How to Use the New York Subway

We had few days in New York earlier this year, and then a wedding in Connecticut (that in my head I can’t stop pronouncing the c, as in Connect-icut). Let me just start by saying in the nicest possible way, nothing in that country makes sense. We first realised this when it took us two wrong trains and about 10 dollars wasted trying to work out how on earth to use the Subway.


Manhattan Web

  1. The Precedent – Forget everything you know about European city metro systems. You’re used to London, Paris and Madrid where all the trains stop at all the stations, platforms are normally colour coded per line, so all you have to worry about is getting one in the right direction.
  2. The Map – You arrive, you want to get out there seeing stuff as soon as possible! So let’s find out how to get there. This one is a mish-mash of numbers and letters and on the map we had we didn’t even have the end stations of each line to help us out. The Manhattan Island main section works on a very simple Uptown / Downtown system. Go Uptown to go North, and Downtown to go South.
  3. The Route – The numbers and letters show which trains stop at which stations, ie., the 1 stops at all of them, so is the Local train, but the 3 stops only at a few, so is the Express train. So not only have you got to find a route where you can change trains to get to another line, most times you have to go out of your way to reach your hotel.
  4. The Entrance – There are sometimes separate entrances for Uptown and Downtown, and really they are not very well marked. We found them quite difficult to find because there isn’t anything big and glaring alerting you to the fact that there’s a station here. One that we found was basically a door next to a big office building with the Subway markings on the wall rather than stuck out so that you know it’s there. The older ones that go straight down off the street tend to have two yellow lights on the entrance, but still you can walk past two or three without realising that that’s it, because nothing actually says “Subway”.
  5. The Ticket Machine – If you’re in New York for a day or two, buy singles at $2.75 each. If you’re there for a few days like us, get a MetroCard from a booth, it was about $30.00 for seven days and well worth it!
  6. The Platform – Find your platform, which is a challenge because it’s a maze of pillars, not nice spacious tunnels like in Europe and the A stops on this platform except for weekends when it stops over there, and the 2 stops on this platform unless it’s after 9pm when it doesn’t stop at all… And crap like that.
  7. The Train – The newer trains are equipped with an electronic display to show where you are and what the next station is, great! If you’re lucky you’ll find a busker, or a beggar, it’s generally quite quiet too, we didn’t see any trains that were too busy – but we weren’t travelling at rush hour and we were going to the tourist areas so probably this didn’t give us a true picture of the trains themselves.

The Skyline – a beautiful disused Subway track converted into a park

And then you’re off the train. Going back to The Precedent – New York doesn’t seem very proud of its subway. The European metro seems to be more like a brand. You see no end of “Mind The Gap” tat in souvenir shops in London, and the art-nouveau Paris Metro design conjours up romantic images of the wide leafy streets leading up to the Louvre or the banks of the Seine.

It certainly looks like the Subway’s Golden Age has been and gone in New York. While many stations retain the old mosaic street number markers on the platform, and the pillars spaced evenly are evident of the might of the city above, it seems that the Subway system has been forgotten in recent regenerations, he needs a lick of paint, improved lighting, signage and passenger information, especially for tourists. But he’s so integral to this city, work it out and he’s your best friend.


Where do I belong?

Interesting on the subject I’ve written about a few times. What makes you what you are? The difference between your passport and the countries that own a small slice of your heart.


It’s 5.30am and I’ve had one hour sleep in the last 20 hours so needless to say I’m feeling a bit emotional. In an hour I will be flying via Ethiopian Airlines from Vienna to Stockholm for five days, but I can’t work out whether I’m coming or leaving home.

Although my passport says I am British and I would say that I am first and foremost English that doesn’t mean I class England or Colchester as my home anymore. Vienna for me is my home. It’s where I live, where I eat and where I work (supposedly), yet I’ll be leaving for good in two months.

I have a house in Sweden and all my Swedish family live there. I’ve gone to Sweden at least 3-4 times a year my whole life and I consider my Swedish culture an inherent part of what makes me, me. So am I…

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I want to stay in the EU

I want to stay in the EU. There I said it. I put my political point of view out there for everyone to see. As an honorary member of the large expat community in Birmingham, I do feel strongly about this.

So, could Eastern European immigrants take British jobs? What the hell does it matter? Surely a good company will hire the person that’s best for the job regardless of where they are from, or how long they have been in the country. You’re not going to hire a Romanian that can barely speak English to a mobile phone call centre job. I don’t have the exact numbers but I believe that the actual immigration figures since the UK welcomed Romania are significantly less than all that hype before the borders opened.

