I was told this recently by a drunk Asian girl who had just been arrested. I suggested that our culture is to get drunk, do something stupid and get arrested. I don't think she got the joke. But it's not the first time I've heard this, but I'm not buying it. I think if you travel within western countries I think you'll find that cultural differences are much more subtle. Come to the US from Egypt and things might seem a little different. But either way there is culture her in the US, but it's made up of bits and pieces of other cultures and then it evolves over time. I'm going to talk a bit about New York culture in this post and then another day talk about culture in America more generally.
If you come to New York and all you see is the Empire State Building, Times Square and a couple museums you wont find too much culture. The first thing to realize is that New York City is filled with immigrants and decedents of immigrants. We have all the typical things you'll find in other big cities like China Town or Little Italy, but head out to Brighten Beach and you'll find Russian Jews, there are a lot of communities like that. Just a 100 or so years ago the lower east side as filled with tenements, which were filled with poor immigrants from all over the world (what Country might depend on the year). Today you'll still find remnants of the Jews that lived there, only you'll find that their Synagogues are emptier. You'll also find quite a few new bars and clubs in the area. It's a place that Jacob Riis described in How the Other Half Lives and today see this area "gentrified," it's a testament to the perseverance of American's to improve their lot in life. The American dream is to give your children more then you had, and it's a driving force in the way people live their lives.
There is a hustle and bustle to NYC that you wont find in a lot of other cities, people live and work here every day. People are very task oriented. At 8am at 34th Street and 7th Avenue people are figuring out how to get across the street the fastest without getting run over. We cross the street when there is a break in the traffic, we don't wait for the little walking man - who has time for that? But at the same time if you were to stop a NYer and ask for help, they would probably help you. Our Police play a role too. You wont find as many con-games or expert pick pockets as you do in other large cites, we have it here, but it's actively pursued by the Police which isn't always the case in other places. The Police attempt to run everything extremely orderly, sometimes to the hindrance of the people who are trying to enjoy the event. But have you ever heard of people getting trampled at New Years Eve in Times Square? There is a certain orderly chaos to this sometimes rough city, but often you'll find that their is a softer side to it too. We'll help, you just have to know how to ask.
- I'm a 30 something who loves to travel. I have a full time job and enjoy writing (or blogging) about my travels. I've traveled through several countries in Europe as well as Russia and Egypt. I also enjoy domestic travel in the United States, including Disney. My long term travel goal is to do a round the world trip.