OK, so I do most of my shopping at a small Trader Joe’s so this is not my weekly experience, but the amount of choice in larger supermarkets here can cause my brain to go into overload. Walking into a Walmart presents a dizzying variety of options of everything from brands of ketchup to vacuum cleaners. Did you know there’s something like 457 flavors of Doritos alone. You can buy a gallon of mayo in the store. And its a 2 for 1 deal! Dollar stores can outfit an entire kitchen for under $50. It’s an incredible testament to free market economics.
Choice starts young too. High school and college students have far more subject choices than in Europe where set curriculum and far fewer electives are the norm. I remember I had a choice between Spanish, German or Italian in middle school. And at university for my degree in my second year, I chose between focusing on physical or social anthropology. Think, if I could have dipped my toe into environmental science or nutrition, who knows where’d I be today. Then there’s college itself. There are over 3000 colleges and universities to select from, whereas there are around 100 in France, a nation with 1/5 of the population of the US. By the way, I am a huge fan of the US liberal arts programs, and think so many students can benefit from the broad choice base of those first years.
In Italy if you order a coffee, you might choose: un caffè (espresso), a cappuccino, caffè latte, a macchiato, and nowadays you can get un caffè americano. According to the Huffpost, there are more than 80,000 drink combinations at Starbucks.
“That’s a Venti Iced Skinny Hazelnut Macchiato, Sugar-Free Syrup, Extra Shot, Light Ice, No Whip, to go, please!”
One of the thrills for me about living in New York City for me has been the diversity. I love sitting in a subway car, closing my eyes and listening to the variety of accents and languages around me.
The 152-foot-tall Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor still beckons immigrants just like it did in 1886, when it was erected after being shipped in pieces from Paris — a gift to the United States by the people of France. The words written at the base of Lady Liberty by poet Emma Lazarus read: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free … I lift my lamp beside the golden door” are still as heartfelt for today’s immigrants as they were for the 12 million immigrants who came through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. And I count myself one of the lucky ones living here.
Of course, NYC is also home to the headquarters of the world’s most significant international organization: the United Nations. With almost 200 languages spoken, 40% of the NYC population was born outside the USA. Combine the cultural and ethnic diversity of the residents and hundreds of embassies, consulates, UN employees etc, and you have a cosmopolitan city unlike any other. Even embassy-filled DC feels quite homogenous compared with the ever-changing rainbow of worlds in New York City.