People get so lazy, and snobby, people used to work. “Why should we work if the government gives us a nice £45 a week to do nothing? I wouldn’t want a stupid cleaner job anyway.” With that attitude you really can’t complain that immigrants come in and take “your” jobs. We’re now enriched with a new workforce with a new ethic of hard work and commitment because they feel lucky to be in a situation that can give them a better life. The Romanians are the new Poles are the new Indians are the new Irish. And nobody’s even noticed the sudden influx of Spanish, would it be because they are better educated? Or because they are from a country whose democratic and social values match our own more closely?

in eu

I’m in!

There’s a member of UKIP that I sometimes find in my social circle, whose wife is from Eastern Europe. I find that so conflicting. Think about the law, power of attorney gives you the right to make someone’s decisions for them – one of the only decisions that is not covered is who to vote for in elections. The law of the land deems this to be so personal and so integral to that person that nobody else can make that decision at all. So how can you feel so strongly about Nigel Farage and his piss-poor pointless rhetoric and still live your life to the contrary?

You encounter so much casual racism in the world, at work my colleagues have just had a conversation about hospital wards “Yeah there weren’t none of them in there, they bring their own food and it stinks / Thankfully everyone was white when I went in”. P*ki and Ch*nky are banded around the office like they are people’s names. It makes me cringe. I hide in my work, not saying anything.

Freedom of movement is a powerful thing. Without Europe the UK would be left to flounder in the saturated world of global politics. As it is we stand dipping our toes in the water, we kept the pound, we have very different internal policies and we don’t make waves in Brussels, Frankfurt and Strasbourg. We cannot compete with Germany or even France at this stage, surely the best solution is to keep the borders open and embrace the cultural and economic advantages that brings.

Not to mention, my job would be a lot easier if the UK stays in. Imagine the extra paperwork!

Five pieces of advice I wish I’d had…

Twenty years ago… To my eleven year-old self, I wish someone had advised me that physical health and fitness is as important as intellectual challenges and being sociable. Also, don’t worry about how popular you are, this is just one life stage, there’s much better to come!
Fifteen years ago… At sixteen I would throw that careers advisor’s words back in her face and advise myself to do Chemistry. I wish I’d received what I tell people now, study what you want, there are no limits at university and in life, you can do Psychology with English Language, you can do Mechanical Engineering with French. Stick to what you want to do, don’t listen to anyone else because you might just end up scraping a pass at Economics and regretting it for the rest of your life.
Ten years ago… At 21 I was in Spain, and already enjoying the best piece of advice I’d ever had, two years previous one of my Italian friends (Erasmus in Leicester) told me, “Katherine, Don’t study on your Erasmus year, just party – all the time!” Luckily my grades there didn’t count for anything on my Leicester course, so I did indeed do just that! Back to uni though for the final year, I wish I was advised that hard work pays off, you cannot rest on your laurels because you enjoyed the class, you have to deliver in the exam. Read the books on your course, don’t just skip through or find the plot on the internet.
Five years ago… I was 26, I was advised to start a pension which I still pay into. But I wish I had been advised to start saving for a deposit on a house, or at least start managing money better. At that point I didn’t care, I was going on holidays, moving out of my parents and having a taste of real freedom again, I was still planning to go to Spain in the long run, so it was the least of my worries.
One year ago… Start exercising, regularly. Physical health and fitness is just as important as having a job you love, a wonderful fiancée, and a loving family. You’ll regret it when you’re older. And I’m still telling myself this now.
Looking at this, is it really advice I wish I’d been given? Or advice I wish I’d listened to? The media, friends, family, every conversation results in a piece of advice, every question you ask, every doubt you have, every motivational picture you see on instagram imparts advice. From “Don’t wear red and green together…” to “This mortgage is better for you because…”. It’s easy to blur the lines between the conversations you have and the things you see on TV, for example, every advert suggests you need this thing, it advises that this thing is good for mood, lifestyle, social status, health etc. You talk about products between friends, skincreams, pension plans, new cooking sauces. Everywhere you look, advice, advice advice!

