Top Ten Things In New York that Don’t Exist in the Canadian Prairies

One of the cardinal rules of traveling is that you’re not supposed to compare the place you’re in to the one you’ve just come from; so by writing this compare and contrast list (did you have to make those in school too?) I feel quite rebellious… granted, in the nerdiest way possible. The thing is, it’s too much fun not to compare. These are things you see in New York that you will never see in Edmonton.

1. Rats

In Alberta rats are illegal. We have something called the Rat Patrol which means our border is patrolled to keep the province a rat-free zone. I’m 100% serious. Read about it for yourself.

2. Subway performers

I remember the first time I saw Rent and there was that scene in which everyone boards a train and then sings and does cartwheels and flips, effectively transforming the subway into a dance hall. Musicals aren’t known for legitimately showcasing real life and I’ve never turned an argument into a “Take Me or Leave Me” dance routine; but when it comes to performing on the subway, Rent was right. Groups of mostly black guys routinely board the trains with boomboxes to perform gravity-defying feats of awesomeness.

3. A four-lane street full of yellow taxis

My first week in New York, whenever I was with another person walking through Manhattan, I felt the need to point and go, “Look, a taxi!” like a 2-year-old who has just learned the word “taxi.” I had never seen that many taxis in my entire life and every time I tried to hail one, I would burst out laughing because I felt like a bad actor trying to be a person in New York trying to get a taxi.

4. An actually functional transit system

The train runs 24 hours. You can take it anywhere. Enough said. Edmonton, take note.

5. Crowds

If you’re thinking to yourself, “But there are crowds in Canadian prairie cities,” just stop right now. Yes, there are crowds. There are crowds everywhere. But you don’t know crowds until you’re waiting to cross the street in Manhattan at rush hour, unable to move while the guy to your right recites bible verses under his breath and the dude to your left keeps “accidentally” brushing your butt with his arm. Meanwhile, all the cars are honking, there’s a police siren blaring from somewhere and an arm emerges from the crowd with some sort of flyer asking you to buy something. Is that a baby you hear crying? No, it’s you. How can you not cry when there are so many fucking people? There was a time I wanted kids, but there’s nothing like Midtown to put the rust on the hands of my biological clock. Why would anybody want to bring yet MORE humans into the world? Aren’t there enough already, crawling everywhere like ants, filling every available crevice and surface, making loud human noises, blowing noses, sweating, eating, farting, nail-picking, finding eachother attractive, and then multiplying?

Once I told my roommate, “So I just want to walk along the river for like an hour and not see anybody. Where should I go.”

His reply: “Nowhere in New York.”

6. People sitting on the steps of brownstones

Think Sesame Street.

7. Groups of 100+ queer women

Think paradise.

8 . Garbage cans that look like this:

photo copy
Think olfactory insulting.

9. The best fucking band you’ve ever heard, smack dab in the middle of a train station


copyright Malaika Aleba

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10. Publishing jobs

When you google “Edmonton + publishing + jobs” you don’t get much, but New York is entirely different. There are pages and pages of job descriptions with employers actually asking for applicants with English degrees. Take that all you blank faced, cynical, so-uh-whaddya-gonna-do-with-that naysayers! There are places in the world where English majors are taken seriously and even requested on job postings.

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Malaika likes books, drinking tea, long conversations, dinner parties, making funny faces, bike rides, and dogs. Originally from Edmonton, she now lives in Montreal where she edits, runs, and writes about the Alberta Tar Sands for The Media Co-op. You can follow her on twitter @Malaika_Aleba.

Malaika has written 84 articles for us.


  1. This — or at least, the good parts of this — is exactly why despite desperately missing the Bay Area at times, I’m really glad I’m living in New York City.

    Hell, the transit alone. Bless you, mostly-functional 24/7 transit.

    • I honestly want to cry at the thought of a train system that runs 24 hours, especially with last week’s BART strike.

      • The buses in my city stop at 6 PM and don’t run on Sundays… and some of them don’t even run on Saturdays… and the one near my house only runs once an hour…


  2. I’m from Calgary and I had NO IDEA we put forth such an effort to keep rats out of Alberta. It’s awesome!

    And another thing we have none (not much?) of: cockroaches!

    • I was about to ask is cockroaches were also illegal because if they are then Calgary is obviously where I should spend the rest of my life.

      • Except those fucking hissing cockroaches from the Amazon in zoos.

        Or pet stores.

        • I thought pet rats were also illegal in Alberta? I seem to remember something about that from my rat-fanatic days.

  3. OMG. If I’d know about #10 three years ago, maybe I would not have gone to law school, and actually would have tried to look for a real publishing job!

