This section is to help you slip into New York culture. No one wants to look like a tourist, because tourists are annoying and get in the way. You can always spot one, camera in hand, wearing sneakers to avoid blisters after a long day sight- seeing, and dining in franchise restaurants out of fear of trying more local and unfamiliar cuisine.
Our list here will help you, give you the true NYC experience, and keep you out of the clutches of rip off merchants.
Leave your guide books at home
Sounds strange and stupid, right? Well only a little bit. First off, everyone hates those people who stand in the middle of side walks, head down engrossed in a map or guide book- oblivious of the pedestrians around them that want to get past. Don’t be one of those people. Even other tourists get annoyed by those people, and more than likely, you will be verbally abused.
Read your guidebooks before you leave the house, over breakfast or before you go to sleep the night before. Know where you’re going before you step onto the busy sidewalk! If you need to double check, pull over to the side so you’re not in the way, or better yet- pull out the books and maps over a coffee break so you can concentrate more.
Secondly, by leaving the guidebooks out, your bags/ backpacks will be much lighter and less likely to hurt your back later! If you need to, rip out the maps or make notes that you can refer to. If you can’t part with the guidebooks, buy the less heavy, smaller editions like “Best of New York” from Lonely Planet.
Don’t dilly dally
This has many positive results. Genuine New Yorkers know where they’re going and how to go about it. If you don’t want to look like a tourist, be confident and walk with authority. NYC moves at a mile a minute and its residents will expect you to also! Once you have your bearing, walk there quickly. Not only will you save precious time and see more, but you won’t get pushed or shoved out of the way, or even sworn at as people pass you. The most important positive with this one, is that you’ll burn tonnes of calories if you walk fast which means you can eat more hot dogs.
Avoid tourist attire
It can be tempting when you’re in a new city to dress for comfort rather than style. This is fair enough, since you’re the one who has to put up with annoying clothing or sore feet at the end of a long day. But keep in mind that New York is a global fashion capital and there are some places where sneakers just won’t do.
Ditch the sneakers and try comfortable walking shoes instead, there are heaps of funky and dressy styles that won’t have you feeling dowdy. Sportswear is a popular option for tourists, but try to mix up styles and designs by wearing a jacket instead of a sweater, or trousers instead of jeans. Not only will you feel more comfortable if you stop for a nice lunch or dinner, but shopping in upscale areas will be less embarrassing and you’ll get less cruel stares.
Starbucks is the devil
Yeah, there will always be Starbucks and McDonalds, but do you really need to go there? You can go to those places back home any time you want. Try eating and drinking where the locals do, ask around- the local newsagent or cab driver will know. A good bet is your hotel receptionist or bellhop if you find one. Try hot dogs sold from pavement vendors, hot pretzels and coffee houses without a trademark, you’ll probably find better quality there anyway, not to mention possibly save some cash!
Get used to the smell
New York has rubbish. Not just a little bit either, loads and loads of it. It lines the streets in central Manhattan, despite being cleaned away every day. Get used to bad smells and brief wafts of strange stench whenever you pass a dark alley. While the smell of rot is a little more subdued in winter, it’s still not going to go away, so don’t let it ruin your sight- seeing walkabouts.
Have eyes in the back of your head
If you don’t know where you’re going, and you probably don’t, don’t get caught up in the atmosphere of it all. Crime in New York is rampant just like all the TV shows tell us, but you still have to be smart about what you do and how you go about it. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times, don’t leave stuff sitting around- as you might as well put up a sign that says ‘I don’t know where I am, so feel free to rob me’. Don’t walk around with bags unzipped or flash your money around. Yes yes, all the stuff your mother tells you when you go travelling without her…
Put the more expensive stuff out of view for as much time as possible. That digital camera around your neck is begging to be snatched in the crush of Times Square peak hour. Only pop it out when you need to along with phones, PDA’s, laptops and freshly bought goodies. Ladies, don’t go for the obligatory jog in Central Park alone, or after dark (even with a running buddy).
Keep your eyes open to the people around you and where you’re travelling. Dark alleys with dead ends are not good places to hang around! Enough lectures, you should know the fundamental rules already.