For those who recently moved to New York, it’s easy to feel like you stand out. You’re not just adapting to a new city; you’re adjusting to a new culture and lifestyle. If you’re tired of feeling like a sore thumb, follow this guide to walk and talk like a New Yorker.
Table of Contents
Be Assertive and Confident
The indecisive and shy don’t fare well in food order lines or when hailing a taxi. When you fly into New York, know how to hail a taxi. A single center light means hail away; two lit outer lights means a driver is off duty, and no lights mean it’s occupied. When you’re ordering food, don’t get in line until you know your order. If you’re stumbling or pondering the menu when someone comes to take your order, expect the person behind you to speak up and order while you decide.
Walk or Take the Subway
By your second day in New York, it’s time to designate taxis as last-resorts or safety measures (your wallet will understand). Walking and taking the subway is more accessible and more affordable than other modes of transportation. For one thing, walking a few blocks can land you in a different scene, and the subway gets you around for a mere $2.50. Keep a MetroCard on hand at all times and download the mobile app with train times and maps.
Subway Fluency and Etiquette
At this point, know that you’re traveling uptown and downtown, not north and south. You also should know that the subway doesn’t operate on simple color lines: each colored line has numbered trains that go different ways and have different stops. Reference “the four train,” “the five train,” and “the six train,” rather than “the green line.” Follow basic etiquette when you take the subway. Stand to allow pregnant women, children, or the elderly to take a seat. Also, do not let everyone suffocate from your meal’s aroma (falafel: that means you). If you can’t smell it or get it all over your pants and go.
Talk the Talk
One of the main ways the locals can tell that you’re new to the city is how you use the wrong words. Follow these basics. First, do not refer to anyone outside of New York City as a “New Yorker,” and if you’re waiting in a queue, you’re waiting “online,” not “in line.” Sure, there’s CVS and Walgreens, but if you’re in a store where food of some sort is sold, it’s called a “bodega.” If you’re craving for that famous New York pizza, you’d better speak the pizza language. When you walk into John’s of Bleecker Street, order a “slice,” not a “piece,” of pizza. If you’re buying for a group of friends, order a “whole pie,” not a “pizza.” Lastly, if you’re discussing “the City,” expect someone to read “Manhattan” from that conversation. There are five boroughs in New York City, but Manhattan alone is “the City.” Also, anything north of New York City (the five, as a whole) should be called “upstate.”
Never Mention Expense
Yes, that cookie does cost more than most of the city’s hamburgers but accept it. You came to fit in so don’t sound like a broken record about the high prices.
Walk Like a New Yorker.
But walk with the tourist spirit. New Yorkers never look up when they walk. It takes until the end of the habit-formation period to lose that starry-eyed, chin-high awe that comes with living in America’s most iconic city. You’ll learn to stop staring high, but you’ll keep that amazing feeling forever. Just like that, you’re a real New Yorker, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.