The big city came short of my expectations


Rhamil Taguba

While there were several impressive pieces of architecture like the exterior of the One World Trade Center, I wasn’t able to fully embrace what millions of people call the “embodiment of the American Dream”.

Rhamil Taguba, Managing Editor

Recently, I visited what many cite as the most influential, most famous city in the world: New York City. While I was looking forward to strolling through what popular culture has idolized as the most extravagant and iconic metropolis, what I experienced during my week there was almost disappointing.

I do acknowledge that my expectations may have been extremely high, considering NYC’s reputation for being the most important capital in the world financially, culturally, and artistically. But I didn’t expect it to be more miserable than extravagant.

For starters, my first impression could not have been worse. To begin with, 30 minutes into my visit, I was lectured by a homeless man on “loving Asians”. Straining against 20 mph winds made the walks and temperature unbearable, and the damp fields between Newark and Manhattan were far from what I expected to be a snowy winterland. The sky felt dull and uneventful, and the wind made the visit to Liberty Island harsh and distracting. At one point, I got lost at a diminishing subway station and had to befriend an old cat lady to get back to the group. I was even paranoid when we entered a seemingly suspicious mafia front disguised as a pizza restaurant.

And perhaps it’s my ego talking, but the sight of such massive and populous buildings designed to make you feel miniscule is something I couldn’t embrace, not to mention the scarcity of space available in almost every room and residence in what is supposedly the biggest city in the world. You can easily avoid paying closer to $3,500 every month for rent for a space by easily finding housing in a smaller city for less than half of that. There’s plenty to enjoy somewhere like Chicago or Los Angeles — New York City isn’t America’s ONLY cultural hub. 

So other than the numerous landmarks, which I assume every New York resident doesn’t visit on a daily basis, the only noteworthy thing NYC has to offer is its abundance of culture. But even that doesn’t make up for the current vibe of the city now. In fact, NYC has consistently been ranked one of the unhappiest cities in America, and it’s probably due to the miserable attitude displayed by the daily transmuters of the subway who work three jobs to keep a roof over their heads. 

But there are some major upsides to living there. It literally is the biggest culture center in America. The term “salad bowl,” where different cultures are distinct yet mixed, is prevalent in the city. I could walk 20 minutes to Chinatown and shop for Asian trinkets, and then half an hour later eat the greatest Italian food in the country. While the landscape of the city might get a little monotonous, there is always something new to do. There is never a shortage of food, Broadway, music, and art. 

Plus, the USA in general  has always been deemed as a nation of opportunity — NYC might be the best example of that. It’s dominated the financial and commercial industry for decades, and will continue to for decades to come. “Making it in the big city” is a popular catchphrase that continues to hold true, especially since NYC has consistently been synonymous with wealth and capital. 

Yet, despite the prosperity of wealth and culture, I still felt underwhelmed based on my entire experience. The city, especially in popular culture, is portrayed as a luxurious haven of wealth — the massive amount of homeless people in the subway and the run-down infrastructure is quite contrary to that standard. And from a ground point of view, a stroll in NYC seems like any other stroll in any other city, maybe even worse if the busybodies push you off into the street.

So if you enjoy being just an anonymous figure in a sea of millions of people, it’s a decent place to live in. But not everything is a movie – NYC isn’t prone to that feeling.