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5 Ways To Blend In While in New York City

Submitted by on March 3, 2010 – 6:52 pm
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Yeah, I'm in this picture.  But I blend in like Waldo.

Yeah, I'm in this picture. But I blend in like Waldo.

For millions of people, walking around New York City is a difficult enterprise to undertake. Whether you’re new to the city, or just visiting, there are people ready to give you the evil-eye at the slightest sign of incompetence. Do yourself a favor: before you venture out into the city next, read this list, strictly follow its advice, and you’ll be a local in no time.

1. Pronounce Houston Street correctly: “How-ston.” Houston street runs across Manhattan, east to west, and more than likely you’ll come across it in your travels. For some strange reason, mispronouncing this street is the number one way to look like you’re from somewhere else. It’s not pronounced like the city in Texas. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Most likely New Yorkers wanted to separate themselves as much as possible from the Lone Star State. You threaten to secede? Fine. We’ll pronounce incorrectly the only influence Texas has in New York City.

2. Know where you’re going before you leave your house/hotel. Yes, New York is big, and at times can be a bit overwhelming. With the presence of the internet, however, there’s no excuse for at least having a good idea of where you’re going. Look at a map, study it, and have some familiarity with how the streets work.

Google maps are perhaps the best way to do this. If you put in directions from your hotel to wherever you are going, then click “transit,” Google Maps gives you a very accurate description of which subways and busses you can take, when they leave, and where to transfer. If you’re really dedicated to this idea, use “street view” and “walk around” for a bit. The only downside to this is that you can’t get a slice of pizza this way…not yet at least. (Go, Google, go!)

See?  Look at that.  It's like looking at neat fence.

See? Look at that. It's like looking at neat fence.

3. If you’re looking for a numbered street, DO NOT ask someone where it is. In case you weren’t already aware, New York City is for the most a part a neatly organized grid. The streets go in order. Starting near the southern end of the city, going up towards Central Park, the streets ascend: downtown you would find 1st street, in midtown you’d find 50th street, and uptown you’d find 100th street.

Similarly, going east to west, the avenues go in basic order, starting at 1st avenue on the east, going all the way up to 12th avenue on the west. So just walk a block in one direction: if the number went up, and you want them to go down, just turn around.

It’s not completely simple, there are of course more complicated street patterns. I guess in that case it would be alright to ask for directions, but you run the risk of looking like a tourist.

4. When you walk, walk with purpose. Nothing says “I live in New York” like walking with your shoulders back, head straight forward, and walking at a brisk pace. New Yorkers are certainly in a hurry, so try and walk faster than the person in front of you. When you pass them, brush their shoulders with yours, and shake your head slightly from side to side. (Don’t look at them, as this would be too aggressive a move.) Continue walking on, and pass the next person. You’ll be surprised at how good this actually feels.

5. Do not pay attention to crosswalk signals. This is the surest way to look like you’re a local. New Yorkers never pay attention to the signals on crosswalks, only to the oncoming traffic. Many streets in New York are one-way, so checking for oncoming cars is simple. If it’s safe, then go. Don’t be halted by all the do-gooders who stand like puppies, waiting for the go-ahead. Be a virile lion, take charge, and cross the street.

There are many more ways of blending in, these are just the most obvious ones. Don’t worry if these ideas scare you, I’m not from New York, either. I learned these like anyone else would– months of looking like exactly what I was: not from around here.

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  • Tom M says:

    Houston St. has nothing to do with Sam Houston. In fact it had that name before anyone (aside from his parents) had ever heard of the Texan.

  • Paul says:

    Right you are, Tom!

    I should have placed historical before anecdotal. Apologies to all history buffs!

  • Dayna C. says:

    Great tips Paul! I can do all of them except for the last one. ive been to NY a couple of times and still feel like im jaywalking. i guess im a puppy standing do-gooder!!! :(

  • [...] people, walking around New York City is a difficult enterprise to undertake. Whether you’re a new New Yorker, or just visiting, there are people ready to give you the evil-eye at the slightest sign of [...]

  • Your tips definitely made me chuckle… the last one might be a bit dangerous though – most people are not used to the fast-paced traffic in NYC. =)
    .-= Cancun Travel Guide´s last blog ..Who wants to swim with dolphins in Cancun? =-.

  • stugod says:

    I would love to come one day and see New york City, I always wanted to come on Concord but not very likely now
    .-= stugod´s last blog ..Welcome to the 3d world of turbocad =-.

  • Lea Myers says:

    One of my favorite things to do is to walk in the streets of New York. The city is magnificent as it is and for me, you cannot compare it to any other city in the world.

    Lea Myers
    My last blog post: Alfani Shoes

  • Kate Wilson says:

    The advice that you are sharing is good, many tourist need to knows what are the things they will need to remember before they will visit the New York city.

    My last blog post:
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  • What you said, “When you walk, walk with purpose.” goes hand in hand with knowing where you are going before leaving the house and not asking where a numbered street is. I have gotten lost in NY, though it was not a scary experience, it was rather frustrating. Thanks for the cool tips.

  • Bob Homes says:

    “Be a virile lion, take charge, and cross the street.”

    Tourists do this in Chicago too: stand goofily at crosswalks when there’s no traffic coming in any direction. Just cross the street, people!

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