How Not To Be A Tourist In New York City

Follow these tips on your next trip to New York, and avoid standing out like a stereotypical (and obnoxious) tourist.
graphic collage of new york icons

Complaining about the behavior of tourists visiting your city is something most people can relate to… that is, until you go on vacation and become the tourist yourself. You’ll soon learn (sometimes the hard way) that there are unwritten social rules that guide how locals at your travel destination behave. If you’re planning a trip to New York City, the best thing you can do is review these guidelines before you set foot on a busy Manhattan sidewalk so you don’t fulfill the stereotype of being an obnoxious tourist in New York.

How Not To Be A Tourist In New York City

1. Stay out of the way

New Yorkers are always in a hurry. This translates to a shared pet peeve: things that get in the way and slow them down, whether that comes in the form of train delays, traffic or other people. If you don’t want to irritate locals, remain alert and conscious of your surroundings and adjust yourself accordingly (in other words, get out of the way!).

When asked to picture a stereotypical group of tourists in New York, a local might imagine a large blob of people with maps and cameras standing in the middle of the sidewalk, blocking their path. Break the stereotype by not congregating on sidewalks or staircases. If you need to stop, move to the side or wait until you get to a wider area. New Yorkers also get very frustrated with slow walkers, so keep up the pace or stay to one side of the walkway to let others pass.

2. Observe subway etiquette

For many New Yorkers, the subway commute is an inevitable and sometimes long part of their day. Thus, they would like their commute to be as painless as possible, which is already asking a lot with constant delays and route changes due to construction and various unexplained “incidents.” There are a few ways you can help make everyone’s ride as smooth as possible.

Continuing with the theme of staying out of the way, don’t block the subway doors. When you’re waiting to board a train, let the passengers off the train before you attempt to get on. Mimic what New Yorkers usually do, which is to stand off to the side of the doors while people disembark. This rule also applies from the other side of the doors. If you’re a tourist in New York inside the train and you’re not getting off at this stop, move away from the doors so other passengers can get on and off. It’s not rocket science… it just requires some basic consideration for those around you.

One more subway gripe, and this is a biggie: Do not “manspread.” Ever. Unfamiliar with this term? One Urban Dictionary user defines “manspreading” as “the act of men sitting with their legs so widely spread that the person next to them has an estimated 0.5 seat left…” New Yorkers do this too, but it’s extremely irritating if you value your personal space, so let’s all make a habit of not doing it.

3. Some tips on tipping

This one is not a complaint, but just some helpful advice if you’re a tourist in New York. Tipping works differently in the United States and it’s helpful to have a few guidelines. First, when you eat at a restaurant, it’s customary to give your server a 15-20% tip. There are two exceptions: 1) If you order and pay at the counter (fast food-style), you’re not expected to tip. 2) If the service was terrible, you can tip 10% (or less, but you might get a dirty look on your way out).

The second rule of tipping is specifically for buying drinks at a bar. In much of Europe, tipping bartenders isn’t expected, but in the U.S. it’s considered rude not to. A general rule of thumb is to give the bartender one dollar per drink.

Finally: taxis (or cabs — these words are used interchangeably in New York). Most people tip cab drivers like they’re at a restaurant — 15-20% depending on service. If you think they took an extra long route to hike up the price, or you felt unsafe due to reckless driving, consider only tipping 10%. Again, you might get a dirty look or a curse word shouted at you — but hey, it’s all part of the experience.

Despite their aversion to obstacles, many New Yorkers are perfectly nice people, even to tourists in New York. Don’t let these tips discourage you, but rather guide you on your next trip to this incredible city.

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