NYC Guide: 10 Ways to Not Look Like a Tourist

Just for fun, here are 10 handy tips on how not look like a tourist (since my mom always asks:)…

From my friend Shoko:

1. Don’t stare. Even if a woman wearing a tiger costume sits down next to you on the subway (which happened to me once), act like nothing out of the ordinary is happening. Seasoned New Yorkers are always unfazed.

2. Beauty/hair: Less is more! Try a pop of bright lipstick on a bare face, or a low ponytail. Bedhead is totally acceptable.

3. Confidence is key. One thing I love about New York women is that they flaunt their quirks. Got a head full of curls? Let them fly free. Six feet tall without heels? Wear them anyway. Want to wear all electric blue? Go for it. In this city, it’ll only make you cooler.

4. One exception: the wrong footwear will give you away. You almost never see a New York woman walking around in actual running shoes when she’s not running, or tennis shoes when she’s not playing tennis. Stylish yet functional footwear (think: ballet flats) or basic sneakers (Bensimon, Converse) are a total New York must.

From my friend Nora:

5. New Yorkers imagine that there’s an invisible line down the middle if the sidewalk, and that to keep the flow going, you keep to the RIGHT. New Yorkers also walk at a brisk pace, and if they stop or even slow down, they step out of the way.

From my friend Sharon:

6. Tourists always get overwhelmed when swiping their metro card. There’s a lot of fumbling. Just be cool–get your card out while walking down the stairs, make sure the black strip is facing inward, and swipe it like a credit card.

7. Anytime I hear, “Oh, my, that’s so expensive!” I know it’s a tourist. Also, “You’ve got to be kidding me! It costs what?!” and “That’s all I get for XX amount of dollars?” New York is expensive! New Yorkers know this and have stopped talking about it. Or at least they pretend not to notice.

8. One thing tourists have on us: They look up! They noticed the grandness of the city. The skyscrapers! The churches! The bridges! If you want to look like a New Yorker, look down and keep moving. But you’ll miss out.

9. New Yorkers fold their pizza.

10. If you spot a celebrity, you’re not supposed to ask for their autograph. You’re also not supposed to ask for a picture with them. But it’s ok to smile as you pass them and then brag about it on Facebook, twitter AND your blog. :)

Something that is NOT faux pas in New York, from Quora: Talking about how much rent you pay. New Yorkers are obsessed with real estate and won’t think it rude if you ask personal questions about their apartment, their neighbors, their rent, their building, their realtor’s fee, etc. Isn’t that funny? But it’s so true.

What do you think? Obviously, this is all for fun–anything funny to add? I would love to hear!

P.S. Remember this? :)

And the full Cup of Jo Guide to NYC.

(Photos from Annie Hall)

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  2. Gigi says...

    New Yorkers are seemingly unfazed by the celebrities living among them. Some of the brightest talented people are on their hustle and someone who has been on TV is just one more talented person with a job.
    Also NYers tend to not make eye contact in general with strangers and even if they have to pretend they ignore them because you just don’t invade someone’s personal space because they’re famous.
    Probably why many make the city their home.
    Fawning over them is just not a thing and will def out someone who does as a tourist. ;)

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  4. Loved this! I am frequently in NYC, but I live in So Cal. BTW no one in California calls it “Cali” LOL! I try to blend in and want to respect the customs of the city. Great post, thank you>

    • Erin says...

      I hear this a lot from people from NorCal but I call it Cali on the daily and I’m from there (OC) though I hate to admit it since NYC feels like home. I think unless you are from LA (and are willing to admit it) the only normal response to “Where are you from?” is Cali.

  5. Great tips, and think a lot of them would be the same if you’re wanting to blend into any big city! I always fail with the looking up though, love admiring tall buildings even if it makes me looks like a tourist!

