Things You Should Never Say in New York City

Manhattan Skyline
Manhattan Skyline | © Franck Michel/Flickr

It’s easy to tell a local from a tourist in New York City. There are a few tell-tale visual signs (they tend to travel in groups, wear sneakers and walk more slowly than most New Yorkers), but what really sets these two groups apart is what they say. New Yorkers are a funny bunch—often characterized by their cynicism but fiercely proud of their city. And unless you want to get on their bad side, these are the things you should never say to them.

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“I’m bored.”

Andrew Wyeth. Christina’s World (1948) at MOMA Museum Of Modern Art, New York City, United States of America.

If you’re bored in New York City, then you should look around you. There’s music, sports, art, history, theater, comedy and tons of food options available day or night. Those at a loss for ideas should just jump on the subway (it’s only $2.75) per ride, take it to a random stop and wander around to discover something new.

“Your apartment is so small.”

Views from The Langham, New York.

All New Yorkers know their apartment is tiny. They know. If you’re visiting someone’s New York City apartment, you don’t need to tell them that they would probably find something larger for less money outside of the city. They’ve chosen to live in a closet in Manhattan for a reason.

“New York is a great place to visit, but I would never want to live there.”

Empire State Building, New York, USA.

This phrase is a common one among many of the casual visitors to New York City. While New Yorkers respect that their city is not for everyone, it is definitely open towards those who give it a chance. Spend at least a few weeks living in New York City, taking in all the culture and the hub-bub, before making the grand proclamation that Manhattan is not a livable environment.

“Let’s wait for the light to turn green.”

New Yorkers don’t wait to cross the street. And they certainly don’t let the “walk/don’t walk” sign at the crosswalk tell them what to do. There’s a fine-tuned art to crossing the street like a New Yorker. While you should make sure that there aren’t any cars about to barrel through the intersection, you can also gauge your walk by the vehicle traffic signals. When the signal for the cars turns yellow, it’s time for the true New Yorkers to start going across the street.

“I love the Red Sox.”

Not in New York, you don’t. The Red Sox/Yankees rivalry dates far, far back. Perhaps it’s because the two cities are so close in location, and their fans are very loyal. Whatever the reason, if you’re a Red Sox fan, be sure you’re in a safe space before proclaiming your loyalty for your team. New Yorkers will go far to show off their pride in Yankees territory.

“Let’s get dinner in Times Square.”

Times Square, Manhattan, New York.

There is one cardinal sin you can make in New York City: sitting down in a chain restaurant in Times Square for a meal. While it may be great fun to see the bustling lights of Times Square from an Olive Garden or Red Lobster, you can find so many better options just by walking a couple of blocks away from the city center. And when there are so many other amazing neighborhoods for food in the city, why would you even want to dish out tons of money for an overpriced meal at an overcrowded chain restaurant?

“I don’t eat street meat.”

The concept of street meat may be somewhat foreign to those outside of New York City. It may even seem sketchy. Ordering mystery meats late at night from a random cart on the street? It’s definitely not for all hours and all occasions. But after a night out on the town, there’s nothing better than making a stop at your corner halal cart for a kebab before crawling off to bed. For those looking for a good place to start, check out our guide to the best halal food in the city.

“These drinks are so expensive. Do I have to tip?”

$14 cocktail is not unheard of in New York City—especially if it’s one conjured up by a professional mixologist. But just remember that while you may feel like the price of food/drink in the city is robbing you blind, you are still expected to tip. Rule of thumb in the city is a 20% tip. The employees have their own expensive NYC apartments to pay for.

“We’ll take a cab all the way there.”

While cabs can be a great option for late-night travel, if you’re trying to go crosstown in the middle of the day, chances are you’ll end up stuck in a traffic jam that will make you rue your decision. If you’re traveling uptown to downtown or across boroughs, locals will jump on the train before they ever decide to take a cab. The only exception is going to and from any of the airports. Nobody wants to deal with a suitcase on the subway—and there isn’t even a subway line that goes to LaGuardia.

“Let’s go for a leisurely stroll.”

This one’s a bit of a trick. Although New Yorkers may tell you that you’re about to embark on a leisurely walk through the city, there will be nothing leisurely about it. You’ll be dodging fellow pedestrians, weaving through cars and ducking down back alleys to cover as much ground as you possibly can. But there are a few places in the city where you can go at your own pace: the walkway along the Hudson River, Carl Schurz Park on the Upper East Side or the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are all great places to walk a bit more slowly than usual.

“New Yorkers are rude.”

The South Street Seaport district offers a great variety of dining options in Lower Manhattan

New Yorkers get a bad rep for being unapproachable, which is far from true. You just have to know how to approach them. If you’re looking for help with directions on the street or subway, aim to ask for help courteously and always with an “excuse me” or “sorry to bother you.” Most New Yorkers actually love to show off how well they know their city and will help you get where you’re going. And if you don’t understand directions the first time, it’s completely OK to ask for clarification. There’s nothing worse than ending up on the complete opposite end of the city by accident.

“Isn’t Brooklyn sketchy?”

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City

One common misconception outsiders have is that Brooklyn is Manhattan’s lesser counterpart. Brooklyn has a scene that is every bit as thriving as the island of Manhattan. Head to neighborhoods such as Williamsburg, Clinton Hill or Park Slope for an experience that may even help Brooklyn usurp the title of New York’s best borough.

“I’m going to take a nap.”

New York is the city that never sleeps, and its residents don’t take naps. They go straight from work to the gym to happy hour, then maybe even squeeze in a dinner or a movie before crawling into bed for the night. However, that’s not to say New Yorkers don’t feel tired. If you’re feeling absolutely exhausted but have a packed schedule, take a hint from some longtime New Yorkers: duck into a nail salon, acupuncturist or massage parlor for a quick 10-minute back or foot massage. It will give you some shut eye, refresh you for the rest of your day and only set you back about $15.

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