Friday, March 16, 2007

Grim London, snobbish new York

It’s raining today in New York and the sky is overcast. Although this brings back memories and similar experiences from London (weather), weather is not the only “thing” that makes these two cities so different.

“Yes, that reminds me of London”, I said to a local New Yorker yesterday. “And you liked it?” asked me in a very curious way. “Well, I didn’t like it, but I got used to it.” What’s wrong with a few clouds and constant, permanent rain? I’d rather live in a place with rain and clouds but mild temperature than in a sunny one with 10 degrees and snow on daily basis. I hate snow and the cold.

“I lived in London for a year and I didn’t like it at all” a Dutchman I met by accident in a Chelsea gallery opening told me. “It was so grim and the Brits are so negative and dull” continued. “I have been living in New York for five years and I like the people. They are so positive and have the I-can-do attitude. They think everything is possible”. He might be right. But this is his personal opinion about both London and New York. This is what he personally experienced. As a coach, I often say to my clients that there is not an objective reality. Reality is subjective and most of the times the outcome of our country of origin, culture, religion, education, life and work experiences and attitude to life. What is true for the Dutchman about London and New York, it is not definitely true for me. I experienced London as a large cosmopolitan city, full of life and vibe, with extremely high living standards, high incomes and open-minded, well-rounded people who fly during the weekends to various European destinations and also New York! London is also very advanced in spirituality and alternative medicine. Even on the technology front, I would consider Britain in general more advanced compared to at least New York State. Cell phones are cheaper, more competitive and you don’t pay for incoming phone calls. Digital television replaced the obsolete cable (still popular in the USA); that allows viewers to interact with journalists and vote live by pressing the “red button on their digital remote control”. The London Underground, undoubtedly expensive, is clean, reliable and with track timers on the platforms. Londoners buy property at the same pace New Yorkers sublet and yes, they drink more alcohol (starting at 5 pm). New York, on the other hand, is not impressive at all. It reminds me of a third world city, with an old, smelly and unreliable subway, low living standards in messy and cluttery apartments, rude and snobbish people on the streets, not particularly educated and narrow-minded, wearing the same pair of jeans on daily basis. It’s the first time in my life that I met people who are so proud not to travel (I have been living in New York for 12 years and I stayed away for only five weeks). And don’t get me started with how negative, neurotic and naïve they are. I haven’t seen a single sign of optimism in this city. On the contrary, everybody is complaining about housing (apartment rentals), the Bush Administration, the absence of nationalized health service, the low pay and their insecure future.

But then again, it’s my reality in New York. If I were Donald Trump, my opinion about the Big Apple would have been different.

Get a vibe from London. Listen to BBC radio 4 online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/
I am now listening to the Death by Chocolate Show
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/mainframe.shtml?http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/radio4.shtml?fm

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