Everyday I am in London, I find myself missing New York City more and more. I miss Joe’s Pizza. I miss jogging at Hudson River Park. I miss the subway being open 24/7 — that is, when the MTA decides not to do line repairs and disrupt all the services.I even miss the feisty, I-will-tell-you-exactly-what-I’m-thinking New York attitude. Since studying in London, I have noticed that many people are under the assumption that New York City and London are virtually the same. “Well, why did you choose to study in London? Isn’t it basically New York but with fish and chips instead of cheap pizza?” has been a conversation that I have found myself in on more than one occasion. I would like to set the record straight. New York City and London, while yes they share a common language, are about as similar as the Tisch School of Arts and the Stern Business School.
London and New York City have completely different energies. I noticed this difference about a month into my stay here, watching the way people interacted on the streets and listening to the different sounds and noises filling the air. London is more quiet; there aren’t nearly as many musicians or street performers around, so you don’t have that background music like you do in New York City. New York City always tends to be moving and lively, and while London can be this way as well, more so on weekends, it seems the liveliness dies down around 6 p.m. This even extends to the nightlife in London. People start drinking very early in the day, since pubs and restaurants close early. There have been several occasions when coming home from class at about 5 in the afternoon and numerous people are scattered outside of pubs completely drunk. If you are out at about 3 or 4 a.m., the people you pass on the streets are scarce, while in New York City, there are still people loitering around bars.
One of the main differences between New York City and London is the weather. London is notorious for its torrential weather and gray skies. I didn’t heed the warnings of multiple people explaining to me how rainy it is, but it is no exaggeration, the weather here is terrible. In the four months that I have been here, there have been about two weeks worth of sunny days. Most days, it’s gray, even if it’s not raining; you never leave the house without an umbrella. If your moods are affected by weather, as I have found mine are, I don’t recommend studying in London for an extended period of time.
New Yorkers and Londoners even differ in their street-walking habits. While the New Yorker basically runs down the street, the Londoner will stroll and walk in an almost zig-zag pattern. For someone like me, who has the New York walking mindset ingrained into their head, I was immediately infuriated by the unmethodical slow-walkers of London. In New York, the people have mastered this game of swerving and avoiding each other all while walking about 100 miles per hour. In London, that is not the case. Sometimes, it even seems like people go out of their way to swerve into your line of walking. Once, two men converged onto my path and bumped into me at the same time. They each apologized and subsequently continued to try to walk right through me as if I was a hologram. In addition to bad walking habits, no one will yell at someone for walking too slow — the English are much more kind in that way.
Another frustrating difference between the two cities is the way the people fill up space on the subways, or the tube, as the Londoners call it. In New York, people pack into the subways like sardines. It is not uncommon for you to be pressed up against a stranger’s body for multiple stops. New Yorkers use every single inch of space on the subway, sometimes even risking their arm being cut off by the doors to secure a spot. In London, the tube is smaller, meaning there is less space. But even with the small spaces, the people of London don’t utilize the free areas in the aisle of the tube. Often, the people will congregate right in front of the doors, making it really difficult to get onto a crowded train. The English are much more reserved than Americans, so this could be one possible explanation for not wanting to stand in front of people who are sitting. This can be frustrating when you have to wait for twenty minutes for another train since the people won’t move into the aisles in between the seats. But in both cities, people avoid eye contact on the train, keeping their headphones in and staring at the ground.
I believe New York City and London are cities for two different types of people. New York City is exciting and boisterous, always pulsing with energy, but it also has dark sides of its own like the towers of trash bags crowding the sidewalks. London is calm and wise, with distinct neighborhoods harboring a culture of their own, but it also has downsides like the soaring prices of the city. Both cities have a unique charm, each deserving of their individual reputation. But, while I appreciate my time here in London, I can’t wait to be back in my New York state of mind.
Email Taylor Elizabeth Rogers at [email protected]