The rules of New York life

Everything you need to know to fit in with the natives.

Photograph: Dale May

On transportation...

1 Wait until people exit the subway before you enter by standing on the platform to either side of the car doors. There is a special hell reserved for people who shove their way in and bum-rush the first open seat. Even the toughest New Yorkers aren’t above common courtesy.


2 Don’t look at people who are crying on the subway. You might one day do it yourself, and will want the same graciousness extended to you.


3 Don’t call it the “red” line or the “green” line—it’s the 2/3 or the 4/5/6.


4 Be aware of your taxi karma. The next time you need to get somewhere outside of Manhattan, and every cabbie laughs in your face before sending you on your miserable way, you can blame anyone and everyone; but really, it was your fault for stealing a cab from that cane-toting Betty White look-alike who was hunched over by the weight of her wisdom.


5 If you hug the pole in a crowded subway car, thereby preventing others from grasping onto anything in order to stay upright, you merely advertise to everyone that, if the train stops abruptly, you should be the one who breaks their fall.


6 Hey, dudes: That glorious bounty you’re packing doesn’t need a seat and a half. We’re going to sit down next to you, and you can loudly sigh and roll your eyes before closing your legs half an inch if you like, but we have no sympathy for you.


On the street...

1 Life in New York is fast-paced and busy, and walking quickly here isn’t just about getting from one place to the next as fast as possible; it’s a point of pride. If you’re not keeping up with our breakneck pace, kindly let us pass you in peace.


2 If you see a stranger’s wallet poking out of his or her pocket or bag—a basic invitation to be mugged—point that out, but not in a holier-than-thou way, so as to imply that they would deserve it if they were, in fact, mugged.


3 Unless you want to be trampled by an angry stampede, keep to the right on stairs. This goes for escalators, too, but why are you just standing there? Don’t you have somewhere to be?


4 Umbrellas make navigating wet, crowded streets even more difficult, and are generally a bad idea. But if you must use one, try to be aware of where you point it, so as not to destroy a fellow pedestrian’s cornea.


Day to day...

1 Refrain from posting on your various social networks about the nonharmful yet potentially weird-to-you things that your new roommate does at home. It might be annoying to return to your apartment and find someone practicing naked yoga, but your roomie probably thinks it’s weird that you write songs about your plants.


2 We know you heart New York. We heart New York too. But don’t wear the T-shirt here. It’s the equivalent of wearing a band’s T-shirt to its show. (Don’t do that, either.)


3 One thing that distinguishes New Yorkers from other urban residents is the fact that we don’t just think New York City is the greatest place on earth, we know it. We’re sure of it. And it gives us a special confidence. Which is why famous people walking around NYC rarely cause the stir that they do elsewhere—so pay it forward, and just leave them alone.


4 Be careful about bragging. We know, you’re the best, but are you really? Don’t raise your voice to earsplitting levels. Your name-dropping or namechecking, enhanced by power statements, isn’t that impressive. Rest assured: New Yorkers legitimately do not give a shit.


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Users say

11 comments
Eden Noelle Brown
Eden Noelle Brown

I've lived in Manhattan ever since I was a baby. There isn't any "real" rules you need to follow to live here. Yes,natives and tourists are distinguished easily,but you don't need to do all these things to fit in. Many people are under the impression that all New Yorkers are loud and rude. False,that's what you'll see on the reality T.V shows you've been watching... Many New Yorkers seem like they are talking loud because they are talking into their bluetooths on their way to work,and the person(s) on the other line have to hear what they're saying over the busy streets. Obviously a popular city,such as New York City will seem loud,when you have millions of cars rushing by,tourists,and natives going to and from work. Don't ever bash on a city if you don't know it.

Nightmare
Nightmare

ugh I'd kill myself before moving to any city, let alone that one. Sounds positively awful.

Fishy Boab
Fishy Boab

"One thing that distinguishes New Yorkers from other urban residents is the fact that we don’t just think New York City is the greatest place on earth, we know it. We’re sure of it. And it gives us a special arrogance." FTFY

Steve
Steve

and the above is just as valid for London or Paris

editdesign
editdesign

gawd, i've seen just about every single one of these and i haven't even lived here super long. some people are just not meant for city living. the worst is when someone just stops in a huge crowd to adjust their stroller or something. move to the side people. just some common courtesy.

P. S. Seshadri
P. S. Seshadri

Great list and some good tips to follow for everyone (not necessarily in NYC alone).

NewAmsterdam
NewAmsterdam

Can we all walk on the RIGHT side of the side-walk, please?? I won't make a racial comment here.

Christina Quillen
Christina Quillen

This is so great and especially the last part with the loud voices....I have stopped being friends with people over that! Unless its torentially down pouring keep the umbrellas at home you will end up trashing anyways from the wind turning it inside out!

almost witty
almost witty

I am pretty sure the same rules apply to Londoners in London too! Just common sense urban living really.

MBR11211
MBR11211

In DC they have posters everywhere that say "Don't be an esca-lefter. Stand to the right on escalators and let fellow pedestrians pass." I think of that everytime I'm climbing the stairs in NY.