Friday, March 7, 2008


I landed in New York, on a dark and cold night, exactly a year ago this week.

I remember sitting on my bed, the only piece of furniture in my otherwise empty flat, wondering whether I was brave (as all my friends insisted I was) or completely insane ... while personally leaning towards the latter.
I felt that I was not only leaving 12 years of my life in London behind but also jumping feet first into the most challenging situation I have ever encountered - on my own, far away from my family and from friends who mean the world to me. But I was also excited to be achieving my dream of living in this amazing city and doing the job I have always loved doing, and will never tire of, but on a much larger scale.

It therefore seems an appropriate time for me to reflect on whether living in New York has changed me in anyway. Have I picked up new habits? Am I a different person to the one who left London 12 months ago? If anything, it's a good excuse for yet another random list ...

* I no longer get lost on the subway. Probably because I have officially given up on public transport anytime past 7pm during the week and at all times during the weekend. I'm afraid my brain is now wired to automatically choose the more expensive but much easier option of jumping into a cab. I used to be amused when taxi drivers asked me how I wanted to get to my destination ... until a few weeks ago, when I surprised myself by instructing the driver to take the West Side Highway to get me downtown. I now shamelessly debate the best routes to take with taxi drivers on a regular basis, as a true New Yorker would.
* I have started to say "how you doing?" instead of "how are you?" and also noticed I have the tendency to add "right?" in a higher pitch at the end of sentences - sometimes with a southern drawl if I have been spending too much time around Larry. A few American words have also weaved themselves into my vocabulary. My diary is now my calendar. I take the elevators. I live in an appartment, not a flat, and I don't call the subway the tube anymore ... While these adjustements were essential to make myself understood, I still stubbornly refuse to spell words the American way!
* I have developed an even keener interest in politics, no doubt fueled by being in the midst of one of the most important Presidential campaigns of recent times. I have watched the debates, torn between Obama and Clinton and admiring their witty repartie. Until I took a quizz on, which concluded that I was more closely aligned to Barack Obama's views. I haven't studied politics since my Masters but I will be joining a class on Global Politics at NYU in May to brush up my knowledge.
* I have picked up an expensive cocktail habit - my favourites being Hemingways at Bookmarks, Mojitos at Cafecito, Apple Martinis at the Merc Bar, Bloody Marys at Jane and Expresso Martinis at Garage. A "large glass of white wine" is still my favourite however. Some things never change.
* I have completely changed my mind about rain boots - from thinking that they were a dubious fashion statement to realising that they are an indispensible (and very practical) accessory. The same goes for hats and padded North Face coats.
* I have come to see the Caribbean as a weekend destination - in less than 3 hours, I can be on a white sand beach with a cocktail in my hand and I am planning to escape to St Martin for a long weekend very soon.
* I seem to have aged since I got here. I used to be asked for ID whenever I went out in my first 6 months here but it hasn't happened at all since then. The city has clearly taken its toll on me and I sadly don't look under 21 anymore.
* Most people I meet, and even people who have talked to me occasionally at work, think I'm British. Of course, I feel flattered by that. But I have heard myself on video and was shocked at how French I sound so I find it funny to have to explain to people who I have casually talked to for the last few months that no, my parents don't live in London, and yes, I really am French ...
* My obsession with sushi has only intensified and eel maki is a new and surprising addition to my repertoire of favourites.
* While on my ritual shopping expeditions in Soho at the weekends, I am physically unable to walk down the streets without clutching a tall Starbucks coffee, while still complaining that I cannot find decent coffee on this island.
* If someone had told me, 12 months ago, that I would be helping an 11 year old girl with her homework, I would have laughed in disbelief. But it seems that the level of nurturing I thought I could only feel for my family, my close friends and animals, can also be transposed to children!
* I have fully mastered the complicated art of swiping a metro card through the turnstiles in the subway. It's all about slow walking combined with a smooth wrist action - confidence is key! You just cannot show fear.
* Despite a few enjoying trips "up north" (including a great night in a Jazz club on 105th and a memorable brunch on 103rd), I still believe that Manhattan starts at the World Financial Centre and ends at 86th Street where I live.

While these are relatively trivial changes, this city has changed me in more radical ways too. The year I have spent here has been an incredible emotional roller coaster and I gained a few more hard-earned battle scars. But I'm staying on for the ride, which I am sure will continue to be both exhilarating and terrifying.

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