First Impressions

New York is everything and nothing like I had imagined.

It is big, brash, LOUD, smelly, heaving with people and the most manic, impatient and frantic place I’ve ever experienced. I thought I knew big cities, but London is a small provincial town compared to New York. Everywhere you go, there are car horns blaring, people yelling, cars whooshing by, people shoving you, leaflets being pushed in your face, crazy people declaring The End Has Come, steam emitting from grates unexpectedly, food carts belching out enticing smells and flashing neon lights from store fronts blinding you, and all this can just as easily be seen at 6am as at 6pm. There is always something to see and do, something to marvel at, laugh at, cry at, point at, gasp at. It is a city that overwhelms every sense and makes you realise how high and wide and deep life can be. I love it.

I feel like I have regressed to childhood, and that’s not just because the skyscrapers and storey after storey of apartment buildings unfolding above my head to dizzying levels make me feel physically tiny. It’s because, for the first time since I was about 5, I am filled with wonder at everything I see. I no longer take my surroundings for granted, or walk along in a world of my own. The world around me has come alive; from sepia to technicolour. I can’t stop marvelling at the feat of the men who risked their lives to build the majestic skyscrapers of the 1920s; at the teeny tiny birds that populate Central Park; at the surging masses of people emerging from Grand Central at rush hour; at the graceful bridges that span the East River. I feel part of the throbbing heart of life in a way I never did in London; filled with possibility, with excitement, with anticipation, with hope. Looking at the sky studded with the pinnacles of towers built to express the dreams and hopes of men who truly believed America was the land of infinite opportunity, I too feel like here, I could achieve anything, be anything, do anything. I feel reborn, almost. And it’s only been six days. I can’t even begin to imagine how I’ll feel in a year.

Despite being further from my family and friends than I have ever been, and missing them terribly, I am so wonderfully happy. New York is going to be the making of me, I just know it. This is the beginning of the rest of my life, and I am sure as goodness going to make the most of it. In these past six days I have been pushed beyond the limits of everything I thought I was capable of, and while it has been scary, it has also been exhilarating, as now I know that I can do infinitely more than I ever dared to imagine, and as such, the world truly is my oyster. I still need more courage, and I know there will be plenty of valleys among the peaks, but I am so glad I took this leap, and I can’t wait to see what more joys lie along the road ahead of me. Thank you all for your wonderfully kind comments and emails; you have lifted my heart at times of real need, and I appreciate your support immensely. I have already done and taken photos of countless things, and will post properly about my adventures as soon as I can; life is a bit of a whirl at the moment and this is the only time I’ve had all week to sit down and write. Hopefully next week I’ll be able to tell you all about my trip to the beautiful Met, and show you some of the favourite places I’ve found so far!

86 comments

    1. Welcome to NYC! We have a reputation for being in a hurry and rude but once you get to know us we’re really quite friendly. Love your blog and look forward to your New York posts. – Suesis in Greenwich Village

      1. Thanks Suesis! Thank you for coming by. Oh I already think New Yorkers are far friendlier than Londoners! I’ve had some wonderful conversations with people and I feel right at home! Thank you – what a pleasure to have a real New Yorker reading along!

  1. What a wonderful post! I’m so glad to hear you are enjoying yourself. It’s such a great opportunity; you can’t afford to waste a single minute of it!

    1. Thank you, Laura! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I know- I am determined to throw myself into the experience and do as many new things as possible. It’s a new lease of life!

    1. Thank you, Penny. It really is such a joy to be here, it’s difficult to express in words! I will, don’t worry, and pictures will be coming soon also. Thank you – that means an awful lot to me!πŸ™‚

  2. Rachel — What a wonderful post! You make me proud to live in the United States, since we all feel somewhat responsible for New York City. I imagine it’s a great place to live and work….If you keep writing like this, I bet the New Yorker Magazine will be calling you. Seriously, I’m really glad that you are enjoying your new job and city. Welcome to the USA.

    1. Oh thank you Carol! I’m proud to live in the United States too! It is wonderful to live and work here…still a little surreal, but very wonderful! Oh my goodness! Wouldn’t THAT be amazing?! Thank you so much – I feel so welcome here already!

  3. What a lovely post! It is a magical city to visit, I can only imagine how overwhelming and fantastic it is to live there. I can’t wait to hear more about your adventures.

