Recently, a Cincinnati friend of mine got transferred to her employer’s NYC office for two months, so I wrote up a little “survival guide” to help her navigate the big city. Not a list of must-see attractions or my favorite restaurants — that’s all subjective, and I figured that everyone else would barrage her with their recommendations. Mine is a list of more mundane, practical tips to help her fit in, posted here for your enjoyment and possible education.
First off, don’t call it New York. Once you’re there, it’s just “the city.” When you’re in the metro area but outside city limits, “the city” means NYC generally but, when you’re within city limits, it means Manhattan. Don’t EVER actually say Manhattan, though.
The subway is just “the train.” If you take the Long Island Railroad, that’s the LIR, even though the signs say LIRR.
Long Island is pronounced Lon Gisland.
Long Island City is in Queens.
Manhattan Beach is in Brooklyn.
West New York is in New Jersey.
New Jersey is just Jersey.
If someone checks your ID in a bar, you didn’t get carded; you got proofed.
A Jap is a Jewish American Princess, not a Japanese person.
Your debit card is an ATM card.
When you’re in a store, waiting to pay for something, you’re ON line, not IN line.
Last night, I went OVER your house, not TO your house or OVER TO your house.
A slice of pizza is just a slice, and a whole pizza is a pie. A lot of pizza places sell Italian ices, which are really good and always plural, e.g. “Can I get a lemon ices?”
Also, don’t bother asking anyone about where to get the best pizza or bagels. The beauty of the city is that they’ll be at least pretty good, and often excellent, anywhere.
A taxi is a cab, and a taxi you call is car service. Since you’ll be in Manhattan, you won’t ever need to call car service. If you do get in a cab, take note of the number, just in case something happens. Don’t act like you don’t know where you’re going, because the cabbie will take the long route for a higher fare. You should tip a cabbie, but don’t let them tell you it’s required or a set amount.
You’re likely to hear that Junior’s in Brooklyn has the best cheesecake. I wish that were Brooklyn’s honor, but I actually think the honor belongs to Veniero’s [also, best cannolis, best fruit tarts, best everything].
The most important thing is: don’t ever look up or make eye contact with people. Don’t ever act surprised or impressed by anything. It’s best to always look vaguely annoyed and just keep your eyes trained on an imaginary spot about 8-10 feet up and half a block away.
Finally, people always say that New Yorkers are mean, and New Yorkers seem to relish that perception, but it’s not actually true. If you’re lost or need help, people will step up. If you’re waiting for a train and hear an announcement about a cancellation or route change and don’t know what to do, people will help you. You just have to ask the least friendly-looking person, because that’s who’s most likely to be a native.