I’m not what people are expecting when they first meet me, that’s for sure. I simply say ‘hello’, and their faces make this weird twisty look as they try to figure out where I’m from, whether I am qualified for the job, and if they’ve made the right decision to do this thing in the first place.
The things is, EVERY accent is a New York accent. Mine happens to be British-Australian with a twang of NYC (I can throw in a good ‘cawfee’ in with the best of them.) I remind guests that New York is a city founded, built and maintained by immigrants and I am proudly one of them. I show them my NYC Tour Guide License and reassure them that I am the real deal, accent or not, and for the next 3 hours they will experience everything an immigrant has to offer.
You can’t tell the story of New York without talking about immigration. The Dutch, the British, Eastern Europeans, Central Americans - I mean, we even have a ton of Canadians here now too! So who better to share the rollercoaster that is this city than an immigrant? One of my favorite story locations is Ellis Island. 1 in 4 Americans can trace an ancestor through their doors. We are all immigrants here.
You can get a lot out of the city with a good guide book and subway map. Of course you can. But like anywhere, you are never really going to KNOW a place unless you get off the beaten track with a local and scratch away at the surface. And that’s what I do. Down the back alleys of Chinatown and the side streets of Williamsburg, I tell you the tales of the real New York. It is ugly and brutal, imperfect and rough. Like Gaudi’s Cathedral, this city is absurd and will never be finished. But it is also magnificently beautiful in its own unique way. I have been an immigrant for over half my life, going from city to city, country to country. I’m a modern-day travelling minstrel. But I’m wondering if I might have found my forever home here.
Kathryn Fray is an international actor and producer. You can join her live storytelling experience through LIKE A LOCAL TOURS.