Photo: Maridav/Shutterstock

10 Signs You're Still a Tourist in NYC

New York City Student Work
by Nikki Vargas Jun 3, 2014
1. You take your sweet time.

While working professionals push past in the classic New York huff, you’re strolling through Times Square like you’re moseying down the beaches of Aruba. Every other pedestrian is weaving in and out of crowds, rushing as though they’re practicing for the New York marathon, and you’re enjoying the way the morning light cascades down the sides of glass skyscrapers. Even on a Monday morning, when it seems the other commuters can hardly wait to reach their respective cubicles, you’re taking a moment to embrace the city in all its glory.

2. You’re still learning the ins and outs of the NYC subway.

The incoming train is packed with commuters, and you go for the one empty train car, thinking to yourself you’ve hit the subway jackpot. As you sit in that deserted train car — wondering if the empty seat was worth the lack of AC or the horrid stench you’re now enduring — you realize you may not know all the ins and outs of the NYC subway system after all.

Having made eye contact with subway dwellers of questionable sanity or missed a train by swiping your metro card multiple times at the turnstile, you’re still learning your subway lessons the hard way. You thought the New York subway would be similar to that of any other major city, but the more you ride, the more you realize the show Survivor could have dedicated a season to people trying to navigate the tunnels, stations, performers, and all the unspoken rules of the MTA subway system.

3. You haven’t discovered the New York food scene yet.

While you’re ordering takeout from that corner Chinese restaurant, defaulting on what’s convenient and affordable, your friends are sharing photos of coveted restaurant dishes on their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and dedicated food blogs. Anytime the topic of food comes up, your friends come armed with three to five recommendations of in-the-know locales, gushing over an Ethiopian or Peruvian meal they had just last night.

New Yorkers love food and pride themselves on knowing off-the-beaten-path haunts that serve “the best tapas in the world” or “died-and-gone-to-heaven chicken tikka masala.” You listen to their culinary adventures, thinking twice about the pile of Chinese takeout menus sitting on your coffee table.

4. You haven’t picked sides against New Jersey.

Last time you were in New Jersey, you actually enjoyed the quiet neighborhoods, cheaper prices, and open-air beer gardens — and made the mistake of saying so. As you let slip your love for our Garden State neighbor, your friends are now teasing you with Jersey Shore comments and New Jersey accents. While NYC locals will pledge allegiance to the Empire State, the secret truth is, we like our neighbor — we just don’t admit it aloud.

5. You still lose your cool when you spot a celebrity.

“Was that Emma Stone?” Your mind is practically reeling, but as you look around at the New Yorkers brushing past, you realize no one has so much as given the celebrity spotting a second glance. Our city is home to many famous people, but after some time, our lives become so saturated with movie sets and celebrity sightings that our reactions become insouciant. While you’re taking deep breaths from having brushed elbows with Spiderman’s girlfriend, everyone else is shuffling to their next appointment.

6. You neglect the other boroughs.

Brooklyn? Queens?! The idea of venturing off the island of Manhattan to another borough sounds as convenient as catching a flight to Australia. While your friends are raving about the Brooklyn Flea Market, the bar scene in Williamsburg, and interesting eats in Queens, you still haven’t made the trip to the Upper West Side. Brooklyn may seem like the latest fad, but with chefs migrating across the river and trendy stores opening their doors in Williamsburg, it’s worth the subway ride to explore the personalities of the other boroughs.

7. You bring pepper spray to Harlem.

Your jaw practically hits the floor when your friends say they want to have dinner in Harlem. Images of darkened corners, sidelong glances, and deserted train stations have you running for your pepper spray rather than to Open Table to make a reservation way uptown. True, Harlem was once a neighborhood that struck fear in the hearts of New Yorkers, but things have changed.

8. You go out dancing in the Meatpacking District.

You spent high school watching TV shows and movies that showed glamorous friends drinking fancy cocktails at rooftop bars along the cobblestone streets of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. When you arrived in New York, the first thing you did was don a killer outfit and make your way over to the epicenter of style…just to discover that everyone there’s a tourist.

New Yorkers know the Meatpacking District is home to overpriced drinks, unreasonable cover charges, and European tourists all looking to have that classic New York nighttime experience. Opting instead to enjoy revelry in neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, locals know better than to wait in line and pay for $15 drinks at a posh club.

9. You think you can find the holy grail of New York City apartments.

You go searching for apartments with earnest, determined to find a home that’s both spacious and reasonably priced, but located in one of the cooler neighborhoods in the city. Keep dreaming! Locals know that unless your bank account resembles that of Donald Trump’s, the NYC apartment search always comes down to choosing between comfort and location.

Brokers may claim they’ll lead you to the holy grail — that elusive mix of price, comfort, and location — but likely you’ll wind up with an out-of-budget hole-in-the-wall and a thousand-dollar broker fee. Whether you opt for the comfortable apartment and riding the subway to cooler neighborhoods, or the small apartment positioned above a trendy dive bar, it’s always one or the other.

10. You’re still in love with New York City.

You listen sympathetically as friends lament about their lives in New York, blaming their problems on subway commutes, sky-high rents, and crowds. They seem to love New York one day and then shake their fist at it the next. While most New Yorkers have a love-hate relationship with the city, you’re still head-over-heels in love. Pouring rain? You love the way the rain catches the light off the buildings! Crowded subways? You love the hilarious mix of people huddled together in the train cars! You still see New York in shades of pink, letting the glitter of the city settle wonderfully over your eyes.

Discover Matador