There are a number of intricacies that New York living has to offer. Here are the top 25 things only New Yorkers would understand about living in the big apple:
1. The subway.
Having gone to school in Boston and gotten used to its fairly straightforward subway system, New York’s MTA came as a big surprise to me. It was initially one of the most confusing, nerve-wracking subway maps to master, but surely the New Yorker will get the hang of it. For more on the infamous New York subway, read the local lowdown here.
2. The beauty of a gridded street system.
The ability to literally count your way home is something no other city offers quite like New York, and is another urbane trick that New Yorkers can uniquely appreciate. The grid-like urban layout and numbering system helps New Yorkers strut these streets like a hound.
3. The difference between St. and Ave.
When giving directions, well-seasoned New Yorkers will always distinguish between a St. and an Ave. This is often a casual but telling nuance that can quickly discern a long time local from a newbie New Yorker.
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4. Seeing everything you never expected to see in one place is not strange.
From the iconic naked cowboy in Times Square to half-naked subway patrons during the No Pants Subway Ride prank in January, there is not much you won’t see while in the big apple – and that’s perfectly normal.
5. Winter during every month of the year.
While Boston proved that flip flops were not a seasonal staple, New York showed me that winter can surprise visit nearly any month of the year, for as long as it wants. New Yorkers who have survived the seasons know what I’m talking about here.
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6. A winter-wonderland, white Christmas.
Now while it sounds like the wintery months in New York get a bad rap, there is something that New Yorkers get to experience unlike anyone else, anywhere else in the world: a winter-wonderland, white Christmas. There’s something about New York during the holidays that (from indoors) is truly spectacular, cozy, and festive. The street lights, footprints in the snow, frosted windows and falling snowflakes all make for a classic holiday, and one that New Yorkers know best.
7. Getting lost because you went Uptown instead of Downtown.
While the subway system often proves tricky for out-of-towners and tourists, it’s also not uncommon for well-versed New Yorkers to make this classic error in transit. There’s nothing quite like realizing 20 minutes into your ride on the subway that you are headed in the wrong direction, and there’s no one quite like a New Yorker to have experienced this blunder aplenty.
New Yorkers definitely beast all in the brunching game. Sundays are a day of stacked waffles, foodie shots on Instagram, and catching up with friends. Ultimately, the breakfast-lunch zygote is the way to a New Yorker’s heart, and one with which they cannot part.
9. Close contact.
Sure there are some cold stares and solitary struts on the sidewalks, but once New Yorkers get on the subway, there’s no way they’re getting out without getting squeezed in like a sardine and offended by swingings backpacks, sweaty armpits, and a serious case of butt-bumping. In a nutshell, New Yorkers have a unique understanding of what it means to experience close contact – in every way they probably never wanted (for more on surviving the armpit-tasting, backpack-whacking adventures called the subway, check out my post here).
10. Indistinguishably strong smells coming at you from every corner.
If it’s not burning halal (more on burning halal here), it’s either cigarette smoke, car fuel, or construction fumes that are likely offending your olfactory senses. New Yorkers know better than to try and distinguish these smells because 1) really, aint nobody got the time for that and 2) because it is nearly impossible.
11. A city that never sleeps.
So cliche, but so true. You will never hear New York snore. To snooze is to lose in the big apple, and there’s no one better than the New Yorker to reap the benefits of a bustling nightlife without end, taxi’s abound, and late night eateries to grab a bite to eat at any hour.
12. Working hard, playing hard.
New York is a tough city to turn up, with high levels of career competition, even higher rents, and harsh weather. So, while New Yorkers know how to work hard, they also know how to play hard. After all, New York is a playground with boundless opportunities and experiences to be had, and New Yorkers learn to take advantage of it.
Want to know how locals make it in the city? Read: The Survivor’s Guide to Living in New York City
13. Flying cock-a-roaches.
Ask any New Yorker what one of their all-time city-living gripes is and they will surely mention this flying little friend. Often (but not only) making their grand appearances in basement apartments, these “house pets” are iconic of what New Yorkers loathe about life in the city.
