Living in Northern CA Versus NYC: So Many Differences

The kids and I spent nearly all of August on the West Coast.  It was good to get a break from the heat and humidity (and the pace) of NYC and I feel like I returned with fresh eyes and spirit.  It’s funny– I love both places, and I’m grateful that we get to live in NYC and visit CA twice per year– but I’m struck by the differences in lifestyle.  Our life in California was so different from our day-to-day experience in Brooklyn.  Here are just a few examples:

  1. The weather.  This one is obvious.  There are four seasons in NY and only two in California (warm and sunny; mostly warm and occasionally wet).  Whereas in CA one tends to take all that lovely sunshine for granted and complain when the temperature is outside of one’s personal 15-degree comfort zone (usually set around 65-80 degrees), I find that I am absolutely reveling in this week’s perfect early fall weather in NYC.  Not too hot, not too cold, sunny with just a hint of chill.  I love it!  And I know that I must appreciate it now, for it won’t last.
  2. Four seasons of clothing.  Of course, this partners with weather.  In CA, I had two wardrobes (sort of), but much of one’s clothing is year-round when you live in such a mild climate.  In NY, I am currently transitioning the whole family from warm weather clothing to cool weather clothing, hauling boxes of summer apparel to storage and returning with boxes of lightweight warmer things to home.  Of course, it is too early to bring winter stuff to the apartment– where would we put it?  It is a big job to manage clothing for six people, particularly when four of them are growing quickly.  Donating/giving away pieces that are about to be outgrown and purchasing items that we will need soon add to the complexity.
  3. People dress more formally on the East Coast.  We had to purchase an entire new work wardrobe for Manly Guy when he took a job on Wall Street.  His former work attire was shorts and work boots (unless he was meeting with a client, when he would wear nice business casual clothing).  Now he wears a suit and tie every work day.  On the West Coast, people in technical jobs rarely (if ever) wear a suit, even at most high-level jobs.  When I visit Manly Guy at the office, I always ensure that I dress the part of an executive’s wife.  If I showed up in my workout attire, I am certain that I would get stink-eye.
  4. People in CA drive.  People in NYC don’t.  I guess if we lived further out in suburbs we would drive, but we do not even have a car here.  We walk or take the subway (or Uber) everywhere.  I walk many miles each week, often with my granny cart in tow, and I love the fact that all that mileage is just built into my days.  When we arrived back to CA this summer, it felt so strange to get behind the wheel of a car.  It took me a few days to get used to it.  And it felt like such a luxury to drive up to a store (like Target) and BUY AS MUCH AS YOU NEED, load it into the car and drive home. With a granny cart, as soon as it is full, it’s time to walk home, no matter how far down my list I’ve gotten.  Of course, I took advantage of the car in CA and did much of my back-to-school shopping while we were there and shipped it back to NY.  It would have been silly to NOT shop while it was easier than usual.  But I’m still glad that I’m the Granny Cart Queen of Carroll Gardens.
  5. People on the West Coast are mellow.  New Yorkers are not.  I found myself feeling a bit fidgety in CA, missing the buzz in the air that I sense when I walk down the streets in NYC.  While crossing the road in Santa Rosa with my kids, I screamed at a car to stop and the car’s passenger responded like I was insane. (Three cars had blown threw the crosswalk while we were in it and I was determined that the next car would stop.)  People in CA aren’t used to others raising their voices; in NYC one hears interesting (and sometimes heated) exchanges constantly.
  6. Californians say “hello” to everyone but don’t really talk to people that they don’t know.  New Yorkers talk a lot to strangers, but you have to let them initiate the conversation.  While living in California, I was in the habit of greeting other runners on the trail and they would usually respond in kind.  I tried that during one of my first runs in Prospect Park and the runners that I greeted just shot me a dirty look.  How dare I talk to them!  However, I’ve overheard conversations between strangers in NY much more frequently than I would in Northern California.  On the subway, in the street, at a restaurant– people who don’t know each other often jump into conversations.  It’s amusing to witness.

November 1 is the one-year anniversary of our move to New York.  It’s hard to believe that we have been living in Brooklyn for almost a year.  Last year we had arrived just before the holidays, so celebrations were a bit rushed and underwhelming. This holiday season should be easier and more fun.  Once again, I’m feeling very blessed and grateful.