Two months ago, I lived in a shoe-box flat in north London with my best friend. I’d moved to the big smoke two-and-a-half years previously and, quite frankly, planned to stay forever… or at least until the call for a quieter life lured me to the suburbs.
That was when my dream job came up in New York. Manhattan. NYC. Ever since I visited the city as a wide-eyed 10-year-old child and felt the hum of the place pulse through me, it’s been my dream to live there… so I really had no choice but to up sticks and move, leaving my beloved London behind.
The intervening two months have been a yellow-cab-adorned whirlwind ride: finding an apartment, making new friends and trying to build a life here, all the while rubbing shoulders with eight million strangers on the subway who are all sweating it out to achieve the American Dream.
On the face of it, Londoners and New Yorkers speak the same language, but there are some very striking differences between the two. For one, New Yorkers are intensely patriotic: as far as most people are concerned, America is the best country in the world and the Stars & Stripes are worn with pride.
Meanwhile, back home there is genuine panic that we are losing our identity. Rather than an emblem to be proud of, the Union Jack has been high-jacked by extreme political groups like the British National Party who want to whitewash the incredible diversity out of our cities.
And it’s not just the nut-jobs. Before the Olympics, all I heard about was how awful and embarrassing it was going to be and how London and its antiquated transport system could never cope with the deluge of visitors. And then we ended up putting on the most dazzling and well-organised show that anyone could remember.
There are some things that are just better in London, and weirdly most of them seem to be transport related. For a start, there is no discernible system to dictate which side New Yorkers should queue when ascending or descending stairs or escalators on the subway (not to mention the faux pas of driving on the wrong side of the road!). In London, you very specifically must stay on the right, or incur the wrath of all commuters. But here, people climb the stairs with free abandon. Which may sound fun, but is actually rage inducingly chaotic.
Another gripe: in many of the subway stations there are no signs to tell you when the next train is arriving (who knew I relied so much on the information board to keep me sane?). Once I waited a full 30 minutes for a subway train. That just doesn’t happen with TfL.
Finally, even though the bus driver explicitly states that riders should exit the bus from the back door, New Yorkers persistently exit from the front, and they don’t even have the good grace to be embarrassed about it. It makes me long for London and its well established public transport etiquette.
And that’s not all I miss. Over the past two months I’ve watched from afar as Andy Murray swung his way into history at Wimbledon; seen the capital bask in sunshine after the Endless Winter of Discontent; listened to you all moan about how impotent TfL has been in the heatwave, lamenting how you ‘like it hot, but not this hot’; and witnessed the birth of a new King.
You see, the thing about London, the reason why it beats New York hands down for me, is that it is so quintessentially British. Because of this, I am so chuffing proud to have lived there and one day, I’ll come home.
Image by Nicolas Raymond courtesy of Flickr