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This post was edited by ttt222 at 2012-6-14 10:49|
You know the scene. You're in a new town, you're assiduously scoping out every bar within walking distance of your hotel and suddenly there's an eerie pause in the chatter between you and your local friends.
You've exhausted your stories from the time(s) you nearly died in Bolivia, they've tired of telling you where to go tomorrow while they have to work. And so as inevitably as an Icelandic volcano erupting the day you jet off to Europe, the fallback conversation topics make their appearance.
But which fallback topics exactly are they?
The problem is, they're different in every city.
Sure the weather crops up a lot, as do modes of transportation, but listen long enough, and eventually you'll realize you don't need to open your eyes to know where you are.
Just your ears.
Have a read, then let us know: which things do people always talk about in your city?
"Was that an earthquake or are you just pleased to see me?"
In the car culture of L.A., it's all about traffic -- getting stuck in it, avoiding it, how no one knows how to drive in the rain. When the 405 was closed for one weekend in July 2011, the ensuing "Carmageddon" was all anyone could talk about.
Related: finding street parking. As in, "I finally found a spot, but I can only park there for eight minutes after 7 p.m. on a Tuesday."
Angelenos spend a lot of time in their cars; they're defined by what they drive.
Whether they drive a luxury car or the $500 beater they bought 10 years ago, they've got something to say about what they're driving now and hope to be driving someday -- as well as the obscene amount of money they've had to shell out for auto repairs.
3. Real estate
Whether you live at the beach, in West L.A. or the Valley, you'll invariably end up talking about how much you like living at the beach, in West L.A. or the Valley, and how long it takes to get from your place to the beach, West L.A. or the Valley. (See also: Traffic.)
4. Celebrity sightings
You don't need a map to stars' homes to spot a celebrity in Los Angeles.
Yet no matter how common an occurrence it is, even the most jaded resident can't resist recounting how they stood behind Ryan Reynolds ordering a double espresso at Starbucks (and how much shorter he looks in person).
People in Los Angeles are used to living with earthquakes, and have the stories to prove it.
Though they'll never downplay how serious "The Big One" could be, when an earthquake does occur, conversations tend to be matter-of-fact rather than fearful.
"That felt like a five. Don't you think it was at least a five?"
"My house doubled in value again last week. How's the rented place?"
Hong Kong was controlled by the United Kingdom for more than a 150 years, so many still regard "mainland China" as an entirely different country.
And, given the chance, will (fairly or not) criticize "mainlanders" as wealthy tourists who flood Hong Kong to throw money around, behave badly in public and give birth in local hospitals so that their babies will have permanent residency.
2. Real estate
Property prices, already high, are soaring even higher as a boom in the economy has the nouveau riche buying up much of Hong Kong's prime real estate.
Potential homeowners with an eye on the market are prone to commiserate about the rising prices and wonder: Is there any end in sight?
3. Hong Kong Sevens
The international rugby sevens tournament, The Hong Kong Sevens is the biggest sporting event in the city. Locals take it seriously, dressing up and partying into the night.
It's the main topic of conversation when it's happening, but at any other time of year, you might fill an awkward gap by asking, "Are you going to the Sevens?" … even though it's October and the tournament takes place in March.
Shopping is such a major part of local culture, it's almost a national sport. Brand-conscious Hong Kongers seek out the finest goods and best bargains, and they can buy almost anything they want from the incredible variety of stores at their disposal.
Ask a group of locals where the best place to buy custom dress shirts might be -- then sit back and watch the recommendations fly.
Hong Kongers are in love with dining out. And no wonder, as the city provides countless options, from street food to dim sum to gourmet feasts.
It doesn't take much to start a local reminiscing about their last meal, planning their next one or taking pictures of the food right in front of them.
"Rain rain go away, come back on Olympics Opening Ceremony day."
The London Underground is one of the busiest rail services in the world.
It's (naturally) a reliable source of complaints: how slow it is, how expensive it is, how/why it doesn't run 24 hours a day and why are the Tube drivers constantly going on strike?
2. Real estate
Fluctuating housing prices, and which neighborhoods are up and coming, are always a hot topic. Because of high property taxes, however, few can afford to move, which leads many Londoners to convert their attics into bedrooms and bathrooms, or to extend their kitchens.
If you want to establish immediate camaraderie with a London homeowner, ask how his or her loft conversion is going.
3. The weather
Despite what the Gershwins wrote, it isn't all that foggy in London town.
But weather is still the go-to conversation starter, whether it's cold when it was supposed to be hot, or raining when it was supposed to be dry.
The forecasters, naturally, are rarely completely right.
London also faces the threat of drought this year, causing many residents to wonder not just if it will happen, but how bad it might be.
Children in England enter primary school at five and secondary school at 11. Any parent with kids that age is fixated on getting his or her child into the right state (public) or private schools -- right down to buying a new home in a prime "catchment area" (school district), or dusting off the piety and becoming a regular churchgoer (even converting!) to secure entry in the best state-funded faith schools.
5. The Olympics
The 2012 Olympics in London are the topic this year. Whether you care about the Games or not.
Many Brits tend toward a gloomy outlook on how good the opening ceremony will be, how many (if any) medals the home team will win, the potential for terrorism and how crowded the city will get.
But they're still planning on going, leaving locals to wonder why they couldn't get any better tickets (or revel in the choice seats they scored via work).
New York City
"You won't believe what Jeter did in the cab home last night.."
Nearly everyone in New York takes the subway, which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
So there's no shortage of complaints about which subway lines are the worst and why, or which line isn't running today and why it delayed your commute by an hour -- "We sat in the station for 30 minutes!" -- not to mention detailed directions on the quickest way from point A to point B.
2. Real estate
There are five boroughs in New York, but the Manhattan versus Brooklyn debate in particular -- i.e., which is the better place to live? -- will never die. (Though don't forget the loyal Queens contingent.)
Also, New Yorkers aren't shy about asking you what you pay in rent.
3. The weather
Though winters (cold) and summers (hot and humid) inspire constant commentary, even a warm winter will start conversations about whether or not it's ever going to snow.
In spring or on any remotely nice day -- when New Yorkers are released from their apartments and offices to play in the sunshine -- "It's so beautiful outside" is the first sentence off anyone's tongue.
Dealing with is a part of life in New York.
As a visitor, you'll probably spot a few rats on the subway tracks at night, but every New Yorker has a colorful tale about the mouse they found in their apartment, the biggest cockroach they ever saw or that time a rat ran over their foot.
5. Throwing up in a cab
It might surprise you how many New Yorkers have a "throwing up in a cab" story -- or one about a friend who vomited on the subway or their friend's friend who got sick out the cab window.
One reason? New Yorkers don't drive, so drinking and getting home don't always mix well.