Conversation Starters

212Access March 22, 2012 1
Conversation Starters

Conversation Starters

by Scott Hyatt

Manhattan and Brooklyn might be neighboring boroughs but the conversations are countries apart.

I’ve spent the last decade in Brooklyn and Manhattan and it’s more than just an accent that tells you where people are from. Everyone says Brooklyn is all about attitude. It’s what makes you Brooklyn – your walk, your talk, but what really separates the two boroughs is the conversations.

In Brooklyn, everyone wants to talk about Brooklyn.

“Which neighborhood do you live in?”

“Where in Brooklyn do you hang out?”

“Who do you know in Brooklyn?”

In Brooklyn, you have your ethnic-centered neighborhoods and local hangout spots, such as the Russian neighborhood of Brighton Beach, or the old Italian neighborhood of Bensonhurst. You’re from where you’re from even though everyone looks different from one another. That’s the Brooklyn way of it, to each his own.

But in Manhattan, the questions are broader yet deeper and all about the worldly view. City residents are more curious and they’re not afraid to ask away, even if it offends.

“I like your accent, where’s it from?”

“What’s your nationality?”

“What’s your religion?”

It’s like you’re filling out a census form.

I’m not quite sure why New Yorkers feel so emboldened to ask such private and personal questions. I think we’re intrigued by diversity, interested in what’s not familiar, which could be why so many guys in Manhattan are quick to start-up conversations with me even though they might suspect we have nothing in common.

It’s that New York curiousity that makes me love the city life so much. Everyone has a desire and yearning to get to know what they don’t know.

In the city, people are enamored by anything foreign. It’s like the more crazy or different you look, the more interesting and approachable you appear.

The irony is everyone in Manhattan is foreign to one another; it’s the kind of family you have to get used to and accept.

But Manhattan is not the center of the universe, contrary to what city people think. They don’t always have better conversations. Conversations in Brooklyn are more comforting than Manhattan because somebody always knows somebody from Brooklyn. It’s like we’re only 2-degrees separated from each other.

In Brooklyn, no one asks the Manhattan questions because they don’t really care. Foreign isn’t foreign in Brooklyn, it’s common.

I’m of Sicilian, Irish and Palestinian background, and making it even more complicated, I’m Catholic. If you grew up in Brooklyn, you can see mixtures of backgrounds similar to mine. It’s the melting pot right outside of the city. People there grow up with a worldly view, and don’t ask too much.

In Brooklyn, you have so many cultures and ethnicities that are crammed together. It isn’t like your typical small town, even though we are always overshadowed by our neighboring borough.

Manhattan is just a cocktail of out-of-towners, tourists and locals shaken together in a small glass.

Born and raised in New York, it’s the only real city I know and yet the two boroughs that never cease to amaze me are Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Being in the city, I’m a people watcher and definitely, a conversationalist.

Which is probably why I always get the common question of, where are you from? Half the time I don’t know whether to say,  “oh, I was born here”, or “ Do you mean my ethnicity?”

It’s the beauty of New York City – it’s never quiet, diversity is a given and the questions are bound to instigate, even if they’re initiated on friendly terms.

Ranna Ramacca is majoring in Communications at the City College of New York. Born and raised in Rockaway Beach, she describes herself as “your average beach girl, turned city girl.”