Tourist Etiquette - Discovery NYC Week

Photo courtesy of Star5112.

Living in New York, tourists are a fact of life – if you’re a resident, you know; if you’ve visited, you’ve been made aware. To be fair, the city can be overwhelming even to those who traverse it on a daily basis. It’s understandable then that a household coming from Kansas for the first time may not be able to keep up with the uptown pace. So much to see, do, eat, take pictures of – it’s a year’s worth of material compacted into a week’s worth of time. Nevertheless, there are ways to be a tourist and not drive the locals bananas, and it’s as simple as following a few rules, having a game plan in mind, and paying attention to what you’re doing.

Here are some strategies pulled from various resources and our own observations on how to do the tourist-in-New York thing right without getting yourself yelled at by the locals (well, that’s not guaranteed, but certainly the aim).

In 2011, Gothamist pulled together a list of tourist etiquette tips derived from the advice of local New Yorkers. Among the highlights:
> When you get on a bus or step up to a subway turnstile, have your change or MetroCard ready. There’s a special circle of hell devoted to people who waste 20 seconds of everyone else’s time with their fumbling.
> Don’t ask, “What’s a good restaurant?” or “What’s a good hotel?” There are literally thousands of restaurants and hotels in New York, many of them good.
> More importantly, don’t ask people where you can find good “New York Pizza.” In New York, it’s just called pizza… do not say you prefer Chicago, New Haven, or (God help you) California pizza. This is a direct route to a heated argument.

Similarly, has offered thoughts on the matter:
> Don’t complain about the prices… it’s NYC, everything costs more.
> On escalators: Stand on the Right and Walk on the Left.
> Don’t steal someone else’s cab. If they staked-out a spot first, they get first dibs.
> Don’t walk more than two people across on the sidewalk.
> Do not wear “I heart NY” t-shirts.
> Do not talk about 9/11 or ask people where they were or if they lost anyone. takes a decidedly more comforting approach to traveler instruction, commenting:
> Eat dinner early – or late. When New Yorkers eat out, they like to take their dinner between 8 and 10 p.m. If you want to eat at the same places they do, it’s best to make a reservation in advance
> Don’t be afraid to wander. Start spreading the news: New York is the safest big city in the United States. Gone are the days when people were warned not to venture into Alphabet City or the Lower East Side. Pretty much nowhere in Manhattan is off-limits – though it’s still an urban area, so do use your common sense.
> Don’t crowd yourself out. A lot of tourists (and relatives visiting local family members) who come to NYC can’t get over how crowded the city is. The crazy secret about New York is that many locals can’t stand crowds – which is why they stay away, at all costs, from Macy’s anytime except weekday evenings, holiday store windows and Rockefeller Center between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Times Square whenever humanly possible (except when they must venture over there to work or to catch a show).

And here are additional points from BTR to fill in those cracks in the sidewalk:
> You’re never going to get the perfect photograph so be realistic: take a shot and get out of everyone’s way.
> Don’t stop walking in the sidewalk traffic flow to gawk at something. Think of it like a highway. You will get rear-ended, but in this case it will be totally your fault and you can’t sue.
> Most of the people around you are not as excited about the city as you are because they’re on their way to work or trying to get home from it. So keep that in mind when you try to make small talk or even smile at strangers.
> Onto the next point – people are real in New York. They don’t pretend to like you. Remember that.
> Don’t try to do too much in one day – it’s going to make you nervous, and consequently everyone around you.
> Don’t try to inform someone who lives in New York that you’ve made a great find in the last three days that they need to know about. This is irritating in a myriad of ways.
> Look the part – you don’t have to be straight-up Madison Avenue, but please no fanny packs or flip-flops – your feet will absolutely turn black.

Most of these tips are obvious, but if not, hopefully they will assure you of a cordial, enjoyable vacation to New York – oh yeah, and across the board, don’t call it the Big Apple. Just don’t.