It’s March. The temperature’s finally above freezing (even if only for a couple of days), which means it’s almost tourist season in New York. So if you’re planning a trip while hoping to avoid “the angry New Yorker,” you might want to brush up on the laws of the land and catch up to the speed of the city.
Disclaimer: I’m not one of those self-righteous assholes who think the whole world revolves around New York, but I do understand the feeling of traveling somewhere and wanting to understand and respect the local culture, wherever that may be. And somewhere along the line, New York City became one of those places where many people want to fit right in.
LEARN HOW TO WALK
Our sidewalks are like our highways. And most New Yorkers walk in the fast lane. It’s preferable you keep up, but if you have to walk slowly, don’t do it arms linked with your friends so that no one can pass. Just move to the right and give us room to pass.
PREVENT SWIPE ANXIETY
To get around the city you’ll need to purchase a MetroCard unless you’re loaded with cab fare. For your own sake, it’s best you learn how to use it BEFORE you walk up to the turnstile, train waiting, during rush hour.
So have your card out and ready before you enter the turnstile. Know how to hold it properly (black strip facing inward, arrows pointing forward) and swipe in one decisive motion forward just like a credit card. There’s a little screen that’ll let you know whether it’s “OK” to pass through, or if you need to swipe again.
LEARN HOW TO USE THE TRAIN
Use the subway whenever possible and you’ll save a fortune on cabs. But for your own good, do a bit of research beforehand and learn how the trains work so that you know how to tell if it’s an express (white circles on the map) or local train (black circles), and learn that Uptown trains [essentially] run to any stops North from where you’re at in Manhattan, and Downtown trains run South. Each train line runs in two directions, so if you see a station name such as “Pelham Bay Park” or “Coney Island,” you’ll know that’s the direction the train is heading. Just look at a map and see what end of the line that station is, and you’ll be sure that’s the way the train is headed. If you want to go in the opposite direction, just look for signs to that platform, which can sometimes be across the street.
Hopstop is a good app for that, but so is Google Maps. Just plug in where you want to go and choose the public transportation icon for easy step-by-step directions. But do that above ground, because you won’t get reception in most stations underground. Or you can just ask a New Yorker, because more often than not they’ll happily give you directions. It’s up to you to judge whether or not those directions are accurate.
LEARN PROPER SUBWAY ETIQUETTE
Once you’re actually on the train, using common sense should get you by. But just in case you’re still worried, let’s discuss some of these.
- Wait for people to get off the train before you get on.
- Once you get on, move out of the doorway.
- If you get a seat, only take up the room necessary for one person. Pile your bags on your lap if you have to, don’t set them on the seat next to you.
- Don’t try and squeeze your XL ass into an XS space.
- Even if you’re good at balancing, hold onto something so you don’t go flying when the train suddenly jerks or stops.
- Clipping your nails can wait until you get back to the hotel room.
- Don’t lean on a subway pole, especially clenching it with your butt cheeks on a crowded subway. There’s only so much space people can grab onto, so please be considerate.
- Similarly, if you’re a guy and a girl (or anyone) has her hands far down on a pole, don’t lean your junk on her hand and think it’s okay.
- Sometimes you have to pack in and get super friendly with people. These also tend to be the times the train stalls between stations and the lights flicker. It’s normal. Just avoid eye contact and silently curse in your head like the rest of us.
SAVE THE SMALL TALK
Reaching a food/drink counter to place an order is not the time for friendly chitchat. Know what you want, and be ready to pay for it—often times just like that Visa check card commercial where it’s like an assembly line and that one asshole pulls out cash to pay and screws everything up. This still throws me off when I leave New York and I start talking to the counter staff. I just feel guilty even when no one is waiting.
GET USED TO SMALL SPACES
New York apartments are small. And if you’re staying with a friend who lives in a studio apartment, do not belittle it by constantly pointing out how small, old, etc. it is. We work hard and pay a lot to live in our apartments, and we’re kind enough to let you stay there rather than shelling out $200 a night for a hotel room, so shut up and enjoy it.
GET OUT OF THE WAY
Be mindful of where you stop and gawk. Taking photos is great, double checking your GPS, go for it. But just like you wouldn’t stop your car in the middle of the freeway to snap a picture of an exit sign, don’t do it in the middle of our sidewalks. Take a look at your surroundings then step off to the side so you’re out of the way.
