5 ways to walk down the street like a real New YorkerPeople come to New York for all kinds of reasons, and transplants consider it a point of pride when they feel they can finally call themselves "real New Yorkers". Of course, the born and raised locals have a different idea of what it takes to call this city your own. But birthplace differences aside, any self-identifying New Yorker will tell you that tourists stand out like sore thumbs based solely on the way they walk down the street.
New Yorkers can spot a tourist a mile away. And although we generally love, welcome, and thank you for what you do for our city's economy, we would also like you to stop blocking the sidewalks and congesting pedestrian traffic like deer caught in headlights. With that said, we know it isn't easy. The New York pace is either in your blood or it's not—it's a tough thing to learn. So out of the kindness of our hearts, here are a few tips to help you fake your way to looking like a real New Yorker.
1. Pace yourself (Walk faster)
If clichés become popular because they're true, the New York speed-walking pace is a prime example. For some of us it's a habit, and others really are perpetually in a rush—the bottom line is, we move fast. That's why the first and easiest way to pretend you're a New Yorker is to speed up your walk. There's nothing to it, no complex advice you need to study, just walk faster.
You could even make a game out of it. Try to keep up with a nearby New Yorker speeding down the street, and see if you can maintain that pace. Of course if you're out for a leisurely stroll and want to experience New York in your own time, at your own speed, we won't stop you. We just ask that you please stay aware of your surroundings and don't block off the whole sidewalk as you do it.
2. Get in and get out (Don't linger)
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Subway staircases, storefronts, doorways, major street corners, crosswalks—somehow, tourists seem to think that these are prime places to stop dead in their tracks. Quite to the contrary, these are some of the worst places for you to take a breather (because you've been trying to keep pace with a nearby New Yorker) or consult your city map.
Look, we move fast and we know it. If you need to take a break, by all means, do. Many of us are even excited to stop and give you directions if we catch you with your map upside down. But standing right in front of the grocery store entrance at rush hour while you plan your next move isn't the best idea. And when you come out of the subway totally turned around, please do take your time to get your bearings. But first, take a few steps to the side so you're not creating a traffic jam in front of the station's entrance (or exit).
3. Empty streets (If there are no cars, go)
The truth is, no real New Yorker will suggest that tourists follow us when we cross the street. Chances are we're technically jaywalking, or crossing when the pedestrian light is red, and tourists aren't used to this kind of living-on-the-edge behavior. We would also never advocate that you put yourself, other pedestrians, or other drivers in danger. Basically, don't do anything illegal, but if there are no cars around, cross the street.
There's a reason that New York City sidewalks get crowded with pedestrians waiting for the walk sign: tourists. First of all, be safe. But once you've taken your time to stop and look both ways, if there are no cars around, no one around the corner signaling to turn, no rogue bicyclists breaking their own traffic laws, you may proceed. It's a question of common sense, but also yet another question of awareness. And when in doubt, wait. We may giggle, but we get it. Safety first.
4. Share better (We're a community)
Each of us as individuals is entitled to take up a certain amount of space. Because of the infrastructure of our city and the limited geography of the five boroughs, New Yorkers are conditioned to share space in a unique way. We all live on top of each other (literally) and are trained to make use of outdoor and public spaces in mostly peaceful partnership with our neighbors—most of us don't have our own private backyards in this town.
With all of that in mind, you can see why sharing is important. What's more, sharing is easy. If you're on the subway or bus and you see someone who needs your seat more than you do, stand up and offer it. They'll be grateful and you will have done your good deed for the day. Another subway tip: don't stand in front of the doors or lean on the poles. Those spaces are for everyone, and we have to make room for each other. How about when you're in a café taking a break from your tour of the city? Try keeping your purses, shopping bags, and suitcases off of extra chairs and stools, so your neighbors (New Yorkers and tourists alike) can have a place to sit down.
5. Be friendly (Say hi to strangers)
When you were young, you might have been taught not to talk to strangers. In New York, as anywhere, it's not always the case that strangers are friendly and harmless. But there are plenty of situations in your visit to this great city where you could (safely) go out of your way to play nicely with others. Ordering a coffee from your local barista? Say please and thank you, flash a smile. You might even ask him how he's doing — it's a novel idea, we know.
Friendliness in a city of millions of strangers shows up in tiny, shared moments, if you know where to look. Consider holding the door for the person behind you, or strike up a conversation with your neighbor at that trendy bar topping your vacation hit list. Even when you're out at restaurants—New York is a food-focused town, after all—treat your server or your bartender like a friend. Give it a try. You'll never know what friends you can make unless you try, and you'll definitely go home with some true New York City stories. Hey, they might even mistake you for a real New Yorker.
Chloe Olewitz is a born and raised New Yorker. Her work has been published in Format Magazine, Digital Trends, The Coffeelicious, and more.