Insiders and Outsiders

 Body language tells a great deal about a person. I entered North and South Williamsburg as an outsider. Walking on Lee Avenue or Bedford I could tell right away that there is a very distinct difference between groups in their body language.

     The Satmar Hassidic women on the street huddle together usually in packs/groups absorbed in conversation while completely ignoring what is going on around them. During the daytime most women will be pushing a stroller while their multitudes of children are off at school. When the women are talking, even their young ones being fussy don’t hold them back from being absorbed in conversation

     Hipsters can be found in groups on the street, but instead of facing each other, they all face outwards. When they speak they look past each other, usually while smoking a cigarette or drinking an overpriced beverage.

     The Hassidic men on the street are usually hustling and bustling, facing the ground, either absorbed in Torah study or business.

     The Hipsters in contrast walk with their hips forward and shoulders back, as if posing for a fashion magazine. Yet, almost no one pays attention to one another, because they are absorbed in their own world. Their body language shows they are concerned with how others perceive them.

     The Hassidim also have a certain amount of self-consciousness concerned with the acceptability of their actions within the community. On the other hand, Hassidim don’t care how people outside their community see them, even when they stick out in a crowd.

     Hipsters are also very self-conscious of what they say. One wrong word, or an outdated slang term, might hurt their credibility as knower of all things hip. They must carefully select their worlds to ensure they use trendy or vintage lingo, making even their speech match their induced throw-back attitude and forced nonchalance.

     Both neighborhoods have a lot of hustle and bustle on their main street, where all the main shops and restaurants are, but meanwhile, the more residential side streets are quiet.

     In south Williamsburg the main street, Lee Avenue, is filled with kosher butchers, fish markets, bakeries (with the best babka in the world), grocers and special clothing stores for their unique style.

     North Williamsburg’s Bedford Avenue also has specialty clothing stores, but their shops are dominated more by bars and restaurants rather than grocers.