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2. Pick up your pace.
You know that phrase, “a New York minute”, as in, an instant? Not just pure cliche, it turns out. New York really is one of the fastest walking cities in the world - science says so - and unless you want to get yelled at you’ll accelerate your average walking speed to keep up with the pedestrian pace. That speediness also goes for driving, talking and, well, perhaps everything except brunch, which might be the one and only New York custom that demands serious lingering.
3. “A slice” only ever refers to one thing.
‘A slice of what?’ you may ask. Pizza. It’s always pizza. When a New Yorker says, ‘let’s go get a slice’ they do not mean cake, or bread, or life. Everyone will claim to know the best little pizza place in the whole city but the truth is finding bad pizza here is about as easy as finding a rent-stabilised apartment with a washer-dryer (see number 7.) Get a hot plain slice to go on a little paper plate, fold it up, and eat it walking down the street - it’s the only way.
4. The bed bug terror lives on.
Stay longer than a week or so in this city and you’ll learn to never, ever, scratch yourself in public. The city-wide bed bug epidemic may have abated a bit now, but most people still live in fear and horror of an infestation. You could be Beyonce busking and most New Yorkers would look away bored. But have an idle itch on a subway platform and the crowds will recede in full, freaked-out pariah treatment. In fact, this might be the only thing that New Yorkers do bat an eyelid at.
5. Know that it’s always Show Time.
This is possibly the greatest public transport phenomenon in the world and like all the best things, you can’t control it. If you’re lucky enough to hear a kid with a boombox shout, “what time is it?” down a subway car, know that the answer is “show time” and that you’re most likely in for a treat. It might not exactly be MTA-approved, but breakdance troupes on the subway can be mini-spectacles of virtuosity. Just be sure to keep your knees and elbows in.
6. Midtown is there to be hated-on.
When you step off the subway for the first time and twirl through Times Square it might feel like the most movie-made-real, wondrous place on earth - bright lights! big billboards! grown men in Elmo suits! You’ll soon learn, however, to disparage noisy, tawdry midtown and its crowds like the jaded old sophisticate you’ve become. Keep your most extravagant eye-rolls for when your over-excited relatives visit and want you to take their picture under some enormous LED advert screen.
7. Everyone is obsessed with rent and real estate.
New Yorkers are what you might call maximisers, as in, they’re stupendously unabashed about wanting The Best, and More of it, Right Now. Nowhere is that more true than in the realm of real estate. Be prepared for perfect strangers, or at least, that person you just met four seconds ago at a party, to interrogate you about exactly how much you pay for your miniscule closet of a home in Bed-Stuy. And should you have that be-all and end-all of desirability, a laundry room in the building, maybe keep quiet about it unless you want your new friends to openly despise you.
8. The sunsets are incredible.
Maybe because there’s so much other spectacular stuff to look at here - the bridges, the skyscrapers, Central Park in early autumn - nobody talks enough about the sunsets, which are at their most outrageous during Manhattanhenge, a twice-yearly phenomenon of the setting sun lining up perfectly with the east-west grid of the city. Every passerby will wield their smartphone at the sight and so should you.
9. The Polar Vortex is a thing.
To live through a New York winter is to know what it’s like to experience nature wanting to kill you. People wear those ugly old padded full-body duvet coats for a reason: when the Polar Vortex (a meteorological phenomenon of a pocket of very, very, very cold air, rather than a comic book villain) strikes Gotham in January you’ll need all the insulation you can get.
10. Threatening to move to LA is the most New York thing of all.
This is every long-time New Yorker’s favourite pastime and you can expect the frequency of these conversations to rise during the grip of number 9, above, when Californian climes are obviously at their most tempting. The West-Coast threateners will also say the city isn’t what it used to be, which is true, because it’s never the same. Which might also be why so few people actually make good on the talk and leave. Once New York gets you it tends to get you for good.