Friday, September 17, 2010

New York City! Living the Fast Life

Canadians and Americans. It's been 10 years since I've traveled to the states (Florida for a month when I was 19) and I was reminded just how different we can be. Although, I have a funny feeling that New York is a pretty special case.

Andrew at Time Square- with his Canadian Beaver shirt... :)

The trip really was amazing. Some quick things I noticed....

Canadian & American differences:
  • The accent. Really I can't get over it. No matter how "neutral" the American accent, it's still there. Very cool :)
  • The food portions are bigger. Julia from Color Me Green met us on our first evening and was our guide to a fabulous restaurant in the East Village called "Back Forty". Local food and beer it was yummy, but my "chicken" dish actually had TWO whole chicken breasts and two potatoes! 
  • You can order your burger to "done-ness"... which Andrew was surprised. In Canada restaurants are required to cook all ground beef to "well-done" by law.
  • "American vs Canadian" cheese. In Canada, cheddar cheese is just that. But I had forgotten that for some reason in the states it's classified as "American vs Canadian". I'm pretty sure there isn't really a difference, cheddar cheese is the same here as in the states. hehe.
  • We know a LOT about the states... but the opposite isn't necessarily true (lol). I can name about 50% of the states, which I gotta say is pretty darn impressive :) Must be all the american tv and media we get up here.
  • Spelling. I just assumed that my American readers would recognize that my "our" (colour) and "re" (centre) words were British spelling and not misspelled. It was pointed out during training though with some confusion as to why it was wrongly spelled... hah.
  • American flags are everywhere. Even on non-government buildings.
We both really enjoyed our trip to New York City and it was neat seeing the ginormous buildings and Time Square. It didn't take long, however, for both of us to start feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Functioning around so many busy and rushed people just imbued a sense of urgency 24-7. Plus, for some reason everyone smokes in NYC. Is that just because of the sheer mass of people, or are there actually more smokers?

At our first ever broadway play- "Wicked" (awesome btw), supposedly they are "greener than ever"... exactly how I'm not sure. 
As a quick aside, I had such a difficult time ordering food. Picture this- happy boppy me walking into a yummy looking hip "Food Exchange" store with buffet pasta and salads. I think to myself: "I know how to work this, I can do this!". People are milling about shouting their requests to the salad artist-dudes and the workers are shouting out to customers "Who's next?? NEXT???"

I stand in line for a few minutes in the cacophony of sound and realize eventually that I was supposed to have grabbed a plastic container with my "greens". Lose my place in line to choose spinach. Stand back in line and notice a sign with instructions on building your own salad. The instructions are pretty specific, with steps and specific required choices per option. I look over to see what other New Yorkers are doing... annnd they seem to just be ordering whatever the heck they want from random ingredients. The ingredient buffet seriously does *not* match the specific sign instructions.

Holy crap. I just want to ask the salad dude what is the deal... but everyone is shouting out orders and demanding the next person "hurry up!!!". 

When he looks over at me and starts "NEXT!!!!" I freeze... panic... "uhhhhh" spin around with a frantic "nevermind!" and quickly place the plastic spinach bowl back. LMAO. I am so not a New Yorker!

In any case, it's nice getting back to Halifax with celcius and centimetres.  Strangely we both left NYC completely empty handed. No new purchases at all.

That is a feat of restraint :)

New York City... near my training and our hotel...
If you live in a big city, how do you find ways to connect?

article and photos copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. Don't you Canadians HATE being mistaken for Americans? ;)

    To the untrained ear, some Canadian accents are easy to spot, but not all. Two of my close friends are Canadian, one from Toronto and the other from Montreal. Both sound SO different!

    The food portions in the US shocked me, too.

    And you know, I didn't realise that Canadians used the English spelling like we do. Then, since you're part of the Commonwealth still as well, I guess that makes sense!

    Don't know how I'd go in a place like New York. I've been to London a couple of times and that was HUGE and crazy. Coming back home to our largest city (Sydney) felt like being in a country town. I was all... where's all the people?!

    Melbourne is not much smaller than Sydney these days but it feels much more laid back than Sydney.

    Still, I miss Sydney for it's more abundant and easier to access natural surrounds. Melbourne does have lovely bike paths by the bay that stretch forever, but Sydney just has more nature interacting with city life.

    And nature is how I connect. Finding the green, the blossoms, the natural in a world of concrete. That's what keeps me grounded :)

  2. well i must say, NYC is not really america, per se - it's its own country! come to portland and it's not at all like that, people are nicer, more relaxed, more polite than in NYC, and the flag thing (a 9/11 remnant) is not an obsession. interesting about the meat cooking - didn't know that. ah and the NY accent is definitely there!

