NYC vs. London: Settling the Score

Almost every British person I met in London told me they wanted to move to New York. But why?

As I always say, it’s a love-hate relationship when it comes to NYC. There are things to love, and things to hate, and not much in between. So when I actually have to live here, the balance fluctuates from day to day, but for visitors it’s just love-love-love.

Come to think of it, that may partly explain why I loved London so much–because I always approached it as a visitor, somewhat. Even though I was there for a year, I always knew my time there would be finite. So I woke up each day thinking I ought to make the most of it.

But I digress.

If you were counting, London totally killed NYC while I was abroad, racking up lots of awesomeness points: tea and scones, accessibility to the rest of Europe, free museums, pretty buildings, lots of parks, ginormous roses, the literary legacy. But coming back to NYC I’m reminded of a lot of reasons why NYC > London, too.

NYC+1KOREAN FOOD. This, friends. THIS is what I’m talking about. A spread like that should count for 300 points at least.

Remember when I went to that Korean BBQ place in London where we had to pay for kimchi separately, and even pay for the lettuce to wrap our BBQ in? So wrong. Because this is how we do in America. Bro, Mom and I went to Geum Gang San in Flushing, where all of the above banchan dishes were served free of charge, with refills to our hearts’ content.

I got the deonjang + LA galbi special. Mmmmm how I have missed you so!

I can’t tell you how stuffed I was after this meal. No really. I refuse to describe it. Just thinking about it is making me feel fat right now.

NYC+2: Subways with air conditioning! Thank goodness too, cuz that heat wave was no joke.

NYC+3: Weekend brunch.

You know, I think from now on when people ask me what’s good about American food, I will simply say: BRUNCH.

I went with M to Nook in Hell’s Kitchen, where we split sweet (French toast) and savory (eggs benedict with smoked salmon)–a happy marriage!

NYC+4: There’s always something new to discover, no matter how long you’ve been around. 

Walking into Grand Central station, P stopped me at a point where I’d stood hundreds of times–the busy entrance at Vanderbilt and E 42nd. She pointed up, and there it was: a breathtakingly, quintessentially New York cityscape that I’d never noticed before!

NYC+5: Sushi.

Granted, there was good sushi in London too. But NYC sushi wins. Sorry, London.

I’m forgetting the name of the restaurant we went to, and for some reason the word that comes to mind is “tamagachi,” which is clearly wrong. I remember the restaurant was pretty hard to find, as it was sort of tucked away behind Drom, a dive bar in the Lower East Side. With these clues I could definitely Google it pretty quickly. And I will. But for now, tamagachi is taking me back to middle school and I kinda like it.


NYC+6: Can’t beat the quirky.

K and I walked the full length of the High Line, which is one of my favorite places in NYC. It’s an old railroad track converted into a public space, an oasis amid a busy city. But the best part of the High Line is that the neighborhood it’s located in has a lot of character, and the neighbors inject an extra energy and quirky flair.

In one eye-level window, a life-size cardboard cutout with a hairy chest waves at passersby. On one rooftop, a “zoo” (when K mentioned this, I expected real animals!)

NYC+7: Levain Bakery. This needs no explanation. Just eat it.

And then there was cookie.

Is “Thus Spake Zarastrutha” playing in your head right now? Because it should be. Humor me:

NYC+8+9+10+11908741: Delicious food, cheap & delicious food, food-food-food-food-FOOD!


Eataly with D&K–pasta perfectly al dente. Prosperity Dumpling–all of the above for $3!

Celeste in NYC, previously my fave Italian spot in NYC. Eataly was better, though.

Coffee and a bagel. Can’t beat NYC for making this combo just right.


Just look at those skies.

It truly is a beautiful city–when you’re looking up.

Look down and you’ll see the rats burrowing in trash cans… I saw a man sit on a dead cockroach on the subway because he didn’t look down first. Also there was a guy smoking a joint and saying really vulgar stuff on the subway. And another dude playing with a torch lighter. And…

In sum, if you want to love NYC, don’t live there.

Okay, okay. A friend of mine pointed out that only three of these reasons are not food-related. So two more:

Friends. Hardly needs to be said, as I’m not exactly going to go eat alone, am I? Oh shoot there I go with the food again.