  6. I was in New York City last year in Summer for 2 weeks after travelling around the USA & Canada for two months, I stayed in Long Island City…mastered the subway (even though I only drive when at home), crossing the road, and the side walk rules, I watched New Yorkers and adapted my behaviour to blend in (although with an aussie accent when i opened my mouth & spoke, it was a dead give away haha), got advice from my NYC friends and relatives in Hudson NY before going to NYC and followed all these tips without knowing they existed…only read them tonight. I live in Adelaide, South Australia population a mere 1.29 Million
    New Yorkers are fabulous & friendly people and I loved my time there…wore out my converse sneakers walking everywhere and carried my SLR around my neck the whole time
    great article

  7. If you don’t want to wear regular shoes (flats, boots, sandals, etc) and want to be extra comfortable while walking site to site, go for a sportier look. You could have an “afternoon yoga class” and still look on the trendier side. Nothing sticks out more than a daytime outfit with running shoes that you wore during your 5K last weekend.

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  10. I’m going to NYC, and I am going to wear whatever I want. If the lady can wear a tiger suit, then I can wear whatever I want.

  11. lb says...

    There could be another similar post for New Yorkers who travel to other parts of the US: “10 ways not to look like a New Yorker” I grew up in Florida, and New Yorkers are very easy to spot in crowds of tourists at beaches and amusement parks.

  12. lb says...

    There could be another similar post for New Yorkers who travel to other parts of the US: “10 ways not to look like a New Yorker” I grew up in Florida, and New Yorkers are very easy to spot in crowds of tourists at beaches and amusement parks.

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  16. I feel like I have a bit of a cheating advantage, I’m a Torontonian and we pretty much operate the same way…with a few minor subtle differences. I got this :D

  17. I’ll be taking all this incite with me when I head there for the first time in a few weeks. Thanks a bunch!

  18. I can do all of these at a tourist pretending not to be… except swipe my subway card well. It just never cooperates, ever.

  19. No wonder I feel so at home when I visit!

    The last time I was in the city I was only visiting for 4 days, and I got asked directions about 3 times. Must have been doing something right!

  20. I worked in NYC way too long … 10 years after the fact, I’m still doing #5 and get pissed when others don’t follow suit :)

  21. THIS! this is perfect. every tourist should read this post before stepping foot in manhattan.

  22. .. good heavens .. 191 comments, you are amazing … went into city today, humid, took the starch out of me … cheers

  23. Something I noticed about New Yorker pedestrians is that they stand IN the street while they wait for the walk signal.

    • Erin says...

      We don’t wait for the signal, lol and usually if we must wait we do that to stay out of the way of others not waiting or going the other way.

  24. I don’t mind being a tourist (in NYC). I’ll probably gonna be looking up and photographing! But one thing I don’t do is complain about prices loudly.

  25. Lol, the footwear is a dead giveaway… like a scrunchie in the hair. Great post! I’ll keep this in mind when packing for my next visit to NYC!


  26. I think it’s a very nice thing to post this blog even though this is just for fun for you. It might actually help some tourist since in some countries tourist are most likely victims, making them look like not a tourist can actually help them avoid being a victim.

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  27. I think use of plastic card in this perspective is appreciative approach…

  28. Great post. Sometimes serious, sometimes tongue in cheek, but very accurate! I’d like to think I pulled off not looking like a tourist in NYC. I was quite happy when, after only a few days in the city, I found people were asking me for directions – and surprisingly I could help them out. Must be where I belong. One day :)

  29. New Jersey with a twist of Brit. It’s bizarre. I mean, my brother went to speech therapy for this crap as a kid. And yet my husband actively teaches them to pretend the letter “r” is more a unicorn than a real sound. New Jersey Tax Preparation

  30. I dont get the trainer thing….why it so wrong to wear them :s From Glasgow and couldnt imagine wearing anythin else….oh excpet uggs ;) maby cause its soo cold and wet here

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  33. N°8 makes me feel sad, I like taking pictures of everything! Therefore I’ll totally stand as a tourist in NY. Considering it will be my 3rd time travelling there, lol!

  34. Also, I was pleasantly surprised by how kind New Yorkers were. Several times people spotted me looking at maps on the side of the road and actually came over to me to ask if they could help.

  35. My first trip to New York was in February 2012. I was lucky enough to spend a week in the most wonderful city in the world. I had an amazing time and definitely broke all of these rules :)
    I looked up EVERYWHERE I walked, had no idea how to use a metro card, wore a backpack the whole time (even in Bloomingdales) and as I am from Australia, I walked on the left hand side of the road accidentally.
    I absolutely cannot wait to go back, I have never felt more at home than I did walkin the streets or Manhattan. Next time I will be taking my boyfriend :) And most likely breaking the rules all over again!

