NYC Non Schmucking.
July 26, 2007 2:36 PM   Subscribe

How do I act like a New Yorker?

I've travelled all over Europe and managed to fit in by learning the language, customs and way of life. I have visited New York three times now and in September I'll be visiting Manhattan for a week with my girlfriend (who has never been before). Now I know all the sights and my way around but never felt I've had a handle on the culture. Sure, I can pass for a Roman in Rome but my question is:

How do I act like a New Yorker?

I hate to stand out like a tourist. When we go to NYC next I'd like not to stand out. I accept that this may be inevitable but I'm asking for tips and advice on the sort of things that I should avoid and the sort of things I should do.

Obvious examples would be tipping properly, not stopping in the middle of 5th Avenue with a map in hand, not eating in Carnegies etc

But how the hell do you eat a pastrami sandwich from Katz's? Do you say "Hello, how are ya?" to a cab driver before telling him your destination? Is it ok to walk at a "Don't Walk" sign? Do you tip a barman per drink, per round or a total when you leave the joint? What do New Yorkers do that tourists don't and vice versa? Etc.

I guess I just want to avoid looking and feeling like a schmuck in what I consider to be the greatest city in the world.

Any hints, tips and advice most welcome!
posted by brautigan to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (100 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend a thorough study of
posted by autojack at 2:39 PM on July 26, 2007

If you're ordering food or a drink, the front of the line is not the place to tap your chin thoughtfully as you ponder your decision about what you'll have. When you reach the front of the line and you're asked what you want, order your food and/or beverage and have your money ready. Then step aside.

This is common courtesy anywhere, but it's especially true in New York, probably because it fits in with the best advice I ever heard:

"New Yorkers aren't rude; we're just in a hurry."
posted by fandango_matt at 2:51 PM on July 26, 2007

Eat wherever you'd like. As far as the sandwich, I usually start on one side and work my way across.

Tell the cab driver your destination as you get into the cab, even as you are sitting. If you'd like to strike up a convo with cab driver once in motion, thats fine, but not right away. Most cab driver conversations usually tend to be late night with a few drinks in.

Tip with every drink or round picked up. Standard pub practice is $1/drink.

Walk when there are no cars flying by. Ignore the walk/don't walk sign. Biggest gripe is having to push through tourists waiting on an empty street waiting for a machine to tell them to cross the street.

Don't look up constantly at all the tall building. Glance casually as walking. Walk brisk, but not uncomfortably fast.

Just act like you live there. Easiest way to fit in. NY is rather similar to London, so act like you're there.

Oh and lose the camera around your neck and the fanny pack. If it doesn't fit in your pockets, leave it in your hotel room.
posted by wile e at 2:52 PM on July 26, 2007

Oh, don't worry about it. Just go about your day like you would at home.

I'm a Philadelphian, but lived in NYC for a while, and am planning to move back. I'm up on a regular basis to visit my girlfriend, and it's not hard to not act like a tourist: just go about like you belong. Do or do not. There is no try. If you try, it sticks out.

It helps to be observant. If you go to Katz's, pay a little attention to the guy in line before you, though you'll probably be able to get by with "Hey, I'll have a pastrami."1

1The only place I know with complicated ordering language is Pat's Steaks in Philly, and they do it to impress the tourists.
posted by SansPoint at 2:52 PM on July 26, 2007

And definitely seconding fandango_matts advice.
posted by wile e at 2:53 PM on July 26, 2007

No matter what you're doing, be ready to do it when it's your turn. On preview, kinda what fandango_matt says. The easiest way to stick out is to look/act lost, even if you are.

Based on my NYC experience (lived there in 2002, visited many times since) here are some answers to your questions:

1. Do you say "Hello, how are ya?" to a cab driver before telling him your destination?
Yeah, you could, but don't expect it to lead to a conversation, most times.

2. Is it ok to walk at a "Don't Walk" sign?
OK, required, encouraged, mandatory. Just follow what the locals do and you'll never waste time at a crosswalk again.

3. Do you tip a barman per drink, per round or a total when you leave the joint?
me and my friends tip thusly: per drink if I go to the bar, per round if the server comes to me and we're not running a table tab (if each person's buying a round at a time), or when I leave if we are running a tab for the table. NYC bars don't work much different than bars anywhere else in that regard.
posted by pdb at 2:59 PM on July 26, 2007

From meeting people in different places, you should be fine coming from Europe. It's people from the Scum Belt who stand out poorly. Met some people from N. Carolina the other day, and if I was the Mayor I would have sent half of them back.

Tipping: ~20% for table service, a dollar a drink at the bar (you MUST tip when you pay for your drink - I don't know how Europeans tip for drinks but here just leave a dollar on the bar), and you tip cabbies.

When crossing the street, white or flashing red mean cross, and solid red means look both ways, then cross.

Don't get in people's way when they are trying to get somewhere.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:00 PM on July 26, 2007

I was told that a) drinking straight out of a can (any can, even one I'd washed) marked me as a tourist -- I should have used a straw if I wanted to fit in; and b) I should order a "plain slice" when I wanted cheese pizza.
posted by katemonster at 3:01 PM on July 26, 2007

Walk in a straight line and to the right of the sidewalk. Look where you're going. Don't step out into the sidewalk from a building without looking for foot traffic.

In New York, polite means not wasting other peoples' time.
posted by exogenous at 3:07 PM on July 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

Do NOT stand at the top of the subway steps when you come out to try to figure out where you are or what direction you're facing (or otherwise block doors, etc.). If you're clueless about your orientation (which can happen often after exiting the subway) just make your way to the nearest corner and check the street signs. That should give you enough information to figure which way is which.
posted by LionIndex at 3:08 PM on July 26, 2007

It doesn't matter what you do, it takes a few years of living here to wash all the tourist off of you.

But as long as you're not stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, we don't really care where you're from.

Avoid Times Square like the plague though. Not just to avoid looking like a tourist--just for your general sanity.
posted by turaho at 3:09 PM on July 26, 2007

The way I can always tell: nonlocals block the sidewalk. They walk five abreast, slowly. Often, they look skywards/They stand at corners conversing. If they smoke, they exhale into people's paths.

New Yorkers see this as rudeness, and can respond with impatience. Population density and a fast pace make the sidewalks our equivalent of queuing. People here do a great job getting along considering the diversity and crowding. So never ever block the sidewalk.

People won't pay much attention otherwise. David Cross says something like "Walking in New York you face a constant choice between staring at the most beautiful woman you've ever seen and the biggest lunatic on the planet."

Apart from that, you picked a beautiful time to visit. And you'll be surprised and the kindness and politeness you'll see--as long as you release expectations of outgoing open friendliness. The subways are really fast--get comfortable with those and the city really opens up. If you must cab, tip a bit.

Now come on over and scatter around some pounds sterling.

On preview: a fanny pack is a bum bag, not whatever you were thinking. Do not be alarmed.
posted by Phred182 at 3:12 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

What about escalators? Walk or stand?

In San Francisco the convention is stand on the right, walk on the left. When I visited Seattle I was shocked that no one walked on the escalators. Not just that, they looked at me like I had two heads as I walked past them. I expect that in NYC people will stare if you don't walk on escalators.

