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The 12 rules of living in Chicago

Here's how to unofficially be a law-abiding citizen of Chicago

If you're new in town, you may have noticed some peculiar ways we Chicagoans interact, commute or converse. Perhaps you've lived here all your life, and there's still some unwritten rules you're unsure of. Regardless, everyone could use a refresher on how to be a good neighbor and generally not piss people off. From being a CTA rider to ordering properly at a bar, we think this list should be passed into law by City Council.

RECOMMENDED: Your guide to living in Chicago

1. Use escalators correctly. Stand on the right, move on the left. This is an unspoken rule around the world and yet, unfathomably, people here continue to form blockades-of-lazy by being glued to cell phones and grind escalator traffic to a halt. As Midwesterners, we swallow our rage and spend the whole ride to street level about to utter profanities or an aggressive "Excuse me." But alas, we'll probably remain quiet then complain about it for the rest of our day.

2. Understand that "Windy City" has nothing to do with weather. Yes, it is windy here. Yes, everyone talks about it frequently. Still, no matter how powerful that gust was that knocked your beanie off your head or your cappuccino to the floor, the nickname has nothing to do with this being a windy city. The moniker refers to the city's full of hot air politicians during the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

3. Do not say "Chi." Ever. Say 'Chicago' out loud. Is our city's name SHY-KAW-GO? No, it is not. The terms The Shy and Shy-town are not only lame, but make zero sense. If you're trying to sound like a poser, say it all you want; but there is no quicker way of signaling that you're not with it than using this inexcusable term. Unless you're Kanye or Common, erase the prefix from your vocabulary.

4. Know your alderman’s name. Or better yet, his or her email address. There are 50 aldermen that represent the city's 50 wards. If you have a comment or complaint, don't voice your concerns to your out-of-state friends on Facebook—take part in active civic change. You may even get a response.

5. An Old Style is not a Chicago beer. According to the brand’s slogan: “Chicago style is Old Style.” So then, why is it brewed in Wisconsin? Even the Cubs gave up on the brand when they partnered with Budweiser. Sure, it's a staple in Shameless, but sip on a craft brew if you're really claiming to enjoy local beer. Become a real Chicagoan and ask for a Goose 312, Daisy Cutter or pretty much anything besides an Old Style. 

6. Watch out for cyclists. With Divvy taking over every corner and the continued installation of protected bike lanes, there are more and more bicycles on Chicago’s roads. Whether you're a driver or a pedestrain, watch out. This is no Amsterdam but being oblivious is guaranteed to get you into some trouble—physically or verbally. Before crossing a major intersection or opening your car door in traffic, look both ways and avoid contributing to the growing list of cyclist injuries. 

7. Don’t take up the whole sidewalk. Welcome to Chicago! Oh, you live here already? Then you should know that you and your friends shouldn’t walk three abreast, forcing people walking toward you to get out of your way, or anyone wanting to pass you to walk in the street. Single file, people.
8. Stop treating the South Side like an embarrassing family member we don't talk about. Nothing gets under our skin like some non-Chicagoan bemoaning the violence on Chicago's "South Side." If you're going to act like you care, at least understand our geography—there are problems on the West, North and South Sides. Shootings occur in Highland Park and Evanston. Learn about the causes of violence before you comment on it. Sure, our city gets a bad rap in nationwide news, but no place is perfect and the South Side is home to huge portion of the people who make Chicago.

9. Accept ketchup on hot dogs. We don't know why there's a stupid myth that Chicagoans will ridicule you for using ketchup. Ketchup is delicious. Who cares if someone wants to make their hot dogs more delicious by putting ketchup on them? Not everyone likes things 'Chicago-style.' They're still welcome to take part in our culinary superiority.

10. Stop reenacting every movie ever made in Chicago. Or worse, the suburbs. Every cinematically-educated human knows that Ferris Bueller's Day Off takes place in Chicago. This does not mean you get permission to act like a tourist at the Art Institute every time you visit. Films like High Fidelity and Drinking Buddies and shows like Shameless and Chicago Fire do a great job of showing off the city. Casually mention them to friends visiting from out of town, but leave it at that. We don't need to hear you quote every scene from Mean Girls.

11. Know the bar. For example, Three Dots and a Dash is a tiki bar. This is the place for an elaborate cocktail, not a Bud Light and a steak. Similarly, don't order elaborate drinks at hole-in-the-wall dive bars with lengthy beer lists. There's a reason why they have a ton of beers on draft—that's what they want to pour. Knowing where you are can help you order—and act—accordingly.

12. Be able to recommend one good pizza spot. No need to defend deep dish to the death. Chicago spots also offer great thin-crust New Haven-style or Detroit-style slices. All you have to do is just point out-of-towners in the right direction of a restaurant with reliably delicious deep dish pizza and you're job is done. (Hint: it's Pequod's.)


Tom S

Oh, and you're from FLORIDA!!!!

Tom S

Stephanie - You're a moron! Ketchup, escalator, bikes, etc... YOU are what's wrong with Chicago!!!

Thomas H

Why shouldn't people tell the truth about the south side?  The south side of Chicago is like a city under siege where people aren't safe in their homes.

