How to Be a Real New Yorker, According to Real New Yorkers

how to be a real new yorker
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

There is no complex quite so defiantly maintained as that of a New Yorker. Stubborn, inimitable creatures, New Yorkers will hold that they are unlike any other class of locals -- they are a subdivision of the population, set apart by their tenacity, their brazenness, and their effortless sense of New York cool. Or so they say.

But what really sets New Yorkers apart has little to do with their subway aptitude, or the breakneck speed at which they walk. Instead, it’s about the accumulation of strange, wonderful, gross, scarring experiences that amount to living a life here. In the interest of naming the best of them, we asked long-time New Yorkers about their most defining NYC rites of passage. Here’s what they said:

Scarf a chopped cheese from a Harlem deli at 5am.

Settle on your own personal pronunciation of "Kosciuszko."

Befriend everyone who works at your local bodega.

Earn yourself a free breakfast sandwich for your absolute devotion to a single deli/bodega.

Complain about the people who come to your neighborhood to hit hot new restaurants and bars, even though you do the exact same thing in other neighborhoods.

Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Break down sobbing in broad daylight in an utterly public place over a job/SO/friend/literally anything.

Get shat on by a pigeon. Twice. On the same day.

Know where the nearest public bathroom is, always.

Shout at a cabbie who honks at you for crossing against the light, or slap a car that cuts you off in the middle of a crosswalk. (Hey, you’re walking here.)

Start referring to the city as “the city.”

Start referring to everything above the Bronx as “upstate.”

See the sunrise from a bridge through a subway window.

Ride the subway in the summer as your only workout routine.

Go to happy hour after work and accidentally stay out past 2am.

Trek out to Maspeth, Queens (which has no subway service) to pick up a fucking UPS or FedEx package. (We're not bitter, we swear).

Pay a bouncer to accept your fake Pennsylvania ID.

Think nothing of nearly getting hit by a cab.

Elect to wedge yourself between four sets of armpits instead of waiting five minutes for the next train.

Admit that dollar pizza sucks, and throw out a couple more bucks for a real NY slice at Joe's or Bleecker Street Pizza.

Pay your rent in cash.

Broker fees.

bike thievery
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Have your bike stolen, stripped to the skeleton, or otherwise fucked-with, despite spending a sack of gold on a lock.

Live in a windowless, doorless room that costs twice what your parents pay in mortgage, and count yourself lucky.

Fight off waves of horrendous vermin in your first apartment.

Preemptively adopt a cat for your second apartment.

Grocery shop while waiting in line at Trader Joe's.

Talk shit about a cheap neighborhood, and then move there (because, well).

Reflexively hoard quarters, even long after your building’s laundry goes to a card system.

Go to a weird friend-of-a-cousin-of-a-friend-of-a-co-worker’s Bushwick warehouse party.

Buy liquor from a dude behind bulletproof glass.

Step in poop on the way to something you really shouldn’t bring poop to (e.g. a first date, cocktail party, or your kid’s parent-teacher conference).

Help a lost tourist navigate the subway.

Lie to a tourist when they ask you for directions and you don’t know the answer.

Buy an umbrella from Duane Reade for the 27th time this winter, and watch it break instantly.

Randomly run into someone you know through six degrees of separation, immediately wish you hadn’t.

Make small talk about what will happen when/if the L train shuts down.

Consider $16 a perfectly fair price to pay for a cocktail consisting of vodka, ice, soda, and mint.

Shame cities whose bars close at 2am.

Find yourself making baldly obvious excuses not to leave the city ("Come out to the Hamptons with us!" "I... have to do laundry, go ahead.")

Have a rat run over your foot, and think (almost) nothing of it.

Look for spaces to articulate, as frequently and unabashedly as possible, what it means to be a New Yorker. Find that it’s near impossible, and continue to try anyway.

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Eliza Dumais is a native New Yorker who is absolutely positive that her pronunciation of Kosciuszko is correct.
Contributions from Abby Maddigan, Adam Lapetina, Alex Robinson, Amy Schulman, Daniel Fishel, Eric Vilas-Boas, Erin Weaver, Khushbu Shah, Mai Nguyen, Sam Eifling, Sylvie Borschel, and Tanner Saunders are included.