New York expectations vs reality

Whether you have made it to the Big Apple or not, we have all had some insight into New York City life. Perhaps it was through a novel, photographs or television shows such as Sex and the City and Gossip Girl.


On arrival in New York City, my initial expectations of a glamorous and extravagant lifestyle were quickly erased by the reality that this was to be my life for the next three months.

I always imagined New York to be fashionable, glamorous and luxurious. Don’t get me wrong, some parts of the city are. But for most of us this ideal became a far-fetched dream.

Departing on my trip to the US I believed that I would be enjoying sunny weather while lying in Central Park topping up my tan. However when the mid-July heatwave arrived, I realised that this was not to be the case as the struggle to find an air conditioned shop, bar or restaurant turned into a daily struggle for survival in Manhattan.

The expectation of hailing down yellow cabs on Park Avenue and saying “keep the change” was replaced with a weekly metro card, a subway map and bottles of water to survive in the infamous NYC subway heat.

I always wondered why coffee was so popular New York. In the movies it seemed that grabbing a morning coffee was just a habitual part of daily life but after a few weeks in the US I understood what all the hype was about. New York City really is the city that never sleeps and trying to carry out a day’s work after only a handful of hours sleep, I found a strong, New York style coffee was the best cure.

New York is renowned for its popular tourist attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, Times Square and the Empire State building. Although these attractions are a must see, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the city’s hidden gems like street art, subway singers and outdoor movies were sometimes the most appealing aspects of the city.

Although some of my expectations of life in New York City were far from realistic, living in the city for the summer was an incredible experience that I will never forget.

Shirley Donlon

Image credit: Aoibheann Diver

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