They say it takes seven years to become a New Yorker, but as students with only four years here, we need to expedite the process. Here are a few tips on how to quickly disguise your inner tourist and show off your city savvy.
1. Walk like your Park Avenue apartment is on fire.
When I first came to New York, I remember being pushed in the street by a Wall Street type and swearing I would never return. Now, as a year-round city dweller, I understand that the man who nearly pushed me under the wheels of a taxi wasn’t rude, but rather found me to be in his way. New Yorkers walk with a sense of purpose, and if you’re in their way they let you know. To perfect your city gait, you must walk like you’re needed somewhere within the next half-second and that not even brick walls could keep you from your destination. To really set yourself apart from the tourists clogging the Times Square station, perfect your dodging skills until you can skillfully slip between those slow-walking sightseers without even touching them, but at a speed that will whip their hair.
2. Look like you know where you’re going, especially when you don’t.
As a New Yorker, you must always keep your eyes on the prize. Be sure to keep your head up and your gaze straight ahead of you, as if you can see the destination you’re racing toward. And in those rare moments when you’re looking straight ahead of you and thinking “I could not have any less of a clue where I am,” don’t let your lack of orientation show. Rather, for the next few blocks, cast your eyes three feet ahead of you on the ground and bowl through people more quickly than you were before. With your eyes down, you can again visualize the city grid and remind yourself that avenues run north-south and streets east-west and figure out you’re going backward. When you finally turn around, walk down the nearest street and then head in the opposite direction you were before, thus keeping people who saw you, and who you knocked over, from knowing that you are lost. This strategy does not work in Central Park—if lost in its green depths, head for the nearest sign of tall buildings and fight your way back home through the subways.
3. Only see the sights when acting like someone else’s tour guide.
Maybe you had never really seen the city before arriving here for college, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to go gallivanting with your NYC guidebook all around town checking out the landmarks that make tourists ooh and ahh. Want to see the Statue of Liberty and search for your family’s name at Ellis Island? Wait until a parent or friend or incredibly distant acquaintance arrives in Manhattan and then drag them along, while making them think it was their choice. Extra points if you convince them that you’re really not interested in going to the top of the Empire State Building, but you’ll do it for them, just this once. This strategy also works for eating in Little Italy and buying cheap knockoffs in Chinatown.
4. Dress the part.
New York is a fashion capital, and while you don’t need to go Carrie Bradshaw crazy just to go out, the following items are unacceptable to display in public: fanny packs, oversized T-shirts with Disney characters on them, overly spiked hair (people will think you’re from Jersey or Staten Island), large brightly colored shirts worn en masse to indicate you’re with a group (seriously, throw out your NSOP team T-shirts after you wear them once to prevent this from happening). To blend, pick up a checkered scarf, a pair of dark glasses, and a v-neck T-shirt. While you won’t be declared a fashionista, you also won’t be the butt of jokes.
5. HopStop is your secret best friend. Asking for directions from strangers is not.
When you need to figure out how to get from point A to point B, look no further than your computer screen. While it is possible to ask an MTA worker or consult the map, few things will pinpoint you as a New York newbie faster than being that kid leaning over the unlucky passenger sitting in front of the map. Instead, bookmark your start point on hopstop.com and just enter your destination. Within seconds you’ll have directions that, while still potentially confusing (who knows which way is east when choosing which subway exit to take), will keep you from asking others. Remember, if lost, lower your glance and look like you’ll throw down with the next person that says something to you until you figure it out.