A little New York culture

Since my last New York post, the US election result has shocked and angered a great many people. I, along with many others, felt a tumultuous variety of emotions including disbelief and anxiety for the future. As we all begin coming to terms with the news, I’m extra thankful that we went to New York prior to the election. We were able to enjoy typical American and New Yorker experiences relatively carefree. In this penultimate post of the New York series, I wanted to share details with you about our Broadway experience and what it was like watching a New York Rangers game. And also, a notes that might be useful for future travellers entering the US for the first time.

 

Waitress the Musical

I am a big fan of Sara Bareilles who is a truly talented singer and songwriter, and I’ve been following her journey through social media as she wrote the music and lyrics for Waitress. It was so awesome to be in New York while Waitress was showing – I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the Broadway debut of my favourite singer. Waitress delivered on all fronts. The set was brilliantly coordinated and the cast totally amazing, ensuring we were emotionally invested in each character from the very beginning. There were serious emotional moments as we followed the main character, Jenna, seek more from her life as a waitress at the local diner with a loveless marriage at home. Jessie Mueller does a perfect job of portraying Jenna, and the script ensures you’ve both laughed and cried before the curtain comes down. One of my favourite songs is She used to be mine – go listen! A guy sitting in front of us wiped his eyes during the song, and he later admitted to crying multiple times during the show.

I cannot recommend this musical enough, it’s a real hoot and a half. The Brooks Atkinson Theatre is also a gorgeous location!

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New York Rangers Game

Sport is not a significant part of my life although since moving to London, I often find myself watching rugby games to support the All Blacks. In the past I’ve also enjoyed watching the odd tennis match but otherwise have little experience with the showmanship of sports. Richard and I watched a pre-season friendly game between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden. It’s already a miracle that I have heard of these team names before! But, I did need to double check what sport it was! (FYI, it’s ice hockey.)

The game of ice hockey itself was reasonably easy to follow, but to take a more anthropological view, the experience was probably the most typically American we had. Bearing in mind that very little appeared to be at stake in this game (“pre-season friendly” after all), I was blown away by the drama; whirling spotlights, singing of the national anthem, and a loud dramatic voice over (“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome… the NEEEEWWW YOOOORRRKKK RRRAAAAANNNGGEEERRRSSSSSS!!!”). It was quite the experience to stand and listen to the US national anthem being sung by a young Broadway star and find we couldn’t catch the final words due to the cheering of the crowd. I don’t think we’ve seen that level of excitement at a sports game although it may be comparable to the final of a rugby world cup (?). It was also an incredibly drawn out affair, with 90 minutes of game time stretched out to last 3 hours due to all the musical breaks, intermissions and dramatic showmanship. In the end the Rangers won 3-1 so we were supporting the winning side.

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Observations

  • Prices do not include sales tax

It’s widely known that the US has a tipping culture where most service providers rely heavily on tips as the biggest chunk of their wage. What I often forget is that stated prices on the shelf do not include sales tax. During our stay I would stand in a corner of a store to count out the right change and avoid holding up the queue, only to end up holding everyone up anyway because I forgot to factor in the tax. It can become irritating and I’m not sure why they can’t just include the tax in the listed price. It’s something to keep in mind because meals might come to a little more than you expect! And that can really add up when you’re eating out for a week!

  • Toilets (I know! You’re thinking, ‘what?’)

This is an odd thing but I discovered that the toilets in New York/the US are different! The water level is incredibly high. I thought the toilet at our accommodation was broken/blocked. It turns out that’s totally normal. Also, the flush mechanism appears to be different (what the heck). All the water is sucked out so the bowl is, for a moment, totally empty before being refilled. And there is no half flush option. These are the weirdest of observations, I know!

  • Don’t be afraid to be friendly!

Most of the friends and colleagues I spoke to after returning from New York were surprised when I said the people were friendly. A big concrete jungle city is not usually associated with being warm or friendly – but I found New Yorkers to be easy to smile and happy to say hello to a passing stranger. To avoid being unfriendly, seen as an aloof visitor (or too English), I would recommend getting on board with that and simply acknowledging other humans on the street.

As usual I’m saving the best for last and the final post in this series will cover all the amazingly delicious food we consumed in New York. It wasn’t healthy (consider yourself warned), but it was a no-regrets type of incredible. Prepare yourself and keep an eye out for that!

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