7 Things New Yorkers Want You To Know When You Visit The City
Photo Credit: Budgeron Bach

Photo Credit: Budgeron Bach

7 Things New Yorkers Want You To Know When You Visit The City

Spencer Jones
Spencer Jones Jul 23, 2021

There’s no question about it, New York is the child with an endless supply of energy, who can’t fathom going to sleep. From Brooklyn to Harlem and beyond, there’s always something going on, even when you least expect. New York is a melting pot of cultures, but there are social mores and ways of doing things that transcend the differences. If you don’t want to stand out as a clueless tourist, here are seven things New Yorkers want you to bear in mind when navigating The Empire State.

Whatever your purpose of travel, adventures are a guarantee. Shopaholic? There’s haute couture shops, thrift stores, and everything in between. Do you like beer gardens and rooftop parties? Check! Do you want access to green parks for jogging, biking, and to take a breather from the concrete jungle rush? You got it.

1. New Yorkers Get A Bad Rap, But...

Photo by William Fortunato


New Yorkers have a reputation for being brusque and standoffish, and to some extent it’s true.

The general rule is, mind the business that pays you, and people are focused on getting to their destination as promptly as possible without complications.

That said, in times of distress and emergency, 9 out of 10 times somebody will step up. A woman with a stroller won’t have to struggle with it up the subway stairs alone. An elderly person who falls will be helped to their feet.  A lost child in a mall will at least have the company of a kind adult till the parent is found.  And so on. See? At some point, morality kicks in.

It doesn’t hurt to learn a little New York slang, but use discretion depending on who you are and where you are.

Deadass, for example, has multiple meanings, depending on whether it’s said with an implied period or question mark. The speaker could mean: Yes. Are you serious? I’m not kidding. Or, really?





2. New York Is More Than Just Manhattan

Photo by Andrew S

Saying you’ve seen all that New York has to offer when you’ve only been to Manhattan, is like saying you know France because you’ve been to Paris.

Manhattan is great for plenty of reasons, but give the other boroughs a try if time permits.

If you’re craving grub from the African diaspora, there are great eateries in Harlem and Washington Heights (both part of Manhattan), The Bronx, and Brooklyn.

The Bronx is home to Yankee Stadium, The Bronx Zoo, and The New York Botanical Gardens.

Queens, according to the New York State website, is “the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world,” and boy, does the cuisine reflect that. You could have American diner food for breakfast, Greek for lunch, and Ethiopian for dinner without having to venture very far.

Brooklyn is always evolving, and if you stand in the middle of The Brooklyn Bridge that connect s it to Manhattan, you can see how similar their downtown areas are.

Head to Coney Island for the beach and a ride on The Cyclone, catch a basketball game or concert at the Barclays Center, or enjoy a chill day with the kids in Prospect Park.

Upstate New York areas like Ithaca, Binghamton, and the capital city of Albany have some beautiful scenery, the pace of life is slower, and a car is highly recommended.



3. The Trains Are A Whole New World

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

The train system can be overwhelming even for native New Yorkers.  But try not to overthink. If you’ve taken the metro in cities like Paris and Madrid, the BART in The Bay Area,  or the tube in London, you’ll probably be fine.

If you get lost, ask a fellow commuter or Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) employee.

Most train stations will allow you to switch from the uptown to the downtown side without paying another fare. But 86th Street, strangely, doesn’t. The entrances don’t connect.

If you’re going in the wrong direction, you can transfer to a train going the right way at 59th Street or 125th Street. Pay attention to the signage around you to know which platform to go to.

On the green line, which services the east side, the 4 and 5 trains run express, while the 6 is local. But sometimes, due to construction, an express train will go local or vise versa. Listen carefully to service change announcements, especially on the weekend.

Lastly, if you see an empty train car (or just one person sitting in it) at any point in the day, especially during rush hour, there’s a reason. Avoid this car. Just do it. 




4. Get Used To "Showtime!" And "Snacktime!"

Photo by Nappy


There’s one other thing about the trains. At some point you’re going to hear, “showtime!,” “snacktime!” or both.

Showtime entails young people swinging from poles or break dancing  for tips. Some find it irritating, especially when it’s late at night, or results in an accidental kick to the face. Whatever yo r opinion, it’s pretty impressive to pull off such elaborate tricks on a moving train.

You’ll notice that many commuters won’t react, because whatever novelty there was has long worn off. But feel free to applaud, take videos, or give a few dollars to the dancers if you want.

There are other kinds of performers as well, like spoken word poets, Mariachi bands, and even preachers with long sermons.

If you get peckish while in transit, you’re in luck! Somebody will have Chips Ahoy, Fruit Snacks, and M & Ms to sell for a dollar each. Alternatively, there are churros stands on some platforms.






5. Times Square Is For Tourists

Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez


“Let’s hang out in Times Square!” said no New Yorker ever, though they might bite the bullet if they’re entertaining a friend from out of town. And most New Yorkers would rather swallow glass than ring in the new year here.

Times Square is a tourist fantasy, but if you like bright lights, shows, shopping, and Disney characters haggling you for tips, this may be your scene.

Don’t be so distracted by all the commotion that you forget about your wallet in your back pocket, which isn’t a great place for it anyway. You’ll be a prime target for theft.




6. Be Mindful of Sidewalk And Street Etiquette

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There’s certain etiquette when walking on the sidewalk or driving, and the sooner you learn it, the better.

If you and fifteen of your friends want to take that group photo in front of the Empire State Building, don’t spread out across a busy sidewalk. You’ll get a dirty look or get cursed out. Please move to the side.

When driving, make sure you put your foot on the gas the second the light turns green, or the cars behind you will honk like you’ve had them waiting for ages. And in their minds, you have.  It’s obnoxious, but that’s the way of things.

Stand back when a yellow cab is veering toward s the curb to pick up a passenger. They’ll do anything for a fare, especially with the competition posed by Uber and Lyft.

7. The Borough Rivalry Is A Thing....

Photo by Dmitri Kessel/

Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn will roast each other, and it’s usually tongue in cheek. At the end of the day, it’s all love.

For example, people go in on Queens for the repetitive street names. 69th Street, 69th Place, and 69th Lane- whew! There’s a historical reason for this, but it’s still confusing for outsiders.

Quibbles aside, if there’s one thing that unites these four boroughs, it’s their dislike of borough number five: Staten Island.

You know that uncle you grudgingly invite to the annual family dinner, even though he’s an embarrassment? That’s Staten Island. Honestly? Skip it. You wouldn’t be missing anything.

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