(Do the NYC subway stations have escalators, or just stairs?)
posted by phliar at 3:15 PM on July 26, 2007

That's because people in Seattle are social retards who have no idea how to live in a society full of other people. Stand on the right, walk on the left, and if you stand dumbly on the down escalator and I can't get by, I'll kill you.
posted by tristeza at 3:18 PM on July 26, 2007 [17 favorites]

Tipping on drinks is very important in New York, possibly more so than anywhere else I've ever lived. This is particularly true because the "buyback" rules here tend to be pretty generous.

Basically, if you buy two rounds of drinks from the same bartender and tip well, you'll generally get the third (sometimes it's the fourth) for free. Tip at least a buck a drink, though I tend to err a little higher (maybe $3 for two drinks or $5 for four or something) because it always pays off in the end.
posted by atomly at 3:25 PM on July 26, 2007

When you see two rats fighting over an apple core on the subway tracks, do not emit loud expressions of disgust and revulsion like the family of five clad in matching Florida Gators sweatsuit ensembles standing next to me on the Grand Central 4/5 platform. I was thrilled. It made me want to contribute to the demonstration of New York's degeneracy by eating a baby or something.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:26 PM on July 26, 2007 [6 favorites]

When New Yorkers want to cross the street, they don't stand on the curb--they stand, like, in the middle of the street, with maybe a couple inches of clearance for oncoming cars.
posted by nasreddin at 3:29 PM on July 26, 2007

Who cares if you look like tourist? I'm from Los Angeles and life here is completely different than it is in NYC. However, every time I have visited NYC, I have found the locals to be completely helpful and friendly--not phony friendly like in Southern California but not stereotypically rude, either. If there's a place where tourists don't stand out, it's NYC because there are scads of tourists there. I mean, you stand out if people are looking, but the only people who are looking are other tourists.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:32 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

1) Walk quickly and don't get in anybody's way.

2) Remember that, despite our reputation to the contrary, New Yorkers are not unfriendly. We just aren't particularly friendly until you get to know us.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:33 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Read up on NYC real estate. It is a well-documented scientific fact that 81% of New York conversations veer toward this topic at some point.
posted by brain_drain at 3:53 PM on July 26, 2007

It's not worth it. Act like a tourist.

I've lived in New York most of my life, and acted like a New Yorker just about the whole time. I recently realized I've been missing out tremendously as a result. Acting like a New Yorker (or a local anywhere, I'd expect) seems to be about knowingness -- act as though you know, well, everything, rather than revealing that you might be trying to find something out. You don't look up at the (beautiful, renovated!) ceiling in Grand Central because you already know it's there -- the people standing around or strolling and gawking reveal themselves as tourists. You almost never take pictures -- why should you, you've seen everything. You don't see the sights, except maybe as an ironic gag.

The problem with all this is that you miss out on the sense of wonder that actually draws the city's millions of tourists, as well as countless little wonders you can only see if you're looking, receptive to seeing new things. It's a little like the difference between adults and children. But imagine the poverty of never seeing the world as a child, only ever seeing it as an adult, as the schematic stage of routine. Visiting a new place, you can choose to see it as new. So don't worry about acting like a New Yorker.
posted by grobstein at 3:55 PM on July 26, 2007 [33 favorites]

In most other places, modes of transit or cars are the way one gets from A to B; in the City*, i.e. Manhattan, the sidewalks are literally our lifelines: Shoe leather is a true coin of the realm.** That's why there is such an elaborate footpath ethos, as described above (stay to the right, keep moving, don't wait for "Walk" to cross streets, etc.). Before you plunge into the stream — or once you've reached your destination — only then can you relax, look around, engage in idle chat.

Gothamites are landsharks — at once ancient and evolved, best regarded from a distance, often beautiful and sleek, yet deadly if provoked ... and dead if they stop moving.
*And always refer to NYC as "the City."
**Why else do you think our Manolos and Ballys are such objects of desire?

posted by rob511 at 3:55 PM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

I guess I just want to avoid looking and feeling like a schmuck in what I consider to be the greatest city in the world.

You've got the neurosis part down already; most newcomers take forever to learn how to hate themselves.

Oh, and if you have the same item in black and another color, wear the former.
posted by kittyprecious at 4:07 PM on July 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

Dude screw this whole idea. Being a tourist in New York kicks ass. The buildings are soooo tall. I'm making an active effort to act more like a tourist in NYC all the time: I want to do all the coolest stuff and be pumped about it all the time. 'Not acting like a tourist' in NYC is based on staring at your shoes while you wonder how you're going to pay rent. Faking thats as cool as like...faking a really bad hangover. Errr...what grobstein said.
posted by jeb at 4:10 PM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Make sure to master the zombie stare for when you are riding the subway. Any evidence of emotion, life, or awareness will meet with derision.

Actually, I'm just kidding. The advice that says to not make anyone wait is probably the most important thing. Given that people in New York are in such a hurry, they usually don't give a shit and a half what you're doing if it has no direct effect on them. Feel free to be a tourist in the ways that will make things most enjoyable for you, just as long as you don't bother nobody.

Also, an addendum to rob511's point: if you are in any burrough that is not Manhattan, Manhattan is "the city." Nowhere else.
posted by invitapriore at 4:11 PM on July 26, 2007

Nthing: Walk fast. NYC sidewalks, especially in midtown, should be treated as highways. You wouldn't stop dead in the middle of a highway, or slow to 25 mph in the fast lane; don't do the equivalent while walking. Sure, stop and gawk or tie your shoe or whatever you have to do, but pull over first -- go to the side of the sidewalk so you're not blocking people.

Also, if you stop and block the subway steps, especially the top of the steps, people will be tempted to commit violence. Just walk out the exit and stop away from foot traffic. Really not hard.

As for the clothes: I can't put my finger on it, but I can always tell tourists from the clothes. It's not that they're dorky or unstylish -- lord knows, plenty of New Yorkers are that. It's just that they're ... they're not something a New Yorker would ever wear. Too white, or too puffy, or something. Wish I could put it into words.

NYers seldom eat in chain restaurants, except as an "ironic" novelty. Bear that in mind as you walk into one of our proliferating Chipotle Grill/Olive Garden-type corporate restaurants. Real New Yorkers eat in coffee shops. Look for the words "Steaks Chops Seafood" or a Greek name, and you won't go wrong.

We really are friendly, and proud of our city. If we're gruff, it's because we're rushing somewhere. Really.

Finally, remember: "Schmuck" is a noun, never a verb or adjective.
posted by ROTFL at 4:13 PM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

ROTFL, have you witnessed something that prompted that last piece of advice? Did a tourist shout "SCHMUCK OFF!" at you? I'm [a|con]fused.
posted by invitapriore at 4:17 PM on July 26, 2007

invitapriore: No, but gee, it's such a funny expression I almost wish one had.

It was the question title. I would have phrased it "How not to be a schmuck in NYC," or some such.

... cause only tourists misuse Yiddish.
posted by ROTFL at 4:22 PM on July 26, 2007

One of my favorite things about NYC is that all kinds of people are there. Lots of folks were born there, but lots came from elsewhere, and brought themselves with them. That's part of what NYC is and you are part of that no matter where you're from or why you're there, which I always enjoyed.

