How to Survive New York as a Non-New Yorker

Coming to Manhattan College from a state outside of New York, I definitely expected to find several differences in the New York culture- the accents, the food, the fast-paced lifestyle, etc. What I learned is that New York City is a world in it of itself. Coming to New York from somewhere far away, I might as well have been coming from Mars.

So for those who are outsiders like me, I have compiled a list over my past two and a half years here of what could be considered the rules of New York, for those coming from outer states.

1.       Bagels are important

New York bagels aren’t a food, they’re a lifestyle.

No breakfast is complete without one. In fact, bagels can and should be eaten for any and all meals of the day. They are a staple food for any household, and if you happen to run out you can guarantee that wherever you are at any point in time there will be a bagel store in walking distance. No other bagel will ever compare to the ones you will buy in this great state. However you like them; toasted, buttered, with cream cheese, jelly, eggs and bacon, lox, they are the perfect cure to any hangover (and any kind of sadness, really).

So go ahead, eat as much of New York’s greatest treasures you can find, and don’t you dare worry about the calories.

2.       Walk fast

In New York (City, in particular) slow walkers will NOT be tolerated. You walk fast. You stay out of everyone’s way. You are always in a rush (ALWAYS) and you don’t look anyone in the eye and smile or people will think they’re supposed to know you from somewhere. You keep up with the pace, you keep your headphones in, and you don’t slow down because they will trample you and take no mercy. Walk the streets like you are turning the pavement into gold and make everyone who passes fear you. Don’t be afraid to cross the street when the light is red and don’t take it personally if no one says “sorry” if they bump into you while rushing to get on the subway. It happens.

3.       Drive faster

You will gain an impeccable amount of road rage after living in New York. Horns will honk at all hours of the day, people will yell at cars who cannot hear what they are saying because, well they are cars and cannot hear. You’ll be dodging crazy drivers on a daily basis. The road is anyone’s game, and everyone is always in a rush so you need to get there right now! And FAST!!

4.       Black goes with everything

Wear black with everything you wear and never have any shame. Don’t question it. Wear black on black on black on black. Before you know it, all the color in your closet will slowly and mysteriously begin to disappear and you won’t even be sorry about it. Black is the new black. Black is the old black. Go buy some black shoes. Dye your hair black.


5.       It’s ON Long Island

Listen to me- never ever (and I mean EVER) say that something is “in” Long Island. There is no such thing as “in” Long Island. Everything contained in that particular island of land is ON Long Island, and unless you want to feel the wrath of every Long Islander to ever exist, just say “on.” ALWAYS say “on.”

6.       Delis

Delis are the lifeblood of New York; you can essentially buy anything you will ever need there (beer and sandwiches wise) all at a great price. There’s one on nearly every block and everyone has their favorite deli-of-choice where they have the take out number on speed dial and every worker knows their name and order by heart. Delis are open until the wee hours of the morning for all your alcohol induced cravings, and they are not afraid to put anything and everything you might ever dream on a sandwich.

In short, delis are your life now. Embrace it.

7.       The “Upstate” debate

The border separating “Upstate New York” compared to everywhere else will NEVER be settled. Some will argue that upstate starts as soon as you go above the city, while others will tell you the line is drawn up towards the Syracuse/Buffalo area. Nevertheless, New York residents will be fighting over these lines until the end of time, it’s just one of those arguments we need to agree to disagree on.

8.       The “hero”

Where I come from, the type of bread you use to make long sandwiches is a “hoagie” or a “sub,” it wasn’t until I came to New York when I realized that everyone else thinks differently. To me, a hero would be considered a Superman or Spiderman type figure, but everyone here is quite passionate that it is first and foremost a sandwich, and I’m too intimidated to disagree.

New Yorkers take their sandwiches very seriously. Don’t mess with that.

9.       Times Square sucks

“Let’s go to Times Square!” said no New Yorker ever.

In fact, the only people who actually enjoy Times Square are the people who’ve never been there before. You see it once and the bright flashy lights on the big buildings seem pretty neat, but once you live in the city it becomes your own personal hell. A hell where creepy men in Spiderman costumes chase you down the street. You can’t walk anywhere because every tourist is walking .03mph trying to take pictures on their selfie sticks, the subway station is a death trap, there are people trying to sell you something on every corner, and it smells like pee and McDonalds.

New York City is home to some of THE most beautiful sights, neighborhoods, and attractions in the world, and contrary to popular tourist opinion – Times Square is not one of them. Go to the Upper West Side, go to the Village, go to Central Park, go to Brooklyn, but you avoid Times Square like it’s the plague.

10.   No other pizza will compare

Pizza that is not New York pizza shouldn’t even be called “pizza,” it’s not even worthy of the name. I don’t know what kind of magical ingredients they put in a NY slice that makes it so much better than every other pizza in the entire world, but it is, in fact, SO much better than every other pizza in the entire world. It’s cheesy, it’s greasy, the sauce is authentic and the slice itself is as big as your face. Plus, you can get it for a dollar. ONE DOLLAR. There is nothing else you can get in New York for that cheap except this not-so-rare delicacy, so go ahead, buy one! Buy two! Buy seven! But please, don’t get Sbarros.

Just look at that beauty.

11.   The love/hate relationship with the MTA

Every New Yorkers best friend and worst enemy – the transit system. Commuting is expensive and trains get delayed, crowded, and smell bad, but you can’t live without it. New Yorkers are beyond lucky to have these pain-in-the-butt trains to take them anywhere they need to go, whether it’s the subway, the Metro North, or the LIRR you can go essentially anywhere. Getting to work, school, or any city location is easy, and despite the daily struggle with catching the right train, you can always count on them to take you home.

OH, but be afraid of the LIRR after dark. Be very afraid.