What is ‘American’? Greenheart explores New York

By: Amber Hayes, Greenheart Exchange – Work and Travel Cultural Outreach Manager

Chicago and New York are known for having a bit of a rivalry. Both are large tourist sites within the United States, and they tend to compete for fame and tourism. As a native Chicagoan, I am certainly biased in my opinions, but I have always been positive that Chicago is the better city. However, my recent trip to NYC opened my eyes, and I’m starting to appreciate and see New York in a new light!

New York is a very unique place. The moment I got to my hotel, I realized that NYC is unlike any other city in the United States. First and foremost, it is wondrously diverse. You can turn a corner and hear at least five different languages being spoken, all from people with different stories to tell. I now understand why Humans of New York exists! I was immediately curious and wanted to know everyone’s background and the details of their experiences. Even the subway had signs with people of different backgrounds, race, genders, and sexualities with the caption “I am New York”. Diversity is a defining characteristic of NYC.

While visiting New York, a participant I was volunteering with mentioned that he thought Chicago was the ‘true American’ city. His comment really took me aback. From my experiences on this trip, New York was proving to be the ultimate American city! The participant argued that New York is a “melting pot”, filled mostly with immigrants, and thus he felt it was less American. However, that was the very reason that I thought New York was a very American city! As our history books tell us, the United States was founded by immigrants; thanks to the blood, sweat, hopes, and tears of immigrants and slaves, today we have the country that we call home. New York’s immigrant population is a true and genuine representation of the United States history and a living lesson that the United States can continue to be a land of opportunity for many.

So what makes a city American? For me, it’s hard work, the pursuit of happiness, loyalty, dedication, and openness. These are all traits that I saw in New York!

Want to discover the unique aspects of an American city yourself? Check out our Summer Work Travel program.