    Except that #1, #5, and #8 are pretty much the reasons I will never be able to live in NYC. Visit? Absolutely, but live there, like, forever? I could never do it.

    • i also never thought I’d be able to live in New York, but it’s amazing how quickly you adapt once you’re here!

  4. Yay for yellow cabs Subway performers! The one and sadly only time I visited New York, those were two things that made my experience seem super “authentic”. Although walking around New York in general makes me feel like I’m walking through my favourite movies and TV shows anyway.

  5. I heart this. Your prairie feature always warms my heart.
    No one ever believes the Alberta rat patrol is real! They also refuse to believe that Edmontonians (and others) have to plug in their cars in wintertime.
    Re: crowds, as a child an uncle described NY to me as ‘the streets are like West Edmonton Mall on Boxing Day all the time’.

  6. Re: #2
    I don’t think you understand how much we DESPISE hearing “It’s showtimeeeeeee ladies and gentlemen!” No. Just fuck no. I’m tired. I want to listen to my music without your shitty ass boombox and offbeat clapping blaring in front of me. I will purposefully give you a handful of pennies when you walk through the car soliciting donations.

    • why though? it only last a few minutes, and they’re so talented and entertaining! I think if you’re not used to seeing anything like it, you can fully appreciate just how cool it is! I mean, if they were rich and had fancy costumes ppl would pay shit loads to see them and write up fancy-ass reviews in the new york times. also, I have yet to see white ppl do this, which makes me wonder about all the race/class issues at play when it comes to subway performers.

      • To someone who has only experienced it once, it’s a novelty and I can understand the appeal. But having witnessed their played out routine DOZENS and DOZENS of times it gets extremely tiresome.

        I’ve seen those kids literally push people off to the sides so they can start dancing, especially during rush hour (umm hello, no you cannot do fucking flips on the goddamn 6 train at 6pm on a week day. just no!) I’ve seen them do their metrobatics and actually land on the unlucky ones who are forced to sit mere inches from their flips and tricks. I’ve seen them verbally harass a very pregnant woman because she asked them to stop or at least move away from her after a stray leg almost hit her in her pregnant belly. I’ve seen them curse out a subway car for not giving them tips. Granted, there are several groups and several kids involved but that doesn’t detract from the horrible way that some of them act.

        So yeah, I get the appeal that tourists have from watching these teenage kids do a seemingly cool routine. But to those of us who have to endure performance after performance, it gets incredibly old. So yeah, handfuls of pennies!

        That’s not to say there aren’t good performers. There was one elderly hispanic man I used to see all the time on the 4/5/6 who used to wail out on the accordion, I would always tip him since he would play renditions of pop songs in addition to traditional folk music. But I’ll be damned if I ever enjoy the flipping kids!

      • @Malaika Love both your comments! New York is beyond the imagination and should be a required field trip by all schools in the US, concrete and scraper camp. I love NY!

    • idk how things are done in NYC, but on the DC metro:
      -no music without headphones (=no performances)
      -no eating or drinking
      -no rats

      lol #weloverules

      • Plenty of rats in suits in DC and they are not interested in your trash just your money and your vote.

  7. malaika, i like how you make me look at my city from a totally new perspective, the kind of perspective where i don’t want to punch those subway performers in the face. IT’S SHOWTIIIIIME IT’S SHOWTIIIIIIIME. all i ever think is how they probably have 23142314342332 germs on their hands and all over their clothes and omg how can you put that hat back on your head?! it gives me anxiety.

    • did not read the comment above this one, but YES EXACTLY. also i haven’t seen a loud blaring mariachi band on the j train since i stopped listening to headphones on the train, since i think they only appear specifically to ruin my headphone experience.

  8. Oh my gosh! I’ve never commented on Autostraddle before, but the truth in this is so deep:

    “There was a time I wanted kids, but there’s nothing like Midtown to put the rust on the hands of my biological clock.”

    Nothing a stroll through the Botanic Gardens can’t solve, though. I dare anyone with ovaries to try that on a good weather day and not feel hopeful about the world again…

  9. While I doubt you could walk for an hour without seeing anyone, Inwood Hill Park is a breath of fresh air in Manhattan. Take the A train all the way to 207, get off the train and just walk straight to the trees. You can go up into the forest or down through the park with a dog park, sport fields and the mouth of the river. It’s lovely and peaceful and the locals are great. I lived there for 2 years, I miss it so much!

  10. UFOs, you didn’t mention UFOs. My ex mother-in-law was raised in Saskatchewan and swears they saw a UFO. On the other hand in New York, one probably would see one and think nothing of it.

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