London Vs New York – an Indian perspective

A careless, opinionated and utterly pointless comparison of the two cities !

The Queen and Politeness

If you have a queen, you have got to learn to bow ;-) Londoners are generally very polite and well mannered. They can hate you and still manage to be polite. A New Yorker would have a hard time doing so. They (New Yorkers) sway between nice and friendly to loud and annoying with politeness lost somewhere in between.

Till today, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II distributes honorific titles like Sir or Knight which the English would die for (quite literally). In America everyone is a Sir, and the only title of any importance are Millionaires and Billionaires which again most New Yorkers would die for – quite literally.

Power of the wheel

If you’re from India you know the law of the road. The more wheels on your vehicle the more powerful you are. Walking on streets / footpaths is completely at your own risk and isn’t recommended for the week hearted.

At heart, the New York traffic scene isn’t quite different from India except that the madness is toned down a bit. New Yorker’s have little patience for anyone obstructing their way and would prefer if walking on streets was illegal.

Now, Londoner’s love to walk and secretly envy cyclists. Disrespecting a person on foot would clearly indicate you are not a Londoner and a menace to the city.

Subways and Tubes

When compared against each other, the London Tube is a zillion times cleaner. It looks clean, it smells clean, and it IS clean. Except that they seem to spend so much time cleaning it, that its always under maintenance!

The New York Subway not only looks like a coal mine but also feels like one. On the bright side its always up, even past 1 o’clock at night, after the London Tube had decided to nap.

Supermarkets and cheese

Supermarkets in London are easy to find. Huge supermarket chains have mini versions of their store spread out across the heart of The City. Do not be fooled, real-estate in London is as outrageously priced as New York. Good food (a synonym which Europeans use for their cuisine) is cheap.

Manhattan has no supermarkets. Enough said. European food is either costly or badly made depending on where you ate it.

Indian Food

Indian Food is everywhere in London. In the supermarkets, in the restaurants, on the television BUT all of it is crap. How did Indian food go so wrong in a country that came to India for its spices !?

Indian food in New York is a dream. Its easily accessible, cheap and a land where “Indian” means “from India” and not the Indian Subcontinent ;)

GAP, Ted Baker & Skin

The dressing in London is smart. People quite rightly wear clothes that make them look attractive. The dressing in New York is casual. People quite rightly wear clothes that make them feel comfortable.

It is a common perception that women in the USA are fatter than their European counterparts, but the ones in Manhattan are definitely not. Women of both cities seem to be doing pretty well on the diet front. Sadly the same can’t be said of the men. Most men in London are athletic and dressed to impress, most men in New York.. oh well.

Also, women in London are a lot more conservative in their dressing showing a lot less skin than their New York counterparts. They even hide their toes with open footwear being quite uncommon. (Given the weather, what choice does one have?)

Which brings us to ….

The Weather Channel

Checking weather constantly in the hope that it will change is a obsessive compulsion you are born with in London. Sadly its contagious, and any newcomer will soon be infected. The sky in London is always overcast, the scene is always gloomy and rain is always around the corner. Some months the rain will be kind enough to drop by only on weekends, how convenient! It is not uncommon for a Londoner to memorize the weekly weather, scheduling each task carefully. No rain on Wednesday afternoon, great – pick up dry cleaning.

With all that rain, its no surprise that the sun decided to take his summer vacation in New York.

A Birds Eye View

When the seatbelt sign goes on and you being to descend into London, you see (weather permitting) pretty red houses, as pretty as you would have drawn them in school. The sight is quite different with New York where you will be overwhelmed by amazing twists and turns and butterfly patterns made by highways that meet the horizon.

I like New York. It makes me feel at home, it reminds me of Mumbai. That might seem like a strange statement to make. Maybe it is strange, but it is also true, at least for me.

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29 thoughts on “London Vs New York – an Indian perspective

  1. I read this while waiting for my order to arrive. What a delightful read! Loved it. I agree with almost everything. Now that seldom happens. ;)

  2. As usual it made interesting reading. You managed to convey
    the exact picture.The best part is that you like N.Y. and feel at home.

  3. A comparative essay! Reader’s delight! Enjoyed and agree with every word…which is strange given that I have seen only one of the two cities! Funny you prefer Mumbai & Co. Happy for you but give me London any day…every day!

  4. Good article and definitely you have good writing skills (wonder where you got that from :))
    Also, you can keep this comparison thread live with more observations like apartments, lifestyles, work cultures, social setups/cultures, government/private company efficacy/mode of operations, ++
    Keep it coming!

  5. Very nice article. Crisp and fresh. I agree mostly the London bit and even if I have never been to NY, I can clearly see the similarities between NY and Mumbai … especially property prices :D … Planning to do one on Mumbai VS NYC any time soon?

  6. @Biswa, Glad you liked the article :) You can make a trip to NY soon and agree with the NY parts too ;-)

    But it is nice to see you here :) I just got connected to the online world this weekend. Until this week I was surviving on AT&T and iPhone both of which I am liking lesser by the day. Haven’t been online hence, but will be, starting tomorrow, hopefully :) Catch ya online. Love to Alina.

