New York Newb

“Excuse me, how do I get to Houston and Allen Street?”  It was a simple question, but now three separate New Yorkers have jumped into an aggressive shouting match over the most efficient directions versus the quickest, best route.   It’s one of those “Welcome to New York” moments you should be prepared for.

Guides and Tips

Social Etiquette

Across the world eye contact is treated differently. Cultural perspectives vary from respect to vulgarity depending on where you're at. In New York, eye contact - particularly staring - is inviting (in a bad way). It might be difficult not to stare when someone is waging a meth-induced war against a brick wall or equally outrageous activities, but keeping your eyes to yourself can prevent potentially dangerous situations from developing. If you absolutely must, try being discrete by looking at the reflection on the train window or out of the corner of your eye.

Personal Space

With eight million people and growing, personal space can be a prized item for New Yorkers. Outside of the necessary packed trains, parades and long lines, try your best to give people their personal space. This is especially important in places like an ATM, where you should always give about five feet to someone making a transaction. People can get righteously pissed if you're stepping on their toes while they handle hundreds of dollars.


One thing that constantly surprises me about NYC is the dichotomy between a reputation of being perpetually angry versus the willingness to help others. New Yorkers are usually pretty willing to strike up a brief conversation where appropriate, whether it's politics or the weather.

The perfect example of New York Helpfulness is in giving directions. You can be anywhere in the city and ask for directions from a passing stranger without concern. In crowded situations, you'll usually find more help than you expected. A great way to test this is on the train... you can ask where such-and-such is and get at least two people giving two distinct (but usually accurate) instructions for you. You get bonus points if an argument erupts due to bad directions or "the best route", which happens with regular frequency.

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