The Power of Speech: A Trainee’s Experience in NYC

By: Jessy Edwards, Greenheart Exchange CAP Trainee

One of the first things I noticed after landing in New York and settling into my new home on the Lower East Side was how vocal everybody seemed to be.

On my way to the local deli for a bagel or walking towards the new laundromat, I was bombarded with conversations.

I wasn’t sure whether people were talking to me, talking on the phone, or talking to themselves, but it didn’t seem to matter. “Beautiful day, but it’s set to rain later,” a woman commented from her stoop. “Nice pants, they look very comfortable,” a man standing outside the bodega muttered, half to himself, half to me. “Can you believe he’s blocking the whole street” a woman yelled at me from her car, stuck behind a garbage truck. “He’s been there for 10 minutes!”

My grandma, who has been to the United States many times, had pointed it out to me before how articulate everyone is. Every American kid seems capable of making a confident, persuasive argument on almost any topic. Back in New Zealand I struggled to speak confidently in front of a group of people until I reached my late teens.

Americans are incredible communicators and that’s been one of the most eye-opening aspects I’ve noticed about the culture here.

No matter people’s different points of view, they talk about it, and there is a lot to talk about in America… Race relations, LGBTQI+ rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights, politics, the environment, the list goes on!

It’s one of the cornerstones of the American democracy, too. Freedom of speech is enshrined in the law.

Just how far that should be allowed to go has been tested in the American court system the last few years, especially surrounding the freedom of certain hate groups to rally.

But if I have learned anything about American culture so far, it’s that people are willing and open to talking, whether it’s a hard conversation, a heart-to-heart, or just a hello, and it’s something I truly admire.

Interested in learning more about the United States? Check out Greenheart Exchange’s Intern and Trainee program!