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10 Lessons I've Learned About New York: The New Yorker Files

Updated on January 8, 2014
New York City
New York City
Midtown Manhattan in 1932
Midtown Manhattan in 1932
Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge

As a life long New Yorker and a girl trying to make it in a little non-profit museum near the East River, I've met people from all over the world and witnessed many of them trying to understand the odd habits of true New Yorkers. During my stint in the tourism industry, I've tried to decipher a few languages, witnessed some interesting customs, been in many unfocused pictures, and heard too many complaints about the place I call home. Let me set the story straight. In order to survive living in New York, or at least a visit, there are a few things you should probably know about the city and more importantly, its people.

1. Always be suspicious of empty subway cars

Whether it's rush hour or 2 a.m., there are always people riding the subway and that means unpleasant rides can be expected. Some train cars are extremely hot in the middle of summer, a few smell bad due to questionable activities and abandoned objects, and others serve as someone's temporary home, so choose wisely. A few weeks ago I was innocently waiting for the train and thought I had hit the jackpot as a nearly empty car stopped right in front of me. As I stepped in I spotted a homeless man with his pants dangerously low and I got a glimpse of parts of his body that no one should be subjected to. Let's just say, you should gravitate towards a small crowd just to be on the safe side. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

2. New Yorkers are not mean, they are just in a rush

I can't count the times I've heard New Yorkers referred to as mean, rude, obnoxious and inconsiderate but as a New Yorker that is constantly being told, "You're so nice!," I would have to say that it's not all true. The part about me being nice is true though, I really am very kind. Chances are that you've met a New Yorker who is a little on the edgy side but consider all of the factors they have to deal with. Most of us deal with public transportation, overcrowding, high rent and a recent full-on war with mother nature. If someone is lost and standing in the middle of a crowded stairwell stopping the flow of foot traffic at 9 a.m on a Monday morning. then no, no one wants to help you find the easiest way to Times Square. Not even me. I'm sorry.

3. The "New York State of Mind" is real

This goes back to New Yorkers being in a constant rush and truthfully speaking, that feeling never leaves us. While vacationing in Florida, I remember complaining about the slow flow of traffic, the way people walk around leisurely and not getting to the beach on time. Reminder: I was on vacation! Being from a big city makes you constantly aware of deadlines, agendas and time. I find myself planning future meals, dates, work days, outfits and even a designated time to rest. My mind is always on the clock and so is New York. It's the city that never sleeps after all. I'm really tired though, in case you were wondering.

4. Living in New York probably means infrequent visits to tourist attractions

I can count on my hand the number of times I've been to certain tourist attractions including The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Rockefeller Center. Working in a museum means that I'm constantly giving directions, correcting plans, answering questions and giving opinions on the best places to visit but the truth is, just because these attractions are available doesn't mean they are my second home. I guarantee that the majority of people found crowding these sites are tourists and yes, that probably means they'll need help getting around too. Don't get me wrong, these sites are beautiful but you can find me in my usual hiding spots.

5. New York is expensive!

The fact that people can afford to live in some areas of this city still surprises me and the shock upon hearing certain rent figures will never fully wear off, New York is really expensive! Everyone dreams of living here but then they factor in the cost of transportation, food, entertainment and rent and then the dream dies a little. Never mind a Sex and the City life, it's time to micromanage and save! I'll go back to my ramen noodles and basic channels now.

6. New Yorkers are never phased

Living in a city with so much variety makes it nearly impossible to be phased, by anything. I could sit next to an alien with a dog on its head eating a pancake on the train and chances are I wouldn't look up from my book. If everyone stopped to look at the oddities found on every street corner of New York, no one would ever reach their destinations. This city presents the opportunity to see a concert in subway stations, take a picture with Spiderman or Elmo in the middle of the street and possibly get into an argument with a reckless breakdancer.

7. All New Yorkers fear the words "It's show time!"

As a frequent subway rider, let me just say that it's not fun to witness men leaping from the bars above your head or doing backflips down the narrow strip between passengers. Sure, it was nice the first time but then you reach the point where you start to fear for your life and consider the possibilities of horrible head trauma. I've seen tourists have a great time watching these talented young men and I can only imagine what tales of circus subway rides they take back with them. Enjoy it while you can because the fear is real and if things weren't so expensive I'd invest in a helmet.

8. Times Square is a beautifully lit mess

Is there a place that you want to visit for practical reasons but can't seem to navigate? Is there a place that offers food, entertainment and shopping opportunities but those things are nearly impossible if the crowds are moving against you? Zoom in to Times Square. Sure there are bright lights, shows, and an insane amount of photo opts but it's slightly chaotic. Forget making plans for dinner and a movie unless you're ready to become a human pinball while trying to hold on to your loved one for fear of being separated and swallowed by the masses. I can't plan for an outing to Times Square "just because." It's always crowded. Always. That makes us a little angry. All we want is to get to the fancy McDonalds.

9. New York appreciates a well located food truck/cart

In a city where every meal could cost you a pretty penny, food trucks and food carts are the heros our wallets have been waiting for. Many people are a little apprehensive because they assume that any meal made under five minutes is a little suspicious but do not fear, food trucks and carts don't always include hotdogs, stale pretzels and those weird peanuts. I'm talking about real food for great prices. Culture on the go, if you will. I'd pick a Hilal truck over overpriced mini meals any day! Lamb, chicken and rice combination plate for only $5.00? Yes, please!

10. New York is the champion of change

New York is a mass of big buildings, busy streets, construction, smoke, and subway schedule changes. The city is constantly getting a makeover, in other words, there is always something going on! Even though there are some great sites that never seem to change, such as the South Street Seaport (until recently), there are other places that seem to be making room for the millions of people clamoring here each year. Bigger and better, anyone? I sense a few more fancy McDonalds in our future, and fingers crossed for more amazing museums.

Even though New York has many crazed qualities, it's also a city that has a lot to offer. Not only are we known for our lights and action, but we're know for our sites, sounds, and incredible culture. There is a new part of New York to discover around every corner and it's an experience everyone should have at least once. I've lived here my entire life and I still have so much to see. I'm looking forward to it, as a partial tourist or a kind New Yorker, it's all still exciting to me!

Have you ever visited New York? Did you like it? What did you see? Let's talk about it!

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    • Heidi L Idrovo profile image

      Heidi L Idrovo 4 years ago from New York

      Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      What a neat read, and good for you! :) A kind defense within the explanation, some useful and interesting tips, thoughtful insights into the people of NYC, again--good for you!