When I first came to New York City on a music tour in my first year at university, I hated it. Tired, under-the-weather, and drained from co-managing the herding of a group of my fellow students around the east coast, the somewhat potent sights, smells and sounds of The Big Apple were a little overwhelming.
What I never would have expected then was that almost exactly 6 years since I arrived in New York for the first time, I would be bidding it a bittersweet farewell after a truly brilliant three month secondment to TVE Americas.
Of course, the experience has been something of a cultural voyage. I’ve done as many of the guidebook classics as my weekends and evenings would allow, as well as a few activities that were slightly more off the beaten track (drinks in the UN delegates lounge, regular ‘Beyoncercise’ classes, and visiting an immersive contemporary music installation at 1am, to name a few). I’ve also witnessed unprecedented numbers of Nor’easter storms, and definitely validated taking up half my suitcase space with snow boots!
True to consultant form, I have compiled multiple lists detailing and ranking my best experiences. As much as I would love to recite them to you now, perhaps a more interesting topic – at least for this platform – would be to touch on some of the brands, trends and cultural nuances I have noticed in my brief but deeply immersive time as a New Yorker.
- Everything Delivered
A month or so in to my stay the hairdryer in my apartment broke. I mentioned this fleetingly to the office manager over morning coffees. An hour later, a new hairdryer was dropped off at the office by a delivery guy.
Services like Amazon Now and Seamless feature daily in the lives of New Yorkers, and seem to be far more integrated than in the UK. From extra printer paper to a working lunch, everything comes straight – and almost instantly – to you.
- Moving Cashless
Despite the fact that card payments often feel more complicated in the New York (lack of chip & pin or contactless functionality, having to sign the cheque) there seem to be a growing number of places that don’t take cash at all.
With the large exception of the subway, whose top-up yellow Metro cards seem vastly outdated in comparison to the London Underground’s contactless payments, a large number of the city’s eateries and bars only take payment by card.
Despite one incident in a salad bar where I saw a customer get caught out by the cashless system, for the large part it makes total sense. Mobile finance is growing (I myself have used a Revolut card whilst I was out here) and, in recognition of millennial wanderlust, these apps often come without the fees and travel restrictions associated with conventional debit and credit cards.
- Package Free Living
One of the things I have been really struck by here is the dichotomy between waste and sustainability. On the one hand, the pavements (or, I suppose, ‘sidewalks’) seem to be permanently piled high with trash bags, and everyone seems to have a takeaway Starbucks cup glued to their hand at all times.
On the flipside, I have witnessed some of the most amazing innovations in package free living here. The Package Free Shop in Willamsburg has everything you could possibly need for living a waste-free lifestyle, reusable cosmetic puffs to eco-friendly dog toys. And, if Manhattanites have a Starbucks cup affixed to one hand, they most likely have a S’well stainless steel water bottle in the other.
What I have been most surprised by is the number of coffee shops and informal restaurants that have compostable packaging. In many places everything from the takeaway cups to the cutlery is biodegradable. This is certainly a trend I hope to see more of when I return home…