New York City Etiquette


 New York City is the most densely populated metropolis in the United States. New Yorkers spend their entire lives sharing a relatively small plot of land. 1.63 million people live within 22.7 square miles or 59 square kilometers. On any given weekday, there are 4 million people on Manhattan island. On weekends, there’s 3 million. That’s over 176 thousand per each square mile on weekdays, 101 thousand more per square mile than live here! Considering that most of the footage is taken up by buildings, roads and vehicles, that’s quite a squeeze! 

   Yes, it’s also quite an invasion of out-of-towners! Many people, visiting New York City, seem to enter with the attitude that “Hey, I’m in New York, now I can act rudely!…After all, aren’t all New Yorkers rude?” This couldn’t be further from the truth! 

   Requisite crowding has caused generations of  New Yorkers to develop a code of behavior and etiquette that separates the sophisticated New Yorker from the majority of out-of-town riff-raff, faster than a New York minute. 

   These rules for etiquette, that which seasoned New Yorkers have come to naturally abide, often seem completely undisclosed to most out-of-towners. (Yes, visitors from Long Island and New Jersey are out-of-towners, too!…In fact, they’re often the most grievous offenders of good manners and social taste.)  To all those of you from the Mainland and beyond. Know that the violation of these rules may cause the immediate antipathy from established Manhattan Island inhabitants.

   For most reading this, since you’re already hip enough to be on this site 😉 you will find most of these points to already be common practice. 

 New York City Rules of Etiquette:

1. Be sensitive and aware that you may be blocking someone from passing on the sidewalk.  


2. Smoking while walking down a crowded sidewalk leaves a wake of smoke for everyone to inhale that is behind you. Smoke your cigarette off to the side in a well-ventilated area.


3. Only take up one seat when using public transportation. Sitting on a crowded subway taking up three seats, with your legs outstretched,  sends a bad message.


4. Always leave a tip for your servers, doormen, repairmen, and building superintendent. Can’t figure out how much for a restaurant tab, just double the tax! 


5. Always hold the door open for someone pushing a baby carriage or carrying bags.


6. Restrain your dog when it’s getting mean and nasty to another dog.


7. Refrain from honking your car horn on a residential side street. It disturbs the elderly as well as infants.


8. Always help someone struggling with a heavy door. Pass it forward.


9.Climb stairs with light feet, in an apartment building. 


10. Refrain from holding subway doors open. The trains run frequently enough and it’s dangerous.


11. Always hold an empty elevator for someone with the “Door Open” button. 


12. Leave all trash in the proper receptacle…coffee lids, cigarette butts, gum paper, receipts, etc.  NYC has made a great effort placing at least two bins (trash and recyclables) at most intersections…and littering is still against the law.

Keep it Clean!


13. Bag your dog’s poop. Tie a plastic bag into a knot and dispose of it into a proper receptacle. 


14. Thank someone when they hold the door open for you. 


15. Hold the door for the person, behind you, long enough for them to grab or catch it. 


16. Hustle when someone’s holding the door for you. 


17. Remove your backpack on a crowded bus or subway.  


18. Converse softly in a restaurant. It makes for a more pleasant experience for everyone.


19. Refrain from cursing around children.  Cursing is not cool, it just says that you don’t have self-control and might just be a troglodyte.


20. Refrain from cursing in restaurants.  


21. Be careful not to stare at people, no matter how interesting. It makes most uncomfortable.


22. Ask for a celebrity’s autograph in an appropriate time and place, not when they’re dining or otherwise engaged.


23. Ask for permission before taking a celebrity’s photo. NYC is a cool place, that’s why they live among us. Let’s keep it that way.


24. Politely approach a stranger only to ask for directions. 


25. Always give your seat to the elderly, pregnant women, and small children. 


26. If you are with a group, try not to take up the entire width of the sidewalk. New Yorkers usually walk quickly and have somewhere to go.


27. If someone is carrying a heavy load, groceries, or boxes, please step to the side and not make them move for you.


28. Pull your dog in closer to you on crowded sidewalks.


29. In NYC, there are many professional drivers, even if many seem reckless. For most out-of-towners driving in the city for the first time, it can appear that it’s a free-for-all without rules. I assure you, there is a sound logic to how New Yorkers drive in town. The rule is: using good judgement, whoever can get to a spot first has the right-of-way!


30. Finally, the most important rule is: KEEP YOUR COOL!


Tourism is a big business in NYC. We all benefit from it. Please, remember that people live here, too. Have a great visit!

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James Finn

Author: James Finn

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