Planning a trip to new york? “How To Not Be A Douchebag Tourist In NYC”

I didn’t write this, but do the right thing, read up.

As someone who has spent quite a bit of time there over the years, trust me.. ALL of this rings true..

Feel free to add your own ideas in comments if you are a native.


Millions of people visit New York City every year. Unfortunately, naive visitors throw a wrench into the delicate gears of this busy city with their clueless meanderings and obtrusive groups. Because of this, tourists are the most despised group of people in a city that likes to hate judge people.

Here are a few unwritten laws of the land that you must follow to avoid coming across as a total douche, and pissing everyone around you off in the process.

Driving: Don’t. Public transportation here works. Take it. But if you must drive, we have some rules, so we suggest you do so with this in mind: everyone else is trying to get where they’re going as fast as f**king possible. If you can go, go–stop only for red lights, children, dogs, other cars, bicycles, motorcycles/Chinese delivery men and pedestrians with the right of way.

Get used to changing lanes, merging and driving close to other sh*t. In New York, we change lanes–a lot–looking for a better path. Don’t be afraid of it. Just pay attention to what’s happening around you (that’s called driving) and you’ll be alright.

The merge is what keeps everything moving. To properly merge in slow traffic (like entrances to bridges and tunnels), someone should be let in every other car. That means, you should let in one person only, and move forward. Unlike driving in the rest of the country, in New York, lane merges happen at the last possible point (like at a fork in the road, not three miles before). Because of our ever-other-car rule, it happens faster than anywhere else! Especially since you aren’t expected to drop down to 45 mph for half an hour leading up to the merge point, *cough* *cough*…

Lastly, New York is tightly packed. Don’t be surprised if people are on your bumper, or walking extra close to your car. It’s how it is. Deal with it and don’t freak out. Good thing is, if you’re doing anything wrong, we’ll be sure to let you know…*honk* *honk*

Ordering Food or Drinks: Figure out your entire order before getting to the counter, bar, or having a waitress come over. Once someone asks you what you want, tell them as quickly and coherently as possible. Have money ready. If you’re standing in line, move out of the way so others can step forward. The goal is to complete the transaction as quickly as possible.

Walking: It’s extremely expensive to live here, so time really is money. For that reason, New Yorkers walk fast (also, we don’t like having giant fat asses). And as with driving, we’re all trying to get from A to B without stopping, if possible. If you don’t feel like taking the heel-toe express, move to the right side of the sidewalk, so others can get past. And don’t wander side-to-side–that will definitely piss someone off. Also, even if you have children, don’t hold hands across the entire sidewalk. (The abundant failure to do these things is why New Yorkers hate Times Square, and avoid it like plague.)

J-walking is not only allowed in New York, it’s both expected and necessary. If people didn’t do it, there would be massive crowds at every corner. But it’s your responsibility to not get run over. Even though most streets are one-way, look both ways every time before crossing–a bike messenger going the wrong direction can take you out as easily as a daydreaming cabby.

Don’t stand in groups at street corners, subway entrances or in front of doors. Basically, just make sure you’re not in anybody’s way, ever, and you’ll be good to go.

Personal Space: Like everyone, we have our own definition of personal space. In New York, staring at someone on the street is unacceptable, and could get you beat up, depending on who you’re staring at. (Quick glances are ok–how else are you going to check out all the hot chicks that are everywhere.)

Talking to strangers without an expressed purpose is also a no-no. Never touch anyone if you don’t have to. Only during rush hour, in packed trains and buses, is physical contact with strangers acceptable. But even then, find your millimeter of space between you, your belongings and everything else.

Riding the Subway: First, get a subway map from the booth at a station. They’re free. Study it, and plan where you’re going to go. If you’re in town for more than three days, get the “7-day unlimited” Metro Card (what gets you into the subway system), which allows one person unlimited rides (one, every 18 minutes) on the subway for seven days from the day you first use it. Using a Metrocard at a turnstyle can be tricky. Swipe it too fast or slow and it won’t work. Instead, swipe the card as quickly as you would a debit card, and you should be good.

