Thursday, March 21, 2013

Back to Blighty

I am at the airport waiting for my flight to the UK, it's my first trip back for almost a year and I am really excited!  It has been so long since I have seen many of my friends and family, and I am looking forward to catching up with everyone.

I am sure I will be completely out of touch with popular culture, but I can't wait to watch some of my favourite TV shows and find out what I have been missing.  I will be stocking up on undies from M&S (you can't beat them!) and eating copious amounts of my favourite dishes.

They are calling my flight, so I have to cut this post short.  I will be back in New York in a couple of weeks and I'll let you know how my trip goes!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Patricks Day in New York

St. Patrick's day in New York City is unlike anything I have experienced in other parts of the world and I have celebrated the holiday in Ireland!  It is one of the biggest events here, with a parade on 5th avenue and various activities throughout the city. I was surprised by the number of people who actively celebrate St. Patricks day and it isn't just those of Irish decent, but people from all backgrounds and ethnicities. They dress up in green outfits, wear beads, paint their faces and colour their food and drinks. Bars, pubs and restaurants all have special 'St. Paddy's' day menus and people spill onto the street enjoying the festivities.  Although the Feast of St. Patrick is widely celebrated in the UK, the associated traditions do differ and I found it intriguing to see how the holiday is celebrated in America.  

In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day celebrations focus more on the historical traditions of the country and the American idea of what is considered Irish isn't always accurate. The Irish tourism board desperately wants to move away from the stereotype of the beer drinking "fighting Irish", and for people to understand that the Irish culture has a lot more to offer than Guinness, shamrocks and leprechauns.  Also some of the activities celebrated in the USA as part of this holiday are in fact from other countries. For example, the Highland games are not an Irish tradition, but originated in Scotland. That said, the idea that everyone should have fun and enjoy the holiday is common no matter where in the world you celebrate St. Patricks Day. 

Since moving to New York I have come across many people who say they are Irish, even though most have never visited Ireland or have any Irish relatives. As many New Yorkers are of Irish decent I can understand why they associate with this aspect of their lineage. However, I myself had an Irish grandmother and both of my husbands parents were Irish, but we both say we are English. I find it interesting that so many people relate to Ireland, but not other countries.  Descendants of other European countries, perhaps with the exception of Italy, don't often claim to be of that nationality. It is unusual to hear New Yorkers say they are English or Dutch, even if their ancestry originated from those countries.  In some cases people feel they are as much Irish as they are American. It is quite amazing that such a small country has such an impact all over the world, especially in the USA.

I think it's great that so many New Yorkers, and Americans, want to embrace the country and culture of their ancestors. However, I also believe that it is great to be an American!

Monday, March 11, 2013

No more super-sized soda's in NYC

The NYC ban on large sugary soft drinks has been the topic of conversation for many months now, but tomorrow the restriction will come into effect.  There will be no more super-sized sodas on offer, and if you want more than the new 16oz limit you will have to purchase another drink.

It a controversial topic with many people against the ban as they feel it takes away their right to make personal choices.  While I believe that people should be able to make individual decisions about their health, I do support the new restrictions.

The problem is, many of us are not making the best decisions for our health.  According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), in 2010 more than a third of Americans adults were obese and so were 17% of children.  Mayor Bloomberg also revealed that 58% of New Yorkers are considered overweight and 1 in 8 people suffer from diabetes.  If you take into consideration that 16oz of coca cola contains 200 calories and 27g of sugar, perhaps it is a good idea that we don't have access to limitless amounts of the stuff.

I remember how amazed I was at the size of everything when I first came to the US.  You could literally buy a bucket of coke at the cinema and soft drinks were endlessly refilled in restaurants.  This wasn't the case in the UK, each drink you consumed was paid for individually, the servings were much smaller and there were no free refills.  However, I'm not sure if this is still the case today!

I believe this is a step in the right direction to make the people of New York, and the rest of the US, healthier.  Many trends and changes start in New York, so it seems fitting that our city is the pioneer of the sugary drink restrictions.  It might make people consider their consumption of sugary drinks and encourage them to choose a better alternative.  New York's finest tap water is good enough for me and it's free!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Can you smell that?

Now I wasn't sure if I should post this, but I was telling my Mum about it and she thought it was very weird, but quite funny so I thought I would share this little story with you!

Since moving to New York I have developed a rather odd and disgusting skill of being able to differentiate between the smells of the city.  Not the nice ones, like freshly baked bagels or cupcakes, or even hot dogs (I know they are gross, but why do they always smell so good?), but the bad ones.  The really gross, I don't even want to know what that is, kind of smells.  I can differentiate between dog, cat and horse pooh.  I can smell a homeless person a block away and know the difference between the smell of vomit and garbage.  Lovely.

Unfortunately, New York is a very smelly city.  What with the rubbish being piled high on the streets and most public areas being used at dog toilets (I think it's worst on the Upper West Side and in Chelsea), my new heightened sense of smell had come in useful on occasion.  I have managed to avoid (although not always) treading in various sorts of pooh, side-stepped a rather large pile of well-disguised puke and narrowly missed getting on a subway carriage with a homeless guy who last washed in 1987.  I also know the stinkiest streets to avoid in my neighbourhood and the best place to stand at my local subway station.

A strong stomach definitely comes in handy when you live here, but I prefer to try an avoid the nasty smells when I can.  I have learnt a lot about living in New York over the past 2 1/2 years, but I can safely say that being able to tell the difference between animal pooh isn't something I thought would come in useful!