How to Become a True New Yorker

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February 1, 2021
how to be a new yorker

If you’ve watched any movies or TV shows based in New York City, then you know there are many stereotypes about our citizens — some are true, others less-so. One thing you can usually count on though, is that New Yorkers are happy to share their opinion. So, for anyone considering a move to our great city, we gathered some hard earned wisdom from real-life residents. Here are their tips for living like a local and how to be a New Yorker.

How to act like a New Yorker

Public transportation etiquette:

“All New Yorkers must carry a special passport at all times. It’s called a Metrocard.” 

This piece of advice came from a life-long New Yorker, and it’s true. That little sliver of plastic is all you need to get around the city, whether by subway or bus. However, if you want to ride a city bus without your Metrocard, make sure you have exact change. As another commenter pointed out, “no one has ever gotten change from a bus driver. What, do you think you’re special?”

If your preferred travel mode is the city’s vast subway system, there are a few unwritten rules every New Yorker must know. The first is one you’ll hear often over the train’s loudspeaker: Stand clear of the closing doors. “Seriously, stand clear. They hurt,” one city dweller told us. Another thing to keep in mind: don’t talk. “The only people making noise on the subway are tourists,” added another local.

Navigating crowded city streets:

“Be prepared to walk fast,” was the general advice for how to join the crowds on our city streets. New Yorkers walk a lot, it’s a great way to get from place to place and also enjoy our incredible city. But these aren’t leisurely strolls — we are usually in a hurry. Which brings us to our next suggestion: never stop in the middle of the sidewalk — no, not even to take a picture. “A good thing to remember is that there is always someone behind you,” we heard from our local contributors. “If you have to stop, make sure you move to the side first,” they advised.

What happens when you want to cross the street? “The ‘Don’t Walk’ sign is just a suggestion,” we were told. Basically, if no traffic is coming, you’ll be expected to cross. Often there are cars, taxis, even double-length busses stopped in the crosswalk. “Doesn’t matter,” we heard. “Walk around them.”

Understanding the locals:

Now that you have the inside scoop on how to get around, it will be important to learn the local vernacular. Since New Yorkers are always in a hurry (refer back to City Streets for a reminder), we use a lot of shorthand when we speak. If you hear a reference to The Garden, don’t look for a flowering greenspace, that’s what we locals call Madison Square Garden. Similarly, the Met is our name for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And remember, Williamsburg is not in Virginia, it’s a neighborhood in Brooklyn. Perhaps most important: when New Yorkers say ‘the City’ they mean Manhattan. “Yes, there are five boroughs, but only Manhattan is The City,” explained one of our locals.

Of course, there’s lots more to know about living in New York, but part of the fun of the city is finding your own way of being a local. Use these tips as a start, and soon you’ll find yourself racing past tourists on your way to a newly found favorite spot.

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