August 19, 2008
NYC: Not like back home
photo by Joe Shlabotnik
Today's Times asks tourists visiting New York from the US and around the world what aspects of the city surprise them the most. I don't know if it's because of how the question was asked, but most tourists took the opportunity to make little subtly bitchy comments about how day to day life in New York seems different from how things are where they're from. Because for many people, especially when they're far from home, "different" means "I hate it".
Actually, there are a few positive comments about the city from visitors, such as Michael McIsaac from London who loves our outstanding unlimited coffee refills, and Rhona Ciolek from California who marveled at our impressively gigantic piles of trashbags on curbs. An enthusiastic Spanish women notes, "There are a lot of men here that are really muscular!" And I completely agree with some valid complaints, like a Swede who points out that our waterfronts are in shambles.
But most things that surprise tourists seem to be things they don't much like. And some of their comments say more about their home countries than anything else.
So here you go: Helpful clues about what life is like in tourists' home countries, as revealed by their complaints:
Comment from a Spanish tourist: "In Spain we drink coffee in little cups."
Translation: Spanish cafes may be stingy.
Comment from a London tourist: "[New Yorkers] will not tolerate bad service."
Translation: British people suffer in silence.
Comment from a German tourist: "In the ladies' toilets you can see people's feet. Where I'm from we have full doors on the bathrooms."
Translation: It may be harder to solicit anonymous sex in public bathrooms in Germany, a la Larry Craig, but it's probably easier to actually have anonymous sex or engage in any other illicit activities.
Comment from a French tourist: "You are always served very quickly here, even in a nice restaurant. Here it's quicker, you don’t have time. In Paris you get a lot of time before your food comes."
Translation: French service is slow. Also, wow: this guy actually found a way to be snotty about New York restaurants having good service.
Comment from a Saudi tourist, looking at the lights of Times Square: "I thought it would be more realistic."
Translation: Saudis have interesting, sort of postmodern ideas about what reality is and what it should look like when it's actually in front of you in three-dimensional space.
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