    1. Thanks Kate. It is such a magical and wonderful and overwhelming place – I know that even over a year I’ll barely touch the surface. I can’t wait to HAVE more adventures – thank you for reading along with me!

  4. Wow, I’m so excited for you! I recently graduated from uni, so I’m going torn between taking that big step and moving to another city, or staying at home and saving money. Not sure yet which one I’m going to choose.

    So I love reading about your adventures in NYC, and am eagerly anticipating more (as well as some bookish love, of course). Good luck!

    1. Thank you! Leaving university is a scary time – I took the plunge and moved out straight away, and I never looked back. Independence is better than riches I think, but then I’m used to living frugally so it depends what you care more about!

      I’m so glad you enjoy reading about my adventures, and yes, don’t worry, once I get settled, there will be plenty of reading!

  5. Well, for someone who finds herself overwhelmed and with little time, you have managed to write a beautiful little piece about your first taste of New York.

    You have a way of communicating which brings everything to life. After the paragraph about the (to me, negative) side of New York, you end: I love it. That’s perfect!

    So happy for you.

  6. Your mindset is so fantastic about your new adventure! An open mind like yours is certain to capture all the best of an exciting city like New York. All the best!

  7. What a lovely paeon to “The Big Apple”–and it’s especially touching that you posted it on September 11, which is a rather solemn date in NYC and, of course, in the United States as a whole.

    1. Thank you, Deb! Yes, it is a sad day today. We are watching the memorial service on TV as I write this and it is making me cry. I am glad I get to be here today to pay my respects – we’re going to go down to Ground Zero later. I love how important it is to Americans to honour those who died – they didn’t do anything like this in London to honour our own terrorist attacks on the tube, which I found very disappointing.

  8. Wonderful piece of writing and so glad your first impressions of your new home are so positive. Although I’ve visited NY on many occasions over the years I’ve never had the opportunity to experience the city as a resident. So I’m really looking forward to reading about your bite of the Big Apple. Yery best wishes.

    1. Hello! I love your blog by the way, I just popped over. You have the life I’d love to have! It really is such a wonderful opportunity to get to live here for a year and I hope that by the end I’ll feel like a real New Yorker, though my accent does give it away! Thank you for your lovely comment and I hope you continue to enjoy my tales of adventures here in NYC!

  9. I’m so pleased you’re loving it so far! You’re a better woman than I am–whenever I go to a new place, I take ages to adjust and start liking it, even if it’s fantastic. I hope it carries on being wonderful for you!

    1. Thanks Jenny! Oh I hated New York the first time I visited, so I’ve already had that adjustment phase! I could definitely do without the incessant car horns but other than that, New York is a hard place not to love once you get stuck in! Thank you so much, I do too!

  10. I was so excited to see you had a post and wanted to say hi yesterday, that I failed to tell you about a book that you should read (like your list isn’t long enough). It is a children’s book. Actually, a series of books about a delightful and precocious girl named Eloise who lives at the Plaza Hotel. The books are by Katy Thompson and readily available, especially in NYC. Grab a copy, particularly Eloise at the Plaza and have a good little read and THEN go to the Plaza Hotel for tea. THEN tell us all about it.

  11. I agree with Carol, and I think you oughtta go knocking at the New Yorker’s door. You are exactly what that magazine is interested in. I would read your column every week!
    And I know I said it before, but please, please know that NYC is not all of America. Every single word you used to describe it does not apply to the life I live at all. :<) America is a big, big place but I think what most of us share is that vitality, enthusiasm, and hopefulness wherever we live.

    1. Thank you Nan! You’re so kind.
      Oh don’t worry – I know that! It’s just like London isn’t really representative of England, and it makes me sad that most tourists come to London and stop there. There’s so much more to see! One of the things I am happiest about in having a whole year here is that I will get the chance to explore the ‘real’ America. I love that sense of enthusiasm, optimism and positivity Americans have. Being here has made me realise how downbeat a lot of British people are. It’s so encouraging and inspiring to be in a country that celebrates life!

  12. So happy to hear the transition has been a wonderful experience thus far. I’ve only visited NY twice, but I loved the hustle and the bustle. I found it so thrilling and exhilarating that there was always something to see and do; it very much seems like a city where you can never be bored. Probably just the thing when you are far away from family and loved ones! So envious of your grand adventure!

