It is been a week that I am back in Barcelona, still, I had to share some thoughts about my American experiences. I have talked to many people about the trip to NYC and it has been interesting to discuss the good and the bad sides of this vibrating place. Next saturday I am going to go back to Berlin, with “one crying and one laughing eye” to express it with a German saying. But first, here’s what’s left on my mind about New York.
It was too cold. I am sure to go back to New York some day, but it will definetely be in a less freezing moment. You cannot enjoy the hidden jewels of a city if the snooze drops like ice from your nose. When you, despite a thick woolen cap, cannot feel your ears.
We couldn’t walk around, we always needed a target. So probably we missed out many nice spots. The ones that were shown to me had a nice atmosphere of creativity and ideas, but also always of competition and ambition.
So I missed out the spaced-out and easy Barcelonian approach or the snotty “whatever”-style of Berlin. NYC is less a city to be than to work. Probably, people who live in New York, who study, do internships, make money, do something for their career, curriculum, prospects, have a total different image of the city that I got. Because, for that, New York is number one in the world: Number one for billionaries, venture capital, stock exchange, careers and productivity.
You have to want that. Like that, live that. I did not. I missed that part out and thus felt a deep gap between me and the millions of people that rush through the city every day.
People are tired. They sleep in the morning on their way to work and in the evening when they come back or go to their next job. They are busy, want to achieve something. They stay for a certain time and want to make the best out of it.
People are segregated. A line in front of a hiphop club: Only black people. Brighton beach: Speak Russian! China town, Little Italy.. The US call themselves the ‘melting pot’ (Canda e.g. refers to itself more like ‘a mosaic’), still the cultures preserve themselves, maybe people tend to do that automatically and that is what culture is about: preservation. Another observation: Did I see any obviously Arab people? No. Do they not exist? Do they hide?
People do not have time. There is the psychological experiment with students of theology: It does not matter so much if they entered the career for their need to help people or if they had just read the story of the Samaritan – what determines if they stop to help a person in need depends much more on if they are in a hurry. The most helpful people would not stop if they had to rush to the seminar to give the presentation as proved in the experiment. (I read this in a brilliant book: “The tipping point” which I like to talk about later). New York sets this situation, this atmosphere of rush that few people will stop to help.
This is the last story, I encountered just before we left: We were on our way to the airport and in the metro exit, between the turnstiles and the vending machines, we passed by a woman, screaming: “Help! Somebody bring me to the shelter, please!!”, desperately. I can blame myself: We were in a rush, we did not stop to help. And neither did any of the almost hundreds of people that passed by. It left me with a bitter impression.
So, New York. I am sorry to talk so negatively about the city that used to be a big dream and projection for me. Maybe that’s why I was dissapointed. But to round it up, I have to say: What I liked most about New York was the hospitality of my Russian hosts. The little house in Brooklyn I am going to miss. And the metro that passes by 5 metres from the window every 20 minutes. Thank you Dimitri!