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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Internship in NYC

After being home in Holland only a month and a lot of paperwork it was time to move on to my next challenge. After some days off, a jetlag, visit to the social security office and an attempt to adjust to this hot and humid climate I had my first day as intern. I got a looot questions what I am exactly doing and who I work for so I will explain it quickly:

I am doing my graduation internship of 12 months (and thesis) in Hospitality Management for STARR Events, a company that does all sort events & catering for cultural institutions such as Carnegie Hall, New York Historical Society and art museums and institutions. My location is the New York Botanical Garden. There, we have about six food & beverage outlets where I work at wedding venues, restaurants, food trucks and events outside such as concerts and exhibitions. I actually have 2 positions: event supervisor and food&beverage supervisor.

I have done two weddings and they are impressive! People pay here between the 30.000-50.000 dollar for a wedding with about 150-300 guests and the standards are high. The first week I worked at a Jewish wedding and the second week at a (Long Island) Italian wedding, a bit like the Godfather. During the day florists come in, the band, wedding planner and so on so this is quite an organization. I already experienced rain (the ceremonies are outside in the garden), a crying bride and so on.

Our job is basically that everyone can keep doing his job. The band needing electricity, the kitchen needing stuff, the servants running out of food, the bars needing ice, the mom of the bride who is hungry etc etc. During other days we do more financial stuff and smaller events.

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In these 2 weeks I already experienced a lot of differences with Holland. The first weekend I thought; wow is everyone doing sports here. Turned out people wear sportswear but without intending to do any sports. This is called ‘active wear’ . Then, New York is expensive as hell. I already knew it as I have been here before but wow I am shocked again.

At work there are much more ‘rankings’.  People don’t do jobs of the people ‘below’ them. For example, if I ask a server to clean something, they probably refuse because it is an houseman’s job. If I ask someone ‘Can you do this for me’, I am rude. I need to rephrase like: ‘Oh hi could you do me a favour could you please move over the chairs? That would be great. Thank you so much I really appreciate it.’ Me as Dutchie really need to adjust!

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I am very excited about the fact that the second language here in New York is Spanish, even sometimes the advertisements so I am speaking it a lot. Yesterday I got taught about the history about salsa and merengue from my Dominican Uber driver and some people at work only speak Spanish.

For now I am very happy how everything is going although it is hard work and a longgg commute. I walk around 10-12 km a day according to my iphone ;).  Especially doing other stuff such as visiting rooftops and going for drink is a lot of fun but tiring. I will be moving a bit closer within 2 weeks and we have our first work trip planned with the management team to Hamilton, New Jersey. Everyone is really friendly and a bit crazy at times so I feel right at home.

To get an idea: