Thoughts on living in New York

Obviously this is just my opinion based on observation after spending 9 months in New York and others might completely disagree. I’m simply just answering the questions that a lot of people are asking me on my opinion on (working in) New York, Americans and America in general.

I think in the end everything turns normal and even an absolutely crazy city like New York feels normal and I feel at home in the city. Dance performances in the subway, people rude and screaming at you, people being so nice it surprises you, saying the word ‘like’ 15 times in a sentence and a tiny glass of wine for 13 dollars, it’s everyday life now.

After almost a year here I can say there are still a lot of aspects I don’t understand of this country because the contrasts are so big. The only thing on television and newspaper is politics yet nobody talks about it. I have seen a lot of jobs divided by race and there is still a lot of discrimination in daily life. People are either really well off or pretty poor without health insurance and they refuse to see a doctor. I’ve seen someone panicking because someone called him an ambulance but could not afford it. I have seen a lot of homeless people and honestly many of them were in really bad shape mentally and physically. From men to veterans, to a lot of (young) women. I just don’t understand the social system in the country and how it can be allowed that people are treated like this. It seems like life is more uncertain than I am used to. One day I had to help translate a conversation where a woman got fired on the spot at the end of her shift without any prior warning or a  bit of time to find something else.

We Dutch people might be direct, and Americans think we are but I’ve found people many times being very rude at me, especially guests and clients. Screaming in my face or being very angry. On the opposite, many times people approach you on the street if you’re lost to help out or a friendly stranger starts conversation with you which is pretty rare in my culture. When I travelled to New Orleans the people were extremely nice but also a little wary of tourists (although I can’t blame them).

Another question a lot of people asked me is whether it is possible to make any friends. Well, I think everyone in New York is really caught up in his own bubble and people mostly work. In general, I think it is a lot easier to make contact with someone than in Europe (West Europe especially) and it is really easy to get into a conversation or even coffee with a stranger, or go for drinks with people from work. However, I think it is a lot more superficial and you don’t just have close friends in New York.  For some people this works though, I prefer to have a few close friends. Also, a lot of people work six days a week or several jobs so people have other priorities like getting promotion. So yes it is easier to meet people to go for a drink with but I found it hard to build friendships with Americans. I did made some great friends but they are all foreign.

Don’t get me wrong, I love New York and its energy, its interesting and talented people, the opportunities, the endless amount of things to do and explore. It is challenging to work with the staff and the guests but that is also what makes it interesting and in the end it depends on your ability to adapt because you are the foreigner.

 

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Morocco trip

What an amazing country! Friendly people, great culture and food. We went with a small (Spanish speaking) group and guide, consisting of Mexicans, Chileans, Argentinians, Spaniards, me as Dutchie and Frederique as Canadian, which was great for us to be speaking Spanish all the time. The accents really varied though and I am much more used to Spain-Spanish but I managed to understand everyone. Sometimes I didn’t and it resulted in funny situations.

We left on Wednesday morning for a 2,5 hour flight from Barcelona to Marrakech. We spent the entire day in Marrakech which was amazing! Its chaotic but I loved it. People on donkeys, horses, cars, scooters anywhere and so much noise.

Thursday morning we left the city on time with our bags and headed to Kasbah Ben El Hannou. We drove for a while with several stops at amazing places. Kasbah is a famous movie location where films like Prince of Persia, Games of Thrones and Gladiator have been filmed. During the trip we ate a lot of Tagine with chicken and lemon or beef and prunes. The food is very tasteful with a lot of spices.

We arrived in our very very traditional hotel just at the bottom of the Atlas Mountains. It was so cold!! We had some huge extra blankets.
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When we arrived at the desert, we had to leave the bus and continue by jeep because we couldn’t get there. Then we changed to camels and walked for an hour further into the desert. We arrived the camp and watched the sunset in the desert. Although I have been in the desert in Egypt before, this was very different because the sand was orange and it all reminded me of Alladin.

We had dinner together in the big tent and we had a desert party with music, drinks and some food. A lot of tequila was offered the Mexicans but I managed to turn most of it down. We ended up all listening to Reggeaton and dancing in the middle of the desert!

 

Sleeping in the desert, what an amazing experience! It was a Berber tent and I think we actually slept on sand. During the night all the lights went out and it was completely dark. At some point at night I had to search the bathroom when everyone was asleep. It was completely dark and quiet but when I looking up I saw this AMAZING sky full of huge stars. I stood there for a while, so impressed with what I saw I didn’t even realize how cold I was!

Saturday
Saturday we had a very intense drive of 10 hours all the way from the desert to Marrakech. It was very long but the amazing thing is we saw every type of landscape driving through the countries. We drove through nature and small villages which gave us a look at the local and traditional life, donkeys, children selling herbs, man drinking tea etc. People wanted to take a picture with my because of my blonde hair. We arrived back in Marrakech and had dinner. The main square of Marrakech on a saturday, what a chaos!! Frederique and me just couldn’t cross the street so we asked people to cross with us. They took our hands and there we went!

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Sunday
In the morning we did a tour with a Moroccan guide who could tell us a lot about the country and the culture and I could ask all my questions. We visited the main palaces and markets. What makes the city so beautiful are all the colors. Later, we bought some stuff after proper negotiation of my part. ‘Several questions like ‘what are you, a businesswomen?’  and they hoping to get American tourists after me because they would make much more money.

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Monday we travelled back to Barcelona, which is still an amazing place to get back to after this trip. I could definitely recommend Marroco to anyone who loves great food and friendly people.