  7. Disagree with pretty much most of what you’ve said here Preeti, especially the bit about Indian food. London has better and more ‘Indian’ food than Delhi or Bombay….even all the mainstream supermarkets have dedicated Indian sections. However, I feel your negative thoughts about it may have more to do with the fact that London’s love affair with Indian food does not extend any further south than the Punjab. Given that the old established Indians in London (since the 1920’s) are the Sikhs it is no wonder that the local taste is more geared towards Punjabi food than the vegetarian central and south Indian dishes.
    Secondly, given that London’s crime rate is exactly 8 times higher than New York I wonder whether you really do know London at all when you describe them as “well mannered and polite”
    And then there’s the issue of the weather. London, has exactly the same climate as Paris. it gets neither too hot nor too cold. So, from an Indian perspective (unless the Indian concerned just happens to be a goat herder from the mountains of Himachal) I don’t understand how a city with freeze your socks off in winter blizzards can be more appealing.
    And then there’s the bit about property prices. You make out that New York is more expensive but the reality is that New York is dirt cheap compared to London.
    Tell the truth now….did you really visit London ?

    • @Joe, Hey ! Well, you seem to have taken this post too seriously. After all, I did say that it was a careless, opinionated and utterly pointless comparison of the two cities ! I would rather not justify my opinions or counterattack yours. Comparisons in life are always pointless and based solely on our individual experiences. Having lived in London for only a year, I will definitely have had a very different experiences from someone like you who has probably grown up there. There are some things that only you might notice, but there are also some elements and differences that only a foreigner can locate as a local might find it all too obvious and regular.

      I would love to be back in London, its proximity to all the lovely European counties is so very tempting. And I miss Waitrose so much :-/ If my husband and I do get there (fingers-crossed) I would love it if you could tell us about these authentic Punjabi restaurants. I lived in a Punjabi household for a little less than three years and I miss aunty’s cooking and of course I miss aunty. Its a cliché but it is true, we miss things only once we’ve left them behind. I digress.

  8. Hi Preeti. Hope you do get ’round to visiting London again. In my humble but biased opinion it is the greatest city on earth. In no other city on gods earth will you find a gothic cathedral next door to a state of the art skyscaper opposite a medieval inn next door to a roman ruin opposite a georgian mansion next door to a edwardian hotel opposite a victorian terrace next door to an art deco apartment block….all on the same little street. This higgedy piggedy mix of arhcitectural styles does of course tie in with the higgedly piggedy historical mix of the English language. In many ways, London mirrors the English language almost perfectly. Take Paris for example…..a city only 200 miles away with exactly the same climate. Paris, a couple of centuries ago, decided to knock everything historical down and build a brand new centre where everything was beautifull………beautifull but boringly similar. Everything was deliberately built on symetrical lines to be easy on the eye. This Paris mirrors the history of the French language. A language where rules on grammar and purity are set in stone and foreign words are kept out. The history of the English language on the other hand, as shown in the history of London, is all about accepting and incorporating foreign words into the English language…..a language where Punjabi, Hindi, Swahili, Danish, French and Scots Gaelic words sit side by side. In this, the most multi-cultural city on earth with over 380 different languages spoken in its streets each day, one can spend a decade exploring what it has to offer and yet still not see it all. All this, of course, comes at a price….with it being extremely violent (8 or 9 times more violent than New York) and hideously expensive.
    Anyway, now that I’ve digressed even more than you, you don’t really need to visit a ‘Punjabi’ restaurant as such. The thing about Indian food and London is that Indian food (of the Punjabi variety) has been part of the daily lives of Londoners for generations now. It is something that is now so part of the English way of life that it is actually seen as English. As such, ‘white’ Londoners make Indian food at home by themselves as often and as naturally easily as we Indians might make pasta. Words such as pakoras, tandoori, somosas and gulabjumans are part of the everyday language of most Londoners. The same cannot be said of New York where it is seen as something exotic and unusual. But….as you did ask for tips about authentic Punjabi restaurants I feel it is important for me to point out to you that 75% of Punjab now lies in Pakistan and only 25% of it is in India. But on both sides of that border there are people that talk exactly the same language….wear exactly the same clothes…have exactly the same culture (except religion) and eat exactly the same food. As such…75% of the authentic Punjabi restaurants in London (a mega city where Punjabi is the 2nd most spoken language) are run by Pakistani Punjabis. They are everywhere….for everyone loves Punjabi food. You could visit some in the Punjabi heartlands of west London (Southall), the Bengali heartlands of the historic old quarter (Brick Lane), the Pakistani heartlands of east London or even the Gujarati heartlands of north west London (Wembley, Harrow). Alternatively, virtually every single cafe or pub you visit in London will have Indian food (of the Punjabi variety) on its menu. The quality in those places could hardly be said to be authentic but as a Punjabi that has eaten in restaurants in Delhi and other U.P I can tell you that its better than you find in India (outside Punjab).
    Phew….I think I’ve broken the world record for ‘digression’ with all that….but seriously I hope you and hubby do get to visit London again some time in the near future and this time I hope you develop for it the same mad affection that I have…..from an Indian perspective.

  9. @Joe, You really seem to love that place a lot :) You make a very interesting point about the differences between the French and the English language any how that relates to the country and their people. I never thought about it that way, but it does seem quite true. I wonder if one could understand the people of a country by examining their language and its progression over the years.

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