When a train pulls up, stand to the left or right of the door, against the train, and let the people off. If it’s crowded, or a lot of people are getting on at your station, move as far into the train as possible. Don’t push, but squeezing by and saying “excuse me” is acceptable.

When stuck standing near the doors of a crowded train, do not just stand in the way when people are trying to get on and off at a station. Get off the train, and let people off, then get back on, or move deeper into the car.

If seats are available, whoever’s first to make the move to the seat gets it. If you’re already sitting, offer your seat to any pregnant woman, elderly person or mother with small children–we all do this, if you refuse, you’re a d*ck.

Dress: First, don’t f**king wear Crocs, don’t let anyone you’re with wear Crocs and don’t tell anybody you own a pair back home. They’re uglier than pretty much anything else in the city, and that’s saying something. New Yorkers don’t wear shorts and only chicks wear sandals, so stick with long pants, jeans, and dark color shirts–light colored button-downs are ok–dress shoes or Nike Dunks. Avoid Hawaiian shirts and NASCAR apparel like your life depends on it. Pastels suck, and fanny packs and passport lanyards scream “douche” from a block away.

Dealing With Crazy and/or Homeless People: You will run into crazy and/or homeless people. Ignore them.

Tipping: It might be acceptable to tip a dollar regardless of the bill in the rest of the country, but a thing like that could get you killed in New York. Here, 18 to 20-percent tipping in restaurants and taxis is standard and expected. So, if you’re dinner bill is $35, leave at $7 tip (3.5×2). At bars, leave a dollar per drink. Don’t, and you’ll have to wait forever to get served, if the bartender will serve you at all. And never leave coins as a tip. That’s not even real money, here.

Visiting Friends/Family: If you’re visiting a friend or relative that lives in New York, do not expect them to plan out your entire itinerary. We are too damn busy to manage your life and ours at the same time. And never ask them to go with you to the main tourist attractions (Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, etc…)–they’re expensive, crowded and we see all that sh*t every day. If you need directions, we’re more than happy to give them to you, but never expect us to hold your hand the whole way. This is an easy city to navigate, figure it out.

When staying at a New Yorker’s apartment, keep all your belongings as hidden and out of the way as possible. Our apartments are small, and we don’t have room for your sh*t. After a few days of navigating around shopping bags and souvenirs, we’re bound to get annoyed enough to never invite you back.

Oh, and don’t ask us to pick you up or take you to the airport. We have plenty of cabs, trains and buses to do that for us, and we don’t want to, anyway.

General Guidelines and Must-Know Lingo: These are some guidelines, terms and phrases you should know before arriving.

  • If you don’t know where to go, ask directions. We will happily help you. But only ask once. If you forget, you’re on your own.
  • Keep your wallet in your front pocket, and don’t walk around with your money out.
  • PAY ATTENTION to everything you’re doing. We have to, and so do you.
  • Don’t talk to people in elevators.
  • The City: Manhattan (as opposed to the other four boroughs of New York City)
  • Uptown: North, Upper East Side, Upper West Side and Harlem.
  • Downtown: South; also refers to anywhere south of 14th street, most often used when referencing the Lower East Side, SoHo (south of Houston), NoHo (north of houston) and the Village.
  • Houston: Pronounced “house-ton,” not like the city in Texas.
  • The Train: the subway
  • F**king move!: “Excuse me, please get out of my way quickly.”
  • Let me get: “May I have…” Used when ordering anything. Not considered rude.

13 thoughts on “Planning a trip to new york? “How To Not Be A Douchebag Tourist In NYC”

  1. I’d like to point out that there is an ordering expectation as well. Anyone who has seen the soup nazi episode of Seinfeld, please note this is not out of the question. If you don’t know what you want get out of the line!

  2. Eh, not all of this is true. Like the dress code. Nike Dunks will get a glare or two. Pretty much – just don’t wear khaki, fanny packs, most hats, or running shoes. Jeans, a t shirt and a blazer is the uniform of the men of NY, besides hipsters and shit. Also, do not wear anything Boston Red Sox. It WILL get you killed.

