One week (okay, two weeks
, if you count my visit last September) in NYC is not the same as actually living there, so perhaps comparisons aren’t fair. But, if the silly folks conducting the Mercer survey can compare Vienna, a young Republic with ~1.7 million people (and rank it the “best” city for Quality of Living) to New York City, a wise old city with ~8 million people, then so can I.
NYC versus Vienna (vis-a-vis my own categories, like Mercer, and in no order)
1. Shopping. The 5.800 m2 Whole Foods at Columbus Circle (and the shopping scene in general).
|Thank you, Internet, for the photo
Once you get past the $6 Diet Water (I am not joking), this mecca is a treasure trove. Quite literally, any cuisine the girls and I wanted for dinner could be purchased. In one place. AND THE STORE WAS OPEN UNTIL 2300! EVERY DAY! Ditto for nearby Trader Joe’s. Each store had in excess of 24 checkout lanes, and they were all open. In Vienna some of the larger grocers have 12-14 lanes, but even during peak hours no more than 4 or 5 lanes are open. It’s like a cruel Communist-era joke.
The girls also shopped Macy’s, the largest department store in the world, on President’s Day. Sara, Anna Grace’s friend from Slovenia, pronounced being able to shop on a holiday, “Glorious.” Her parents may think differently once the credit card bill arrives…
2. Transit. Entschuldigen, Vienna, but the Wiener Linien transit folks, kind and helpful as some of them can be, have nothing on the MTA folks. Our first weekend fell over a long holiday (US President’s Day) and some subway schedules were changed; in addition, track work was being conducted along a couple of popular routes. MTA had folks on the platform to guide riders all weekend; in Vienna we get, at best, a message over the address system or paper notices, and even then they are not all that helpful. As we were exiting the subway near the Brooklyn Bridge walkway, a seasoned transit worker not only welcomed us to NY but directed us to the path entrance. Nothing like that has ever happened in Vienna.
It bears mention, though, that Vienna’s transit system is much cleaner than that of NYC. Of course, the U-Bahn is a toddler at 78km in length and not-quite 40 years of age compared to Metro, one of the oldest subway systems in the world and spanning Three Hundred and 78km. And, we were able to check, “NYC Subway Rat” off the Bucket List!
|Thank you, Internet, for the photo
One final corollary is that NY’ers, by and large, are friendly to and accommodating of tourists. On at least three occasions we were asked if we needed directions when we slowed in our attempts to keep up with the NYC breakneck sidewalk pace; in Vienna, I could stand for hours at Kärntner Ring/Oper with an open city map of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and not a single Viennese would offer assistance.
3. Culture Costs. Vienna museums (and many across Europe) offer free admission to students 19 years of age and under. New York City would do well to adopt this practice. Though admission is “Pay What You Wish” at some of the museums, the girls offers of less than the “recommended admission” were met with eye rolls by the clerks. Look, NYC, do you or do you not want young people to appreciate art? Seriously, The Met and Natural History have endowments larger than the GDP of Austria (I’m making this up, of course); why extort good shopping money from Teenagers?
4. Drinking Water. Sure, Vienna’s water is alpine fresh. NYC’s is also world-renowned, and they serve four times the customers than Vienna. It’s a draw.
Basically, there’s really no comparing NYC and Vienna, and it’s a shame that companies like Mercer keep trying.