    (ps i'm betting you'd be right at home in oregon)

  3. @svasti: haha, i have stories of how my friend was treated in Australia when she was mistaken for American... and they aren't pretty lol. naw, i can recognize that to all other countries the difference is subtle. :)

    we also say "zed" for the letter /z/. i wasn't sure if that was the French influence or the English spelling....?

    @EcoGrrl: hehe, yep I can recognize that NYC isn't really representative of the states. The busyness I knew was special for NYC.

    It's also interesting to know that not all towns have flags everywhere. I kinda wondered if the Patriotism of the US sorta spread all over. It certainly was noticeable in Florida anyways :)

    I think I WOULD like Oregon! I mean, you and Y(A Green Spell) live there :)

  4. Glad you had a good trip! NYC is it's own little world. I can only handle a day trip there once every 6 months if that :-D I used to have to go there for training for work, alone, for 2-3 was so scary walking around by myself. I don't think I could ever live there!

  5. Hubby and I take weekend trips to NYC every now and then. It's definitely crazy busy--even more so than DC. Thanks for educating me on the differences between Americans and Canadians. And please enlighten me since I've been out of the loop for a while. What kind of training were you there for?

  6. @Brittany; yes, i am so glad Andrew came with! it would have been so scary just me!

    @writeonyoga: thanks :) I think what is always interesting, is how surprised at the cultural differences, since i always assume since we are so close, that we'd not have much differences.

    i'm a speech-language pathologist, so i was getting what's called "Hanen" training- It Takes Two to Talk. it was fabulous but mentally exhausting.

  7. I second everything EcoGrrl said, lol. You would totally love Oregon. Portland is, dare I say, the best city in the US. That's totally biased and unfair considering I've never even been to most of the East Coast,'s true. Ha ha!

    Canadian and American cheddar? Huh? I've never seen that! I've seen American cheese, of course, but that's really not "cheddar" - more like a chemical cocktail posing as cheese. I've never seen Canadian cheese. Interesting. Maybe an East Coast thing?

    And yeah, I'd say NY in September would definitely be draped in the stars and stripes. Not as flaggy in the West, lol. Though in our town, the streets of downtown are lined with flags for every national holiday.

    Surprised they made issue with your spelling! Weird.

    I laughed when you mentioned smokers. Whenever I dreamily reminisce about Paris, B always says, "Yeah, but the cigarette smoke was awful." It was, too. There aren't a lot of smokers around here - I think the West is more hippie-health-conscious than the East. Maybe...? Or it's just the city thing and that's the only way to decompress, lol!

    I want to see NY someday, but I just don't know if I could handle the rush and screaming and hurry ups! Too much stress! We got into a groove in Paris, learning how to shove our way on and off the Metro, and it was fun for a while, but other than that and the driving, there's no feeling of rush there. It's much more leisurely. That's the only kind of city I can handle!

    Glad you had fun, though!

  8. I'm British (living in the US now) and the spelling thing makes me laugh because people always try to correct me! I love teasing them if they get really indignant about it. ;) I also get these kind of questions: "OMG, are you from Australia/New Zealand/France/Germany??". The last two make me laugh a lot!

    Food was a shock for me, too. My family visited the US quite a bit when I was little. I still remember going to Hard Rock Cafe in Florida and being served a waffle BOWL of ice cream that could have fed my 4-person family. The size of their cakes was the stuff of legend to the kids back home! I used to have a huge appetite but even I could never finish the burgers. Now I've been diagnosed coeliac that's not such an issue!

    My family took us to New York when I was about 12 and I loved it. Shocked the hell out of me, too, because even then I hated London and other busy cities. Maybe it's because I was a kid but folks were really nice to me. We also went out on Christmas Eve and it was a ghost town. We saw maybe 10 other people out in the entire section where our hotel was. AMAZING.

    I don't think I would like it as much now. Even nearby Boston is too much for me. I'm happy in Providence. Plus, the locals here (playfully) hate New Yorkers and Bostonites. It's this whole 'state rivalry' thing, I guess.

    This article had me in stitches, though:,18003/

  9. Glad you had a good trip overall! I actually was in San Antonio last weekend visiting my American friend who lives in Canada and his colleagues who were there for a conference. The differences are pretty right on--we had quite the entertainment talking about differences too. Your notice of the extra smokers in the big city....I had the same thought when I'd moved from rural to city Oregon--so maybe it's just a city thing? More people=more smokers? Hope the training was great!

