If you have never been to New York, you are depriving yourself of an unforgettable experience in a city that is the modern-day equivalent of Ancient Rome. It is the center of modern culture, commerce, art, and entertainment, and visiting the Big Apple should be on everyone’s bucket list. But while it is a city that thrives on newcomers and tourism, it is thought to be particularly unfashionable to be an obvious tourist in this very fashionable location. So, in the scope of NYC travel tips, this is one of my favorite things to preach on.
So how do you look like you belong somewhere you have never been before and not look like a tourist when you are on a tour of New York City? That question has challenged first-timers in New York for decades, and it can be a difficult prospect for those who hope to visit. While there may be no way to fully fool a true New Yorker, you can learn some strategies to pass as a native at first glance. This guide is designed to help you do just that and avoid sticking out like a particularly lost and confused sore thumb among the masses in Manhattan.
First Let’s Talk About Tourists in New York
Before you begin to stress about the various challenges of not looking like a tourist, you should understand that there are worse things than looking like a tourist in New York. In the economic center of the world, tourism drives much of New York City’s economy, and countless businesses, jobs, and families depend on the money that tourists bring in. New Yorkers understand this simple fact, and you should not be afraid of offending or angering anyone simply because you do not live there.
In fact, the old stereotype of the rude New Yorker is somewhat overblown, especially in the minds of those who have never been to the area. The truth is that everything moves faster in New York, and the majority of the population remain in a state of constant forward motion and rushing efficiency. This means that anything that interrupts this state could be viewed as an irritation.
While New Yorkers are not inherently rude, they usually are in a hurry and can be short with others. Most do not mind helping or giving directions in a reasonable setting, but you should not expect them to slowly explain things or repeat themselves.
NYC Travel Tips
Not Looking Like a Tourist
Although there is nothing wrong with being a tourist in New York, almost everyone wants to fit in, especially in a city that is so effortlessly cool. The first thing that gives most tourists away as tourists is their clothing, and there are some clear mistakes you can avoid right off the bat. For instance:
- Do not wear a gimmicky t-shirt that is printed with anything about the city, a location in the city or (obviously) the name of your tour group on it.
- Do not wear bright colors in fall or winter.
- Do not dress overly casual, especially in Manhattan.
- Do not dress overly dressy unless you are going to a venue that calls for it.
The simplest thing to do is to pay close attention to what everyone else is wearing and dress like that. Even if you find you did not bring the appropriate clothes, chances are you were going to do some shopping on your trip anyway.
Not Acting Like a Tourist
While dressing like everyone else can be helpful, acting like everyone else is absolutely critical. There are many subtleties to the unwritten New York code of conduct, and there is no way to understand all of the proper etiquettes without living there for a while. However, here are a few pointers to act like you belong there:
- Do not constantly take photos of well-known tourist landmarks or locations, and (whatever you do) do not use a selfie stick.
- Keep your head down and do not make eye contact with others.
- Walk on the sidewalk like you would drive on a street. For instance, walk on the right side, do not stop abruptly, do not text and walk, etc.
- On the subway, have your MetroCard out and ready before reaching the turnstile. Also, let everyone exit a car before you try to enter and do not take up seats with your belongings.
- Above all, mind your own business.