Calling yourself a New Yorker

How long does it take to be called a New Yorker, and how you can fake it?

Date: June 26, 2008 4:41:33 PM EDT
Subject: When can we call ourselves “New Yorkers”?

I have a question only the experts—TONY staff—can answer! When can we call ourselves “New Yorkers”? Is there a scientific answer to that question? I have been living here 18 months after moving here from Turkey, and LOVE it, with no plans to leave. When does one become a real New Yorker? Five years? Ten years?

Hell’s Kitchen

Being a New Yorker takes more than a Yankees cap and a bad attitude—it just takes time (at least two years, apparently). You can fake it, though. Authors Caitlin Leffel and Jacob Lehman cover “arriving, surviving and thriving” in the big, bad city in their new book, NYC: An Owner’s Manual. They outlined how to project the New Yorker persona convincingly, even if you’re a newbie.

1. Swipe
“Becoming fluent with the precise timing of the MetroCard swipe takes a little practice, but it’s key to passing for a native,” says Leffel. That means making a move that’s neither too fast nor too slow, and “learning the difference between the beep that means ‘try again’ and the one means you can go through.”

2. Speak
Everyone here knows that “Houston” sounds nothing like that town in Texas, for one thing. “‘The Bowery’ is always preceded by the definite article, and the same goes for ‘the Bronx,’” says Leffel. Also key: “bodega” or “deli,” not “corner store”; pizza eaten on the go is “a slice”; and a “Recession Special” is two hot dogs and a drink at Gray’s Papaya.

3. Dress
“Discard the North Face,” says Leffel. “New Yorkers are some of the most looked-at people in the world. For the most part, anything goes, but the one look that will peg you as just-off-the-boat are those fleece jackets. Save them for trips to Boston.”

4. Worship
Know your non-Christian holidays. “Find a way to throw Idul-Adha or Shemini Atzeret into a conversation,” advises Leffel. “When people ask how you know what those are, say it’s because they are days when alternate side parking is suspended.”

We asked readers how long one must live in New York City to be labeled a New Yorker. With 530 responses, we have a consensus: It takes longer to become a New Yorker than it does to learn a new language, endure New York’s firearm-purchase waiting period or grow out your bangs.

1 month or less 2%
2 months to 1 year 9%
Only if you're born here 21%
2-4 years 30%
5-10 years 38%

12: Months of residency required to qualify for in-state tuition at CUNY and SUNY

11: Number of counties applicants can live in when hired by the NYPD or FDNY

7: Number of counties applicants can live in when hired as a New York City sanitation worker

1 - 2 years: Residency requirement for one or both spouses to obtain a New York State divorce

0 years: Residency requirement to be married in New York State

5 years: Years a candidate must reside in New York State to be elected governor

0 years: Years a candidate must reside in New York City to be elected mayor

30 days: Residency requirement to vote in New York State

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