  10. yeah with smoking banned in bars and restaurants here in oregon now (finally), it's even better here - no stinky :)

  11. Oh, gosh YES!

    There's a reason cities are great places to visit but I wouldn't want to live there ;-)

    I've been to NYC a few times, and although I loved it, I had no desire to live there. Saying that, I've lived in Hong Kong (6 million) and Melbourne (nearly 4 million), but have no desore to live in a big city again.

    My closest town (Mosgiel, 10,000) is quite big enough for me! And if I want anything more, the big city (Dunedin, 130,000) is only a few minutes away by car.

    I guess I'm a converted country lass - or maybe I was one already, as I was born in a small country town.

    As for the Americans not being able to deal with Canadian / UK spellings, they ARE very insular. I noticed it when living there (in West Virginia for a year). They know next to nothing about the rest of the world, for the largest part - and generally believe the US has the best standard of living in the world, which it doesn't (I think its about 50th).

    No. You can keep NYC. A great place, but I wouldn't want to live there! Thanks for sharing!

  12. New York is indeed a special case and, although it is often the first, maybe only, American city visited by foreigners, it is not at all representative of 99% of the country.

    However, New Yorkers ARE presumed to be a bit more world-wise and savvy than the other 1% of the country so I'm a bit shocked that they didn't realize (realise) the spelling differences, knowing (as of course they should) the connections between Canada and the UK. I mean, don't they ever look at the money????

    The comment about the flags, though, was very interesting. I remember years ago (like 25?) driving into Canada and as soon as we got over the border, we noticed that many homes had Canadian flags displayed. But it didn't end there, as though it were a "border thing". Throughout, everywhere we went, we saw the flag. My impression was that Canadians were very proud of their national heritage. At that time, back in the States, you would see a flag on certain holidays (4th of July, Memorial day, Veterans Day). But now, since the September 11 attacks, everyone has jumped on the flag bandwagon. You cannot be any kind of government official and not wear a flag pin on your lapel, lest you be labeled unpatriotic or worse. Quite frankly, it makes me a bit sick - it was not important to show national pride or loyalty before the attacks, but now it is? It makes all this new flag waving seem kind of phone and jingoisitic.
    But, I digress.....

    I have been to Toronto and Montreal several times and love both cities. My impression is one of big cities that are cleaner, safer and less crowded than major American cities. I hope that's still true.

  13. @Anonymous: actually, I really just should have realized about Sept11th just happening and us being in NYC re: flags.

    But, on the topic of Canadian flags- i think it would depend on the city. Halifax has *mostly* government buildings (although i'm sure some houses do too). If you go to an Acadian village or community you'll see the Acadian flag EVERYWHERE.
    I see more provincial flags being flown, especially in Quebec. :)

    I guess the Canadian cities are clean...ish. Halifax definitely isn't very safe for the size of the city. Lots of swarmings recently. weird, i know.

  14. So glad you had fun! :) As you've seen, New York is definitely not representative of the U.S. any more than Los Angeles is, yet those are the two cities everyone expects! We live only 3 or 4 hours south of New York, and have taken day trips there. It's wild and intense and I love all the energy, but I doubt I could live there. Next time you visit New York, I'll do my best to trek up the coast so we can meet! It's one of the best cities in the world for vegans, too. ;)

    By the way, portions are huge EVERYWHERE in the U.S. I'm always taking half my meal home and eating it the next day.

  15. as a native new yorker (read: new yaawker :) i loved reading your post!! it's amazing how quickly we take our every day surroundings for granted and it was refreshing to visit my hometown through your eyes! did you get a chance to try any yoga while you were in town? thanks for sharing, as always!

  16. I love reading about the differences! I find very funny.

    As for the whole burger a rancher's daughter, it TOTALLY drives me crazy when people order burgers medium or whatever. WELL DONE people. Get em WELL DONE. Don't even get me started on portion sizes here. Sheesh. We were comparing an older version of the Art of French Cooking with a newer version, and the only thing that had changed were portion sizes. The recipes now serve less people.

    And, as a full on country girl, just the thought of NYC gives me panic attacks. I don't think I could do it.

    Fun post! Glad you had a great trip!

  17. awww you're too cute! And don't worry, I've been in NYC forever & still get nervous and frazzled when trying to order the make your own salads!

  18. I was considering buying a piece of real estate in New York City a few years back, although I had never visited. Upon my first trip to the city, I quickly changed my mind. The streets are convoluted with people constantly in a rush who don't mind shoving past random strangers in the street. I planned on owning a vacation place in NYC, but I realized that the bustling city is no place to escape and relax. Great post!


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