How to be a New York local: 11 tips for faking it

Story highlights

Resist urge to break into that Frank Sinatra song. Then read this list

Know when to take a cab and when to take the subway

Don't look up -- ever

Don't fawn over celebs, except for one

CNN  — 

New York: It’s the city that gave the world Martin Scorsese, the Ramones and proper bagels (thanks, local tap water).

While most visitors will never experience all its boroughs – indeed, they’ll likely fail to go south of Houston Street – there are certain characteristics that will land you in good stead from Chelsea to Coney Island, or at least stop New Yorkers from urging you to get on your tractor and ride back to Iowa.

Memorize them and begin your deception.

1. A New Yorker doesn’t necessarily come from Manhattan

Thanks to Woody Allen, the world sees all New Yorkers as apartment-dwelling self-obsessives who are unable to operate automobiles.


While the Woodman offers eerily accurate portraits of Manhattan – and certain chunks of Brooklyn – the other boroughs have their own unique character, including neighborhoods full of single family homes with yards and readily available free parking.

That said, since as a tourist you won’t come anywhere near these areas unless you fall asleep on the subway …

2. For your purposes, a New Yorker is from Manhattan

It’s a world of skyscrapers and parking garages that cost as much as an Ivy League education, with the result that while automobiles are virtual necessities in the rest of the United States, a New Yorker casually revealing that he owns two cars is a display of wealth akin to taking a Faberge egg from your pocket and making it into an omelet.

Returning to the skyscrapers …

3. A New Yorker never looks up

“King Kong” is highly unrealistic. Not because of the ape climbing the Empire State Building, but the fact that New Yorkers noticed.

"You guys from Iowa or Idaho?"

New Yorkers do not look up. Ever.

Most of us are deeply proud of our skyline, but haven’t actually looked at it since a second grade class trip to the Statue of Liberty.

Why don’t New Yorkers look up? Because …

4. A New Yorker never stops moving forward

Tourists find New York a place of endless wonder (Times Square in particular seems to enchant them), to the point that sometimes they’re walking along and they just need to freeze right in the middle of the sidewalk and take a photo of Guy Fieri’s restaurant.

Worse, they’re strolling through Grand Central Station and notice that the ceiling has stars painted on it!

This makes actual New Yorkers apoplectic, for…

5. A New Yorker is always rushing to catch a subway or a bus or a train

The vast majority of New Yorkers rely on the vagaries of public transportation and they know when the subway doors close just as you arrive it may mean you get the next one in two minutes or that you never see home again.

This is worst-case scenario, but with track construction and train re-routings and the dreaded “Police are investigating a crime at the 59th and Lexington Station” announcement, best not to risk it.

Because if there’s a subway standstill and you’re not near a bus route, you have to take a cab and …

Many New Yorkers have refined needs.

6. A New Yorker doesn’t take cabs

Exceptions to this rule: someone’s had so much to drink they can’t remember their subway line or you live in Queens and need to get to LaGuardia Airport.

Even expense accounts or unspeakable personal riches don’t justify cabs, as by then you should have graduated to a town car. Which brings us back to the subway …

7. A New Yorker knows subway etiquette

If you see someone having trouble standing because of age, injury or an infant, give them your seat.

That said, if the 64-year-old woman who still trains for marathons every weekend feels like being on her feet, do not think chivalry compels you to forcibly bench her.

Also, if a subway car pulls up and you notice two-thirds of it is packed and the last third is empty, everyone’s not too stupid to walk to the end: they just smell something you don’t yet. If you’re not prepared to brave the stench, save yourself the embarrassment and stay with the crowd.

Since you’re already saving by taking the subway …

Someone hand this man a giant beverage.

8. A New Yorker sees no shame in 99-cent pizza

While every New Yorker has their favorite pizza place – often, they have a favorite for each borough, such as Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn or Sac’s in Queens – it’s also accepted that city life is both costly and rushed. As a result, grabbing a slice from 2 Bros or one of NYC’s other dollar vendors is perfectly acceptable.

Unless it’s Papa John’s (the line has to be drawn somewhere). One final financial tip …

9. A New Yorker knows not to rent a car in New York

Things in New York tend to be pricey, so you’ll feel ripped off, then you’re smacked with the state’s brutal 19.875% special sales tax rate on rental cars.

Yes, New York actually sort of justifies the gouge by implying, “Hey, actual New Yorkers aren’t stupid enough to pay this.”

The result is finding yourself stuck in rush hour wondering if it would have been cheaper just to buy a vehicle.

More reasonable rentals can be had by taking Metro-North to Connecticut or NJ Transit to New Jersey. New Jersey is, of course, the home to New York’s two confusingly named NFL teams, which leads us to …

10. A New Yorker understands the implications of rooting for the Giants/Yankees versus the Jets/Mets

In the last 25 years, the Giants have won three Super Bowls and the Yankees five World Series. The Jets and Mets combined for zero titles, with most seasons more grim than glorious.

To compensate, the Jets/Mets have done their best to provide off-field entertainment, like Jet Coach Rex Ryan making foot-fetish videos with his wife and then-Met outfielder Vince Coleman lobbing firecrackers at fans.

Ask yourself: “Would I rather gloat or complain?” then pick your teams accordingly.

And should you happen to meet Jet QB/butt-fumbler extraordinaire Mark Sanchez …

Give him a hug, he won't mind.

11. A New Yorker views celebrities as regular folk, only worse

Whereas in other cities commoners fawn over the beautiful people, New Yorkers show their respect by going out of their way to let them know that they may have put out some OK songs with Led Zeppelin, but that doesn’t give them the right to take two seats at the bar, Robert Plant.

So, if you see someone you recognize from TV, don’t be intimidated: just march right up and demand to know what possessed them to make “The Love Guru.”

Unless the celeb is Woody Allen, in which case give him a hug and a wet kiss. (Don’t worry, he loves it.)

Follow these tips and you’ll be passing yourself off as a local in no time.

And even if you fail, remember: A tourist in New York is still better than a local in Boston.