  36. PS. It’s very easy to spot the New Yorker in Disney/Orlando as well. You’re the one’s who can’t drive because you have been spoiled by public transportation and keep yelling “You call that pizzer?” in louder than necessary tones. :) Makes me smile. I <3 New Yorker’s they are a unique bunch.

  37. HaHa, these are GREAT!! We are going to be there this coming weekend. My first ever visit to The City. I already know I will stick out like a sore thumb. I am packing my darkest colors and ditching my sundress/flip flop Florida girl wardrobe (especially since I saw it will be a chilly hi of 60’s…dusting off the sweater ;)). I can’t promise I won’t squeal if I see a celebrity and pounce… forewarned if you are famous and reading this. If I can’t find one then I’ll be the weirdo posing with the wax celebrities at Madame Toussaud’s. I already know my beach bum pace is going to irk some people and without the ocean to reference where the East is, my sense of direction will be completely out of whack. I am more than okay with it. Can’t wait to eat my way through the city and take obsessive amounts of pictures :)

    • *without a direct view of the ocean

  38. Anonymous says...

    I love going to NYC, and I know I stick out like a sore thumb. The one thing that kills me (makes me laugh) is the lack of eye contact. I was on a train literally touching knees with a guy for over an hour, and he never, ever looked my way. That is hysterical from someone from the south. Why, we would know each other’s life history on such a ride.

  39. Hi I’m an english student travelling to the US for the first time in just under a month- we’re travelling down the east coast but starting in NYC, do you have any specific tips for late march? I have no idea how to pack because we’ll end up in Miami which I expect is hot!


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  41. This is a great post! I love the comments, I’ve been a NYer for over 6 years now and I can’t imagine living anywhere else – as of now. But really I love New York and all it’s people.

    One more thing. . . NYers don’t eat at Red Lobster, Olive Garden & TGI Fridays or anywhere in Times Square for that matter. Please spend your money elsewhere on better food!

  42. Anonymous says...

    ugghh..all these points underscored that the NY stereotypes are actually true- New Yorkers suck! And as a recent migrant from Chicago, I can’t wait to get the eff out! LOL!

  43. wauw New Yorkers are not that different from us people from Amsterdam ;)

  44. I always feel so bad for tourists when they go running to catch a cab and are waving their arms around like crazy people. I don’t think they realize that cabs are only free and on duty when the middle light is lit up. Poor things must think that NY cabbies are extra selective or something haha.

    I have lived in NY my whole life and in Manhattan for the last five years. I sometimes wish I was a tourist here just so I could do things like visit the Statue of Liberty (haven’t been there since 4th grade) or not run everywhere I go…maybe I will just pretend one of these days. ;)

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  46. I love all the comments about keeping to the right! In Australia you keep left on the foot path, the escalator, while driving etc. so it takes a bit to remember to swap sides. It certainly isn’t a universal thing to keep right! :)

  47. Great timing! I’m going to NYC this weekend and just was hit with the anxiety of what to wear. Thanks for the footwear advice… now just need to figure out what the hell else to wear in this cold!

  48. someone might have already said this, but i always recognize tourists because they stop for the (pedestrian) traffic light when it is blinking red (aka. not red yet)… any new yorker will cross the street (looking very relaxed) whenever the light is blinking. only when the light is red red when they start crossing the street, AND a vehicle is coming, they will stop for the traffic light!

  49. Ah native New Yorker here. I thought the whole right side walking thing was universal?!? I get so upset when I go places and people are walking all over!

  50. Kristen says...

    Regarding #4: If you really want to look like a New Yorker and still wear running shoes, wear them but make sure it’s morning rush hour and you’re carrying a pair of heels for “when you get to work.”

  51. Great post! Most of these tips work in Paris as well.

  52. I grew up in Connecticut so we ventured into the city quite often. I have fond memories of being as young as 6 or 7 years old and running across the street with taxis barreling towards me trying to keep up with my father. He never waited for the green light.

  53. all great tips that i remember following when i lived in ny (im in california, now).. damn, i miss the big city, though. hopefully, i can move back.. one of these days.