    1. Thanks Steph! Yes – there is so much to take in and so much I want to do – I feel like a year is hardly long enough at all – I need 10! It’s such a wonderful and vibrant place to be, and it certainly does take the edge off homesickness.πŸ™‚

  13. What a lovely post! Just think we’re in almost the same time zone now–you’re an hour later!πŸ™‚ I’m so excited for you and it sounds like your first impressions have been good ones. I always enjoy your posts as they are always so passionate and filled with life–I wish I could write half as well, but alas am just content that I know someone whose writing I can enjoy. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your adventures!

    1. Thank you Danielle! I know, it’s so exciting to be in the same time zone as so many of my fellow bloggers! Hopefully I might get to meet some of you while I’m over this side of the pond!

      What a lovely thing to say, but I can’t let such a comment pass at all – I think your posts are always wonderfully inspiring and I thoroughly enjoy them – so we are a mutual admiration society!πŸ™‚

  14. What a wonderful. exciting, evocative post! I haven’t been to NYC in years, but I have always felt completely at home there when I’ve visited. I sometimes wish that I would have had a chance to try living there; too late now. I’ve only been to Manhattan, so I suppose I can’t really say I’ve experienced the city since I’m told the other boroughs are quite different.

    1. Thank you Steve! It’s lovely to hear from you. I’m glad you enjoyed my post! You know what, I believe it’s never too late to do anything! I’d recommend it to anyone to spend just a month here, if they can’t spend longer – that’s enough to soak up some of the energy and spirit to be found in these streets! I have yet to fully explore the other Boroughs but I think there is something about ‘New Yorkers’ in general that is quite unique. I can’t wait to see more of them!

  15. Your description of New York sounds just like the one in Mrs. Harris Goes to New York. I’m glad your experience has begun with a bang. I hope it keeps on going well.

    Virginia

  16. You are great fun to read – perceptive, funny, witty with such gusto for life shining through your writing.

    I feel inspired to start reading America with you.

    1. Sue, what compliments! Thank you so much – that is so kind of you. I really appreciate that! I am not doing very well on the reading front so far but I hope to improve once life settles down!

  17. Sorry I’ve been slow to pop in – been on hols. Glad you have arrived safely and are having fun! Really looking forward to hearing more about it all in due course x

    1. Good for you – hope you’ve had a lovely time, though sorry the swim got cancelled. Thank you – I can’t wait to get proper internet (rather than having to sit in Starbucks!) and being able to post properly with photos! x

  18. What a wonderful post. I must confess that New York has never been a place that has appealed to be before, but the sense of life that you decsribe is starting to make me rethink my previous opinions on New York as ‘not being for me’. I look forward to your New York posts with interest.

    1. Thank you! Well New York shouldn’t really be my kind of place either, but its spirit has filled me and now I can’t get enough! It has to be experienced to be believed. I hope I can win you over in time!πŸ™‚

  19. I’m so glad you’re having a wonderful time, it sounds mind expanding and such a different way of life to over here. I hope you keep having fantastic adventures and have plenty of photos to show for themπŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Jodie! It really is a whole different kettle of fish over here – life is grabbed here with both hands. There is just more passion and more go about people, from what I’ve experienced so far. It’s made me realise how passive about life I used to be. No longer! You should get yourself on over here! I plan on having plenty of exciting adventures, don’t you worry! I will share!πŸ™‚

  20. My first trip to NYC I thought that it seemed so familiar and so foreign at the same time. I have an extra copy of “New York’s Unique and Unexpected Places” that I would love to send your direction. If you are interested email with your mailing address. onmyporch at hotmail dot com

  21. Oh Rachel, you sound so joyful! I’ve been wondering how you’ve been getting on and you pretty much summed up every image I had of you drinking it all in. When I tune in to the Today Show in the mornings, I find myself looking for you in the crowd outside the studio…well, one never knows where you’ll pop up!

    By the way…just how much are they loving your accent?

    1. Thank you Darlene! It’s so lovely to know you’ve been thinking of me! You are so sweet.πŸ™‚ Ha! One day I might just be outside that studio! I can’t believe how wonderful it is here!

