by KaLeigh Underwood, Intern
Being from a small town, visiting large cities often gives me culture shock. It’s easily done when you’re used to a two stoplight town and find yourself in the middle of Times Square, New York. Which is exactly where I found myself last week.
I had convinced my mom that for my sister’s eighth grade graduation, and my twenty-first birthday, we should take a girls’ trip to New York. She finally agreed, and the planning fell on my shoulders. In all the planning, and then the actual trip, I have come up with some tips for anyone planning to visit a big city in the near future.
To help ease yourself into the life of the city, even if you’re only going to be there a few days, there are a few things you need to be prepared for.
The first thing you need to be ready for is mastering the art of navigation. As I said before, my hometown is smaller than Irvine. It has two main stoplights and mostly hollers and backroads. Needless to say, I was not prepared for the city. It doesn’t help at all that I have absolutely no sense of direction. So there we are in New York, standing on the street corner where a shuttle from our hotel, (we actually stayed in New Jersey), had dropped us off, and we had no idea where to go. So I whip out my phone and get walking directions. I thought I was so smart, but I should have known it wasn’t that easy. We walked around for an hour, over twenty blocks, in circles, and never reached our destination. My advice to any other weary traveler? When in doubt, just ask for help. You can tell who lives in the city and who doesn’t, and I found that while some people loathe us tourists and our stupid questions, most people are generally happy to help you.
The second item also includes navigation, but it deals with that of the underground variety. My subway experience was limited to a one time excursion on the metro in Chicago with a friend who knew exactly what she was doing. So whenever it came time to use the subway in New York, I did everything I could to be overly prepared. I found a subway map at the hotel, and used it to plan our route to and from our destination. I wrote notes for the ride including which line we needed to be on, on which streets we would be entering and exiting the subway, whether we were going uptown or downtown, which stop we needed to get off on, and how many stops we would be on for. The nerve-wracking experience proved successful however, and it seemed all my planning was worth it, because we had no trouble purchasing our tickets and getting exactly where we needed to go. I should note though, if you’re going to be using the subway a lot, it is much cheaper to buy a metro card valid for one week rather than the individual ride cards.
The third thing may be New York specific, since my time in large cities/metropolitan areas has been limited, I’m not sure. But everyone should be aware that New Yorkers don’t eat real breakfast. Breakfast options include small items picked up at coffee shops, small fruit markets on the street corner, or from vendors with carts in the streets. If you are a breakfast person, and have to have food to get you going in the morning, make sure you find a hotel with coffee shops near by, or scope out vendors on your first day in the city. And if I were to make a suggestion, get a freshly made smoothie and an apple turnover off a cart vendor, delicious and surprisingly cheap.
Next, the fourth observation, is there are not many public restroom facilities in New York. If you’re like us, and stay in New Jersey, you need to be ready to buy small trinkets just to get into a restroom.
Also, I think it’s a given that in the city everything will be more expensive. However I was not ready for the $12 tolls, or the $35 public parking fees. So make sure your stash of quarters for the toll roads includes some bills too, or else you’ll be holding up traffic counting out $12 worth of quarters.
And of course, my sixth tip, is that traffic is just as horrible as you can imagine. One day it took us over an hour to get from Times Square and travel the eight miles back into North Bergen where we were staying. So if you are planning to drive into the city at all, make sure you have a full tank of gas and some things to keep you entertained.
Seventh, be aware when you order. Anyone who has traveled North knows sweet tea doesn’t exist, not like it does in the South. But I want to point out that I don’t think they put sugar in their lemonade either. I tried it on two separate occasions, and it was so sour it was bitter. I couldn’t even attempt to drink it. Lesson learned.
Lastly, I have to acknowledge a stereotype. I have always heard of “southern hospitality” but never truly believed it to be real. But let me tell you, it exists. On two separate occasions, I was seated next to fellow Kentuckians. Once on the ferry to the Statue of liberty, and once on the shuttle going back to the hotel from the city. We all agreed that we felt like we went out of our way to be polite, and that our politeness wasn’t acknowledged by the city folk. So don’t be offended when someone bumps into you and doesn’t say “excuse me,” or when you say “thank you” and do not receive a “you’re welcome.”