10 Easy Etiquette Lessons for New Yorkers


The way we live in New York City is different than the way “other people” live, we know that by now. This means, sometimes, that we are sophisticated and disgustingly superior — we do things faster, more efficiently, with a dash more style and pizazz, or just better — than the average person. (Disagree if you must, but you’re not going to win.) But we also, we’re going to have to confess, do things worse. And with the advent of cell phones in subways — starting Tuesday on several lines, be prepared and forewarned — there is bound to be a lot more doing things worse. After the jump, a reminder of 10 ways in which we are not exactly perfect. And tips on how to be more so!

10. This goes out to the people using New York City as their trashable every-ready playground. Maybe you just moved here, maybe you’ve lived here for years, or maybe you’ve been chauffeured in for a Saturday night on a giant purple minivan full of screaming girls for some kind of medieval bride-preparation ritual. In any of these cases, despite the appearances, there are certain rules to adhere to. For instance, if you’re going to get shit-faced and vomit, do it in a trashcan (put your trash there, too!). If you’re going to scream and yell in the streets, shut up and go home. And if you’re going to drunkenly drive home and plow your car into an innocent cabbie, you suck massively and should never be allowed back.

9. This cell phones on the subway thing, let’s discuss that. Chances are, you already know who you are, but you are too busy talking on the phone to acknowledge it. Listen. Do everyone a favor. Get off the ole mobile for 5 or 10 or even 30 minutes and enjoy the sound of brutal, luxurious silence. The person you’re on the phone with will be so much more amenable to your needs (absence and heart and all that stuff) when you call them back, and we’ll stop shooting you with eye-daggers. Make “No one wants to hear you talk right now” your mantra. It goes well on a T-shirt, too!

8. Realize that the population disfavors you. You are one person, and not better than any other one person, even if you are married with children. Thus, do not buy, carry, or expect more than your allotment. This is to say: Don’t carry a giant umbrella that stretches across the entire sidewalk and other people have to duck to get around. Don’t block an entire sidewalk by stopping abruptly and standing there with your seven pieces of luggage, passionately embracing your long-lost lover, who has just appeared on the street. Don’t steal someone’s cab when they were there first; don’t crash into a pedestrian with your bike or a bike with your pedestrian; and don’t meander back and forth across the sidewalk, weaving and bobbing, unless you are very, very drunk, and very, very quiet, and you are gone by morning. In that case, we forgive you a little.

7. Practice the one-in, one-out concept. This is applicable to any and all doors. If you reach a door, and someone is opening it and exiting, allow them to do so! Then, it’s your turn. *Extra special bonus human points for holding it open for them, particularly if they have luggage, a small child, a potted plant, are of advanced age, or simply seem to need assistance. Actually, if someone is exiting or entering through a door and you are empty-handed but DON’T reach out to hold the door for them — man or woman, cat or dog, guinea pig or gerbil — and, worse, if you rush in before they can get out, may you be destined for a hell in which Emily Post lectures you forever. Sorry, it’s just fucking rude.

6. Directions. Ah, these are tricky, whether asking or giving. We’ll split it up to make it easy. If you are asking for directions (and, yes, this is acceptable behavior), do not TOUCH someone. Choose your direction-giver wisely. If he or she is talking on the phone, deep in thought, or otherwise occupied, choose someone else. Look him or her in the eye, smile, and, allowing for the appropriate personal space (do not back them into a corner, or get too close), say clearly, “I am trying to find X. Do you know how to get there?” If the person shrugs and walks on, resist the urge to chase after him calling names. Find someone new.

5. Directions: Giving. Don’t attempt to help if you really have no idea where the location is, or where you are in the first place. You’re just wasting everyone’s time, and what made you such a people pleaser anyway? (Things to discuss with the shrink!) Resist the urge to give the wrong directions on purpose, or to make something up, because karma is a bitch and it will bite you. Keep it simple. Point, talk, and move on. Your work is done here.

4. We get that your dog has to go, but maybe…usher the little furball off to the side of the sidewalk, not smack-dab in the middle, before it happens. And PICK IT UP WHEN YOUR DOG IS DONE. Throw it away. That is all. (Related: If you spit your gum or your disgusting ball of spit-snot out on the sidewalk, you deserve to be banned forever.)

3. This may be controversial, but must you smile and nod and, most worrisomely, TALK, at everyone you see? Perhaps you enjoy a happy, “Good morning sweetheart, you look beautiful today,” and that is fine, but perhaps it makes your target, whom, you admit, you’ve never met or even seen before, feel a bit strange. Perhaps he or she does not know what to say — thank you? I know? — and walks quickly past, head down, and then you start screaming and yelling because your target has so rudely ignored you. This all makes your target feel there is something deeply wrong with you, and only walk faster. And it makes us wonder…who is being rude, exactly? So, smile and nod if you must, but respect others’ desire to ignore you completely. Some of us came here for that, precisely.

2. Personal space. This is a biggie. Wherever you go, there is probably not enough, so be aware of it. Close-talkers, please take a step back. Subway pole-grabbers who don’t look, look first. People at small tables in restaurants, don’t put your arms on the next table over. People putting their bags on barstools, look for the hooks! Someone wants to sit there, and you’ve just made them feel awkward. People involved in PDA, take it inside, or be courteous, or at the very least, amusing. People in apartment buildings, don’t put your furniture in the hallway in an attempt to extend your apartment space. People who must look at subway maps, do not lean in too close to those below you. People who like pregnant ladies, do not just go touching their bellies! People who like butts, do not just go touching those of strangers — stay at home and watch them on the computer! As in number 8, you are but one person in this community of 8 million. Remember that, as much as it pains you. Do unto others, yada yada yada…

1. And that’s really it: Lesson number one for anyone who lives in this city (any city, even non-cities, really): Be considerate. The concept of New Yorkers being rude was created by tourists, and we are better than that. You don’t have to be NICE, exactly, but imbue your actions with the knowledge that you are sharing the streets, buildings, and world with other humans, and that they have ears and eyes and feelings, too. And behave accordingly. It will all be so much nicer that way! Really.

Related: ‘Metropolitan Etiquette Authority’ Posts New Signs Around New York City