Maneli Zakipour is a Persian Swede from Stockholm studying law between NYC and Sweden. She lived in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and worked in Manhattan. An equal mix of beauty and brains, Maneli loves home but finds herself hooked on The Big Apple.
Summing up what I love about living in New York is almost impossible because, to me, the main thing that makes me love it so much isn’t really palpable, it’s something that is just there, everywhere, all the time.
I grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. The largest city of my home country but still a little village compared to New York. I love Stockholm because it’s my hometown and I know it like the back of my hand. But there was always something about it that made me feel restless and not completely at home. I grew up in a very homogenous suburban area where everyone looked the same and had the same names and the same everything as everyone else. My family was the only non-Swedish family in our neighborhood and I was always the only kid, or one of very few, in my school with dark hair and a funny last name. Even though I was born here and never lived anywhere else, no one would ever think of me as Swedish. It became clear to me as I grew older that people here don’t make a difference between ethnicity and nationality, like I couldn’t be Persian and Swedish at the same time. Because my parents were immigrants, that’s what my title would always be too, and it’s hard to feel completely at home when you are constantly reminded that you will never truly be a part of the country you live in.
The first time I went to New York I was sixteen years old and I remember thinking the second I stepped out of the cab from the airport ‘Yes. This is where I want to live.’ New York is a place where you immediately blend in and become one with everything, and this feeling of belonging somewhere is what made me save up my money every year to travel back and ultimately decide to live and study there for a while. The fact that New York City is diverse is of course not news to anyone. What I didn’t know was what the effect that living somewhere so diverse compared to where I come from would have on me. Living in New York somehow put my mind at ease. A certain part of my brain that constantly buzzes when I’m in Sweden was still all of a sudden.
It’s a fast paced city. It’s dirty, rough and never ever quiet. All that is ok though because it’s also beautiful, vibrant, powerful and bursting with energy. It is completely impossible to be bored or restless, because there is always somewhere to go, something new to see or do, someplace cool to go eat. Unless maybe it’s a snow day. Snow day, a completely hilarious concept to someone like me who lives on the north pole basically and had never experienced a snow day until I moved to New York. Even this made me feel like: Yes! Finally someone who gets it. I don’t want to go outside when there’s snow coming down in buckets and the wind cuts all the way to my bones.
On top of the strong feeling of belonging somewhere there are of course a thousand little things about New York that makes me love it. Like the fact that you can go out for a decent dinner and not end up spending half of what’s left in your bank account. The amazing architecture, from beautiful old brownstones to mind-blowing skyscrapers and everything in between. The fact that you can have food from anywhere in the world delivered to your doorstep. Seeing kids dance on the subway and musicians performing their music and feeling like you are constantly surrounded by immense amounts of talent. Meeting new people every day from so many different cultures and backgrounds. The fact that saying ‘Hello’ when you pass someone on the street, or having a conversation with your subway-neighbor is considered nice rather than strange and annoying. Oh yes, most Stockholmers are more likely to glare back at you rather than say hello. I have lived on the same street for 17 years and some people here still just walk past me without so much as a nod or a smile.
It’s a funny thing to feel so at home somewhere else than your actual home. I had to stop writing this the first time I started because I missed being there so much. I moved back home six months ago but not one day passes without me wanting to be back in New York.