The unwritten rules of living in New York
Walking on a crowded street.
If you're a visitor to NY, and you want to fit in, here are some guidelines.
Be considerate. That doesn't always mean what it does in other places. For example, In New York, itís rude to stand back at the door of a subway car to let other people go ahead of you! By blocking the people behind you, you are committing an infraction of the unwritten rules - slowing traffic. The polite thing to do in NY is to allow other people - all of them - to move freely and quickly, without obstructions.
If you want to stroll and ogle buildings, that's fine. Everybody does. Just keep to the sides of the sidewalk, and please, please don't walk hand-in-hand, four across.
New York is not, repeat not, Disneyland. It is a real, functioning city, where people work and do everything at speed. New Yorkers walk fast, zipping in and out of pedestrian (and sometimes vehicular) traffic, to get where they need to go. Impeding them, intentionally or not, is rude.
Congregating on street corners while you figure out where to go next is rude too. Youíre blocking the way. Especially if you block the wheelchair ramps.
Keep your purse tucked under your arm, whether it has a strap or not, and watch the people around you. You are a visitor, and everybody knows it, but if you look alert, the creeps wonít try to take advantage of it.
As in every big city that attracts tourists, there are times when the pickpockets come out. Christmas. Crowded events like outdoor concerts. But if you keep your purse locked and tucked, or your wallet in an inside pocket (not your back pocket), you donít look like an easy mark.
Beware of being jostled Ė in a crowd, when climbing on a bus Ė if someone stops suddenly in front of you, it might be to distract you so someone behind you can lift your wallet.
Oh, and the jaywalking thing? It's OK that New Yorkers do it (though many city administrations have tried to stop it), because traffic lights in NY are set to the speed of cars and not of pedestrians, as they often are in other cities. If we had to walk 10 blocks, and had to wait at every traffic light, nobody would ever get anywhere on time. And time is a valuable commodity in this city. So people walk quickly, they zigzag with the lights, and they jaywalk, to get where they're going as quickly as possible.
The most important thing to remember in New York is that time is of the essence. New Yorkers walk fast, and talk fast. Wasting their time is rude. Being late is rude. And, although people from other parts of the country or the world sometimes think New Yorkers are rude, they are usually just respecting either your time or your privacy. That reputation is often based on the simple fact that New Yorkers talk fast, and don't spend time on the niceties of "How're you doin'" conversation. To do so is wasting the other person's time - see above.
This site was last updated 02/22/07
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