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Hugh Bassett

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An Englishman in New York

Posted: 15/05/2013 02:15

There are 120,000 British people living in New York. On Monday, I joined them (briefly). Why did they leave the potato-gobbling rain-gutter we call home? What differences are there between living there and here? And can you make a handy list of slightly amusing observations about the whole affair?
The answer is yes.

It looks exactly how you think it will. And that's mental.

Before I arrived, people kept telling me that there's this feeling you get where you're sure you've seen everything before on film at some point, because in all likelihood you have. And they weren't wrong. It's all just as big and tall, the taxis just as yellow and the bagels just as bagel-ly as in the movies.

This makes sightseeing quite difficult. You spend a lot of the time trying not to just scream at people 'What are you doing?! This isn't a place to sit with your family, this is where John Cusack and Kate Beckingsale get together in that film Serendipity that everyone says they hate but secretly love! You're living in TV!!!'

There's so much stuff.

Now, I'm not going to mention the obvious, of course the portion sizes are huge (ridiculously so, I tried to buy a salad today and it was the size of my head. That's not just a cute expression, I literally put my head next to it and measured it. Everyone in the office thought I was mental. Oh I did end up talking about portion sizes. Oops), there's literally just so much of everything.

In the office I work in the kitchen not only has seemingly bottomless vats of several kinds of coffee and every other beverage imaginable, but next to all the little packets of sugar and sweeteners, is a box full of individually wrapped painkillers. And by box I mean something the size of an average microwave. I never knew you could dole out unlimited pharmaceuticals to employees, but hey, when in Rome (I had about five today. I'm not sure I can ever feel pain again)

They say what they mean.

At the airport on the way here the bags took a while getting to the conveyor belt. A gruff voice came on the announcer and said 'It's raining. This is stopping the people who get your bags doing what they need to do to get your bags quickly. Sorry.' In about ten seconds, he summed up the problem and everyone knew where they stood.

In England, that announcement would have been 'Excuse me, patrons of the international air transporter system, we deeply regret our intention to proclaim that due to the inclement nature of the local, temporally limited, climate being in a gravitationally aqueous phase, your personal moveable property repositories will undergo an increased chronological postponement...' before just descending into waffly noises like Stephen Fry eating a teabag while reading a dictionary.

Things get done here.

The people are either really nice, really not, or really mental.

There's a widely held stereotype of New Yorkers being super-driven hard-asses who would sell their own (probably overbearingly Jewish or buxom Italian) mother just to screw you over and get to the top. Well, sure some of them are like that, but those types aren't exclusive to this bizarre vertical island.

On a whole, the customer service is in fact amazing. In England, people usually try and mumble through any sales encounter trying to cause the minimum amount of fuss so they can both go home and eat biscuits, but here they are so helpful and genuine it almost seems like a disorder. I actually had an enjoyable experience in a phone shop. AN ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE IN A PHONE SHOP.

The other day, someone in a coffee shop complimented me on my choice of outfit and I didn't check my pockets to see if the gang of street urchins they control had robbed me of my effects.

Unfortunately, the ones who aren't helping you are usually talking to themselves. Or the walls. Or their own reflection on a shiny wall. There seem to be more crazies per square foot here than anywhere else on earth, and I'm not particularly sure why. Maybe it's the fact that everyone drinks two swimming pools worth of coffee before breakfast and they've all just gone over the edge into caffeine induced insanity.

Or maybe they've gone bonkers from the whole 'Serendipity' style scenario that I described above. Perhaps you never get to grips with how everything looks a bit like Friends. Check up on me in a couple of months and see if I'm still as coherent as this.

 
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