The things that made me think "tourist" on the street: overweight, slow moving, slow talking, shabbily dressed (no one but tourists wears beat up old sneakers in New York. The tank top, shorts, and matching sunburn clinch it.) But sometimes those people turned out to be locals - locals who were just annoying because they were breaking NYC's unwritten code.

To sum that up, it would be "Don't block the sidewalk. Don't block the box. Don't, generally, obstruct other people's legitimate business; we've all got stuff to do and we're all in a hurry, so if you're dawdling, flirting with the cashier, gawking at the pickles/lox/olives, gawking at a tall building: do it on your own time and space, and most definitely not while I'm blocked up waiting in line behind you." What makes a tourist is not just that they're causing these obstructions; it's that they are so clearly oblivious to the fact that it's even possible to cause the amount of obstruction they're causing.

How do you eat a pastrami sandwich from Katz'? With rye and pickles and mustard. With your hands and mouth. Or with a fork. I used to go down to the Stage deli myself from time to time; sometimes you want a tourist sandwich. I also liked Ben's. New York is one of the great food cities of the world; taking advantage of this was surely my favorite part about living there. As long as you're enjoying it and can afford it you can't get that part wrong.

Do not say "Jewish rye." The bread didn't go to shul, fer chrissakes.

Do you say "Hello, how are ya?" Close; the correct phrase is "Hey, how ya doin'?" You can say this to anyone from an insect-ridden homeless dude to a society matron, and it is the right preface to telling the cabbie your destination.

Is it OK to walk at a Don't Walk sign? Always ignore signs and signals. The flipside is that you must always investigate and respect what the real people and traffic are actually doing. Use your brain. And if a cop tells you what to do, do that thing immediately and silently, no matter what your opinion is on the matter.

Tip a barman per drink. They may go off shift in 30 seconds. Make sure the tip is going to the person who helped you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:33 PM on July 26, 2007 [6 favorites]

This thread is giving me the warm fuzzies.

It'll help to know your bearings. When you get out of a subway, look at the street where you are and try to see the next street's number. If it's a lower number, that's downtown, higher - uptown. If you are facing uptown that means to the left is the east side, to the left is the west side. I can't really help you once you get to the named streets.

When you get a cab and you want to go to a place that is not a landmark, give them an intersection, not an address. i.e. 42nd and 10th, 60th between 6th and 7th.

The cabbie may ask you "left side right side near far?"

This means if you are on a one way avenue and you have asked to go to an intersection, do you want to be dropped off on the right or left side of the street, the side that would be nearest you or farthest from you? This is just to save you the trouble of crossing the street. If you honestly know which side you want to be let off, say "right near side" or whatever. But if you don't, just pick something and look around and find your destination.
posted by spec80 at 4:48 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh and when trying to hail a cab, if the light on the top is off, the cab is occupied. If the light with the cab's number is lit, feel free to flail your arm away. If the entire top thing is lit (cab number and 2 hard to read, at least for me, things on the side that say "off duty") that means they are not available.

SOMETIMES when they are about to go off duty/change shifts, they will yell "Where you going?" Tell them your destination and they will either motion for you to get in or they will drive off without a word. Don't take it personally, but feel free to give them the finger/dirty look and feel like a New Yorker.
posted by spec80 at 4:52 PM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

the tourist look: Spent a significant amount of time and effort trying to look the way they look, without any real understanding of fashion.

Sure, you've got slobs in the city, but they're just slobs. and you've got people that have clearly tried very hard to look good, and well, they usually do.

Tourists seem to try very hard to look good, and fail.
posted by Freen at 4:53 PM on July 26, 2007

Oh, and no one ever referers to subways by color. Always letter or number.
posted by Freen at 4:54 PM on July 26, 2007


Secret cabbie tip: When hailing an off-duty cab, and you're going a couple of blocks in the general direction of the cab, make the universal "Just a little bit" hand guesture with your index and thumb. This is a sign that you are probably en route, and they can pick you up, and take you if not all the way there, most of the way there.
posted by Freen at 4:59 PM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Don't feel afraid to express your opinion. Think you got ripped off? Yell at the guy. People will stand in awe at how New York you are, and the guy will give you that bottle of water for $1.00 instead of his previous quote of $1.50.

Walk at don't walk signs. If waiting, wait within inches of passing traffic. If traffic is light, feel free to play frogger.

If it rains, use an umbrella. Do not consider sporting a poncho. When out touristing, do not wear your sweat pants and fluorescent t-shirt. Most of New York wears dark colors, I've seen. I have a bright green shirt I wear occasionally, and every time I do I feel like a tourist.

Avoid Times Square.

Don't mill around on the sidewalk, anywhere, unless you want to be aggressively panhandled. Keep moving. The bums are the only people in NY who like the tourists, because tourists are suckers. Don't be a sucker.

And lastly, if you really really really want to fit right in, and look like a *true new yorker*, talk about how great the city is. Display your NYB (New York Boner) with pride. Erase all information about other cities, as all that information is irrelevant. There is nothing west of Jersey and east of Long Island. This is it. "What? You think there's better ______ in ______? Bullshit. The best ______ ever is on ___ Ave and ______, at a place called _______."

Excellent question, by the way. I wish more people would try and not act like tourists.

posted by jeffxl at 5:00 PM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

When you get here, don't ever eat in a chain restaurant. There's so much amazing food in this town that you should never ever have to eat in an Olive Garden, Applebee's, etc.

Spend as little time around Penn Station as possible, unless you're going to B&H for camera equipment. The rest of it's a pit and seems to be where all the tourists who don't end up in Times Square mill around.

Spend as little time around Times Square as possible. There's nothing there that's worth seeing, unless you're going to a show. It's just full of big dumb signs and tourists gaping at all the other tourists.

As everyone else has pointed out, don't stand on the escalator, don't stop in the middle of the sidewalk, don't step off the escalator and immediately stop, don't dawdle in line. There's other people around you and it's important that you not get in their way.

Wait till everyone gets off the elevator or subway car before you get on.

Explore a little bit. Get a "not for tourists" book and poke around.

Don't act like an asshole at the World Trade Center site. Have a little respect.

Ask for recommendations from as many locals as possible. They'll be glad to recommend their favorite places to you, so long as they're not in a rush.
posted by bshort at 5:00 PM on July 26, 2007

Freen, that's it exactly. That's why I can always spot the tourists. I work 1 block from the Empire State Building, so every day I see little gaggles of them emerging from the hotels or wandering down the streets. They're clearly dressed in what they think are fashionable walking-around clothes, and they might as well be wearing sashes marked TOURIST. It's so cute. They're all bright-eyed and innocent and optimistic -- that innocent optimism is another giveaway of a non-native. I just want to hug them. I sincerely mean that. They bring out some vaguely protective instinct in me.

Until they block the sidewalk. Then I want to kill them.
posted by ROTFL at 5:04 PM on July 26, 2007

I think it's all about the clothes. You need to dress nicely/stylishly. That doesn't mean uncomfortably, flip flops are accepted in a surprisingly amount of places. But don't look like you are on your way to go hiking or something, even if it is 90 degrees out. I see so many tourists walking around the Village in khaki shorts and tennis shoes.