Back to Work Blues

Everyone experiences the Back to Work Blues, you can’t deny it – you’re never saying to yourself “That holiday was absolutely bloody brilliant, but I’m so glad it’s over and I can finally get back to work! Yessss!” Especially if like me you work in an industry that can go completely tits up around Christmas. You work in a bar or a school or something else and all you’ve got to worry about is the day-to-day, or it all completely stops. But in export it’s completely different. One rough day on the seas and everything is put back, lorries can’t get into or out of the country. This messes up collections in the UK, deliveries across Europe, letting customers down and generally feeling really shitty about the whole thing!

fall off boat

Sometimes this happens…

Q & A – BritishBloggerSelection

During my Erasmus year, 2003/2004 I had another blog, on LiveJournal – Katty’s Little Adventure. I don’t even remember the username or password so I can’t link to it here. It told the story of my Erasmus year in Spain and then France, it was mainly full of snippets of nights out that I could remember the following day, or other little in-jokes we had between us. One of the things we did a lot, was quizzes! So #BritishBloggerSelection this week has taken me back to a nostalgic time of sitting in the Sala de Ordenadores at Residencia Pignatelli in Zaragoza…

Why do you like blogging? – I’m not a big social network user, so this is an outlet I can have that facebook just doesn’t provide. Facebook is for my photos or arranging nights out, the blog is more like an open e-mail to my friends that I don’t see very often, and a chance to explore things in a bit more detail.

How did you come up with your blog name? A chilango is a person from Mexico City, chilanga is the feminine form. I’m marrying my Mexican, so I’m becoming more and more chilanga every day. And Exported, that refers to both my job in freight forwarding, and the fact that I am a chilanga in the UK.

Where from the UK do you come from? Originally, and still living in Birmingham. In order : Birmingham UK, Leicester UK, Zaragoza Spain, Pau France, Leicester UK, Sheffield UK, Birmingham UK. In my city I’ve lived in Hall Green, Moseley, Ladywood, and now hoping to move to a new housing development in Edgbaston. On the property ladder at last!

Favourite colour? This is Yellow, without doubt. And Silver, and Turquoise and Purple. I just love bright colours.

Do you like Lana Del Rey? I loved her Summertime Sadness song, and I listen to her to cool down at the gym. Lumping her in with Florence and the Machine, Lorde, Goldfrapp’s A&E etc., I like slow songs that sound like a fairy-tale that you can just lose yourself in, they are good day-dream walking songs.

Hidden Talents That You Have? I can catch, netball team and I’m still good at catching things as they fall out the kitchen cupboard before hitting the floor. And jump, at school I was one of the last three or four left in the high-jump but lost the competition in my teenage modesty because would not take my skirt off to get a higher measurement.

Celebrity Crush? None that I care to say here, I don’t bother much with celebrity. I don’t see the point in taking an interest in the lives of people we will never meet, who will continually make is feel inadequate and who have no idea who we are. Ok, fine! Gael Garcia Bernal and Romain Duris!

Favourite Blog Of All Time? I like Lady of the Cakes, she’s living my dream of living and working in Spain. That was my original plan but life took a turn and I couldn’t follow it through. The plan was to move to Zaragoza and surround myself with Spanish. I’m secretly quite glad it didn’t turn out that way, I love my life here in Birmingham with my Danielote and wouldn’t change it for the world. And Brummed Out, I get to hear about other things that are going on in Birmingham here.

What made you want to join #BritishBloggerSelection? I’ve been in the blogosphere for about a year, but haven’t really got much involved until now.

Reading back, this actually sounds really daggy like I’m back at uni! We spent hours coming up with the “coolest” answers to the endless quizzes.

An Introvert’s View of The Big Night Out

I need a long time to prepare for a big night out. Like at least three weeks, there’s a lot more mental preparation than just deciding whether to wear the LBD or jeans and sparkly top. I know, I know, spontaneous nights out are usually the best, I know, but I’m not exactly 21 anymore. Gone are my days of a phone call at 7 and you’re in the bar for 9. then up bright and early for whatever I have the next day. I’m definitely shy, but I never really identified it as social anxiety but I have to go out tonight and I’m stressed! I’m writing this post on a Saturday morning and will publish on a random date in October so as not to identify the people or the night out involved.

Frankfurt - fiesta by the Main

Frankfurt – fiesta by the Main, a brilliant spontaneous night about a year ago

Recently I was given this article, 23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert. I am definitely an Introvert. I don’t identify to all the points there, but I definitely feel this article.

1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome. I love the idea of going to parties, meeting new people and expanding my social circle but I run out of things to say once the initial what’s-your-name-where-do-you-come-from-what-do-you-do’s are finished. Once I’m comfortable I’ll open up and find my feet. But how to give the impression I’m not just being closed and ignorant? I find it’s easier in one-to-one situations – to have that long catch-up chat after not seeing someone for a long time. I don’t shy away from it, I mean, small-talk isn’t a nightmare, I’ve got my stock questions and wine always helps loosen my reserve!

