Tuesday, 28 May 2013

London vs. New York City

When I was at university, trying to chose a topic for my dissertation, my research supervisor urged me to pick a subject within which I saw a fundamental unanswered question. Pick something you personally do not understand, she said, something you cannot get your head around. Since that day, numerous other instances have arisen in which I have been unable to fathom why people take a particular view. For a long time I tried to work out why it was that people thought that living in London was so great, for example. Particularly when there were so many other cities in the world to chose from. Awesome cities like New York, just, you know, off the top of my head. And so, wandering the streets of Manhattan the other day I developed another research study...asking myself the ridiculous question: why on earth might someone claim that London was a better city than New York City? And the results are a little something like this...

Let's start with the people, the beating heart of every city. New Yorkers, you need to tone down the friendly. All that smiling, the eye-contact and the endless "have a nice day's".  I mean, give it a rest with the perpetual niceties or I will start thinking you're being insincere. And just let me alone, please. If I am wandering down the road, minding my own business, the last thing I want is to be drawn into a conversation with a complete stranger. There is such a thing as being over-friendly you know; back home in London we'd call it 'harassment'. Londoners are much better respecters of personal space than New Yorkers. Rude and frosty? No, we just respect everyone's right to social isolation.

And what's with all the ridiculously beautiful people you have cluttering up your streets, NYC?! People in London have the well-mannered modesty to look plain and uninteresting, because heaven knows that perfectly tanned, toned hotties just make one feel self-conscious and fat. It's basically just showing off, NYC, and that is very unbecoming in a city.
Next we turn our comparative attention to the physical city. Let's talk skyscrapers. New York's skyline is feted the world over, but really is there anything particularly special about it? It's not like the city is always adding a new tower each year like London. Did you know we now have the tallest skyscraper in Europe? What's that? You guys are still working on the Freedom Tower, the tallest building in the Western hemisphere? Yes, true, but we Londoners have three words for you: Twelve. Long. Years. Actually we have three more: Still. Not. Finished. 

Also, New York City, where are the jolly nicknames for your famous buildings, that show your city has a sense of humour? Seriously, how is anyone supposed to feel fondly about 'The Empire State Building', 'The Chrysler Building' or 'The Freedom Tower'? (A building which is actually even more uncharmingly called 'One World Trade Center' - I think you'll find that's an address not a name by the way.) How about some amusing monikers inspired by things you might find in the kitchen? 'The Gherkin'! Now that's a proper name for a multi-storied building. And - bonus - it even helps you work out which one it is amidst a crowded skyline, by actually looking like one. Inspired, right?!

And it's not just NYC's built environment that London beats hands down. Our green space totally whips New York's paltry vegetation. London has eight royal parks - ROYAL ones! - plus dozens more plebeian ones. Oh sure, you guys say you have lots green space but, honestly you seem to focus mostly on one massive park in the middle of everything. Central Park? More like 'Single Park'. Sorry, but we're claiming greener city points here.

On to taxis. Dear lord, New York's yellow taxis make one long for a black cab and a proper London cabbie.  The London cabbie is a proud and ancient breed of Londoner - trained for many years on the mean grey streets of the city, tested to within an inch of his or her life and then finally let loose in London to nobly serve the populace, seeing everyone safely home like wheeled guardian angels. Where does New York City find the people driving its cabs?  Have they even walked round New York before? They simply never know where they are going. And unlike the trusty London cabbie, they don't even have the decency to pretend they know where your destination is whilst asking a series of chummy, leading questions to get you to tell them without your even noticing they're doing so.  Truly, how do New York taxi drivers have the cheek to charge for their knowledge of the New York grid if the fare has to play the role of navigator? One might as well sit in the front and drive oneself. I guess you get what you pay for, I mean, granted, New York cabs are cheaper than ours in London, but jeez...

Everything in New York City is open ridiculously late; supermarkets, bars, museums, coffee shops. It's like New Yorkers don't want to go home! Now, in London we don't like to overload our citizens with entertainment of an evening. We recognise they've probably had a hard day at the office, so we like to free them from the agony of choice about what to do after work, by simply closing everything so their only choice is to go home and watch television. London opening hours - relieving the guilt of just slobbing about at home. You're welcome, Londoners.

And what is that thing New York City does with its weather? 'Seasons' you call them? I mean, one month it's hot and sunny, another it's knee-deep snow drifts. What about a little consistency, hey NYC? Weather-wise, in London you know where you stand...under an umbrella, 12 months a year. And that makes getting dressed in the morning far easier than if you live in NYC. No need for such fripperies as summer wardrobes and winter coats. You just buy a pair of wellies and have done with it. See how much simpler London makes life for its citizens? Hmmm? Sounds a bit mundane? Never! London just knows what it likes and it likes what it knows.

Oh, and New York? One last thing. Please get over yourself about Citi-bikes; London had public hire bikes aaaages before you. Just saying.

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  1. God I loved this post. And now I miss New York. :)

    1. Ha! Maybe a little NYC blog is calling you, Jamina...(I'll totally come too!)

  2. Love, love, loved this post :)

    1. Thanks, Jonathan! Something totally infectious about NYC - don't understand people who don't get how amazing it is...

  3. Its those canyon like shadowy streets I don't like. If New York could just get rid of those.... :D

  4. I am guilty as charged: I love both cities. I could totally relate to your stories on cabbies. I once took a taxi in NY to go back to JFK. It was raining like hell.
    The guy dropped me in the middle of nowhere in Queens because he had finished his shift. I had to throw up a BIG tantrum and he ended up calling one of his colleagues. I take the Tube in NY now...

