The New Yorker Paradox: What We’re Really Like


New York and its people are everything that you might expect, and also nothing like the reputation that precedes us.  From the outside, New Yorkers seem always in a hurry, angry and sometimes just plain strange.  When I first arrived in NYC from sunny California, my born-and-bred New York boss told me that I was “too west coast” and I needed to “moooooooove EAST!”  What I learned over time is that she wasn’t criticizing me or my upbringing; in fact, she had hired me because of my experiences and the differences I brought to the party, and she simply expected me to adapt to the NYC culture by embracing speed, direct communication and an authentic expression of my ideas. (That and I was young and inexperienced. Wink!)

New Yorkers are unlike any other people in the world. Yes, we have a quick step, a no-nonsense gaze and often an unconventional look; but if you pay attention, you’ll spot our caring and community-driven pride. You’ll see it in our support of subway-platform musicians and our willingness to travel out to the far reaches of Queens for a great Chinese stir-fry.

But beyond any other defining characteristic, we are dreamers with a diverse collection of dreams!  If you doubt me, just look at our restaurants!  You want pudding?  We have a whole restaurant just for that.  Or rice pudding only?  Yep, one of those, too!  Cupcakes… didn’t that trend start right here?  We have restaurants that represent every cuisine, every dish, every country, all brought to life by foodie dreamers. Similarly, the rest of our New Yorkers, whether they be designers or dancers or advertising execs, aim high and come to New York because they heard that song, too! New York cultivates variety and rewards stout-hearted visionaries.

When you visit New York and want to live like a local, remember that most New Yorkers are trying to do the same thing – we were all rookies once, and we make room for new arrivals. You just gotta learn the rules of the game, and QUICK!

Here are five hot tips to blend in to the New York crowd in a New York Minute:  

  1. Know your cab-hailing etiquette, or better yet, take the subway, but DON’T linger on the stairs.  New Yorkers always have somewhere to be; let’s face it, there’s only 24 hours in every day and infinite things to do in the City that never sleeps, so New Yorkers are pros at fitting it all in.  The best way to irritiate a New Yorker is to steal their cab unknowingly, or linger on the stairs at the subway entrance.  And if you’re going to stare up at the Empire State Building, step to the side, please.
  2. Have boozy brunch.  New Yorkers love to meet up for brunch on Saturdays AND Sundays.  We will wait outside of a trendy new breakfast joint for an hour or more (and well into the afternoon), armed with our fair-trade lattes and New York Posts.  We love great, savory food trends, like cheesy grits and thick-cut bacon and Mimosas and Bloody Marys.  Brunch is a place and time where lingering is not only encouraged, but mandatory!
  3. Grab a coffee and a bun at the coffee carts.  When there’s no time for brunch, it’s all about the coffee carts that park at nearly every corner.  You can order your coffee black, tan (with milk), white (with lots of milk), and/or sweet.  Although vendors will be patient with questions, the rush of NYC applies here, too, so it’s best to know what you want when it’s your turn at the window.  My trick has always been to pay attention to the folks ahead of me until I get the hang of it!
  4. Venture outside of Manhattan.  New Yorkers go where the action is, and oftentimes, it is in the outer boroughs.  Queens Beer Garden in Astoria.  Live music and bowling at Brooklyn Bowl.  Views of the Statue of Liberty on the Staten Island ferry (free!).  The Bronx Zoo and Yankee Stadium!
  5. Be Different.  Be Fearless.  Be You.  The best thing about New York is all the different people. You WILL see the pink mohawks, the slickback-haired bankers, the fabulous magazine girls, the little dogs with better wardrobes than yours, the models and artists, the chefs, the students, the dancers, the children, the commuters, the party kids and park-going octogenarians.  Some of us have been here for generations, some of us only months.  What we all have in common is a strong personality and a thick skin (or the makings of one), which is what it takes to make it in this City.

If you come into NYC open to trying new things, meeting new people, and experiencing the unexpected, you won’t be disappointed.

Have you visited NYC and feel like I’ve missed an important characteristic of my fellow New Yorkers?  Do tell (via a comment below)!

Photo credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times 

About the author

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lynn has been hooked on traveling and eating weird things ever since her first trip to Vietnam at the age of 16. She loves to discover new places, people and things to eat, both around the world and in Brooklyn, New York. Recently embarking on a year-long journey through South America, Europe and the Far East, she has been documenting her travels for friends and family, and looks forward to sharing her experiences as a Travel Sage! When she’s not traveling, she lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and three orchid plants.

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