Summer is fast approaching, which means that New York City is indubitably preparing to swell with its annual influx of presumably eager interns. If your summer plans include an internship or a job in the city, your emotions might understandably range anywhere from anxious to excited to downright terrified. Step one: do not freak out. Here are some honest truths from a New Yorker, complete with a ‘Do’ and ‘Do Not’ list, to keep in mind as you navigate your way through one of the world’s most talked-about cities:
New York is a hard place to live. Contrary to what you see on Gossip Girl, the lives of the majority of New Yorkers do not include ritzy Upper East Side penthouses, live-in suites at the Empire Hotel, and casual glasses of bubbly at the St. Regis’ King Cole Bar. No, New York is gritty, grimy, and gross in more ways than one. Think of the kitten-sized rats in the subway tunnels and the tears you shed when you pay the rent for your slightly-larger-than-a-shoebox apartment each month. New York is loud, exhausting, expensive, and in-your-face obnoxious. The streets often smell like a nauseating combination of sweat, garbage, and fried meat, and there isn’t anything you can do about it.
That being said, New York is also a city of boundless optimism. The resilience and spirit of New Yorkers is an amazingly special, defining characteristic that is hard to find anywhere else. As Dorothy Parker wrote in her 1928 essay, “My Home Town,” “London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful.” This hopefulness is manifested in the talent, innovation, and cultural awareness that New Yorkers as a collective entity exude in pretty much every profession out there. Finance, tech, science, fashion, theater, literature, and art are just a few that I can conjure off the top of my head. The city as a whole feeds and flourishes off this gravitational energy; laziness and lethargy are shunned from the New York aesthetic simply because they do not have a place here. Remember, if you embrace New York, New York will embrace you right back.
As such, this list of ‘Do’s’ and ‘Do Not’s’ will help you look more like a New Yorker and less like a tourist faster than the latte turnout rate of the baristas at that four-line Starbucks on 47th and Broadway.
- Look at a map
This is important for two reasons. First, it’s embarrassing when you can’t tell the difference between Chelsea and say, East Village. (Here, this will help.) Secondly, ‘because I got lost,’ is not generally an acceptable excuse for tardiness, especially at a high-profile internship. On the bright side, New York is an organized grid, with its avenues running north to south and streets going east to west. Almost every block has a numbered street sign, thus allowing even the most directionally challenged of us (i.e., me) to find navigational peace.
- Know where you’re going before you leave
Walking down a crowded street with your nose buried in Google Maps is like asking someone to spill their morning coffee all over your new outfit. People will walk into you if you can’t get out of their way fast enough. This applies to texting as well.
- Download HopStop
HopStop is the Bible of the subway, and of local public transportation in general. It tells you which train(s) you need to take to get to your destination, how long it will take to get there, and which stops you will pass along the way. It also lets you know what time each train leaves and offers alternate routes if (read: when) there is construction or modified service. Like Bit of News, HopStop is both gloriously free and incredibly informative. It is additionally helpful to screenshot HopStop directions prior to entering the station. Many stations claim to offer free Wi-Fi, but this is a lie. At best, your service will be spotty and intermittent underground. Bonus: It’s owned by Apple.
- Commuters: anticipate being everywhere ten minutes early
Street traffic is brutal, and subways are often so packed during morning and evening rush hours that the possibility of physically not being able to fit on a train, regardless of how tiny you are, is always in danger of becoming a nightmarish reality.
- Let passengers get off the subway/bus before you get on
It’s efficient and polite. Get used to it.
- Be aggressive
Don’t let yourself get shoved out of the way, cut in line, or neglected/ignored in any way. Personal autonomy is a huge part of making it in New York. If it looks like there is room on that subway car, but the passengers closest to the door are sending you silent “there-is-no-room-on-this-train” daggers with their eyes, simply say, “Excuse me, please,” as nicely as you can and squeeze yourself inside.
- Check out the Snapchat geofilters
In addition to the staple “NYC Life,” geofilters exist for almost every neighborhood and institution in New York. Each of the five boroughs has its own geofilter, as do areas like Columbus Circle, Hell’s Kitchen, Central Park, Chelsea, Gramercy, and Union Square. Columbia, Barnard, NYU, and Fordham have their own geofilters, too; with all of these options, feel free to send your Snaps to the NYC Story, which is always exciting and up-to-date on the city’s latest happenings.
- Go ‘Rooftopping’
This is a must when it comes to New York summertime nightlife. Because many of these rooftop bars and lounges are closed during the fall and winter, New Yorkers flock to them June through mid-September like light-deprived moths to a brilliant flame. Depending on which one you go to, it is not uncommon to arrive slightly after dusk and party the night away until dawn. The Standard’s Le Bain, the Gansevoort’s Plunge, the Peninsula’s Salon de Ning, the Strand’s Top of the Strand, and the Hudson Terrace Rooftop Bar and Night Club are all personal favorites.
