Working with other Brits while living in New York provides plenty of opportunities to discuss differences between life in NYC and London. The obvious and slightly banal ones come up a lot, especially after a few drinks. We all know the shtick about being ‘separated by a common language’, and many vocabulary differences are well known. Slightly more interesting are conventions on pluralising nouns: ‘Math’ versus ‘maths’; ‘sports’ versus ‘sport’. I only said ‘slightly’ more interesting.
America is much more accomplished than the UK at inventing technical terms that are completely unnecessary. When my debit card was lost in the post, the bank offered me an ’emergency encashment’. On the same day, when I called the bank and they needed to check my identity, I can’t remember the exact wording but I’m fairly sure it was something like “in order to continue to protect the full securitisation of the banking telephonic environment experience, you will be required to undertake a round of check screening at this time.”
A couple of astute colleagues have spotted two more poetic differences between New York and London; both relate to NYC’s tendency to assert itself upon you. Although London is a large and vibrant city, once you move away from Westminster and the City of London, you could really be anywhere. In New York, however, you only need to go up a small hill or a few flights of stairs for Manhattan’s biggest asset – the skyline – to thrust itself over the horizon and tell you, as loudly and clearly as its inhabitants would, exactly which iconic city this is.
Whether I’m walking to work or jogging in the park, very exciting buildings and vistas often pop into view.
The other difference between here and there is the huge effect on life that is wrought by the seasons. Living in London, the idea of a winter wardrobe seemed faintly ridiculous, but here, fall already feels just around the corner as the mornings get crisper along with the leaves. I’m told that the bitter winds and frosts will take some getting used to but I’m rather excited by the prospect.
A few weeks ago we visited The High Line, a former railway line reclaimed as a public garden, completely free to access, that snakes down from Midtown to Chelsea. We were given a free guided tour by resident horticulturalist Nathan, who described the garden as a four-season attraction. They make efforts to plant in a way that will provide variety and interest as the seasons change. It makes me very excited about the year ahead to think I will learn to live in this city many times over as the environment and landscape vary.
I could go on about the absence of furnished apartments and squash, the prodigal overuse of carrier bags, the unfamiliar fashion for double shower curtains, etc. but perhaps that’s better discussed over a few lagers… or beers.