You may wonder how can two cities with very different cultures and lifestyles such as Kochi, in Southwestern India in the state of Kerala and Rochester, in Northeastern USA in the state of New York have anything in common. Is it even possible?
Myself having lived in Rochester more than six years and now in Kochi more than six months (well to be more accurate 7 months) I think I have uncovered three common threads:
Commuting Times are More Bearable than Bigger Cities
Kochi is surely a bigger city than Rochester, but in Indian terms; Kochi is a smaller city than say Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai or Delhi. Though road conditions are not as good in most areas as Rochester, the overall commute times from one side of the city to the other is much more bearable than in bigger cities like Chennai or Bangalore (which I have experienced). Rochester, also known as the 20-minute city- has such a reputation because it’s easy to drive between most points – East side to West side or suburbs to city center- within twenty minutes.
Youngsters Prefer to Go Away on the Weekends
New York City is to Rochester as Bangalore is to Kochi. Kochi is very much a family-oriented small city like Rochester so there doesn’t seem to be a lot to do on weekends unless you really know the city very well. Bangalore, on the other hand publishes weekend guides and hotel staff are knowledgeable about local happenings in art, culture, music, local events and more. Though I am still learning about Kochi, and from experience do think Rochester has more easily accessible family activities and stuff for youngsters to do (this is mostly because the main culture of Kochi originates from being invited to family functions like weddings, naming ceremonies, baptisms, birthdays, etc.), I would agree that in both Rochester and Kochi, [younger] people prefer to go to bigger cities to experience the crowds, excitement, busy bodies roaming around, endless choice of food and entertainment and the experience of a place that seems to be more lively throughout more hours of the day and night.
Hard to Break Into a Social Circle / Make Friends
Rochester and Kochi are well-settled cities that while they attract outsiders, a majority of these outsiders are from the nearby areas in the same state. Also both of these cities have been populated over generations by the same families. Yes, there are pockets of each city where newcomers or, in the case of Rochester, foreigners, live but on the whole, most areas are well settled by local people who have been there for generations (and in the case of Kochi, maybe, centuries). Because of this, people already have their social circles set and are comfortable interacting within those circles which of course include localites. The disadvantage of this in both cases is that it’s harder for newcomers (and especially foreigners) to make friends with locals. The advantage is that once a friendship is made, they will be stronger bonds than otherwise.
These are just a few of my observations after having had lived in Rochester, New York for more than six years and Kochi, India for since April 2011 (with experience of visiting the city once a year for three weeks between 2005-2010) and from conversations I have had with citizen and foreign newcomers in both cities. I hope to find more parallels though I also know there are many, many differences.
Thank you for reading.
Greater Rochester Association of Malayalees, NY (Gramny)
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