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Born and raised on Roosevelt Island in the heart of New York City, I have immense pride for both the Little and Big Apple, respectively.

As such, I have spent much of my life surrounded by tourists and tourism: often to my dismay while trying to get myself to work/school on time only to be stopped by a group of people pointing their cameras up…

But what do those people with the cameras actually think of my city? Is it just a curiousity? Do they leave wanting to return? I’ve always been fascinated by that question, which Aleix answers in this week’s guest post.

The New York City Skyline from the Top of the Rock
The New York City Skyline from the Top of the Rock

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The greatest thing about travelling is to encounter pleasant surprises, especially if you’d planned the trip and weren’t expecting any. Doing an Interrail around Europe is something that is quite unique, especially visiting those countries that used to be behind the Iron Curtain and who are now experiencing a new dawn in terms of culture and modernity.

Despite being part of the Western world, Europe and North America have huge cultural differences that, inevitably, bring out clichés from both parties. However, this doesn’t mean that American culture hasn’t got huge fans in Europe, and New York is usually their first American destination. What do Europeans expect? Read on.

USA, A-OK

New York City's Met Life Building From Park Avenue with a 10.5mm Fisheye lens
New York City’s Met Life Building From Park Avenue with a 10.5mm Fisheye lens

Many Europeans are huge lovers of American culture due to how dominating it is in the Western world, and that inspires them to go on a trip to New York City, quite possibly the most famous city in the United States.

However, why do people choose to go to New York? Firstly, there’s none like it in Europe. One can go to Paris and find similarities with Rome, who then has a similar lifestyle to Barcelona, who in turn has beaches that are quite alike those in Greece. Every city has at least a few similarities, something that New York doesn’t.

One of the main attractions of staying in New York apartments is the grandeur of the city. Nowhere in Europe do you have buildings like the Empire State or monuments like the Statue of Liberty. Yes, there are tall buildings, but never on that scale.

In a New York State of Mind

For some reason or another, New York lifestyle has become very popular amongst many people in Europe, no doubt influenced by TV series such as Friends and Sex and the City, which are huge in Europe. Friends started the coffee shop culture in many European cities, not so much the coffee drinking but coffee shops with couches, an ideal place to hang out with friends.

Also, New York interior decoration is very popular on the old continent and it has been a huge inspiration to many interior designers who have seen it on TV and in person. The number of books relating to NY style are predominant in this section of bookshops, since it’s seen as a style that’s, above all, modern.

New York City’s Influence

Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City
Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City

Films have obviously played a big part in this European ‘obsession’ with New York, and many who haven’t been to the city are desperate to see all the skyscrapers, the yellow cabs and Central Park. American culture has its detractors, who state that it’s not as rich as European culture. However, in terms of modernity, and we do live in the 21st century, there’s probably nowhere as modern and trend-setting as New York and the USA.

European popular culture is highly influenced by Americans, whether its music, films or literature and perhaps due to proximity to Europe, New York is the first port of call when travelling to the USA.

American sports are another huge hit, since basketball (mostly) and American football and baseball (not so much) have their fans. There is no bigger emblematic venue in the world than the Madison Square Garden, and watching a Knicks game for a European basketball fan there or a boxing contest for many of the British boxing fans, is something quite unique. [ed note: Plus, of course, there's Citi Field, home of my beloved New York Mets!!!]

Tom Seaver throws the last pitch ever at Shea Stadium to Mike Piazza
Tom Seaver throws the last pitch ever at Shea Stadium to Mike Piazza

NYC = #1

All in all, New York City is viewed by Europeans as a modern, trend-setting city that has some of the most jaw-dropping architecture in the world. Yes, it may not have the ancient history of Rome or the romance of Paris but it’s definitely got a hook that, sooner or later, has all travel-loving Europeans boarding a plane to cross the Pond.

One thing is what you expect and the other what you experience. The bigger the difference, the better, as long as it’s a good one! Rent apartments in New York and find out for yourself what the Big Apple is all about. For sure, it won’t let you down.

About the Author: Aleix Gwilliam is a 24 year old from Barcelona who looks English but thinks like a Catalan. He enjoys travelling, especially on old Czech trains, and trying to start conversations in Hungarian with people at Pecs station, even though his Hungarian is as good as his Bulgarian, in other words, not very good. He’s a trier.

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