Also if you want to take pictures and not look like a tourist, dress up even more, put on a pair of big sunglasses and you'll just look like one of the many art students wandering around soho with a camera.
posted by whoaali at 5:10 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, that electronics store near your hotel, the one that's "Going Out of Business"? It's been "going out of business" since 2002, and nobody's clueless enough to shop there but tourists. Don't go in. Not even for a battery.
posted by ROTFL at 5:11 PM on July 26, 2007

Oh and also walk quickly, very quickly. Think power walking quickly. There is no moseying or strolling in NYC.
posted by whoaali at 5:13 PM on July 26, 2007

spec80 has a lot of good stuff. I know a bunch of people who have lived here for years that don't know about the light on/off thing. Also, most New Yorkers don't whistle for a taxi, they just hold out an arm. Look around when you're getting in a taxi, to make sure you're not getting in front of somebody who was already waiting.

By the way it's illegal for cabbies to ask you where you're going before picking you up. It's unprofessional and you can report them to the TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) if they do this. Just get in.

As everybody says, make way for people. Walk on the right and don't walk three abreast or whatever.

Don't wear sneakers (but if you're from London you probably already know that).

Most people will like your accent but bartenders (that's the term here) will immediately hate you because they assume you won't tip. Prove them wrong (I have had to nearly physically force Brits to leave a tip).

For some reason people ordering in a take out place will say "Can I get [whatever]?" instead of "I would like [whatever]." Order fast.

Swear often and profusely with people you know, otherwise only when someone's really bothering you.

In other parts of the country, I have noticed that me and my New York friends stand out because we wear darker and slightly more formal clothes, are not shaven and look tired and hung over. Being British you should be able to manage the hangover.
posted by lackutrol at 5:21 PM on July 26, 2007

You guys are amazing. It's gone 1am here in Glasgow and I'm loving your replies. All taken on board so far. Restaurant tips would be real good, There are so many foodstuffs that confuse me. Those pastrami sandwiches are so big, can I use a fork? What's a knish and can I eat it for breakfast? Who does the best bagel? Is a horseride carriage around Central Park the height of lameness? Hot dogs from carts, yay or ney? Favourite haunts or insider info on some decent eating? Thanks again. Anyone who feels like hitting Scotland, Glasgow and the Highlands and Islands just holler, I'll return the favour!
posted by brautigan at 5:25 PM on July 26, 2007

I'm not a big pastrami eater, but I'd feel like a... uh, a schmuck eating one with a fork. Spillover should probably be picked up between thumb and forefinger, I'd guess.

Eat a knish (vaguely like a potato pastie), or a bagel ("with a schmear," not "with cream cheese"), or pizza, or a coffee shop breakfast of eggs & sausage, or whatever, any time you want it. That's what the locals do.

The best bagel is at "Bagel Hole" on 7th Ave between 12th and 13th St... in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Then again, Park Slope is a seriously trendy bedroom neighborhood that's well worth visiting anyway. People will tell you H&H or some such, but bagels must not be huge and fluffy. They should be small and crusty and maybe a little misshapen. Hey, I'm a purist.

A horse ride around Central Park is very lame. But a real New Yorker doesn't give a shit what anyone else thinks, so do it if it turns you on.

Hot dogs from carts? Yea. But a halal food cart is a far more delicious option.

Happily, I have already been to Glasgow and the Highlands and Islands. Those are my favorite places in the world. After "the city."
posted by ROTFL at 5:38 PM on July 26, 2007

* Call a meetup. Argue a lot about where it will be.

* You can wear sneakers, but they must not be ugly or white.

* When you get off the subway, often there will be signs at the bottom of the stairs indicating which corner they exit to (NE corner). These are helpful, but don't spin around and walk the other way if you don't want that one. Just use it to situate yourself.

* With a few exceptions, even-numbered streets run east; odds, west.

* If you are buying something at the bodega (cornerstore) and you have correct change, it is acceptable to skip the line, put your money on the counter and walk out. You may want to hold up the item you are taking and make eye contact.
posted by dame at 5:49 PM on July 26, 2007

ROTFL, me too!
posted by dame at 5:51 PM on July 26, 2007

Street food is (almost) always good food. If there's someone else already there, you know it's good. Coffee and a donut for a buck in the mornings is usually a great choice, most places doing dogs are pretty good (be warned - if get onions it's a tomato-ish onion relish, ask for raw onion if that's what you want, and avoid the pretzels, they're stale. everywhere). the Halal carts are usually pretty good, just know what you want before you get to the front of the line. The Hallo Berlin cart (usually around 54th and 5th) has great wursts, you can usually find the Dosa Man around Union Square Park.

Like was said above, most locals use a straw for just about anything (milk cartons, juice, soda cans...).

Shop at Duane Reade. It's a local pharmacy chain that stocks a little bit of everything, and most places (within Manhattan at least) are within a block or two or one, if not more than one. My former office building had 6 within 2 blocks each direction. Don't bother asking 'where can I get sunscreen/lipgloss/cookies/cheap sunglasses/whatever, just stop in one.

Shop at the vendors along Canal Street and in Chinatown (yeah, it's 'touristy', but you have to do it), but don't ever pay the listed price without at least making a counteroffer. Some folks will actually get a little miffed if you don't haggle, or at least will respect you if you do. If something's $4 and you want 3, offer $10.

If you smoke, when you go to a bar and step out for one, keep your light handy for anyone else that comes out, and at least make eye contact and nod - you don't have to strike up a conversation, but acknowledge each other's presence.

In most bars, if you sit at the bar for more than a few minutes, you can probably get pulled into a conversation, either with the person on the next stool or the bartender. Do this, no matter who it is it'll probably be entertaining.
posted by pupdog at 5:59 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't wear sneakers. Don't wear khaki. Don't ever look surprised.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:00 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you are facing uptown that means to the RIGHT is the east side, to the left is the west side.

Fixed. Sorry about that typo.

Freen, I had no idea about that. Thank you!

And it's cool to wear sneakers if they're fashion sneakers like a lot of the DC, Puma and Lacoste lines. I think the sneakers a lot of the people are referring to here are exercise shoes that non-New Yorkers use as walking shoes (Nike, Reebok, New Balance).

Anything can be breakfast in NY. I'd suggest going to the Chowhound Manhattan board and Yelp. Yelp can be used for more than food, too.

The funnest thing ever I can think of doing in NY is a tour of the places involved in the Cupcake War and it's glorious aftermath (not a definitive list):

Magnolia Bakery - The King Lear of the war, if you will
Sugar Sweet Sunshine
Crumbs - seriously though I hate Crumbs, you might not
Billy's Bakery - Myyyy favorite but only because he was on Martha Stewart (LOVE HER)
Buttercup Bake Shop - various locations
Two Little Red Hens - based in Brooklyn but this branch is in Manhattan - never been to the bakery, I got a cupcake at a high end supermarket
Babycakes - allergen free cupcakes or gluten free or whatever I don't know I think vegan cupcakes taste like deceit but I felt the need to represent them in this list, but I digress... (I think I listed this because the owner was also on Martha Stewart... damn that devil woman)

A knish is a potato thing... patty. Yeah. Good for breakfast yes.
Best bagel is a hotly contested topic that will never have a resolution. Right now? I like Murray's. I know I have to get my ass to Ess-a-bagel sometime.
Hot Dogs: Gray's Papaya NOT Papaya King - Gray's Papaya has various locations - get the recession special

Street food is safe. Just don't think about it. Judge the person running the stand.

