“If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere!” I’m going to assume you’ve heard this a number of times. The Big Apple might seem like a bite bigger than you can chew, but don’t let this phrase intimidate you! We’re here to help you make it while interning in New York City, so you can make it anywhere!
As a former New Yorker (27 years strong), I have a deep love and appreciation for the culture of my hometown and understand that there are some very specific etiquette tips that can make or break your experience.
It is so endearing that millions of people from all over the world flock to New York City to take in the sights. Really, you all are appreciated. However, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to get to your destination and being hemmed up in foot traffic behind a group of tourists who are walking at .02mph.
Please keep up with the pace of the pedestrians around you! If you are sightseeing, get out of the way. New Yorkers always walk like they’re on a mission - doesn’t matter if we are on our way to save a life or trying to catch a bottomless brunch special (which can sometimes be a matter of life and death).
Don’t Take it Personal
Contrary to popular belief, most New Yorkers are extremely friendly. Don't just take it from me, our Photography Intern Alexis would happily agree. Not sure how we got such a bad reputation but allow me to toot some horns here - we’re great and more often than not will be happy to help out when we can.
But you have to keep in mind, New Yorkers are always on a mission. For instance, if you happen to ask someone for directions and they never break their pace while yelling information at you - this was a kind gesture and they genuinely wanted to help. Don’t be mad at the delivery and don’t write them off as a rude New Yorker.
Have you ever meditated before? Do you have any stress relieving tactics that you can employ when things get overwhelming? Keep them in mind before your rush hour commutes. The NYC MTA system is efficient in that it can get you just about anywhere you want to go in a reasonable time frame for $2.75 per ride (subject to change based on God knows what). You have to purchase a metrocard in order to get on and being ready to swipe when you get to the turn-style is CRUCIAL when it comes to train etiquette. The person behind you may mutter obscenities if you’re digging through your wallet when its your turn to go through.
Whether you're on your way to work as an Accounting Intern or an Interior Design Intern, Your rush hour commutes will be comparable to what it feels like to be a sardine in a can. You will learn to compromise your thoughts on personal space. It will feel like a sauna while you wait for the train to come and then once on the train it will feel like you have relocated to an igloo.
While on the train, please be polite to your fellow passengers. No casual hair flips when the train is packed, don’t eat anything that smells or requires utensils, take up just enough space for your person (your belongings go on the floor or in your lap) and unless there is a pregnant lady running for the train - do NOT hold the doors open.
Another walking tip (I promise you’ll be doing enough walking to justify multiple walking tips), always keep to the right on the sidewalk. Just like when you’re driving and you know to keep your car on the right side of the road? Your body is your new vehicle and the (unwritten) sidewalk traffic laws mandate that you keep to the right to avoid collisions and awkward shuffles with other pedestrians. Keep this in mind for escalators and stairs too.
Pack for the Day
Unless you live three train stops away from your office, it is always a good idea to have everything you need for the day with you when you leave the house in the morning. Chances are you have cool plans after work that aren’t necessarily in the same direction as where you live and why miss out when you could have been prepared? Plan ahead by wearing an outfit that easily transitions from day to night (Fashion Design Interns won't have a problem with this) and try to keep a bag of essentials (toothbrush, extra shoes, basic make-up etc.) at your desk. You don’t have to get ready if you stay ready!
Park is Life
When in doubt, visit one of the many parks in NYC to find something cool to get into. There are tons of activities that take place like movies on the lawn at Bryant Park, the African Drum circle in Prospect Park, Good Morning America Concert Series in Central Park. The Parks and Recreation Department take their summer events calendar very seriously and schedule tons of activities to appeal to a wide variety of interests.
Outside of all the cool events, NYC parks are great for people watching and observing the ebb and flow of a New York Summer day. I’ve travelled to 14 countries to date and I still haven’t found a vibe that competes with a summer night in NYC. Grab an icee, find a friend, get a good seat and bask in the magic.
Bodega’s are a thing
There is no store like a NYC bodega anywhere else in the world. Don’t debate me on this. Your local bodega will provide you with everything from a breakfast sandwich, toiletries, a can of tuna, cleaning items - literally all of the last minute things you realize you forgot when you went to the supermarket and more!
Sometimes if you’re lucky, they will even carry metrocards which is great if you want to avoid waiting on line to buy one when you’re in a rush. Make friends with the person behind the counter and sometimes they’ll hook you up with a free beverage or won’t trouble you for exact change if you have a ten and your items came up to $11.07.
While you’re perusing the city streets, leisurely or on a mission, there are tons of vendors/food trucks that you will encounter and the majority of them only take cash. There are ATMs scattered about (usually one in the Bodega) but who wants to get hit with ATM fees? Find your local bank and try to at least always have a $20 with you just in case you come across something that smells delicious or looks fabulous. Also, most restaurants won’t want to split the bill for you so when going to group dining outings it’s in your best interest to have cash so things don’t get too complicated.
Be Open Minded
New York is an extremely diverse city and there are hubs of people from all parts of the world all happily (for the most part) co-existing. Take a trip to Chinatown, go to Little Italy, visit Flatbush, explore Harlem - pretend your metrocard is a passport that gives you access to a new world every time you get off the train.
So there you have it. Tips on living like a local - from a real life local! It’s important to understand a destination when your intentions involve cultural immersion. NYC is a melting pot full of cultures with unique norms and traditions. We bring you the unwritten, universal NYC code that is followed by real New Yorkers. We’ve set you up with a fantastic internship, and the tools to sucessfully blend in with the locals. Crush it! And don't forget the most important rule about being a New Yorker - there are no rules! Authenticity trumps everything and you'll build better relationships.