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How to Be Like a New Yorker

Here are some tips for faking your way through New York City. How to pretend like you’re a real New Yorker. Before reading, watch the video below:

1) Be assertive. More than anything else, New Yorkers know what they want. Here are some examples:

  • When you’re standing in line to order food, have your order finalized before you reach the counter; if the person ahead of you is dithering, talk over his or her head and start ordering anyway.
  • Don’t be shy about ordering a taxi, crossing the street or getting onto the subway. All these things might require a bit of jostling, but if you want it done, you’ll push through.
  • Know that “assertive” doesn’t equal “rude.” Don’t set out to do things with a stormy attitude, but do set out to get them done, no matter what.

2) Walk. Not only do the lack of traffic spaces make driving a car in New York impractical, but traffic sits in gridlock more often than not. Call a taxi as a last resort; otherwise, walk or take the subway.

  • Navigate the subway system. Most stations will have maps posted, but you can always ask a fellow traveler for directions. Keep a loaded Metro Card in your pocket, and master the art of swiping it smoothly through the turnstile.

3) Know how to hail a taxi. Don’t just call a phone number for a cab – by the time it finds you, you probably could have walked to your destination. Instead, hail one off the street.

  • Understand what the lights on top of the cab mean. No lights means the taxi is currently engaged. If the two outer lights are lit, the taxi is off duty. If only the center light is lit, the cab is available for service.
  • Recognize the queue. Taxis will queue up in popular areas. Do not just grab any taxi in the middle of the line – walk to the front of the queue and hire that taxi. The drivers are all waiting their turn, and it’s your job to pick whoever’s next.
  • Flag down a moving taxi. If you happen to see an available taxi driving down the street, flag it down by stepping off the curb, making eye contact with the driver, and raising your hand slightly (you don’t have to have your arm totally flapping out, here). When the cab stops, get in quickly.
  • Give directions. New Yorkers don’t give exact addresses when they get into a cab. Instead, tell the driver which street you want, as well as the two cross streets you’d like to be between. For example, you could say “51st Street between 7th and 8th.” The cabbie will know exactly what you mean.

4) Treat sidewalks like freeways. Because there are so many people on a New York sidewalk during the day, the only way to keep some sort of order is to treat it like a freeway. In general, stay to the right side.

  • If you’re walking slowly, move further to the right so that people in a hurry can pass you.
  • If you’re planning on stopping altogether, find a place to “pull over” near a streetlight or awning.
  • When you walk out of a building, don’t just step directly into the traffic. Look for an opening.

5) Avoid the tourist traps. Visiting these places will automatically mark you as a tourist. If you’re OK with that, then go; otherwise, steer clear.

  • Times Square
  • Southeast corner of Central Park
  • Theme restaurants, such as Jekyll and Hyde’s or Bubba Gump Shrimp
  • World Trade Center memorial
  • The bull statue on Wall Street
  • Certain Broadway shows, such as Wicked or The Phantom of the Opera
  • The Port Authority (where you can get on a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty)
  • Little Italy
  • Rockefeller Plaza

6) Know how to treat your fellow New Yorkers. In general, it’s safe to assume that everyone you meet is in a hurry. Here are some more specific tips:

  • If you need directions, most New Yorkers will probably help you. However, keep your question short and to the point.
  • Don’t make eye contact and smile at everyone you pass on the sidewalk. You’re going to pass a lot of people, and friendliness will get tiring soon.
  • Ignore street hassle. If someone catcalls or whistles at you, try to act like it didn’t even register with you. Above all, don’t look at your harassers.
  • Know how to respond to people who ask for your attention. Don’t cheer for the subway buskers. Don’t give beggars money. Ignore people handing out fliers.

7) Don’t panic about the vermin. There’s an old saying that says you’ll be within 5 feet of a rat no matter where you go in New York. While the rat problem might not be that extreme, you will occasionally see rats in cockroaches in places such as subway platforms. In general, respond with non-chalance.

  • The only exception to this rule is if the rat or cockroach is on your person or near your food. In that case, make an enormous fuss (as you might be naturally inclined to do) and demand that someone help you get rid of it immediately.

8) Don’t pull out a map. If you need directions, look them up discreetly on your phone or ask a somewhat friendly-looking New Yorker. Don’t pull out an enormous map.

9) Know the pronunciation. There are only a few of these rules, but they’re important.

  • “Houston” Street is pronounced “HOW-stuhn,” not “HEW-ston.” SoHo, or south of Houston Street, is pronounced “SO-hoe”
  • Know how to refer to the boroughs. There are five parts of New York City: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. Only the Bronx should be preceded by “the”; you would never say “the Staten Island,” for instance.
  • “Staten” is pronounced “STAH-ten,” not “STATE-en.”

10) Dress appropriately. Most New Yorkers wouldn’t be caught dead wearing an “I <3 NY” T-shirt, or any item of clothing purchased on vacation (such as clothes from Disneyland). Your safest bet is to wear black, dark blue or some shade of grey. When the weather is warmer, white and beige are also acceptable.

  • Pay attention to your footwear. Particularly in Manhattan, you won’t see people wearing sneakers (too casual) or flip-flops (because they bring your feet too close to the dirty sidewalk). Loafers, heels, boots, and heeled sandals are acceptable.

11) Don’t panic about crime. New York is significantly safer than it was in the ’70s and ’80s. However, there are still places you probably want to avoid. Here are a few:

  • Hunters Point
  • South Bronx (and the Bronx as a whole at night)
  • Parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant
  • Washington Heights
  • Stapleton
  • South Jamaica
  • Crown Heights
  • Learn the difference between a bad neighborhood and a neighborhood that just looks bad. You might see a lot of intimidating things in the East Village (such as hookers, drug addicts or graffiti), but you’re probably fine. Manhattan in general is well-policed.

12) Visit Central Park during the day. A lot of New Yorkers take their lunches to Central Park. Don’t go at night, though – crime might be down in New York, but Central Park after dark can still be sketchy.

13) Become a baseball fan. In the 1950s, when New York had 3 baseball teams, fans of each team were generally (but not entirely) based on demographics. For example, Yankee fans where white, Catholic, and from the Bronx, Manhattan, or Staten Island; Dodger fans were Jewish and from Brooklyn, Queens, or Staten Island; and Giants fans were African-Americans from any part of the city. The Met fans today are the former fans (and their children and grandchildren) of the displaced Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants.

  • Even if you don’t actually like baseball, be prepared to talk about it. It’s a common topic of conversation between strangers or acquaintances.
  • Don’t ever let it be known that you root for the Boston RedSox, the Chicago Cubs or the Philadelphia Phillies.




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