  5. Loved this! Maybe i'll do a Paris vs NYC blog post after my summer trip to the concrete jungle where dreams are made of? I don't think anywhere else in the world beats London cabbies. In Paris the taxi drivers are pretty rude and won't take you if you're going in the "wrong" direction for them...that pretty much sums up customer service in Paris :)

    1. You definitely should, Lou...I shall look forward to that post!

  6. Lol this post is brilliant :) It is also the very first time I've EVER heard anyone refer to NYC as too friendly hahaha. But I'll take it!

    I have been thinking about moving to London but the weather and living cost..ouch.


    1. Yeah, as I watch the drizzle fall endlessly when it's supposed to be summer over here in London, and I see photos of sunshine and hear tidings of heatwaves in the States I know where I'd rather be, Becky!

  7. So funny you posted this. I just got back to London from NYC this last weekend and was just saying how much I appreciate London every time I return. NYC is way to hot, claustrophobic, loud and chaotic for me. London is MUCH more fabulous!

  8. The way you deacribe london is far closer to Dublin than today's London, which sounds more like New York! I studied in Dublin, 12 months per year of rain, freezing cold, everything closed at 11 and you were living somewhere posh if it had an all night or late night corner shop! I teach in Kent now and London is just all night clubs, gay sex and drugs on demand, and perpetual warmth and sunlight! I never want to leave lol!

  9. London doesn't need any blog to defend it. Everything happens there. whoever doesn't get this city is because he failed in making there. it's not easy but it's the best.

  10. Good Lord! I call total BS on this mindless, narrow minded, homeristic waste of blogspace.

    "Single Park" you imbecile! Please do not return to NYC, stay in the mostly year-round grey of London. As for your green space myths and Royal Parks claim, subsequent facts are coming. But before I flip your lousy fallacies, I must state the obvious: you really have no idea what you're talking about in terms of NYC parks, and like too many native New Yorkers (<-- sad case of one taking his or her own culture for granted), you know next to nothing about the way the park system works there & your general focus is Manhattan-centric. To make things fair here, I have been to every Royal Park in London, many a dozen times over. In other words, I wasn't bound to central London. I've jogged the Greenwich paths to the tune of 200 plus miles. I resided no more than 6 blocks from this park for nearly 3 months - about a block away from the Cutty Sark DLR station. My younger sibling continues to live in Deptford, he lived in Greenwich before, & he's now been there for 6 years. His kids & job keep him in London. But, props to Richmond Park! It is an amazing place and probably my favorite Royal Park.

    So don't let the following facts fool you:

    Central Park is the 5th largest park in NYC's system.

    Pelham Bay Park, Bronx (2765 acres), Greenbelt, Staten Island (1778 acres), Van Cortland Park, Bronx (1146 acres), & Flushing Meadows - Corona Park, Queens (897 acres) are all larger. Central Park is 843 acres.

    Therefore, the 5 largest parks in the proper NYC park system = nearly 7000 acres, compared to the nearly 5000 acres that make up the 8 Royal Parks. Hmmmm, more acres in NYC's 5 largest parks, 3 less than the Royal Parks collective. Moreover, NYC has at least a dozen more parks in excess of 500 acres. Most seasoned New Yorkers know that the premium green spaces lie outside of Manhattan. The unfairly underrated Bronx has the best green space availability per resident and per square kilometer.

    Thus, if you did not have the time to visit the other boroughs because you were anchored to Manhattan like nearly every other dime a dozen tourist, please refrain from posting your close minded, closeted nationalism in the future.

    What seems to confuse average NYC natives is the fact that the city does not manage all of the parks in the 5 boroughs. State and federal agencies also manage numerous parks that cover NYC's geography. For example, Gateway National Recreational Area (26,607 acres or 10,767 ha) covers geography in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Nothing in London compares to the magnitude of "Gateway", and sadly too many New Yorkers fail to frequent this massive treasure of scenic beauty, in fact too many don't even know it exists.

    London is 607 square miles, NYC is 470 square miles, similar population - so if you added 137 square miles to NYC, while keeping the population similar, then you have to annex to the East on Long Island, which is filled with green space galore. There are numerous, massive state parks on Long Island outside of Brooklyn and Queens.

    Bottom line, London has one lousy major water source running through it that pales in comparison to NYC's massive shore lines and collective bodies of water: Hudson River, East River, Atlantic Ocean and numerous, detailed bays - it's actually quite unfair to compare the two cities, for NYC blows London away.

    Furthermore, not one stretch of the Thames compares, green space wise, to Manhattan's tree line swaths that stretch along Hudson Blvd from West 72nd Street to Inwood Hill Park. Along this stretch are Fort Tyron Park, Inwood Hill Park, Fort Washington Park, & Riverbank State Park (not an official NYC park) totaling 458 acres. This collection of parks on the Hudson is simply far more green than any similar stretch of the Thames in both central and greater London. This stretch is also criminally overlooked by tourists & average Manhattan natives.


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