There are many particulars to navigating New York City, and your approach to shared social situations will either endear you to the locals—or the opposite. Here’s how to act like a New Yorker in any situation.
This section could have its own Bill of Rights, as the MTA has an unspoken code of etiquette that’s as complex as the city itself.
Don’t: Hug or lean on the pole or handrails; eat a sandwich; play music on your phone without headphones; block the door or an empty seat on a crowded car.
Do: Give your seat up for those who could use it; ride the J Train over the Williamsburg Bridge at sunset; and move to the middle to make room for those coming in.
While you may feel like asking for directions makes you appear touristy, it’s actually completely kosher—as long as you follow these rules.
Don’t: Approach someone wearing headphones; mispronounce Houston Street (“HOUSE-ton,” not like the city in Texas).
Do: Feel free to ask a local for directions (politely), and don’t be surprised if that person is incredibly nice. (New Yorkers are only rude if you interrupt their commute for no reason.) It can help if you learn the difference between Uptown and Downtown—look to the street numbers—and landmarks like the East and Hudson rivers.
The sidewalk is ostensibly simple to handle, but there are still some things to keep in mind.
Do: Explore as much of the city by foot as possible: It’s one of the best ways to learn the neighborhoods and find hidden gems.
Don’t: Stand in the middle of the sidewalk texting; there are too many people and not enough space. Also, if you’re with a group, walk two-by-two and don’t clog up the entire pathway.
With the advent of CitiBike, bikes became the fastest and arguably easiest ways to explore NYC. Here are a few pointers.
Do: Cruise through some of the city’s most iconic pathways: in Central Park, over the Brooklyn Bridge and along the Hudson.
Don’t: Ride on the sidewalk. Ever. Try not to bring your bike on the subway, especially during rush hour.
Every meal in NYC is an opportunity for a transporting experience. Choose wisely.
Do: Check out a range of restaurants, from classics like Grand Central Oyster Bar to buzzy unique spots like Ramen Lab.
Don’t: Eat at a chain restaurant that exists in other towns around America. Just don’t. Walk down the street and try literally anything else.
It’s as easy as it looks in movies, and yet there is etiquette to consider.
Do: If you’re having trouble hailing a cab in front of the hotel, feel free to have the front desk for help, or call an Uber or Lyft.
Don’t: Steal a cab that someone else hailed, or fall asleep in your taxi.
A lot of celebrities live in New York. Yes, that’s pretty cool. But: this is NYC, not LA. Act accordingly.
Don’t: Ask for a picture; take a sneaky Instagram; or (God forbid) request an autograph—unless you’re under age 10, in which case go for it.
Do: Play it cool. Simple.
We don’t want to sound like rude New Yorkers. But in a city of 8 million, you can’t talk to everyone. (And believe me, you don’t want to.)
Don’t: Wave at passersby; stop someone in order to make idle chit-chat. (“Nice weather today!”) We like talking, really, we do—when there’s a reason. Otherwise, please let us be on our way.
Do: If someone flashes a quick smile, do the same. Just keep it at that.