James B

Another retard from somewhere else besides here...#9....yes, old style is brewed in Wisconsin..but growing up HERE in the 70's, you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a old style sign hanging in front of a tavern...#13...have you ever visited 63 and Halsted, 107 and Vincennes or 39th and Cottage grove?? Just fantastic neighborhoods...and seriously..#14...now I know you're from Naperville or the east coast...either way...go away retard.

Edgar a

OMG! Another dumb piece written by someone who wasn't born here. Go away. 


Thank you for the Ketchup piece. Thank you for freeing me from our sometimes silly social norms.

Jane M

Only Chicagoans would give a shit about any of this stuff.

Patrick S

To the Ohio native who wrote this piece:  There is nothing wrong with saying Chi-Town--people have been doing this for 60 years.  Have you noticed that A-Town, Sea-Town, and Oak-Town have all tried to copy?  And yes, there is plenty wrong with putting ketchup on your hot dog.  Just use a sugar packet next time.  Also, nobody says "jerk" in Chicago, they say "Jag-off."

Chris R

you forgot about My Boys! sitcom on TNT based in Lincoln Park. If you are going to do an article like this, at least get it right. dumb a$$es

Little N

This is not list of someone who has lived in Chicago for along time, or at all. / NO ketchup on hot dogs unless your a kid / Who cares the name of a bar, that was 20 years ago /No mention of pizza? / Not mentioning cyclist riding on sidewalks, no mention of the danger for pedestrians by cyclists / wheres Da Coach / who cares if celebrities live here or not / wearing a Cubs, Sox, Hawks, Bears, Bulls hat is ID in Chicago / escalators - HUH / No CTA mention shows your not familiar with the real Chi ca go


#1 should be qualified slightly - "stand on the right" is not the rule around the world. In countries where people drive on the left, they tend to stand on escalators on the left and walk on sidewalks to the left...and the Americans really mess up foot-traffic! But when in Chicago....

William G

Howsabout loosing "Chicagoland" once and for all?

Al S

I was born in Chicago, raised in the suburbs.  Yes, I put ketchup on my hot dog.  As a kid, I never got strange looks.  Now, I do.  OK, I don't like 'tard and I don't relish the relish on my dog.  You got a problem with that dude?

Dale G

@Al S If  a customer wants Ketchup on a Hot dog they should get what they want on THEIR Hot Dog, it's called Customer Service. I dont like Mustard, Tomato or Relish on a Hot Dog so it's NOT a Chicago Dog, it's MY Hot Dog!

Thomas H

@Al S It's your money and you should get what you want the way you want it.

kayla w

this is so pretentious lol. 

Edgar a

Who wrote this tripe? Someone from Arlington Heights? Get a clue.

Thomas S

Wrong on number 2. The term Windy City was used by two  Ohio papers 5 and 6 years before the New York editorial about the World's Fair. Used first to describe the weather.

Rox D

@Thomas S I had a newspaper article on this subject. Unfortunately I gave it to a Canadian who did not believe me on how the "windy city" was derived. The writer went as far back as possible, and it was indeed first used describing the winds, rather than the politicians!

Michael M

@Rox D @Thomas S It is about the politicians before the Chicago Fair . . . probably (and notably) while the politicians were trying to get the World's Fair held in Chicago.

kate k

Funny!  But what shootings are you referring to in Highland Park?  Like the ONE in the past twelve years?  There is a sad reality that the "South Side," has the majority of gang warfare happening in the Chicago area.  It's very unfortunate but also true.  You cannot compare the crime in, say, Englewood to the crime in Highland Park it's insulting to both demographics. 

Cam L

@kate k But the point is a good one:  if one is speaking of gang shootings, plenty do happen in areas that are not the South Side.  There are not many, if any, in Highland Park, but there are gang crimes in many different areas of the city and suburbs.

Thomas H

@Cam L @kate k But to pretend that nothing wrong is going on on the south side does a disservice to those innocent people that have been killed so that punks can prove how bad they are.

Brian M

Where's the CTA rule? No bags on the seat, don't make people step over you to sit down, and don't make someone get up while the bus is moving approaching your stop.

Kathy A

@Brian M And move INTO the damn L car!  How many times do I have to push past the throngs of people standing in front of the Red Line doors only to find that the middle of the car is totally empty?!  

Zach G

"Ketchup is delicious."

False! Ketchup is a horrible substance that not only should not be used on hot dogs, but should be kept far away from any food stuffs. Hell, I wouldn't even use it to entice rodents to eat rat poison; those little buggers deserve better than ketchup.


To be fair with number one, if you ask nicely most of the time people standing on the left will move over no problem. Even just a non-snotty excuse me will do it. But I do take great pleasure in seeing rude pushy people trying to get past while making snide remarks and the people in front spreading out to make sure they can't get past. Especially fun at Union or Ogelvie when people are trying to catch their trains but can't be bothered to take the stairs.


First, the endearing term Chi-Town (shy-town) has been in the nomenclature for far longer than your crappy little magazine has been around. Second if using this term makes me "Common" then so be it, I would much rather be common than hipster-douchebags like the editors of "TimeOut" Magazine


The writer was referring to the rapper named Common

Chris R

@WrobStv shy town is lame. no body that lives in the city says that. this article is lame as well. belongs in some sheit airline mag.

Tim M

THANK YOU!  Exactly my everyday concerns.  I wish people would wake up.