On preview: ROTFL is right. Halal carts are the way to go. Chicken and Rice platter with salad. White sauce and a little bit of hot sauce. Lots of them are in midtown on 6th/Ave of the Americas.
posted by spec80 at 6:05 PM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Simply act superior to the rest of the country and you'll fit in fine.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 6:19 PM on July 26, 2007

Oh, and a cab tip - don't go too general. Never ask to go to 'Chinatown/SoHo/the Village' - even if you want to wander, find an intersection or landmark. Cabbies hate vague directions.
posted by pupdog at 6:22 PM on July 26, 2007

Gray's Papaya at Broadway and 72nd. Then head up Broadway past 76th to that gelato place - Grom? On the west side of Broadway. Really good hazelnut gelato. Also, is there still that guy with the pushcart at Ludlow and Stanton? The one that does kalbi burgers with kimchi on them? And more than once I've mentioned Mandoo Bar at 32nd and 5th - PLEASE ignore the Pinkberry across the street.
posted by ersatzkat at 6:24 PM on July 26, 2007

From a former New Yorker, rudely transplanted from Texas as a thirteen year old:

I think the most important thing is doing everything as fast as possible. Order fast, walk fast, live fast. You don't know it, but at this moment, someone in New York is pissed you are not reading this faster, and is trying to yell at you across the continent in vain. For instance, when you order coffee: small black coffee + 2 sugars + cream = "small regular". Saying "ummmm" a lot and failing to spit this out is a sure way to get everyone behind you pissed, especially early in the morning. This also applies on the subway; walking slowly up the stairs to the street will cause others to start bumping you in the back; they are in disbelief that you, without crutches, are not moving at almost a slow jog.

As for other mannerisms, stop looking around you in wonder everwhere you go. Yeah, that is a bum singing showtunes grabbing his crotch. Just keep going, fast of course.

Also, people from New York are not friendly to strangers as a matter of course, as say, Californians are. Don't try to talk to strangers. They will ignore you, or even start to yell at you. You are not their friend, why should they talk to you?

As for dress, don't wear flip-flops. I could always spot a moron tourist, no matter how well disguised, by a flip-flop tan. Who would wear flip flops in a city where walking in crowded streets is a way of life? Clearly, someone without toenails.

You can wear white sneakers, but only in a hip-hop context. This comes from the idea that the true pimps and ballers have the cash to have clean, white kicks at all times. Being british, though, feigning an education from the school of hard knocks might be difficult.

There's so much more I learned; but i'm sure you will pick it up very quickly. Ah yes, last thing. Unlike other parts of US, where a british accent might be enough to get you laid, it will not work here. Welcome to new york, motherfucker.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 6:25 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

What about escalators? Walk or stand?

Walk on the left, stand on the right. Either is acceptable, just don't mix them up.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 6:49 PM on July 26, 2007

I should order a "plain slice" when I wanted cheese pizza.

Actually, just order a slice, if you want it plain. They'll assume you don't want anything else on it if you don't ask for it.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 6:50 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Be a mensch, pick it up and eat it.
Do not, under any circumstances, ask for it with mayo or on white bread. Pastrami sandwiches are to be eaten on rye bread with mustard, period.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 6:53 PM on July 26, 2007

"A horse ride around Central Park is very lame." Truer words have never been spoken. Walk by all the transom cab guys by the Plaza and you will hate tourists for making you smell it. Plus I doubt it's very nice for the horses.

A knish is a potato thing that is kinda more afternoonish in my opinion. Quite heavy.

The best bagels are not, of couse, in Park Slope, but at Columbia Hot Bagels at 110th and Broadway. This may be out of your way, and H&H is pretty good, if a little sweet, and Murray's in the Village is pretty good. Also Joe's Pizza around Bleecker and 6th for a plain slice and Joe's on Bleecker near 7th for a whole pie.

Ordering a bialy, which is more like an English muffin with onions than a bagel (hard to describe), may impress older New Yorkers. It is a dying art.
posted by lackutrol at 7:13 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Whoops, meant John's for the whole pie.
posted by lackutrol at 7:14 PM on July 26, 2007

There is no such thing as The Avenue of the Americas, there is only 6th avenue.

When taking the subway, save your self a few seconds by prewalking
posted by shothotbot at 7:23 PM on July 26, 2007

Oh and lose the camera around your neck and the fanny pack. If it doesn't fit in your pockets, leave it in your hotel room.

Or alternately, carry a giant messenger type bag thing. I've never hauled so much shit around with me as I do since moving to NYC. Or (even though I despise it) you can carry a ratty looking shopping back from a high end department store. That seems to be the new briefcase when I survey my fellow strap hangers on the way to work.
posted by kimdog at 7:23 PM on July 26, 2007

Those pastrami sandwiches are so big, can I use a fork? Yes.

What's a knish and can I eat it for breakfast? It's a little pastry with a filling. The usual is potato and meat - I believe it's somewhat similar to a Cornish pasty. I used to get a sweet cheese knish that was breakfasty though.

Who does the best bagel? H & H. However, that's all they do, slap a bag full of a dozen bagels in your hand and glare at you until you leave. I'm not even sure they'll put cream cheese on. You do better at a corner store/deli/grill that advertises that they use H&H bagels; go in and ask the dude wearing the chef's hat for a bacon, egg and cheese on a toasted plain bagel. And a large coffee with cream and two sugars. That's your breakfast right there, sir.

But for real bagel excellence, Barney Greengrass. You want to try you the Eastern Nova Scotia smoked salmon ($!), the belly lox, the sable (!), and the whitefish salad, as well as your standard Philadelphia brand cream cheese shmear. Good Lord, what a plate of wonderful smoked fish you can get there. Totally feel free to order just a quarter pound or less - the Eastern Nova is actually pretty expensive - or ask them to put it on the bagel for you.

Is a horseride carriage around Central Park the height of lameness? No, it's fun. Can be a bit costly though.

Hot dogs from carts, yay or ney? Sabrett's cart: hot sausage (a bit spicier than the regular dog) with mustard and kraut. They will use a nasty old knife sitting in water to split your sausage open and put the mustard and kraut inside. Try not to think of the bacteria. (I used to live about a block from Gray's Papaya and although I love the papaya drink I prefer to get my dogs from the Sabrett carts. The Gray's dogs have been rolling around in old grease for hours; the Sabrett's dogs are plump and boiled.)
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:27 PM on July 26, 2007

Mmm, bialy. A good bialy is a wonderful, thing, a bad one will make you regret eating at all.

