Riham's Blog

New York, I love you.

If you lived here, you'd be home now.

I came here today hoping to write a post about Dublin. This post was supposed to help me readjust to life here, remind me why I am in fact happy in Dublin.

See, a little over a week ago, I went to my dream city New York, and I instantly absolutely fell in love with it. All the thoughts that it might be disappointing because of all the expectations I had built up for it were not true. Then I came back to my dear old Dublin, with one idea in mind: this is not the city I want to live in forever. I do love Dublin, I would be lying if I said I did not, but seeing New York confirmed that it is not the city for me. So I decided to write about New York instead to explain why I loved it so much. It is a cliche to love New York, it is expected to be in awe in front of all what it has to offer, and everything I will say has definitely been said before, but I want to say them again nonetheless.

  • City with a soul – One thing that people often criticize about cities in the United States is that since it is relatively a new country, you can’t see ancient history in it, you can’t walk and visit where old civilizations have previously lived. This is also often said about Dubai, since that city is actually very new. When I was in Dubai, I agreed with everyone that said that it was fake, and I didn’t really have a problem with that; I liked the city nonetheless. However, when it comes to New York, I did not think it was fake, and I certainly did not think of it as being empty. You can definitely sense a certain culture in this city, maybe not in the same way you would if you were walking in Rome for instance, but there is something to it. It feels like it’s more than just a city where everything is big and well-lit. It isn’t like Dubai where the common principle is “The bigger the better”, but it feels like New York is what it is. The other cliche about it that “everything is possible” is something I did feel there, hopefully not because that’s what pop culture has been feeding me my whole life. Every building and every person on the street sends a vibe that says “You can do whatever the hell you want.”
  • Rough & intimidating – This city is not your typical welcoming city. It is certainly very rough and can be extremely intimidating. It is crystal clear that it is not for everybody and you can see that from your very first steps. Everything moves fast, everyone moves fast, no one stops for you, no one gives you all the time you need. Buildings are big, streets are noisy, advertising, billboards and commercials are literally everywhere. It is definitely a city that moves fast, and you can easily be left behind if you are not moving at the right pace, both physically and mentally. It is overwhelming, and I absolutely loved that. Who needs serenity when you can have exciting?
  • Overwhelming feeling of familiarity – I’ve heard this from a couple of people before I went there, I heard it from my friends there and I thought it while I was walking those streets. You really feel like you know this city, like you’ve been here before. It makes it a lot less intimidating. You’ve seen it on TV, you know these landmarks. On my third day there, I was able to locate myself easily, my sense of direction was working perfectly fine in a massive and supposedly unknown city. In addition to that, on my third day, it felt like we had been there for a long time. The week I spent there did not go really fast as is usually the case on vacations, it felt long because I was in a city that I kind of knew, if that makes sense.
  • City of opposites & extremes – How many extremes can you fit in one city? It is just amazing how many there are. From the posh areas, to the less fancy areas. You can totally see it clearly on the buildings and how the streets are. From the people walking with the Chanel bags and the Manolo Blahniks, to the homeless literally sleeping on the ground. The fabulous gay men, to the crossdressers. The fancy restaurants, the disgusting fast-food places, to the carts selling Middle Eastern food everywhere. The guys running half naked, to the old lady wearing the craziest thing and walking on the street, not caring if people are looking, especially since most of the time, they’re not looking because they simple don’t care. Not to mention listening to two local New Yorkers discussing one of the many famous hobos, who choose a certain subway station or a park as their preferred location. They are known to push you as soon as they see you, and when I said that this sounds terrifying, the response is “It is the first time.” People know and accept that. They live among these contradictions and find them normal.
  • One stereotype corrected – New Yorkers are actually nice. They walk fast, they shove you on the street to get to their destination, but if you need help and you ask for it, they will help you and be nice to you. It isn’t like Beirut where every single person on the street will jump to your rescue without you even asking, but contrary to what stereotypes say about them, they are nice when you ask for help and won’t totally ignore you.
I could go on forever with reasons why I fell in love with this city. But all I have to say is that I do not like it when people assume that I am saying this as a crazy tourist who was merely in awe. I don’t like hearing people tell me that of course you’d love it on a vacation, but living there would be different. I realize it is a rough city, and I realize that it is not for everyone, and I also realize that it is most likely stressful to live there. But it is not Times Square that I loved, it is everything that this city represented. The stress, the hurry, the noise, the pushing, the roughness and the beauty.