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Settling the debate: NYC vs. LA


Art by Ket Gill

The weirdest thing I've found about New Yorkers and Angelenos is that neither of them seem to see the beauty in their cities. When I moved to New York City and told people I was from Los Angeles they would say, “Wow that is so cool! Why did you come here?” Yet now that I have moved back to Los Angeles and told people that I was living in New York City, people will often say, “Wow that is so cool! Why did you come here?” Now, as much as I understand that there is more to these words and most of these people would die for their home cities, I am still shocked at the disgust that some feel about these wonderfully unique and beautiful places. They are the most popular cities in the world, and I have had the privilege of growing up in both places through all of their good and bad. I would like to address all the different aspects of both cities that I have noticed and ultimately enter the debate about whether NYC or LA is better.


I will always be first and foremost from Los Angeles ⎼ it is where I was born and spent most of my younger childhood. However, I spent most of my teenage years being influenced by the culture of the Big Apple. There are heavy stereotypes placed on both cities, for example, LA is seen as being a place infested with celebrities and rich people who are image-conscious, or through a different lens, they see laid-back surfers and skaters who aren't doing anything with their lives. On the other side of the country, NYC is viewed as a packed and stressful environment with cold winters and even colder people. In a bustling city with a struggling community trying to make it big, everyone only cares about themselves and their own personal success. Where there is a lot of baseline truth to these ideas it doesn’t really capture the whole picture as there is so much more to these cities.


Photo by Jubilee Nuno

New York City is bustling, in which I learned a lot of grit and gained valuable hard-working experiences. It's one of the first cities established in the US, and it shows. This city has been functioning for a very long time, so the saying “the city that never sleeps” couldn't be a truer statement. Immediately when my family dropped into New York, we had to catch up with the pace of everyone else. Just being a 7th grader, I already had to stress about grades and which high school I was going to apply to, you heard that right, APPLY to (I even took the SHSAT which is the SAT but for specialized high schools). And even as early as 9th grade, I knew all about the college application process and how it was important that I start building my application now. I was surrounded by blunt people who always felt the need to shove their own opinions down my throat, constantly telling me what internship/job I should be doing and ever so “modestly” bragging to me about all the responsibilities and opportunities they were a part of. It was as if there was constant competition on who could have the most packed and stressful schedule. New York has a very high-stress environment, and no matter who you are, you feel it the second you enter the city with having to take the transportation systems there and walk extremely fast as you inevitably lose yourself in the midst of the chaos.


Photo by Jubilee Nuno

Despite the heavy amount of stress, New York also allowed me to experience various stress-relieving outlets. The city has so many beautiful places. I spent countless hours roaming Central Park, which is as lively as you could imagine. I had the most fantastic communities surrounding me at all times, whether it was my school environment filled with such unified inspirational peers or my neighborhood where I saw the struggle of businesses going up and down and neighbors trying to make ends meet. None of this stopped the constant sounds of music and laughter. Summers were filled with robust block parties and festivals that you could find almost anywhere. It truly was a place that cultivated rich and deep creativity, filled with art and murals, dancing and music, filmmaking, and performing. A place that inhaled all the stress and exhaled all their extreme beauty and passion. I truly believe that New York City is the “center of the universe” and everyone who wants a genuine life experience can find one in NYC.


Photo by Jubilee Nuno

Los Angeles: the wonderful city where I spent my precious childhood years growing up. Fortunately, I was able to come back to it to experience my last year of high school. Los Angeles has not been a city for nearly as long as New York City, established in 1781 and having the feeling of a newer city. Especially in Downtown LA, I have noticed this gilded wrapping; the city that strives to represent fame and fortune but underneath the cover has seen immense poverty and plights that aren't recognized unless you actually see it. The wealth gap seems to be ranging widely, you can drive from very low income neighborhoods to extremely high income neighborhoods in just 20 minutes…well 20 minutes without traffic. Traffic seems to run the entire city. A family friend once jokingly said that LA seemed to be built by the car companies since a car is an absolute necessity if you want to get anywhere around here, and as a senior who doesn't know how to drive, I have found that statement to be painfully true. Furthermore, I’ve partially grown up and have deep family roots in South Gate, and yet I also had the opportunity to partially grow up in Pasadena; two very different places economically speaking. It was weird to have memories in such a contrasting environment. And yet I feel that in this city the wealthy places are only growing and becoming newer while the poorer areas are falling through the cracks.


Photo by Jubilee Nuno

But what no one really seems to understand is the beautiful culture that LA has harnessed, which upon reflection I have grown to appreciate. LA has such a free-loving environment, the scenery could be the rolling mountains, the vast and crashing waves, or the dry open deserts, you have everything here. But even further, LA has so many enriching cultures and diversity that is not seen from an outside point of view and that is a fact I cannot stress enough. I was also able to grow up playing endlessly with friends and neighbors till the sun went down. And I was surrounded by my family, constantly having parties in our backyards and celebrating life with each other. Even now I went from worrying about the next internship I was going to go for or the next club I was gonna start, to spontaneously joining fun Halloween skits and senior clubs without worry. Everyone here is able to cultivate and take part in life-giving fun whether it's finding a cool concert/show or just spending time with friends at the park. And let's not forget the awesome amusement parks, Universal Studios, Six Flags, Knott's Berry Farm, and Disneyland!


All this to say, everyone will have their preferences and will see one city as better than the other but if you truly look at these places you will see how much they have to offer. I know that I wouldn't be who I am today without spending my crucial development years in both places. These cities are recognizable for so many reasons both good and bad but still, I believe both deserve the title of the greatest city in the world.

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Reda Rountree
Reda Rountree
07 nov 2022

Really good read — I loved how you pointed out when the cities were founded, and things you love about both cities, as well as challenges about living in both places. Los Angeles is a fantastic place to be, and I always tell students, when you’re growing up in L.A., you might not realize how good you have it until you travel or move away! Love the art and photography with this article, guys ❤️ you did a great job capturing the unique vibe of both places.

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