work here - I could have possibly worked in a bar, or handing out fliers, or some such. But my goal for NY was to get a job that would complement my job back home, or would utilise my skills or whatever I have to make a difference. I know that sounds wanky, but I realised a while ago that I really am a public sector employee, and that I most likely wouldn't be happy working in the private sector.

And so I made a conscious decision not to work in the service industry, as although I would possibly have made a fair bit of money (esp given that people tip rather generously during Christmas etc), I wanted a job on principal, not just to make money. This has ended up nearly killing me financially, since I'm still having to spend NZD in a country where the dollar keeps changing its mind every day. Couple this with the fact that my job back home has been rather temperamental in paying me, means that my visa card is getting a bit of a hammering! At least I get air points...

Despite all my love for this city, I am starting to see how it could destroy me. Completely and utterly chew me up and spit me out. This is certainly a city which can make you feel isolated and anonymous, unless you can find a way to balance that out somehow with active social networks or some kind of creative outlet. Which is something I haven't really developed here yet, though to be honest I think most of the blame for that lies with me, since I haven't made the effort to make many social connections here outside of a few key friends in the city. Still no luck with the improv either. Shame, but the groups I have seen here are all rather average. I'm hoping to check out at least one other group before I go (Asskat and PIT), but we'll see how that works out.

There is a lot that can be said about New York City. I love it here, but life here requires constant care and vigilance. We shall see how this goes.

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