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The 16 rules of living in Chicago

Follow these guidelines to be a fine, upstanding, totally-not-a-jerk citizen of Chicago

Whether you've just moved to Chicago or you've lived here all your life, everyone could use a refresher on how to endear yourself to your neighbors and generally not piss people off. In our opinion, these rules, from being a good little CTA rider to ordering properly at a bar, should be passed into law by the City Council (and Congress?) post haste.

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 that grind escalator traffic to a halt. If this were New York, bold commuters might shove these offenders aside. But we are Chicagoans, so we swallow our rage while imagining ways to avenge this etiquette breach (like writing this blog post). And while we’re talking about escalators, the top or bottom of one is not a place to stand and have a conversation with your friends.

2. Know that "Windy City" has nothing to do with weather. Yes, we have weather here, lots of it and, sometimes, seemingly all at the same time. Still, no matter how powerful that gust was that cast your copy of the Red Eye to the sky while you were mid-Sodoku, it has nothing to do with this being the "Windy City." No, that moniker comes from something else we're famous for: our blowhard politicians.

3. Quit acting so "Chi." Say the word Chicago out loud. Now, did you pronounce our city's name SHY-KAW-GO? No, you did not. Which is why the terms The Shy and Shy-town are not only lame, but inexcusable. Unless you are Common, you sound like a poser when you utter this nickname. There is no quicker way of signaling that you live in the Shy-burbs. And let's 86 the prefixal usages as well. Until you Instagram vacation pics from Tikrit and Irkutsk, you are not allowed to say Chi-raq or Chi-beria.

4. Be able to recommend at least one good jazz club and blues club. Friends from out of town and random tourists will ask you for suggestions. Don’t let Chicago down by sending them somewhere crappy.

5. Be an adventurous eater.Some of the city’s best restaurants and cheap holes in the wall need locals like you to keep them afloat. You can hang out at TGIFriday’s when you visit your parents in the suburbs.

6. Give money to a deserving busker once in a while. There are some incredibly talented musicians playing on the streets and at El stations—encourage them to keep developing their talent. You’ll feel like a wealthy patron of the arts.

7. Know your alderman’s name. And, better yet, his or her email address. Use it when you have a comment or complaint. Who knows—you may even get a response. Probably from a staffer.


8. Quit claiming celebs who don’t live here anymore as Chicagoans. Oprah owns an estate on 42 acres of land dubbed "The Promised Land." In case you haven't noticed, there are no 42-acre plots in Streeterville. The television demigod lives in California. Likewise, Kanye has divided his time over the last decade between Balenciaga runway shows, the set of the Kardashians and the la-la-land in his head. So let's stop pretending these people are local celebrities. Wearing a Cubs cap in your movie is not a form of Illinois I.D. When you move to Brooklyn the moment your song appears in an AT&T ad, we stop calling you a local band.

9. Don't call Old Style a Chicago beer. According to the brand’s slogan: “Chicago style is Old Style.” So why is it brewed in Wisconsin? Though the beer was once a staple of the Wrigley Field experience, even the Cubs (mostly) gave up on the brand when they partnered with Budweiser earlier this year. If you’re looking for a beer that cements your status as a Chicagoan, you should be drinking a microbrew, not a macrobrew. 10. Watch out for cyclists. The rise of Divvy and the continued installation of protected bike lanes have led to more and more bicycles on Chicago’s roads, but the majority of drivers still seem oblivious to their presence. Before backing into a parking spot or opening your car door in traffic, look both ways and avoid contributing to the growing list of motorist-inflicted cyclist injuries.

11. Cyclists, don't be dicks.
The streets of Chicago are already dangerous enough for cyclists—blowing through red lights and weaving through traffic doesn’t help anyone. Reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t give you the right to totally disregard traffic laws. Respect the rules of the road, and maybe learn a few hand signals.

12. 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.
 
13. Stop treating the South Side like our naughty bits. Nothing gets under our skin like some television talking head or Internet commenter 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. Our city is messed up and beautiful in all corners. Vilifying an arbitrary half of the city is part of the problem.

14. Stop judging people for putting ketchup on their hot dogs. You know what? Ketchup is delicious. Who cares if someone wants to make their hot dogs more delicious by putting ketchup on them? Plus, ketchup is better than those sad, mealy tomatoes you find on every hot dog around town.

15. Realize that Ferris Bueller's Day Off is not the only movie made in Chicago. Despite Ferris, Cameron and Sloan's trek through notable Chicago landmarks and tourist traps like Wrigley Field, the Art Institute and the Sears (now Willis) Tower, this suburbanite's travelogue of Chicago was largely filmed outside of the city. Films like High Fidelity and Drinking Buddies do a much better job of showing a city that people live in, not just one to galavant in on ditch days.

16. Know your bar. Order a steak and a Corona at Three Dots and a Dash, a tiki bar? Oh, yes, we've seen it. We've also seen people try to order elaborate drinks at hole-in-the-wall dive bars, where you should be getting a can of PBR. Know where you are and order accordingly.

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