I wish!

10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long. This is true, I’m always knackered after a night out. It doesn’t help that bars are open until 3am now. And if you’re really scraping the barrel Subside’s open til 6am. “Everything introverts do in the outside world causes them to expend energy, after which they’ll need to go back and replenish their stores in a quiet environment“. I need a few quiet weekends after any big night, to relax and recharge and get myself straight in the house and in my head before heading anywhere again.

13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation. Seriously, seriously don’t like this. When I was a child I just felt stupid going to the panto and shouting at actors who clearly knew that the the wicked witch was “behind you!”. Dumbass. People dressed as animals or those gold and silver street performers that follow you down the street, you can chuff off too, I’m on to you.

20. You look at the big picture. This is more a thinking thing, at work I prefer to know why I’m doing a particular task and where this little bit fits into the whole process, and what that means in the context of the company. Knowing where I sit in the bigger picture is really motivating.

23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity. It’s all about balance, nights out vs quiet nights in. I need that balance. One spontaneous night and another about six weeks in the planning all I want tonight is to stay in and veg with the TV.

I have to really prepare myself for a night out. If I’ve only got a few days I can’t always get in the mood, I’ll feel crap in everything I try on and if I’ve already got something planned in between I can get really tired easily. Then I need something to buoy my spirits a day or two before, because if not then I can start to have doubts and really not want to go. This morning this is how I feel. Last night I was worse, I just wanted to say fuck it and call my girlfriends and open that bottle of prosecco that we’ve got in the fridge.  But I’m going.

Night-out preparation usually plays out like this :

What the bloody hell am I going to wear?!

What the bloody hell am I going to wear?!

1. Get annoyed at fat arse and fat belly and fat arms and fat chin and fat legs. Nothing to wear so I go back to the old reliable, denim mini-skirt and black top with long sparkly earrings. Get annoyed with hair so just go with the straighten then hairspray upside down look.

2. Leave the house, all excited but bloody hell it’s raining so hair’s going to go all flat. Walk to the bar or the train station or bus stop. Start thinking I’m not going to get drunk tonight, I’m going to be good and not write-off Sunday. I’ll only have two glasses of wine, not spend too much money, then have a really productive day tomorrow doing housework and buying the things I need, like tights and the new series of Modern Family.

3. Arrive at the bar or the house and momentarily become the life and soul of the party. Then I go to the bar and it’s two for one cocktails so I have a cocktail. Well, two cocktails. Or in a house I get a glass of wine that’s not measured and ends up tiny, so I think “I’ll need three or four of those before it kicks in”.

I never thought of it as social anxiety before, that was more for people who had no friends and stayed in playing internet games every night. Maybe it’s not, maybe it really is a matter of feeling comfortable with where I am and who I’m with. Maybe that’s why I prefer house parties, you’re surrounded with people you know, you haven’t had to pay to get in, you don’t have to stand at the bar waiting to get served with all these big men glaring at you because you’re not pretty enough to dare to pop your hand on the bar ahead of your turn. Yes, it’s nights out, not nights “in” that freak me out sometimes. It’s going to bars with all that loud music and beautiful people in lovely dresses with curly hair and  the expectation to be lively and fun.

And the later the start time the less enthusiasm I have, especially if I’ve been kept waiting. the “yeah, yeah see you about 7 o’clock, I’ll text you” turns into “we’re still not ready, should be about eight-thirty”, 9 o’clock comes and I’m bored of waiting, I’m not going now. You’ve messed me around for two hours, man – what makes your time more important than mine? In that two hours I could have had more than a quick sandwich for tea, or put a washing on or stayed a bit longer with my sister or my Mom at lunch-time. Why is your time more important than mine, why do you think you can keep me waiting for so long? Because I’m me, I’m shy and I won’t confront you about it. That’s why.

This is where continental Europe is way better than the UK, there’s not so much expectation on anything, you can go into a bar or a club in jeans and t-shirt and have the same experience as if you were dolled up in heels and a tight skirt. What if you even end up having a better night? Because you’re comfortable with yourself? You can go out at 7pm, or 11pm, the bars will be open, and you never have to pay to get in and you can go home whenever you want because busses and taxis run through the night. You can sit in a bar all night, you don’t have to dance, the music won’t be too imposing and it’s lovely and w·a·r·m. I love Europe.