Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that a move to the US would just mean getting used to funny accents, funny words and seeing a good few more hamburgers around the place. All of which are correct assumptions, but it’s the littler, less expected things that remind you you’re in a foreign land.
Holes in the pavement, for example. Great big gaping hatches into the storage cellars under shops and restaurants. When their metal doors are open, they could swallow up a grown adult or three toddlers in one go. Perhaps they are put there as revenge on unsuspecting tourists who haven’t given enough of a tip. Sometimes the store owners put traffic cones next to them when they’re open, to warn passersby of the danger, but most of the time you just have to make sure you’re not looking up admiring buildings or too lost in conversation to notice the abyss you’re about to step into.
Then there are the film crews. I see them almost every week here. Trailer after trailer, prop van after prop van. I do glance at the notices they put up on the trees, stating which production is being filmed (Gossip Girl and A Person of Interest in the last week, TV buffs), but while some would be scanning the streets for celebrities, I am always struck by how nice the food and drink in the buffet tents looks.
Talking of drink on stands…lemonade stands. Run by six year olds. Not a summer’s day goes by without a small child creating his own handwritten sign and charging a pittance for (as far as my limited research has gone) rather nice lemonade. Why lemonade, in particular? I don’t know, but it’s sweet (in both senses) and I like the tradition.
Which reminds me…stoop sales. To all intents and purposes, these are garage sales, which I thought had died out in Britain, but a quick Google search has revealed that sadly they have not. Since most people don’t have garages in New York City, this shameless airing of one’s tat in public takes place on the stoop. To be fair, the tat is often of much better quality than people in Britain try to flog; indeed we made our first purchase a couple of weeks ago and Bigger Boy is now the proud owner of a squash racquet, a science kit and a live butterfly garden. Don’t let it be said that stoop sales only cater for impulse purchases.
People with padded coats on as soon as the temperature drops below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Ordinarily this outerwear is designed to withstand gale force winds and Siberian winters, but here they are put into use as soon as a slight breeze picks up. These people need to visit Yorkshire in the summer. They’d be horrified (and they would spend the entire summer with their coats on).
Cupcakes with more frosting than cake. Some people love these. I don’t. I just don’t want to feel like I’m going to vomit after having eaten something that’s meant to be pleasurable. Give me a hot buttered crumpet any day (and give some to those poor souls in padded coats – they’d be grateful for them).
The best thing of all though…blue skies. I really had never seen such consistently cloudless, dazzling blue skies before I moved to New York. They lift your spirits and they make you want to get out to discover other things you have never seen before.