It’s well documented that the British talk about the weather. But a conversation about the weather isn’t actually a conversation about the weather, it’s a conversation about a mutual experience that two people have shared and can bond over when they first meet or first see each other. It’s always sunny in New York, so there’s less to say about the weather, so New Yorkers have come up with a few acceptable substitutes:
Any conversation between any two New Yorkers will at some point include some mention of restaurants. It is only a matter of time. Here’s how it works: first Person A talks about something they’ve eaten recently and how great it was. Then the other person talks about a similar thing they ate recently and what the name of the establishment was they ate it in. Person A will respond “Oh, [establishment name]? That’s on [street name] and [avenue name] isn’t it” - this is to demonstrate that they too either know of the place or have been there. Then there will be discussions of other great dishes at the restaurant, or the quality of the service before a game of one-upmanship begins trying to find restaurants that the other person has not been to. Eventually someone will win and the conversation will be concluded with “Wow, this is making me hungry. Shall we go get something to eat?” And then you’ll go to a restaurant.
On my first or second night in Brooklyn I was in a bar with two New Yorkers and they began having a discussion about which their favourite Subway lines are. At the time I could contribute nothing, and it struck me that surely your favourite Subway line should be the one that takes you where you are going. I’ve since developed genuinely personal connections with various Subway lines. I know not to fall asleep on the A because it goes all the way to JFK. I know that the N goes slowly, but at least it goes over the East River, not under it, so you get a fantastic view of the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan. I have learnt that I am very glad that I don’t live on the L, and I went on the 7 once and the inside of the carriages looked like a cruise ship. Crucially I know that the F is clearly the best Subway line in New York. It goes from my house, through my favourite neighbourhood apart from Carroll Gardens (which is the Lower East Side), past my work, and then to the Museum of Modern Art. I can’t wait for someone to try that conversation with me again.
Ah, Jeremy Lin. The embodiment of New York’s “If you can make it there…..” spirit. One month ago injuries to the New York Knicks basketball team and a terrible run of 11 losses out of 13 games led fourth-choice point guard Jeremy Lin to be picked out of “desperation” by the head coach. Since his arrival in the first team Lin has led the Knicks to a run of seven straight wins; he also became the first NBA player to score at least 20 points and have seven assists in each of his first five starts. This has led to city wide following known as Linsanity and Steph now has something to joke about with our local dumpling shop owner. You can read the whole story on wikipedia and see what all the fuss is about by clicking here, here and here.
Simply have an argument
At least twice a week I see two New Yorkers engaged in a very loud, very public argument. Last Thursday I walked out of my office to find two men screaming at each other in the street, apparently because they had just bumped shoulders while walking past each other. Couples fight on the subways, people shout into their phones, even the dogs will argue with each other while crossing the road. This was shocking at first, coming as we do from England, where people dare not accept that strangers on the street actually exist, but it has now become a part of life, much like bagels, pizza and coffee. Make sure you look out for it on your next visit, or to really experience life as a New Yorker just try it out for yourself.
Ex-pat conversation: VISAs
When two Brits get together in New York, it doesn’t feel right talking about how sunny it is. Instead we have found an ingenious new conversation topic: visas. Personally I have little to say about visas - I have a passport and that is that. When I bring this up in conversation with ex-pats I simply get stern looks and a few spittles of rage thrown my way. So I keep schtum. Steph however has the luxury of being able to talk for hours about J-1 internship visas and green cards. Even the mythical L visa can be strung into a conversation topic lasting for 10 minutes or more - does it exist? who do you have to sleep with to get one? what beautiful gilded gates does it open and what treasures await those inside? You can keep weather conversations England, visa chat will keep us going for a while yet.