      LOADS – I have lost count of the ‘honey, where’s that accent from?!’ comments!!! It’s going down a treat! It’s nice to stand out for once!πŸ™‚

  22. How glorious!! You have really captured the spirit of NYC. I knew you would love us. You were at the Met? That’s across the street and one block south of me. Can’t wait to see you.

      1. It occurs to me that the Met you refer to may be The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side, not the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center on the West Side near my work location. They are both referred to as The Met and somehow people just know which one you are talking about. It never before dawned on me that this could be quite confusing to a NEW New Yorker!

      2. Yes I meant the Museum! That IS confusing! I hope to make it to the other Met soon…I just watched free opera from Met students in Bryant Park tonight and I was enchanted!

  23. Glad to hear you’re settling in quite well. It’s incredibly brave of you to move over by yourself but it helps that you have a job to go to! Where are you working?

    Keep up the energy and don’t forget that it’s ok to feel scared some times.πŸ™‚

    Also, is it a coincidence that you posted on September 11?

    1. Thank you, Mae. I am settling in much quicker and easier than I had expected if I’m honest! I am working at a recruitment company – it’s very busy which is a good thing as it takes my mind off homesickness!

      Thank you – I’ve already had some moments of ‘I want my mum!’ but I am pushing through!

      I actually posted on September 10th but my computer is still on UK time so it came up as the 11th…even so, it works well as my little tribute, I think. It was a very moving day here on the 11th, I have to say. I admire this city’s spirit and their reverence for the victims of 9/11.

  24. You have 66 comments–oh my! You’ll probably never read this one, but you have SO defined New York City in all its terribleness and loveliness!

    I wish you loads and loads of adventures in the days to come! Keep posting. I’m tuned in…

    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

    1. Judith how lovely of you to come by and comment. Welcome! I read and appreciate everyone who comes and comments on my blog, don’t you worry! How kind to say I have defined New York – I hoped I would find some small way to do it justice in my words! Thank you so much – I will – it’s finding the time to post in between having the adventures that I’m struggling with at the moment!

    1. Thank you Gill! I am sure I am going to have so much fun here…I am overwhelmed with how much there is to see and do, I can’t see how I’ll ever fit it all in!

    1. Thank you! I know, for a British girl, America is MASSIVE! To think that just one state out of 50 is bigger than my entire country is mindblowing! I hope to get to make a little footprint on this huge land while I am here!

    1. Oh, Matie-Therese, if only you knew how much pizza I’ve managed to eat in just two weeks!!! Earmuffs are totally a must here…I’m constantly being deafened by car horns!!

  25. While I haven’t been to NY I had a similar reaction on seeing other big cities for the first time, esp. Tokyo and San Francisco. A feeling of being ‘alive’ and at the same time your head is spinning with so much going on and so many things and places to explore! Have a great time – I shall follow your posts with interestπŸ™‚

    1. Yes – spinning is definitely what my head is doing! I feel exhausted but in a good way…I can’t wait to start feeling properly ‘at home’ here and exploring all the places I’ve heard about so often! Thank you – I’m glad to have you following along, Laura!πŸ™‚

  26. Hello from Brooklyn, and oh, what a great post. I found your blog via someone who mentioned you in a Book Blogger Appreciation Week post, & I look forward to reading your NYC adventures, bookish and otherwise.

  27. I’m glad you are enjoying NY so much. I do hope you get to see some of the rest of the country. Upstate New York and on up into Maine when the autumn colors are their best would be a good start. Enjoy!

    1. Thank you Janet! I actually work in White Plains so I have seen a teeny bit of New York State so far…and I am planning a trip to Sleepy Hollow next month! I would like to spend Christmas in Vermont as well…New England is going to get many visits from me, rest assured!

  28. A belated post Rachel but I was actually talking about you with Simon T over the weekend and discussing how you were getting on. I reckoned you would be so hooked you would never want to come back apart from for holidays. Lovely piece on one of THE most amazing cities and all the more lovely knowing you are safe and sound and just as important… loving it all!

    1. Oh thank you Simon. How lovely that you were thinking of me! You’re about right…I am totally hooked! Shame US Immigration only lets me stay for a year! It is an incredible place that it’s hard not to love…can’t wait for the next 50 weeks and what adventures they will bring!

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