Moving to New York City is a culture shock for anyone let alone a young New Zealander from a farm who had never even visited the United States, let alone the Big Apple. After a year in the city, though, I came to understand NYC etiquettes and quirks.
Theses are ten tips for living in NYC, should be helpful to anyone wanting to move to, or even visit, the city.
1. Forget North and South
New Yorkers speak in “Uptown” and “Downtown.” On my second day in New York I got rather lost after getting off the train one stop to early. I found myself in a very small part of Manhattan’s Soho that doesn’t follow the convenient grid of the rest of Manhattan. I asked a passerby if that (pointing with my hand) was north. The passerby seemed confused by my question. “You mean uptown?” she asked me. “Uh… yea, … uptown?” “Yes, that’s uptown.” I never made the mistake again.
2. Tip generously
Like it or not, you have to tip in America. New Yorkers tip 20% as a standard tip, 10% is for bad service and 15% for ok service. Tipping is expected for all services. That includes cab rides, sit down restaurants, bars, concierge services and hair salons. Be careful to check your check before tipping, though, because some places (mainly restaurants) will automatically include a service charge especially for parties of 6 or more. Also it’s always a good idea to carry plenty of one dollar bills for tipping drinks (at least one dollar per drink).
3. Check the weather
Rain at home might not seem like a big deal, but due to the city’s extremely humid summers, rain in NYC means a serious downpour that will affect more than your mascara. An umbrella is a necessity.
4. Become acquainted with Uniqlo
Speaking of the weather, New York gets cold, like really cold and unless you’re from the Antarctic you will freeze, probably to death, unless you buy a down jacket and snow boots. Forget fashion. Forget dating. Forget being able to feel your nose. For 3 (or more) months of the year you will look like the Michelin man – and you won’t care.
5. Speak up
New Yorkers speak loudly. If you don’t speak up, you won’t be heard. If, like me, you have a foreign accent you will need to make an extra effort to speak clearly and loudly so that people will understand you. On my first day in the city I went into Subway (the sandwich store, not the underground) thinking I would be able to get exactly what I wanted. I ordered a chicken teriyaki wrap with cheddar cheese. I left with a swiss cheese, chicken breast sandwich. I eventually learnt to speak loudly, more clearly and in some cases put on an American accent to get what I wanted.
6. Stop smiling
New Yorkers don’t smile at strangers. It’d not because they are rude, it’s because they are in a hurry. After around 7 months of being in the city a woman on the Subway smiled at me. I wondered what was wrong with her.
7. Walk fast
No one in New York will care about you unless you walk slowly, in which case they will care about you very much – and not in a good way. Everyone is in a rush and if you’re living here, you will be too – so pick up the pace.
8. Learn to hail
People in New York really do hail taxis by holding out their arm like wannabe scarecrows. You will need to as well otherwise you will be breaking one of the unwritten rules of cab hailing. If your arm is not up, then someone can stand in the half block ahead of you and steal an oncoming cab.
9. Begin speaking in crossroads
Taxi drivers aren’t interested in your postal address. They want to know the crossroad of your destination so they can quickly get rid of you and find their next client. Learn your crossroad to avoid a frustrated driver. For example: “the corner of first and 20th,” “3rd, between 45th and 46th,” or “Ave A and 2nd.”
10. Line up
Learn to love lines, because much of your time in New York will be spent in one. If you’re not sure where the line begins speak up before you line up – because let’s face it, no one wants to argue with a New Yorker.