    A note to tourists: I’m a NY native and I honestly have never been to the Empire State Building or the Plaza, and I don’t feel at a loss. It’s kind of sad – the tourists don’t even wind up seeing the cool things. Times square, 5th Avenue, pff. Here’s a list of things that are actually worth doing:

    Wave Hill on Palisade Avenue, Riverdale, The Bronx: A beautiful, lush garden and cultural center. Here, you can chill out a bit and wacth the clouds go by — you’d never think it was New York if you didn’t live there.

    Di Fara Pizza on Avenue J, Brooklyn: Probably the best, and most expensive, pizza in all of New York City. Around five dollars a slice, but freaking amazing. The only one allowed to touch the pizza is the old guy, Di Fara himself, and no one else.

    Arthur Avenue, The Bronx: The little little Italy. Although Italians no longer live here, the tradition still thrives. Check out Roberto’s, where there are no reservations and the line leads out the door, Zero-Otto-Nova, a McDonald’s-turned-Caesar’s-Palace-type restaurant, and Teitel Brothers, a grocery selling a range of fresh ingrediants, that happens to put out a “Happy Passover” sign in the spring, among many others.

    Shake Shack, Colombus Avenue, Manhattan: For your inner fatass.

    Boat Basin Cafe: Situated by the 79th Street Boat Basin, this restaurant offers a gorgeous view of the river, although the food honestly isn’t amazing amazing. It’s a little bit hard to find, being underground but the locals, however intimidating they may look, will be glad to help you out.

    The Museum of Television and Radio, W 52nd Street, Manhattan: Hours and hours of I Love Lucy, what more can I say?

    Eh, there’s more cool stuff that I can’t think of because that’s how it always works — you can’t find things when you need them, but ask around. Again, us New Yorkers aren’t as prickly as we look.

    A note to female tourists: Keep your bag between you and the creepy man next to you on the subway at all times.

  3. Haha, good stuff, man. It’s all so very true. First time I went to New York, I was your typical tourist. Taking pictures of EVERYTHING, gawking, etc. I’ve learned over the years, though. I suppose you’re preaching to the choir a bit. All the same, agree with all of it.

  4. Ololo omg… “Don’t talk to people, don’t dress like that, don’t do that, be a fucking metropolitan robot”

  5. Half true, and half utter ass-f*ck b.s. Getting out of the way (e.g. staying out of the bike lane when walking across the the Brooklyn bridge taking snaps) is just common decency. Suggesting that men MUST wear sports coats/MUST NOT wear sneakers (WTF dude), is just, well, the epitome of Douchebaggery. A true New Yorker (always in spirit, not zip code) is a proud, ballsy individual who (as long as it doesn’t impede traffic;) marches to the beat of their own drum. If you have never been to this wonder of a city, sure – pls do try to be respectful of people around you like you should in any other busy metropolitan center (we DO have jobs etc. to get to while you are on vacation after all ;), but also, and most importantly, DO relax, take it all in and have FUN!!! Some ‘New Yorkers’ take themselves way too seriously (by example, insisting that there is a dress code in the city…there emphatically is not…unless you are going out for dinner or some other formal-eque place where common sense would have you step it up a bit, at home, or in NYC). In my experience, these are a breed of folk who move to New York and try to hard to fit in the entire rest of their lives without realizing that that at the core of every authentic NTC heart lives a people loving, urban adventurer who is glad you came to check out our city and will give you directions/advice freely and happily so that you can experience part of the reason we love this place! There are robots in every city and town across the world, so don’t be discouraged if you bump into one or two tun hearts in New York – you’ll bump into waaaay more cool, hip, chill folk too – just apologize and be on your urban adventuring way! It’s the Big Apple after all. Take a bite.

  6. I left the city many years ago, but most of this was true then and now! Some of it made me laugh out loud. But, not so sure about the fashion advice… sure, no crocs or fanny packs, but some of us think blazers are kinda douchey, so it depends on the crowd you hang with, if you’re working class, person of color, queer, etc. Otherwise, pretty much right on!

  7. I’m a proud Noo Yawker now in enforced exile in East Flyspeck, Ohio, but I get back there every chance I get. I just LOVE to watch the brains of Ohioans and other midwestern types lock up as they walk down the street and are forced to make more decisions in 10 minutes than they do in a month in their benighted hometowns. Great fun.

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