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25 rules to live by in Boston

Here's how to act like a real local

Written by
Cheryl Fenton

A small city with all the perks of big urban life, Boston isn’t always an easy place to handle. Our weather is a rollercoaster. Our driving is aggressive (we prefer to call it proactive, thank you). Our accents can be questionable at times. And our sense of community is seemingly so niche, it’s tough to break into—but once you’re there, you’re in it forever. If you understand our ways and embrace Boston’s nature, you’ll understand why U.S. News & World Report recently ranked our city one of the top places to live. Whether you're a newcomer or a longtime resident looking to make sure you’re still staying in your lane, follow these 25 rules to life in Boston to fit in. 

  1. When it comes to pledging your allegiance to your favorite cannoli, you must pick a side: Modern Pastry or Mike’s Pastry. Although these two bakeries are down the street from each other in the North End, you can only be faithful to one.
  1. See a beach chair or milk crate in a shoveled out parking spot after a snowstorm? Leave it. Those are spot markers, and you don’t want a territory fight.
  1. It’s OK to drink Dunks iced coffee in the winter. In fact, it’s expected. Need to find one? No worries. There are 120 Dunkins in Boston.
  1. Don’t expect to get around the city easily on September 1. In true college town form, this is student season. Known as “Allston Christmas,” this is the day many have to move apartments, leaving behind furniture and home goods to decorate the curbside.
  1. Take the T everywhere. It’s the country’s oldest subway, so it’s not in the best shape (or ever on time), but the trains—especially the green line—stop all over the city and outlying areas.
  1. Get to know your sports because Boston loves its teams. Celtics, Patriots, Bruins, Red Sox, Revolution. We have one for every season, and we will dress accordingly in logo-ed garb.
  1. Our neighborhoods all come with different personalities. Among them are the bustling Back Bay, young set of Southie, diverse South End, up-and-coming Eastie, Brahmin-based Beacon Hill, touristy Faneuil Hall and the Italian-heavy North End—to name a few.
  1. Speaking of neighborhoods, Southie and the South End aren’t the same areas, so don’t address them as such.
  1. Make besties with your GPS. Boston roads aren’t set up on a grid. Instead, the labyrinth of streets is a mix of one-ways leading to more one-ways leading to more one-ways. Remain calm. You can do this.
  1. At any given moment, your street could be shut down as a movie set. Most recently, Netflix’s Don’t Look Up and About Fate joined the arsenal of other famous flicks shot here, including Goodwill Hunting, Fever Pitch and The Departed.
  1. Don’t expect a crazy after-hours scene. We don’t have happy hour, bars close no later than 2am and the T only runs until 12:30am. Translation: This city sleeps.
  1. Become a people person (or be more like a local and don’t). Boston is the fourth most densely populated large city in America, according to The Boston Planning & Development Agency.
  1. Get yourself a good pair of shoes and hit the road. Boston is completely walkable.
  1. Basically everything in Boston is historical. It’s a land of “firsts” (public school, park, library, pub, etc.), and we’ll be the first to tell you if you just walked by something historic.
  1. Roast beef and seafood do go together, as evidenced by the popular roast beef and seafood shacks that dot the North Shore.
  1. Traveling from Boston to Cambridge or vice versa is a big deal. There’s an innate aversion to the trek “across the bridge,” so expect some pushback if you suggest it.
  1. If you order fried clam strips instead of whole belly clams, be prepared to get side-eye from locals. Learn to love the bellies because eating the entire mollusk is a sacred tradition in these parts (Woodman's in Essex is credited for the first in 1916).
  1. The beacon of light located atop the 26-story tower at 200 Berkeley Street (the Old John Hancock Building) has been telling locals the weather since 1950. Commit to memory the poem deciphering its forecast: Steady blue, clear view; Flashing blue, clouds due; Steady red, rain ahead; Flashing red, snow instead.
  1. Expect someone to yell out “Yankees suck” at any given time and for no reason at all.  
  1. Respect our city’s chefs as celebrities—because they are, even if they don’t act like it. Boston’s restaurant kitchens are full of James Beard Award-winners (looking at you, Chefs Barbara Lynch, Ken Oringer, Lydia Shire, Jamie Bissonnette, Karen Akunowicz) and TV stars, such as Top Chef alums Tiffani Faison and Will Gilson, Iron Chef challenger Mary Dumont and Hell’s Kitchen contestant-turned-sous chef Jason Santos.
  1. We’re proud of our LGBTQ community here. In fact, the country’s first same sex marriage happened at Cambridge City Hall on May 17, 2004.
  1. More frequently than you think, over-height trucks hit a bridge or get stuck on Storrow Drive. It’s called getting “Storrowed,” and these mishaps are fair game for social media memes.
  1. If you want people to know you’re not from Boston, call it Beantown.
  1. We support our huge artist community, and it shines best in SOWA with its bustling weekend art and vintage fairs.
  1. Boston is proud. So be proud of it. 

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