I have lived in London for eight years now and I love the city as it has so much to offer. But, I just felt that New Yorkers were ‘perkier’ somehow. Manhattan felt upbeat and hopeful whereas recently I have been feeling that London has become more cynical and ground down. For example, I actually witnessed people in public places leaving their belongings as they went to collect drinks – this would never happen in London or if it did, your bag would not be there when you returned.
I am back after an American adventure. As I was flying over Iceland a fortnight ago I had no idea that the volcano was stirring and that I was on one of the last flights to leave the UK. So I merrily watched the in-flight films and tried to digest the, frankly frightening, plane food.
I arrived in Denver for a conference and had a fabulous time visiting the Tattered Cover bookstore which is reason alone to go to Denver. Floors of books and delightfully the secondhand books are mixed in with new books. Comfy armchairs and sofas are provided for people to spend time relaxing in. I wanted to go to Molly Brown’s house but, I did have to get on with some work whilst I was there! Denver is a huge city but only has a population of half a million so it feels strangely empty. Coming from a crowded little island I felt overwhelmed by all the space.
I then flew to New York where I was supposed to meet my mum for a holiday. Her flight was cancelled and she couldn’t make it out in time so I ended up spending a week in NYC on my own. If you spend anywhere alone it should be New York. I had never been before and it was fantastic. I spent so much time wandering the streets, going to museums and galleries and generally soaking in the city. I also spent a lot of time comparing Manhattan to central London.
This could be a one off of course but I did feel safer from petty crime – and the major difference was just walking down the street. Fifth Avenue is as busy as Regent Street but walking down the latter renders you bashed and bruised. Not once did someone barge me out of the way, or refuse to move for an entire week! I was flabbergasted. And I think it boils down to this, manners.
I don’t think us Brits have the same level of good manners. Our customer service is practically non-existent and if you dare ask a sales person for help in a shop then you almost get openly accused of being unreasonably demanding. If there is a way for us to have no human contact in a store then we will try it, just look at the rise in self-service checkouts.
I was alone in a big city and the number of people who offered help, advice and just conversation was staggering. I have never been anywhere so friendly. In London people are wary of starting a conversation with strangers and I cannot think that so many Londoners would have offered me their spare room if I had been stranded here. I don’t think I would. But I had complete strangers offering me a place to stay if I found myself in need of it. I was even offered a place to stay in Tennessee – and I admit, I quite fancied the idea of running away and becoming a country and western singer in a honky tonk bar!
So, my holiday taught me something about human nature and also about myself. How charitable am I? How many people do I barge out of the way when I am pounding the streets of London?
The only criticism I have of New York is the number of toy dogs. I have to declare that I am a cat person so am destined to think this way but I saw a ridiculous number of teeny tiny dogs and some of them were in outfits! I actually saw a dog with sunglasses on – sheer madness.
I have promised my mum that we will go there together as soon as possible. Volcano permitting of course.