You should feel free to wear whatever you want to wear and do whatever you want to do, but just in case you want to act like a New Yorker while you're here, I've made a list of tips:
1. Don't wear capri pants with sneakers and socks. Nothing will tip us all off that you're not a New Yorker faster than colorful capri pants with white socks and sneakers. We're not so big on capri pants in general here, but if we wear them they're probably tight and black, and we wear them with flip-flops, gladiator sandals*, low-top Converse, or heels. We're also not really into shorts, but they're not the big flag that capris are.
Three looks this summer that almost every New Yorker rocks:
- Skinny jeans (on any and all body types, honey) with a flowy tank top and flip-flops or gladiator sandals or flats.
- A-line skirt with fitted tank or t-shirt on top, and flats, sandals, flip-flops, or low-tops.
- Jersey-knit v-neck empire-waist dress, with a camisole underneath or not. Flip-flops, flats, or heeled sandals as footwear, but no one will notice because they'll be looking at your cleavage.
2. Get breakfast at a bodega. The classic NYC breakfast is 2 eggs, cheese, and bacon on a roll: bacon-egg-and-cheese-on-a-
3. Ask for directions. New Yorkers ask each other for directions all the time, for realz. Think about how big this city is--if you're out of your neighborhood, you probably don't know exactly where you're going, so just ask. Sometimes all you need to know is "which way is uptown?" Sometimes you're in the subway and have to figure out how to get from one boro to another. The only thing to know is that you should probably ask two, or maybe even three, different people for directions because New Yorkers can be totally full of shit and want to look smart by giving directions but not really know.
3a. Walk on the side of the sidewalk. Not directly in the middle, three abreast. The reason we're always rushing is that we need to get somewhere: a job interview, to pick our kids up from school, to meet someone for lunch. We love having you here, but we will cut you if you block our way for no reason in the middle of the sidewalk.
4. Take the subway. Everyone does. As long as you're not on the subway system at 3 am, you'll be ok. If you go too far, get off, turn around and go back.
5. Eat from street vendors. We all do. I'm not such a fan of hot dog carts, but I adore the halal chicken stands (white-sauce-no-hot-sauce) and pretzels and gourmet Cal-Mex and dosas and dessert carts and Delicioso Coco Helado.
6. Talk like us:
- Houston Street is pronounced HOWston, not like the city in Texas.
- When you're standing behind someone, waiting, you're "on line," not "in line."
- A convenience store is a deli or a bodega. (Unless it's 7-Eleven on 23rd Street, in which case it's 7-Eleven.)
- It's the subway. The metro is in Washington, DC or in Paris.
7. Know the difference between friend and foe, public vs. private. All New Yorkers develop the Don't Fuck With Me Face that we wear around the city. If you stop on the sidewalk in front of us, or stand at the bottom of the subway stairs, or obstruct our progress in our daily lives, we will kill you with a glance. But it's all just a protective forcefield for when we're out in public, and we're actually kind and caring people. Ask us for directions or our opinions about the best whatever, and we'll map out six ways for you to go and tell you where to get the best deal, and we'll probably figure out that we know someone in common, too. We're helpful. Just don't expect casual friendliness, because that we don't do.
And now some things you really shouldn't do:
1. Please please don't go buy knockoff handbags on Canal Street. The knockoff bags fund mafia actvities including sweatshops (located in the buildings right above where you buy the bags--terrified immigrants who are forced to work 16 hours a day with no bathroom breaks, so have constant UTIs or urine running down their legs, and develop lung diseases from inhaling fumes all day) and human trafficking. Every bag you buy on Canal Street puts someone else's child into sex slavery.
Instead, buy an awesome laptop sleeve from Hello Rewind, an organization that employs former sex slaves in NYC. And if you want a purse, buy one from one of the super-cute boutiques in Nolita, or order one from a WAHM from Etsy.com. Or just use the same bag you brought with you!
2. Don't take a horsedrawn carriage ride in Central Park. It's really not cool that the horses stand out there in all kinds of extreme weather (we've had 20 days over 90 degrees here so far this summer) and are forced to walk in and amongst traffic. Not to mention that the rides are vastly overpriced.
Instead, take a ride in a pedicab. Environmentally awesome, fun, and the pedicab drivers can tell you all kinds of dirt on the city while they're pedaling you around.
3. Don't go to the Statue of Liberty. The line to get on the ferry is long, the ferry is bumpy, and the line to climb is horrendous, and then you're so close you can't really even see the statue well. And it's overpriced.
Instead, take the Staten Island commuter ferry. It's free, and you'll be on the ferry with a mix of tourists and commuters, and you get an awesome view of lower Manhattan as you leave. If you have kids with you, hop a bus in Staten Island to the Staten Island Children's Museum (about 10 minutes' ride from the ferry terminal). If not, walk through the terminal and get on the next ferry back to Manhattan. Use the time and money you saved by taking the SI Ferry instead of going to the Statue of Liberty to go see the Empire State Building (which really is worth it).
4. Don't eat at a chain restaurant. There are 5,000 really stellar meals to be had here, at all different price points. Don't waste a meal slot on someplace you could go to at home.
Instead, look at Yelp.com or ask the people on the subway with you where the best burger/pizza/falafel/Belgian waffle/etc. is and pick one of those places.
Have a great time while you're here. We are happy to serve you.
* I loathe gladiator sandals, and wish they'd just die a quiet death, but they're still in style here, so if you have them already, bring them to NYC with you.