While on breakfast - don't order an egg sandwich on a bagel - that's what rolls are for. Bagels are for schmear. This isn't as bad as it used to be, thanks to Dunkin Donuts and the like, but you'll still probably get a weird look at most delis.
posted by pupdog at 7:29 PM on July 26, 2007

ikkyu2, I think we had very different delis, my guys used to look at me like I was crazy for bagel sandwiches.

That's probably something to remember though - whatever you do to 'blend in', you'll end up running into someone that does it differently. Just take it in stride and go on.
posted by pupdog at 7:33 PM on July 26, 2007

Simply BE superior to the rest of the country and you'll fit in fine! Ha ha, just kidding. (Um...sort of?)

Really though. Some New Yorkers wear sneakers and flip flops and khaki. Of course they do! And only a tiny minority of them dress stylishly. In fact, in my experience, tourists stand out by looking a bit too put together. Their clothes are different from what most New Yorkers would wear, yes, but really it's that their clothes all look brand new, pressed, and picked out to go together, but not in a way that is either dressed for work or dressed for going out. Does this make any sense? They're dressed for doing a lot of walking in an unfamiliar city in the middle of a work day. That's what makes them stand out.

New Yorkers are trying to get to work on time, walking as fast as they can in their work clothes--their shoes are either really uncomfortable or don't go at all with what they're wearing ('cause they'll change at work), they're thirsty, sweating, and hungover. Frankly, we're a mess. Tourists just look too well prepared to be New Yorkers. I think they hear they need to dress well to fit in, and so they get their hair and nails done, get new clothes and shoes, and dress so carefully that it's exactly that which makes them stand out. We're way too stressed out about work, and in way too much of a hurry to go to that much trouble over clothes on an average day. (Not to mention most of us are way too broke to buy nice clothes--the stylish people you see in New York? Those are the ones with serious credit card debt).

There's no New York uniform. There are too many different kinds of people here. No matter what you wear, you will see people who are dressed better than you, and people who are dressed worse than you.

However, everyone is right on about moving fast. That's the key. I think that as long as you don't block the sidewalk, the subway steps, or any kind of line, then you can do pretty much whatever else you want and not stand out too much.

But it is true that we pretty much only wear white sneakers for working out, if then. (Or, of course, for hip-hop reasons, as wuzandfuzz explained). Oh, and hot dogs are good. Very good.
posted by lampoil at 7:38 PM on July 26, 2007

Good previous posts here

Bad bars here:
posted by zackola at 7:46 PM on July 26, 2007

The New Yorkers I know can best be summed up by a joke I once heard:

Q: How do you spot the one New Yorker in a crowded room?

A: Don't worry, he'll let you know.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:48 PM on July 26, 2007 [5 favorites]

Tipping at bars. Dollar per drink at normal bars. If you are ordering cosmos, martinis, or LI Iced Teas in busy crowded places, please tip more.

@ Restaurants: 20% tip. Just do it unless you have really shitty service.

Walk fast. Pay attention as you are walking out of the subways. Generally if you know which way the subway is going, you'll be able to tell which way is NWSE when you get out.

When stopping to look at a map ,get out of the middle of the sidewalk. Hide behind a lamp post or in a store.

Have your metrocard out at the subway well before you get to the turnstile. Don't stop on the other side of the turnstile, move out of the way.

Stay to the right on escalators if you don't feel like walking up them.
posted by zackola at 7:54 PM on July 26, 2007

On bagels, re: lackutrol's comment

Columbia Hot Bagels is no more. Been gone for years. The new "best ever" replacement I've found is Absolute Bagels on 107th and Broadway.

H&H is fine if you want to eat a bagel with nothing on it, since they inexplicably don't do toppings. But for my money, Absolute does better bagels, and has great toppings. Get there in the morning, get a hot one, and consider yourself in heaven.
posted by jeffxl at 8:08 PM on July 26, 2007

I have lived in three touristy cities in a row (and now NYC). The biggest thing is hesitation. The minute you hesitate and make it clear that you really don't know what the hell you're doing, that's when your cover is blown. Or when you are in a really good mood/relaxed during a workday (i.e. you are all chipper and talky to your gf on the subway when every one else just wants you to shut up already). Someone earlier made some comment about the dead-eyed stare in jest but I think it's sort of true on the subway at least.

But the biggest thing (touched upon by nearly everyone else) is the being oblivious of yourself and your relation to others. Do not stop at the top of the stairs at the station exit to check your map. Do not stand anywhere but on the right on an escalator. Do not walk slowly. If you need to ask someone for help, only ask the people who look like they aren't in a supreme hurry (people are generally pretty helpful).

On a sidenote, I was surprised at how many places are cash only. Have some cash ready at all times. Plus, don't call subway lines by their colors, refer to them by number/letter. I moved here from DC so that one was a little strange for me.

Welcome, and have fun!
posted by ml98tu at 8:42 PM on July 26, 2007

As for the clothes: I can't put my finger on it, but I can always tell tourists from the clothes. It's not that they're dorky or unstylish -- lord knows, plenty of New Yorkers are that. It's just that they're ... they're not something a New Yorker would ever wear. Too white, or too puffy, or something. Wish I could put it into words.

New Yorkers are either trying to stand out or to not stand out. If you want to be the stand-out kind, don't do it unless you're REALLY stylish. As freen and others have pointed out, what marks you the most as a tourist is trying and failing to look good.

The non-stand out kind dress like they're trying to blend into the sidewalk and office buildings. It's not quite enough to say that their clothes are utilitarian. They're utilitarian AND drab. No bright colors.
posted by grumblebee at 8:55 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Absolute Bagels, of course, the best, absolutely. And while you are in the neighborhood do not, NOT, stop by Tom's Restaurant for pictures. You are blocking my way to coffee.
Do not get on the sightseeing buses or more importantly the hideous boat rides around Manhattan.
Do not say good morning to passers by, please, we already know whether the morning is good or not.
And do not make unnecessary eye contact. We only look to scold or to fold, if you know what I mean.
Avoid physical contact in the subway, do not hover over my head to read the damn subway map, study it in your hotel room and do not ride the bus, unless you are 100 years old, at least.
Dress funny. do you know funny? yes? dress like that. Especially if you go to, um, the Village.
Practice the one-raised-eyebrow look. Combined with the stare.
Do not comb your hair. Have a hairdresser mess it all up.

Look down on other tourists, of course.
posted by carmina at 9:14 PM on July 26, 2007

I forgot, true NYers do not eat dinner before 9 or 10pm. If you go for dinner at 6, we ask you where you are from. In emergencies, call it late lunch or something. Act aloof.
posted by carmina at 9:36 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I ask for extra bread with my Katz's sandwich and make another to take home. Most of these places will charge you another $3 if you share with someone else. Do NOT buy swipes from the thug/crackhead standing by the turnstile. Do not give money to the people who come into the subway car announcing "attention ladies and gentlemen" and continuing with a tale of woe, in most cases,they are addicts who have been doing this for years. The kids selling candy are NOT raising money for their basketball team/class trip; it may have been stolen. Tell the cab driver the exact way you want to go to your destination or you will be stuck on a side street padding your fare. I'm not a native New Yorker and say colors if all of the branches of one stop there (get stuffed, snarkers!). The best prices for books are at the Strand, the best ones for electronics/ music/DVDs are at J&R.
posted by brujita at 9:44 PM on July 26, 2007

I'm not from New York, but I live in the big city. The sidewalk advice is the best I've heard: don't block it. If you have a group, don't walk side by side. If you stop, don't do so abruptly--look behind you and ease out of "traffic".

