New York City is a hell of a place. I mean that both figuratively and literally – right now it’s so hot and dirty that it feels like hades. But in the figurative sense, it’s a crazy, packed in, intense concrete jungle with a lot of things to see and do. Not only are there 8 million people living on this island, but the place is constantly jammed wall to wall with tourists. As such, I have a few basic rules for New York that I think all tourists (and some locals) should take note of to make this place a little happier. There’s nothing that will ruin your day quicker than tourist rage, and really, most of these are common sense.
- When you walk out of a Subway station, don’t immediately stop at the top of the stairs to try and figure out where you are. Yes, it’s confusing – I can’t tell you how many times I have accidentally gone west when I should have gone east. Just step to the side to get your bearings. This goes double if you’re in a big group.
- If you need to stop and check your map, step to the side of the sidewalk. If you stop in the middle of the sidewalk, someone will probably run into you. I’ll apologise, others won’t be so kind.
- Don’t stare. I know this sounds weird, but think about it. There are millions of us jammed onto this island and you are never alone. There’s an unwritten rule amongst New Yorkers to respect each others personal space on the subway, so everyone needs to deal with that. Perhaps this is where the aloof reputation comes from, but it’s actually a sign of community – we’re all respecting each others boundaries by keeping to ourselves. Same goes for eavesdropping and staring into peoples windows.
- That last rule goes double for celebrities. New York is great for star spotting, but the celebs like New York because this isn’t LA – they can get their groceries and ride the subway without being mobbed. Tweet about it, blog about it, definitely update your Facebook status about it, just don’t harass them.
- Please don’t walk four abreast down Broadway.
- Please don’t walk four abreast down any street! I get that you’re on vacation, but if you insist on meandering, moseying, or strolling in a huge group and blocking the sidewalk, then you’re just making more work for me when I have to jump over things to get past you. Other people will just barge you (not me, I’m too polite, but I will probably think about it).
- Have your metro card ready to go when you get to the subway entrance. The black stripe should be facing you and down the bottom, hold it ready, and swipe! You’ll just piss people off if you fumble in your bag for it.
- Please ask me for directions. I am more than happy to point you in the direction of the subway station/Broadway/16 Handles, rather than let you walk in circles for 15 minutes. New Yorkers have a reputation for being gruff, but I think that’s just because everyone is always in a hurry. New Yorkers are really proud of their city though, and they will always help you with directions or make recommendations if you just ask (except the subway workers sitting in the booths – those guys are pretty useless).
- Look up. There is so much to see when you gaze beyond street level. You’ll notice all the locals very rarely do it, and truly they are missing out on the beauty of their own city. Just do it from the edge of the sidewalk, not the middle!
- For the love of refried beans, don’t ever eat in Times Square. This city is fully of amazing, amazing food, and yet the awful chains in Times Square are always heaving with tourists. I promise that the food you get at the local neighbourhood restaurants will be ten times better than anything you get at Red Lobster, Olive Garden, or Applebees, and you’ll get a proper New York experience rather than a homogenised chain that could be in any city in America.
Bonus rule – don’t ask someone where to get ‘New York pizza’. You’re in New York, all pizza is New York pizza! This subject often sparks debate amongst locals because everyone will tell you their local joint is the best pizza in town (but seriously, mine is…Prince St Pizza). Pretty much every slice you get here, whether it’s from Lombardis, a 99c store, or free with your beer at Crocodile Lounge, is going to be good.
Have you been to New York? Are you a New Yorker? What other tips do you have for happy touristing?