The most common question I’m asked when I go “home” (Minneapolis or Seattle) is, “How is living in New York different?” The question is usually followed by a bashful, “I know it’s totally different – but how?”

It’s a fair question. One I asked many times before I moved here, too. It is different. Totally different, though? No. At some point I got used to the New York normal. It stopped being novel, but when out-of-towners visit, I’m reminded of what’s totally different.

1.     The noise. I fall asleep at night to the sounds of rolling metal doors closing on the street below, car alarms, people talking loudly, someone practicing the drums, basketballs dribbling on the sidewalk and the occasional pack of dirt bikers screeching down the empty street. It drove me crazy when I first moved here. Now I don’t even notice it.

2.     People doing weird things. Yeah, some people dress funny. I once saw a man in a tiger costume, minus the head on the subway. No one paid attention to him. I wish I had more examples, but honestly, nothing is sticking out.

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At “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell”

3.     There’s a whole lotta stuff to do here. Going to show tapings is a regular thing for my friends and me. There’s always a new neighborhood in which to grab dinner and walk around. Universities and gyms offer awesome classes. I totally take it for granted that whatever I want to do, I can. I think boredom will be one of my challenges when I leave New York.

4.     People dress well. A little effort is always put in when leaving the house, even if you leave in a tiger costume. It doesn’t have to be fussy, but people are generally more stylish here than anywhere else I’ve been. In yoga class, people dress nice. It doesn’t have to be Lululemon, and no one will comment on your cotton shorts and T-shirt, but you will be the only one in cotton shorts and a T-shirt. Trust me, I’ve been that person.

5.     It’s crowded. You probably have to stand on the train. The line at the grocery store can be 40-people long. Hundreds show up for the Book of Mormon lottery. You need to pad travel time by 20% if your route takes you through a high-traffic area. You can’t sit at the coffee shop all day. Sometimes you have to share a table with unknowns at a restaurant.

6.     You walk a lot. Up and down the stairs to the subway platforms. Across town when you don’t want to wait for the L or the B trains. Many subway stations aren’t accessible, so you have to carry babies, strollers, suitcases, purchases, etc. up yourself. Same thing at many apartment buildings. It’s 51 stairs from the train platform to the street at 47-50 Rockerfeller Center. It’s 80 stairs from the street to my apartment. My ass looks so good.

7.     It smells. So. Bad. Worse when it’s hot outside.

8.     Is it raining, snowing, sunny? Don’t know. All I see when I look out the window is a gray building.

9.     People refer to the sandwich chain as Subway Sandwiches.

10.     Public transit is fantastic, but it brings out the worst manners in people who play loud games sans headphones, take up two seats, and push their way on before letting people off.

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