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Cultural differences ES -NL

Please note that these are just observations, it is not meant in a negative way, only to point out differences.

The university is very different from mine, it confirms the difference in punctuality between the Dutch and Spanish culture . In the beginning I was afraid I would be too late when my class started at 9.00 and I would go enter at 9.05. Now, I take my time, buy some coffee, todo tranquilo, and enter the class around 9.15. However,  I am still early and I just chill and wait. When the class starts, students enter now and then around 9.30. In terms of deadlines the rule is different as well. In some classes you can submit your work later and there will be 10% of your grade deducted every day.

Teachers talk a lot. We have classes of 3 hours and in some cases the teachers talk most of the time. They talk a lot about not that much. A lot of examples. A lot of jokes. No interaction. When no one listens they keep talking. Sometimes a lecture of 3 hours could be done in 30 minutes. We Dutchies are used to having a full speed lecture in 45 minutes, so it took me some time to adjust to it and not get distracted.

I have stayed in Spain many times and what always fascinates me is the cleaning culture. It seems to be very important that the hallway is perfectly clean including the entrance, the glass and the stairs at the outside (the part other people see). Inside the houses there will be cleaned with a broom and a mop, I have never understood how a house will become clean this way and because of my dust allergy I am no too happy with this custom.

Spanish people love their benches. Despite the weather, there are always Spanish people chilling on benches outside everywhere. Especially the elderly love it. It is busy around the benches, sometimes they are full and I see people looking out for other benches. People sit down and do nothing. Nothing. No phone, no music, they just sit down and watch. We can learn from this! What I really enjoy is that people, again despite the weather, start entering the terraces around 11.00 or 12.00 and start drinking beer. Then at 15.00 or 16.00 they order a full 3 course lunch including more drinks. For both the benches and terraces, it does not matter if they are next to an extremely busy and noisy road.

The majority of the doctors do not speak English. I had to visit a doctor because of an eye infection and I decided to go to the doctor at my university. Although my Spanish level is quite high, a medical visit requires a different and specific vocab so it would be just easier in English. Much later I got the papers and I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up the medicine. The lady handed me the 2 types of medicine without any explanation and she replied in Catalan. I had the feeling she did not want to speak in Spanish although she knew I did not speak Catalan (Note this is an assumption). I asked her very politely in Spanish to explain the use of the medicine because I did not understand the paper in Catalan and I was not in my own country and I didn’t know what to do. Then, she changed her attitude and explained me the medicine in Spanish.

The Spanish-Catalan topic is a sensitive one. It seems to be slightly comparable with the Dutch and Frisian language and culture. However, a lot of horrible stuff happened in the past so I am starting to understand it is more than just a pride thing. People want to speak their own language. However, I have also learned that some teachers don’t know Spanish well enough to feel confident enough to do their class in Spanish.

Every female will be greeted with guapa or carino a lot, although this does not mean the person actually seems to think you are good looking or cute. I have seem people being greeted with guapa of which I am quite sure they are not cute. It is still good for your self- esteem though 🙂

Does globalization of the American food culture change global health?

Nowadays, with this huge amount of international travel,  import, export, the internet and social media we seem to become more global than ever. Globalization is defined as a world with a homogenous society, dominated by American culture. Coca-Cola, Starbucks and McDonalds are imbedded into our daily lives and could be declared as symbols of the American fast food industry. Globalization seems to cause changes in food preference over the world. One can wonder to in what extent local societies are influenced by this new food culture, that also result in an increasing amount of Western diseases. Is globalization a cause of chances in global health? How are children affected by these food habits?

The documentary ‘Way Beyond Weight’ portrayed shockingly how children deep in the inlands of Brazil are wining and crying for more Coca-Cola and chips. These children are overweight and some even diabetic at the age of 11. They refuse to eat fruit and did not recognize a cucumber nor kale. Scholars in the documentary identified this issue as a global pandemic of obese children. The main question asked in the documentary was who is to blame for this global pandemic. Causes given are the food industry, the parents, advertising agencies and the government. In the documentary, globalization is pictured as a negative occurrence due to its huge and negative impact on global health. According to Caprio (2008) globalization can affect obesity through promotion of travel and migration, trade of high-fat products and food marketing.

One can wonder that if these children around the world are already this obese and even diabetic, what the world would look like in 50 years. Before, a child with type 2 diabetic was rare but nowadays it is much more common. It seems like the problem is too big already to stop, especially with several multinationals with so much power. The change needs to come out of these corporations but one can wonder if that will ever happen. Governments could also have great positive influence, though they seem to be reluctant and probably influenced (or under pressure?) by the multinationals.

There are many aspects to globalization, but in terms of food cultural there seems to be occurring a problem so big that it cannot be turned around anymore. Globalization is often seen as a positive occurrence, but in terms of health it can be concluded it is not.  The main question is how this will develop further, taking into account the extent to which children already are influenced. Societies seem to adopt the same cultural identity in terms of food, all leaning towards the American culture. It is sad to realize that in the end, the most innocent people of our world, children are the ones that are influenced.

Reference list:

Caprio, S. et al. (2008). Influence of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture on Childhood Obesity. Diabetes Care, 31, 2211-2221. doi: 10.2337/dc08-9024.

Nisti, M. (Producer) & Renner, E. (Director). (2012). Way Beyond Weight. Brazil. Retrieved on March 16th from http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/11987/Way-Beyond-Weight

World Health Organization. (2016). Global report on diabetes

The picture is part of the documentary Way Beyond Weight.