They’ll sit in their co-ops on Park and Fifth and East Seventy-second St and Sutton Place, and they’ll shiver with the violence of it and enjoy the show. Cattle! Birdbrains! Rosebuds! Goyim! You don’t even know, do you? Do you really think this is your city any longer? Open your eyes! The greatest city of the twentieth century! Do you think money will keep it yours?
Come down from your swell co-ops, you general partners and merger lawyers! It’s the Third World down there! Puerto Ricans, West Indians, Haitians, Dominicans, Cubans, Colombians, Hondurans, Koreans, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Ecuadorians, Panamanians, Filipinos, Albanians, Senegalese and Afro-Americans! Go visit the frontiers, you gutless wonders!
–The Bonfire of the Vanities
I come from a great multi-cultural city, Sydney. It’s great. I love feeling like I’m in an international city, connected with and comprised of people from all over the world. One of the only things I disliked about living in Colombia for five months was that, like much of Latin America, it was a veritable nation-state.
The upside to this was that I was considered somewhat exotic. My accent, my blue eyes, my pale skin and freckles. People loved having a foreigner (and not just another American) in their midst, and often made a special effort to talk to me, ask me about my homeland, what I thought of Colombia etc.
But come to New York and you’re not special anymore. It is an exceptionally international city, a wonderful melange of all things African, Asian, European, American and more. It seems like every language other than English is spoken sometimes, in parks and cafes catering to every cultural taste.
The upshot of this is that there’s nothing particularly interesting about a foreigner in New York. You think where you come from is exotic? We’ve got a whole neighbourhood full of people like you. ‘Little Something’.
A foreigner can still be considered exotic in other cities of the US, but not in New York. I hear Australian accents on the streets and don’t prick up my ears like I would if I was back in South America. It’s an unremarkable coincidence.
Saying “I’m not from here” doesn’t mean much. New York doesn’t just attract foreigners looking to make their mark, but Americans too. When someone stops me on the street to ask for directions, they don’t seem deterred by my accent, because half the city has one.
You’re not from here? Pfft. Who is?