(I've known several New Yorkers and some of them really were jerks. There seems to be an arrogance about simply being a New Yorker along with an implied automatic justification of bad behavior. In other words, plenty of New Yorkers think their shit don't stink, and if it does, then, hey, I'm from New York. I'm exempt from blame.)
posted by zardoz at 10:00 PM on July 26, 2007

Just be yourself.

I've read through the whole thread and as a native New Yorker, it's almost all stereotypical hogwash (except the tip about hailing taxis).

Honestly, just be yourself. People here are so diverse that it really doesn't matter.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:11 PM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oh and as zardoz mentioned, that sidewalk advice is pretty good too, but even natives and residents do it very frequently. It's not a New York tourist thing, just a people in general thing.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:13 PM on July 26, 2007

Well, why act like a New Yorker when you aren't one? It's like acting rich, or anything else, when you aren't (dumb). I spent a couple of months in New York. And the advantages of not being a New Yorker are manifold. First, you don't have to tip those ridiculous amounts (like 20% in a restaurant). 10% is fine. I only once had a waiter make a fuss, when I left him a little pile of dimes and quarters, and he gave it back to me, so I gave it back to him and explained it was still money and if he added it all up it came to a few dollars. He looked sheepish and sloped off. You won't have to do that dollar-per-drink in a bar stuff either: just pay what it costs. I took a half-a-dozen cabs every day (they are half the price of London's) and just paid the guy the fare: they don't give you change anyway, so if the fare is 5.20 and you hand over $6 they won't look for your change; however, if you're feeling tough you can make the guy find it. If you are not a New Yorker you can even pause on the sidewalk to look at something interesting. Or potter around Harlem looking at the colourful wares (gigantic watches, funny hats) on 125th street, buy t-shirts with menacing slogans that will be incomprehensible (you hope) on the Finchley Road and engage streetsellers there in friendly chat about whether their wife/girlfriend actually reads all that lurid literature about how to pleasure your man. And so on. Ignorance is bliss and your English accent a passport to privileges real New Yorkers can only have wet dreams about.
posted by londongeezer at 11:22 PM on July 26, 2007

^ jesus christ. no wonder service industry workers hate brits who come to new york.

first of all, do tip 20% in restaurants. at least tip 16% (just double the tax).

second, do tip at bars. a dollar a drink is pretty standard, i sometimes tip $2 if i'm feeling nice.

the cab driver isn't giving you change, londongeezer, because he thinks you're tipping him...which you are supposed to do. i usually give a few bucks, more if it's really late or i'm going to an outer borough.

really, you shouldn't try and pretend to be a new yorker (your accent will give it away, and as mentioned above, we'll know you're a tourist anyway) but you can be a non-annoying tourist by staying alert and not blocking pedestrian traffic.

also, fold your pizza in half when you eat it.
posted by cosmic osmo at 11:56 PM on July 26, 2007

No advice really, just wanted to say how much this thread reminds me of Shanghai. Same big city manners (except the Shanghainese still haven't learned the escalator rules -- gotta go to Hong Kong for that).
posted by msittig at 12:31 AM on July 27, 2007

I made my first week-long trip to NYC last month. On Day 6 some obvious tourists (elderly plaid polyester Floridians) asked me for directions. They were astonished when I told them (in an English accent) that I was a visitor too. The old guy laughed and said that they'd just seen me yell at a cab driver (he almost ran me over so I told him to "go fuck himself") and so assumed I was a native.

[And as it turned out, I actually knew where they wanted to go and was able to give them directions without a map. So there!]
posted by essexjan at 2:38 AM on July 27, 2007

As this slips off the front page of The Green, I wanna say many thanks for all the above answers. I'll be residing in The Bowery Hotel from 13.10.07 - 18.10.07 if any one wants to join me for a drink somewhere. Just ask for the neurotic but now slightly less shmucky guy at the desk ;) Thanks again.
posted by brautigan at 4:49 AM on July 27, 2007

"Oh, and no one ever referers to subways by color. Always letter or number"

However, they will refer to them by the old subway line names such as IRT or by the street names such as Lexington Avenue Line.
posted by Jahaza at 6:42 AM on July 27, 2007

Wow. I've never read so much looney 'advice' for spending time in New York before in my life.

Nobody I know in New York uses a straw. I have no idea how anyone picked up on this, but it's just silly. Sometimes you'll see someone drinking OJ with a straw, but you'd look like a foppish dandy. Your choice.

Next, the only people allowed to call the cream cheese you put on your bagel a 'schmear' are old jewish folks. No one else may do that. If you call it a schmear, you're a schmuck. You can use the word 'schmuck', but if you don't do it right, you'll be a schmuck. 'Everything bagel, not toasted, with cream cheese' is perfectly fine.

Ed Koch -- Schmear
Rudy Giuliani -- Bagel with cream cheese

Finally, just enjoy your trip. Manhattan is 100% non-native folks. I have never seen any of the real natives who sold the island to the dutch. Everyone was new there at one time, so you're going to look like a jerk unless you just act like yourself. Be considerate, but don't care about what other people think of you.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:14 AM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

londongeezer, you're joking, right? Tell me you're joking.
posted by bshort at 9:26 AM on July 27, 2007

fold out maps scream "lost tourist: mug me, rape me, hand me brochures for events happening later tonight in times sq." so go to the transit museum (which is really a gift shop) in grand central. it sells very small street and subway maps the size of credit cards.

call it "lex". no one says "lexington". also, the avenue comes second, e.g. "42nd and park" not "park and 42nd".

also, go to brookland for the afternoon. go to coney island. go to the promenade. go to defaras for a slice (ave j). manhattancentricism is 4 suckas. and tourists.

also, buy a pink shirt that says: "new york fuckin' city". wear it everyday.
posted by brooklynexperiment at 9:44 AM on July 27, 2007

I guess there's an exception to every rule. I'm a long-time New Yorker and I've never said "lex" in my life. And I'm often on Lexington.
posted by grumblebee at 9:55 AM on July 27, 2007

Oh, but make sure, if you talk about Houston Street, that you pronounce it "house-stun" and not "hyou-stun."
posted by grumblebee at 9:57 AM on July 27, 2007

The main transit museum is in Brooklyn. One asks for a schmear if one wants less than four ounces of cream cheese slathered on their bagel.
posted by brujita at 10:05 AM on July 27, 2007

Just popping in to note my disappointment that Columbia Hot Bagels closed--what great bagels--and to note that londongeezer went above and beyond his original mission. His advice is less "don't try to be a New Yorker" than "don't make the least effort to accomodate yourself to local customs, in fact do your best to be a giant ass and ruin the day of underpaid service workers."