Accessibility. In one day, I’d meet a friend from brunch on the Upper West Side, walk cross-town through Central Park, run errands near Union Square, get dinner on the Lower East Side, and come back up to Hell’s Kitchen for drinks. Pick up dumplings from Chinatown and chow down in Koreatown (oops, is that a faux pas?). And especially since the subway runs all night–party on!


11 thoughts on “NYC vs. London: Settling the Score

  1. This is making me miss NYC like crazy! Now I can approach it with a visitor’s perspective too, so the city will definitely get even better…

  2. I am Korean (British technically) who currently living in London. To be honest with you, I prefer New York. Although I lived there only for 6 months, I was amazed by what the city can offer – innovation (not just superficial design package shit London creates, more content), future forward thinking and diversity. London diversity is different – Brits will be tolerant (more indifferent) on people of color due to her colonial legacy but it doesn’t mean that they will accept you to be part of their life or consider them equal. And also it is all about Continental Euros, Middle Eastern, Africans and Indians…I am still freaked out when I am called ‘Oriental’ in this country. I miss NYC!

    1. Sure, I hear you. There are pros and cons to both cities, and in this post I’m only really referring to superficial things (mainly food) rather than deeper issues. I did write a post a few months ago about all the things I don’t like about London (one of which was race relations, as you point out)–but knowing that it was temporary made it manageable, at least. (Here’s the post: Hopefully the pros outweigh the cons in the end!

  3. I’m not too keen on NYC nowadays. It doesn’t have the oomph or energy that it used to and the night life and innovative edge feels like it’s stagnating. London I’ve visited on and off since 2001 and it really does feel like a true center of culture and world capital — exciting, vibrant, sophisticated and urbane, and above all CLEAN! Little in the way of trash and dog crap, well maintained parks, beautiful museums in CENTRAL London. However, much of this comes with a big big price tag. Good if you’re rich, I guess.

  4. I am not really interested in your observation regarding food, as London has a vast array of restaurants representing every corner of the globe.

    I will however correct you with regards to the tube, as I think you will find that many tube trains and stations do indeed already have air conditioning, and new rolling stock is being introduced introduced. Whilst London Transport is currently working on new rolling stock for the deeper lines, which will include air conditioning, as will Crossrail which will become operational later this decade. :)

    1. Hi Jack, no problem. As I mentioned in my response to bamford1000, this blog is a series of personal observations with an audience of friends and family in mind. So if you don’t find it interesting, it’s not surprising, since I didn’t write it for a public audience or as a definitive comparison of the two. Glad to hear that more tube developments are underway!

  5. Your blog seems like a giant advert for NYC’s food, rather than a serious comparison. In terms of food, London has restaurants representing every conceivable corner of the world and contrary to what some Americans might think, a lot of it is very good indeed.

    In terms of Air Conditioning on the Tube, a good deal of rolling stock now has air conditioning, as do the stations. It was only the very deep lines unique to the London Underground that were a problem, and to this end London Transport is currently working with the train manufacturers, and is hoping to have a fully air conditioned system later in the decade. The introduction of Crossrail later in the decade, which will also be fully air conditioned, will improve London’s transport infrastructure yet further.

    As for all Londoners wanting to live in New York, I don’t think so, I know plenty of people who would rather be in London than NYC. Furthermore you will find most Brits tend to leave for places such as Australia or even closer to home in terms of Spain & the Med both of which are warm rather than NYC.

    1. You’re entirely welcome to your opinion, and thanks for stopping by to express them. But it’s worth noting that this blog isn’t meant to endorse anything or express journalistic assessments of anything. It’s just a personal blog I started to jot my observations for family and friends who actually bothered to follow my experiences of living abroad.

  6. Not really opinions though, more like facts. The London Underground ‘S’ Class are fully air conditioned and operate on sub surface lines, in terms of deeper lines a tendering process is now under way, and includes fully air conditioned trains such as the Siemens Inspiro.–offering-30-space-air-conditioning.html

    In terms of emigration from the UK, the vast majority is to warmer places such as Australia, Spain, the Med etc earther than NYC and London has tens of thousands of eateries and restaurants representing every corner of the globe.

    Not really opinions, just facts. :)

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