I grew up in San Jose, California in my perfect little suburbia. I lived in the same neighborhood for over ten years, had the same neighbors, same friends. The leaves turned orange and red every fall, every street glowed with festive lights during Christmas time, and during the summers I would drive down to Santa Cruz with my friends and try to find all the hidden beaches along the coast. I felt like I belonged there because it's home, and everything is familiar at home. But moving to New York for college was the most exciting and challenging endeavor I'd ever taken on. I learned that there were countless other cultures and quirks that San Jose just can't compare to.
Transitioning from California to New York wasn't that difficult. One of the reasons I chose to study at St. John's is because of its location. Queens is one of the five boroughs of New York City but is more relaxed compared to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Queens is its own little suburbia, just like the area I grew up in. Except instead of green lawns, white picket fences, people riding longboards, and Philz Coffee, there are crooked sidewalks, chrome railings, delivery men on motorized bikes, and Dunkin Donuts.
I would consider myself a very laid back person, and I've met so many people who tell me, "Oh I can tell you're from California." Apparently, non-Californians see people from the west coast as super chill and friendly people. New York, however, has a bad reputation for having incredibly rude people. This, I can attest to, although not wholeheartedly. People in New York aren't rude or mean per se; they just mind their business and only their business. If you were to walk your dog through my neighborhood in San Jose, at least three people will stop and say hi and ask how your day is. If you walk anywhere in New York, maybe three people will even make eye contact with you. This probably has something to do with the fast-paced culture of the city.
If you've ever been to New York, you know that their natural walking pace is equivalent to an average person's steady jog. Everything they do is non-stop. Walking too slow on the sidewalk? Have to swipe your MetroCard more than once, therefore getting stuck in the turnstile, therefore getting in everyone's way? Taking up too much space on the train? Now you got off the train and don't know which way to walk? Too bad, because you better keep moving! Three years in, and I'm still learning how to keep up.
Another challenge as a Californian on the east coast is having to survive actual seasons throughout the year. The first time it snowed during my first winter in New York, I was amazed. I mean, I had seen snow before, but now I was actually living in it! After the first snow, though, it was all downhill. I was just cold, wet, and sad. In San Jose, on any given day, it's probably sunny and 70 degrees. Sunny and 70 degrees. Do you understand what it feels like to live 18 years in the California sunshine just to move to a place that's cloudy and snowy for three months out of the year? Hell. It feels like hell, but frozen over.
My biggest, most problematic obstacle in New York City is public transportation. I am not used to taking buses and trains anywhere. Back home, I drove everywhere. That includes everything from the five-minute drive to my high school that was literally down the street (I could've just walked) to the thirty-minute drive to my friend's house on the other side of San Jose. I was so used to traveling in the comfort of my own car that riding the train felt like being trapped in other people's breathing air. The subway still makes me feel grimy and claustrophobic at times, but I've come to enjoy blasting my music in my headphones and being able to get work done while commuting.
The concentration of diverse cultures is incredible in New York. Where I grew up, although very liberal, most people are white, Asian, or Mexican. In New York, people identify with so many more races and ethnicities, and I love how all of these cultures are reflected through their various cuisine. I'm a big foodie, so these things are important to me. San Jose has just as many different cuisines - a quality I appreciate, knowing that parts of New York resemble home.
As someone who grew up in the Bay Area and has also experienced living in New York City, I really can't choose which coast I like better. San Jose is home, but Queens is starting to grow roots in my heart, too.