Jesus, it's not like you can't afford it. A dollar is less than 50p!
posted by lackutrol at 10:29 AM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yea, a lot of the stuff above is stereotypical nonsense. I think the only important pieces of advice in the whole thread are to walk faster and not wait for the walk signs. Other than that, it doesn't really matter. Don't be afraid of New Yorkers- like ROTFL, I, too, feel protective of tourists, like I want to pick them up by the handful and squeeze them to my chest, cuz they're so darn cute.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:46 AM on July 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Whoa, white sneakers? What happened to the white Converse craze? Sure it was more off white than blazing white, but still...So are white sneakers just for hip hop/hipster type persons?

Really don't sweat the fashion stuff because if you've spent years of dressing one way I don't see how you're going to hop into dressing into another for a short amount of time without some What Not To Wear type overhaul. And I'm skeptical of a monolithic New York-style as well. Most people I know who dress well, or who I think have great fashion sense here in New York are from elsewhere making their own look anyway. If you MUST have fashion advice: own it and be fierce.

Move fast, walk fast, do it fast is pretty solid advice if you're that concerned about fitting in. That's really all there is to it. And do tip. Yes to Gray's Papaya. Yes, yes, yes. And if I were coming from abroad to NYC, I think I'd try to catch a few shows. There's always *some* band playing *somewhere* every day of the week. It's a great chance to hear some new music and people watch. Go with places that have bars in them, not the huger venues with a makeshift bar. Go to for a pretty full New York listing. Check some of these venues out since they're starting to close them left and right.
posted by kkokkodalk at 1:01 PM on July 27, 2007

Resist the urge to pick more best answers. We frown on obsequiousness and imprecision, and your desire to be helpful (by picking more best answers) while actually making things less so (by making it difficult to identify which one is actually the best answer) will pervade everything you do and make you stand out like a sore thumb. Stop it.

If you tip the bartender $5 for your first drink, your service will be better for the rest of the night.

You're wasting your time asking somewhere where you should go for brunch unless they're taking you there themselves. They won't tell you the place you should actually go.

And we write dates with the month first.

posted by Caviar at 1:50 PM on July 27, 2007

The essence of everything above is just to remember that unlike many other tourist attractions, the people around you are not tourists, and they are trying to get to work/get home/get errands done on their lunch hour, and please do not get in their way.

I used to work in the garment district, and often had to walk through Times Square, and the worst part of it (and everyone above who says to avoid it is correct) is that no one is trying to go anywhere. They're all just wandering, strolling, or ambling - New Yorkers do not wander, stroll, or amble, because they have a destination, and they want to get there as quickly as possible.

So, just don't get in anyone's way, and no one will be inaudibly (or audibly) cursing you.
posted by timepiece at 2:02 PM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Never yell "taxi!" or whistle for one. Everyone is going to figure that you're either a needy foreigner or a character from a 50s movie. Simply look for a taxi whose center light is on and stick your arm out - trust me, they're really good at seeing people do that. After all, unless you're alone in the dead of night, the taxi can't hear you, and if you are alone in the dead of night, then where the fuck are you?

Talking to cabbies is fine, and sometimes a lot of fun, but only a minority of cabbies are going to be interested in regaling you with stories. They get more social late at night.

Also, it is extremely, extremely, extremely rude to not tip servers, bartenders, and cabbies in NYC. Good God! If I were to go abroad and knowingly commit such a rude act, I'd be an ugly American! Please don't be the British equivalent!

As for the rest of advice, I wouldn't worry too much about "fitting in" or dressing the part. Just enjoy yourself, walk fast, be considerate, and steer clear of Times Square (it's boring and irritating). New Yorkers are generally polite.

I guess if I'd have to give one piece of advice, it would be to buy some nice, fashionable walking shoes at one of our discount shoe stores (care of our weak dollar) and to walk as much as humanly possible around the city. You'll miss so much if you just take a cab everywhere.

Also, I'm rather fond of Ess-A-Bagel, for my bageling needs. The pillow-like bagels are a little far from the traditional size, but boy are they tasty.


As for other touristy advice, I'd recommend checking out Brooklyn and Queens. Too many people forget all the cool stuff going down there, whether you'd like to check out the beer garden in Astoria or the Brooklyn Museum or the nightlife in Park Slope or Williamsburg.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:13 PM on July 27, 2007

All the clothing advice above is mostly wrong. For example, every female NYU student wears flip-flops all year round (yes, I've seen them in the dead winter of January), or at least during the spring, summer and fall. And sneakers are the #1 most worn shoe in the city, come on people, are you serious about not wearing sneakers? We walk five miles a day, of course we're wearing comfortable shoes! If you are young and want to look cool, go down to Broadway & 4th St. (ish) and buy some multicolored neon Nikes and wear them with skinny jeans, you'll look like 1/2 the youth population of the city. You can wear literally anything you want in NY and nobody will pay any attention. You shouldn't wear shorts with hiking-boot type sneakers and bum bags/fanny packs as a matter of general taste, not just because it will make you look like a tourist.

And women in NY carry GIGANTIC purses because we only go home once a day and have to carry our laptops, gym clothes, makeup, snacks, books, notes, iPod, digicam, cell, etc. around with us all the time. There's no shame in a giant purse or messenger bag.

Seconding that the straw, schmear, etc. is crap.
posted by alicetiara at 2:47 PM on July 27, 2007

If you'll indulge in a self-link, How to Visit New York: The Basics, along with a whole bunch of other crap about how to visit NYC.
posted by anildash at 9:30 PM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

BEST ANSWERS: Realised the best answers were getting silly. Apologies if you found yourself Best Answered and then changed back to plain old regular. The vast majority of the above answers are the best answers to my question and I really do appreciate the contributions.
posted by brautigan at 2:29 AM on July 28, 2007

Ignore all of this.
posted by oaf at 7:08 PM on July 28, 2007

If it is not absolutely crucial that you pay attention to something right now, ignore it.

Do not buy anything in Times Square.

There are three things you can be in New York: walking with the pace of (foot) traffic, stationary outside the flow of traffic, or in the way. Guess which one is bad.
posted by oaf at 7:14 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Even streets run East. Odd streets run West (with a few exceptions). This is often a really quick way to get your bearings.

And a correction on the taxi advice given above:

"By the way it's illegal for cabbies to ask you where you're going before picking you up. It's unprofessional and you can report them to the TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) if they do this. Just get in."

No, it's illegal for a cabbie with his on-duty (middle) light to ask you where you're going before picking you up. In general, once an on-duty cab has pulled for you, he must pick you up.

However, there are a lot of off-duty cabs cruising the streets, and these guys are allowed to pick you up, and they are also allowed to be discriminating of their potential fares. Finally, if you are in some shady area and you look like an axe murderer, the cabs are not obligated to pick you up, so leave the woodaxe at home.

Finally, if you're in one of the less-populated areas and a yellow cab is nowhere to be found, a so-called gypsy cab (black sedan) will often offer you a ride. If you negotiate the fare up front you will both look very street-smart and can often get to your destination faster/quicker, just remember these guys are not legally allowed to do this.
posted by onalark at 3:14 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Walk as if you're 30 minutes late to an important meeting.
Don't look up. New Yorkers don't care about the hight of the buildings. Eye level but no eye contact.
posted by dellonarts at 5:26 AM on July 31, 2007

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