You can try all your life to feel like a “real” New Yorker and never quite get there. Ask a local and they’ll offer hodgepodge of guidelines for what constitutes a true native. If you’re not a regular in the Big Apple, all you need to do is learn a few simple rules and you’ll be on your way to fitting in with the longtime locals. Here are 10 things you should never do while in New York.
1. Don’t turn your subway seat into closet space.
You just went to Barneys for the first time and spent hours buying way too many things. You may want to show your new purchases some respect and give them a subway seat next to yours, but don’t even think about it. Take your shopping bag and put it on your lap. Subway seats are not there as your mobile storage shelf — unless you want to get glares from fellow riders.
2. Don’t dawdle.
You can skip through the suburbs and amble through the amber waves of grain. But in New York, you’ll have to move a little quicker. Nothing bellows “tourist crossing!” quicker than a slow-moving sidewalk dweller. If you must stop and stare at the skyscrapers (they are awe-inspiring, after all) or take photos of every street corner, simply step to the side or get on a double-decker tour bus.
3. Don’t turn the sidewalk into a Rockettes show.
Sure, it’s natural to walk with your friends side-by-side — in a Rockettes kick-line formation — down the sidewalk. For those who aren’t starring in an imaginary episode of “Sex and the City,” you’re a human obstacle course that one must run around, slide in between, or vault over. Consider leaving room on either side of your roaming pack to allow faster walkers to fly by. Even if you think you’re walking quickly, there’s always a chance some New Yorker on the sidewalk is jogging, biking, or scootering even faster.
4. Don’t go to Times Square and complain about crowds.
Times Square is not exactly representative of New York. It’s a pedestrian mall lined with giant digital signs, several chain stores, and a few TV studios. Most New Yorkers avoid this area because they don’t want to be bumped and hassled. Tourists, on the other hand, go there, take a picture with “Elmo,” get bumped and hassled, and then complain that New York City is one big cattle car.
5. Don’t stand on the left side of an escalator.
News flash: There are two lanes on an escalator. Stand on the right and express walk on the left. If you’re standing still on the left, expect to be asked to move aside.
6. Don’t mispronounce Houston Street or Greenwich Village.
In addition to acting like a local, you’ll want to sound like one, too. A few tips: Houston Street doesn’t sound like a city in Texas. (It’s “How-stun” street.) And Greenwich Village does not have witches in it. (It’s pronounced “Gren-itch” Village, instead.)
7. Don’t forget your subway manners.
There’s plenty of etiquette to follow when on a crowded subway. First of all, let all passengers off the subway before you get on. Second, if you’re lucky enough to reach a pole to hold on to, share the love. Don’t hog the pole and let others latch on, too. And be sure to hold on to something, as you might go flying when the train is in motion. Plus, if you see an empty subway car, don’t assume it’s your lucky day. Passengers avoid specific cars for a handful of reasons, including a lack of air-conditioning on an especially hot summer day or an unpleasant odor.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions.
Contrary to the stereotype, New Yorkers aren’t all angry, unhelpful, and grouchy. A large number of people in New York were once from somewhere else and remember the feeling of being in the city for the first time. If you have a question about where to go, locals will likely help you out. If you get the cold shoulder from someone with music blaring through their earbuds, just shrug it off and ask the next person.
9. Don’t eat that pizza with a fork.
Yes, some gourmands have been known to cut into a gooey slice of pizza with a fork and knife. Do that in New York and it’ll be a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist. A pizza is not a steak or pie. Alright, technically it is pie, but not the kind you eat with a fork.
10. Don’t always rely on your credit card.
While you’ll likely be able to get around with a credit card in most places, some hole-in-the-wall joints only accept cash. You don’t want to get to the end of an excellent meal and have to leave your date at the table while you try and find the nearest ATM. That said, bring some extra cash with you.
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