14. Eating lunch at your desk, or not eating lunch at all.
Perhaps one of the most classic habits of life in New York is the tendency for people to neglect a legit lunch hour. The speed of the city is contagious and often times carried over into eating patterns and primordial priorities.
15. Coffee, bagels, and pastrami sandwiches.
Life is here. New York knows these three staples like no other city and naturally then so do New Yorkers. If gym, tan, laundry is The Situation’s motto then coffee, bagels, and pastrami sandwiches is the New Yorker’s.
16. The reality of the corner deli.
The corner deli game is real in New York. New Yorkers know what it’s like for a corner deli to not only literally be on the corner, but also for it to be on almost every corner.
17. The irritation of missing an arriving subway because your card won’t swipe properly.
I believe I have developed an allergic reaction to the sound of an incorrect subway card swipe. New Yorkers know this moment of intense frustration best because they know what it feels like to be a lucky bastard one minute who’s about to catch the subway on time, and like a total moron who cannot properly swipe their subway pass after four tries.
18. Mesmerization of tourists.
Gather ’round, New Yorkers, because this one’s a real classic. New Yorkers will often be mesmerized by tourists not because they are mesmerizing, but because of how mesmerized they look. Mouths open, eyes wide, bushy tails wagging side to side, any New Yorker will agree that there’s nothing quite as captivating as watching the typical NYC tourist meander the city for the very first time. Watching scraggling tourists on the subway as they attempt to demystify the subway map and not miss their stop is often times so enthralling that it can make even the most astute New Yorker almost miss their own.
19. Not knowing what time of day it is because you live in a basement.
Most New Yorkers will have experienced classic New York-style basement living. So, to experience New York in full is to experience life as what often feels like a mole rat living underground, without any indication of time, season, month, or year in sight.
20. Ordering take-out at 1 A.M. because Seamless exists.
New Yorkers have all had those astonishingly late nights of take-out, made possible by Seamless being “a thing.” Chinese at sunrise? Check. Milkshakes and burgers at the break of dawn? If they’re open, it’s happened.
21. Embarrassing number of Seamless orders.
Let’s face it. When work runs late, the train is lingering, and you’re starving, there’s no one better by your side than Seamless. The number of times you’ve promised yourself to get home early next time and make a home-cooked meal is also embarrassingly high, and increasingly harder to satisfy when Seamless saves your order so conveniently for next time…
22. Not understanding why a fruit salad costs $9 and tastes like it should be $2.
This is unfortunately a common predicament. While New Yorkers understand this situation like no other, it’s not hard for them to ask themselves what they’re thinking – and what they were thinking when they bought it.
23. Realizing Uber is still uber expensive.
Nothing in NY is cheap, free or frivolous. Taxis will cost you a pretty penny and, while touted as a less expensive alternative, Uber still adds up. While hitching rides across town are nevertheless convenient, New Yorkers know that convenience never comes cheap.
24. “New York’s best” does not mean New York’s best.
As a tourist hot-spot, New York is sprinkled with restaurants, cafes, shops, and spots that claim to be the city’s one-hit-wonder. Tried and true locals know, however, that talk is cheap and that claims to fame are to be taken lightly. New Yorkers know to do their homework on what parts of town to hit and which scanty joints to miss.
25. There are more than 25 things that New Yorkers can uniquely appreciate, but that they don’t have enough time to appreciate.
At the end of the day, New Yorkers have an amazing city at the edge of their feet, which they often times are too busy, too frantic and too stressed to completely take advantage of. There is always a laundry list of things that New Yorkers dream to accomplish or experience in the city but are simply too caught up in the motions of daily life to actually fulfill – and what makes them true New Yorkers is that they know it.
Did you enjoy reading about life in the city? Be sure to check out You Know You Live in New York When and How to Make it in Manhattan for more on the adventures of living in NYC!