GET THE HELL OUT OF MIDTOWN
Don’t associate New Yorkers with the overcrowded chaos of Times Square and then bitch about how rude New Yorkers are. Times Square is nothing but tourists, so naturally, when you’ve got a bunch of different cultures and languages all moving around in one spot, shit’s about to be annoying.
Actually on second thought, maybe it’s a good idea to corral all the tourists in Midtown…
Or at least a credit card that’s not maxed out. NYC is fucking expensive so be prepared to spend more on basically everything while you’re here. And don’t bitch about it to us or the cashier every time you pull out your wallet, because we already know. We deal with those prices every day while usually never making nearly enough money and paying three times your mortgage to rent out a closet. You’re on vacation, spend a little. And if you’re super cheap like me, supplement it with lots of free activities like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, or going to the Crocodile Lounge and getting a free pizza with every drink you purchase.
MIND CYCLISTS, AND STAY OUT OF THE BIKE LANE
New York is a city with increasing bike traffic. And honestly, I never really paid much attention to cyclists until I became one myself. It’s unbelievable how many people completely ignore their right of way and then complain at how rude they are when they yell out “bike lane” to avoid a collision. So call them hipsters, delivery guys, douchebags, messengers, or whatever you want, but do them all a favor and stick to the sidewalks. Don’t walk or stop in the bike path, because despite what you may think, it’s not just another piece of pavement for you to roam freely. When you have to cross a green path, just give a quick look to make sure no cyclists are coming. And yes, you’ll definitely see parked cars, joggers, construction barrels, and oblivious texting pedestrians using the bike lane like their own private driveway, but don’t join them as one of those jerks.
DON’T BE A DICK ON A SHITI BIKE
Speaking of bikes, if you’re going to rent a Citi Bike at least spend few minutes researching the bike rules and be prepared to be shit talked by those hardcore spandex-clad Lance Armstrong looking mother fuckers. Citi Bikes are part of a bike share program, intended for people to get from point A to point B within about 30-45 minutes. So no matter how many trips you take on your day pass, it’s not for you to rent out, go the wrong direction and completely fuck up the flow of NYC commuting. Just obey normal traffic laws, don’t ride even two wide on a narrow path, and well, if I were you I’d wear a helmet if you’re going to brave the streets. But I’m sure any New Yorker couldn’t care less if you go sans helmet.
IF YOU’RE LAZY, STAND TO THE RIGHT
I feel like you’ve probably learned this one at your local mall by now. Some subway stations and buildings have escalators because otherwise you’d be hoofing it up approximately 4 million stairs. But unfortunately these things don’t move quick enough for the oh-so-busy New Yorker who knows that their strategic race up the stairs will get them to their next train right before the doors close. So if you’re just along for the ride, stand to the right. If the escalator isn’t wide enough for someone to pass you, make sure the people behind you aren’t walking up. If they are, then sorry you are now too, or you’re an asshole.
DON’T BRING A TON OF SHIT
New York is a city of public transportation and walking, not one for lugging around your entire shoe collection for a weekend trip. And remember you’ll likely have to lug that thing up a few flights of stairs at some point or another. If you’re a chick or just a bit older or frail looking, a friendly man will more than likely offer to help lug your size ridiculous bag up or down the subway stairs. But wouldn’t we all just be much better off if you packed your shit in a small enough bag that can move freely along with you without clogging up the stairwell?
I think after visiting you’ll quickly realize that not all of us are self-deserving assholes who think the whole world revolves around us. Our lack of outgoing friendliness just comes down to the sheer amount of people we deal with every day. Personally I move through the city in my own little bubble, headphones on, completely lost in my own thought. I don’t even notice most of the faces I encounter every single day, and if I were to say hello or flash a quick smile to each of them I’d never get anywhere. But I do notice those who get in my way and mess up my flow.
It goes without saying that some people are just irrationally angry or giant assholes—the same can be said about any place. But in a city with such an enormous population, small spaces, and a live-to-work mentality, you’re bound to encounter some tightly wound people from time to time so just deal with it and move on. After all, most of us were tourists at some point or another anyway.
But perhaps the best way to fit in is to do whatever the hell you want and not be at all sorry about it. Your indecisiveness is holding up that super important suited up d-bag from making it to his meeting on time? Maybe he should’ve left earlier. Your Citi bike joy ride going the wrong way down Allen Street briefly jolted those riding the right way? Well maybe you should respond to them the way my old roommate did, yelling out a loud “FUCK YOU!” and continuing on your way.
If you can’t beat them, join them, right?