Open your eyes

I am sometimes saddened by the fact that some people can come to New York and completely misunderstand the city. You read it’s the most exciting place on earth and as you come here, you try to experience everything – intensely, deeply, and preferably within a week’s time. And yet the experience of New York lies in something different, and only people who come here with open heads are capable of actually having it.

Tourists come here usually with a list of places “to see” – they run frantically from sunrise till sunset, looking at attraction after attraction and thinking that they are “getting to know the city”. I also did that at first – I was under the impression that all it takes to be able to say that “I know New York” was to see all the landmarks. Tourists choose hotels nearest to Times Square, content that they are staying at “The Center of the World”. And all I want to ask them is: “And what do you see from there…?”. As soon as they start telling me about all the postcard views they enjoy, I know they don’t really see much. If those landmarks are the only memories you take with you from New York, let me tell you: you haven’t spent your money well, for you don’t understand the first thing about this city.

If you plan your trip to the Big Apple, make sure the very top of your list reads: Open Your Eyes. Open your eyes to the people, for it’s the people who make this place so special. See different skin colors; look at folks from countries you didn’t know existed; see what their lives are like, ask about their traditions; think how hard the guy pushing that food cart Is actually working; see those Chinese women carrying heavy bags of tin cans in order to make a few bucks; see taxi drivers with no knowledge of English trying to understand which part of NYC their customers want to go to; see Jews on the subway read their Torahs, see Latin boys striving at the restaurant kitchen. 

Open your eyes and see that there are people in this world whose religion, culture and customs are of equal value as your own. Try to use your New York stay to widen your knowledge and to learn not to discuss subjects you have no idea about. And stop opening your sentences with: “Blacks do this…”, “Chinese people do that…”, “Muslims do that…”. Most importantly, ask yourselves: Why is it that I think my culture is better than other cultures? I am not saying it’s not, but to say this, you really need to know a whole lot about other cultures to make the comparison. But to gain that knowledge, you need first to notice that they even exist.