- Get some exercise
New York is filled with stressful people. You can sometimes feel the tension building in your neck and behind your eyes simply by being in such close proximity to so many other anxious people. Exercise is an excellent way to alleviate any lingering stress, and places like Central Park are filled with breathtaking scenery, historical facts, and clearly marked running trails. New York as a whole is a runner-friendly city; as long as you’re aware of what time it is and where you are, go out of your way to throw on your running shoes and pound the pavement.
- Prioritize safety
Always be cognizant of what’s happening around you. Where exactly are you? Is the street busy or deserted? Are you alone or with friends? What time is it? Where is the nearest subway station? The nearest Starbucks? Are there cabs around? You should always be aware of the answers to these questions when you’re traversing the city. New York becomes significantly more dangerous when you’re oblivious, making poor decisions, or, if you’re having a really rough night, both. On that note, be sure to never leave the apartment without your cellphone AND your charger. A dead phone does you about as much good as an expired MetroCard.
- Do not: Wander aimlessly down the sidewalk/straddle the sidewalk/stop for no apparent reason in the middle of the sidewalk
If you have firsthand experience with the rudeness that New Yorkers are so infamous for, chances are you’ve committed one of these foot trafficking infractions. This isn’t rural suburbia or even Washington, D.C.— the streets are narrow, crowded, and all about the hustle. Thus, walking slowly without a purpose or stopping in the middle of Broadway to read an important email are included in the unwritten but official realm of Completely Unacceptable.
- Do not: automatically engage in shoving
There is a fine line in between being aggressive and just being rude. Contrary to popular belief, elbows are not the go-to response when trying to fight your way through a crowded space. Most people will get out of your way with an effortless “Excuse me;” if you throw in a smile, they might not even grumble or roll their eyes about it. A well-placed shove, however, will most likely get you painfully and forcefully shoved right back.
- Do not: hug the subway pole like it’s a long-lost relative
If you haven’t lost your balance on the subway at least once, you have not lived in New York for very long. To combat the unbecoming effects of Newton’s Law of Inertia, you only need to place one hand on the pole. Wrapping your entire arm around it takes up a remarkable amount of space and is a sure-fire way to earn the chagrin of your fellow passengers.
- Do not: exclusively live the Starbucks life
The New York coffee experience is frequently underrated, which is partly due to the omnipresence of Starbucks and partly due to the international fame garnered by New York pizza and bagels. Whether you’re uptown or downtown, in Brooklyn or Queens, New York has got you and your caffeine fix taken care of. Check out this guide by Thrillist to navigating NYC’s best coffee shops by neighborhood.
- Do not: frequent Times Square
Yes, Times Square, or Tourist Central, is iconic. The ball drops here. The Today Show has its guest artists perform concerts here. The colors, lights, and flashing screens are blinding and exciting. However, there are few places in the city that have the ability to amp up your cortisol levels like Times Square. The whole area is filled with people asking you for money, thrusting pamphlets into your hands, and trying to get you to go on a bus tour or to a comedy show. Tourists who do not know the difference between uptown and downtown are everywhere, and it’s rumored that Dante used the 42nd street subway station as a floor plan for the 5th level of hell. You know, the one for the wrathful and the sullen.
- Do not: wear your heels/work shoes to work
You are truly tempting fate if you wear your work shoes to the office. Some puddles are deceptively deeper than they look, and puddles in New York aren’t exactly made of spring water. The best course of action is to bring your work shoes with you in your bag, or better yet, keep a pair at the office.
- Do not: leave the umbrella at home when the forecast calls for rain
There’s nothing like an NYC summer thunderstorm. The weather is often volatile, and a 30% chance of rain can turn into 90% within the hour. Umbrellas weigh practically nothing and do you quite a bit of good. Going back to street protocol, do not text and hold an umbrella when maneuvering the sidewalks. Do one or the other, but for the love of God, never both at the same time.
- Do not: skip out on the museum experience
New York is home to some of the most famous museums in the world. Whether or not you consider yourself a ‘museum person,’ you should at least spend five minutes looking over the Gothamist’s guide to the city’s best museums.
- Do not: get frustrated easily
This applies to yourself as well as those around you. Some people are elderly and move very slowly, and sometimes a parent toting three children under the age of five falls asleep on the subway and his or her kids get a little out of control. Your train could be delayed, or you might have to fake-smile all day at work after being kept awake all night by the construction right outside your window. The answer to all of these dilemmas is simple, but easier said than done: breathe deeply, and focus on yourself and the things that you do control.
- Do not: forget to connect
This is self-explanatory. It’s easy to retreat into yourself in such a large city, but one of New York’s greatest assets is its people. The city is every bit the melting pot that you have heard it is, with people hailing from all walks of life and all over the world. Rarely will you find yourself surrounded by so many interesting and unique people, and the friendships and connections you forge here absolutely have the potential to last a lifetime. Take advantage!