New York: Life in The Big Apple

It’s time to talk about New York, to take a bite of the Big Apple, and share my perception of life in the big city.

Do you think New Yorkers are rude, self-absorbed, and impatient?

Maybe they are, but perhaps that’s only because you are viewing them through small-town eyes.

Today I am going to debunk some myths and tell you what living in New York is really like.

school girl in New York City

When I was younger and a bit more naive, I thought everyplace in the world was just like New York.  I still remember the feeling of shock when I first learned that fast food restaurants don’t stay open for twenty-fours a day in some parts of the United States.

I was seventeen and sitting in McDonald’s when they began turning chairs upside down and mopping the floor.  Then they locked the door.

What in the world?  I had no idea what they were doing.  Their behavior was bizarre.

“You actually close?”  I asked.

I was shocked.

My second moment of absolutely culture shock came in the south.  One of the women behind a fast-food counter complimented my friends purse and asked to see it.  She slid the purse off her arm and passed it across the counter.

I almost died.

I remember very demonstratively conveying the stupidity of such an action.

But you know what?  The food service lady passed it back, without emptying it first.  I may as well have gone half-way around the world and saw someone eating fire while walking on hot coals, naked, and covered in tribal drawings.

On second thought, that wouldn’t even be as astonishing.

That’s when I realized not everyplace in the world is quite like New York.  City, that is.

Be 100% Uniquely You.

Painted hippie bus

Be quirky, be crazy, be unique, be one hundred percent exactly you, because no matter how odd your personality and no matter how extreme you think you are, it doesn’t matter.  There are millions of other people more quirky, more insane, and more off-the-wall than you.

So go ahead and act out.  Wear your heart and your thrift-store funk on your sleeve.  No one will care.  You’re just another body in a city full of personality.

It’s freeing and often exhilarating.

Don’t be a poser.  To heck with the wannabe’s.  Go ahead and be you.

New Yorkers are On A Mission.

New Yorkers often get a bad rap.  People think they are rude, but it’s a misconception.  In reality, it’s more of a misunderstanding.

For years my husband thought I was rude, that I was ignoring people.

Huh?  What people?

“Didn’t you see that little old lady you almost ran over?  You walked out right in front of the guy with the overflowing shopping cart.  You cut that woman off on the way to the escalator.”

He told me all of those things and more.  The truth is I most likely came close to hitting the old lady, and the guy with the shopping cart?  I totally had the right of way, but honestly, I never saw any of those people.  Not a one.

There could be thousands of people around me, but if I have a task at hand, I won’t see one of them.  I will be solely focused on my mission, and everything from walking the dog to buying a gallon of milk is a mission.

New Yorkers are possibly the most focused people on earth.  They are busy and their world moves faster than yours.  That’s not a put down.  I know you’re busy too, but unless you’ve lived in New York, you cannot understand.  Time is paramount and every second really does count.

Looking at the clock ten thousand times a day is not uncommon.

Walking like you’re out to win a 5k is normal.

Blowing by a line of gawking bystanders doesn’t even register on your radar.

It’s like you’re wearing blinders and you only have a short time to accomplish your mission and return the victor.  That’s every day life.  It’s instinctual.

New Yorkers Don’t Stop.

car covered in sticky notes

When you’re driving around New York, it’s all or nothing – all gas or all brake.  Don’t expect them to stop for every little thing.

If people in front of you slow down to turn, go around them.  If there’s a bus double parked and a half-car width of empty space to their left, go around them.  If a group of pedestrians are a quarter way across the street, go around them.

You don’t stop for much in New York.

What?  Three cars just piled up a half-block down the road, speed up and get around them before the cops block traffic.

That’s the mentality.  I think that’s why people are scared to drive in New York.  If you’re not offensive, you will be killed.

The Sandwich is King.

A deli isn’t just a counter in the grocery store.  It is the home of the pound and a half sandwich.

I don’t dare even mention New York City bread, because I will begin to salivate, but it is hard and crusty and soft in the middle.  It is artisan bread, but it is the most ordinary staple of mealtime.

New Yorkers know to make and eat a sandwich, but when you go to a deli, know what you want.  The lines are long and no-one has time for you decide between pastrami and turkey.  Get em’ both or get a buttered roll, but hurry up and get on with it!

And please, whatever you do, do not pass up the breakfast sandwich, namely a bacon/sausage/ham, egg and cheese on a roll, served fresh and hot all day, every day.

Privacy is a Luxury.

graffiti in the Bronx NY

If you are an exceptionally shy, private, mousey person, get over it, because there’s not a lot of privacy in New York.

People live above, under, and beside each other.  They are in everyone’s business whether they want to be or not.  Voices travel, fights spill into the street, and life is made public.

It happens.  So what.

No one really cares a whole lot anyway, so it’s not nearly as embarrassing as public displays of affection/hate/love/rage may seem.

A Twisted Sense of Humor.

yard sale humor - 401K

When there are millions of people living on top of each other, nothing becomes out of the ordinary.  For this reason, New Yorkers develop a twisted sense of humor.

We can laugh at things that would shock, awe, and nauseate others.  We don’t want to be heartless pigs, but it happens to the best of us.


I should add a disclaimer that not all of New York is like New York City.  The rest of New York is probably a lot more like where you live.

P.S. Sorry if you were emailed an earlier version of this or read it through my RSS feed.  That was the unedited version. :-(  Somehow I hit the wrong button.


  1. says

    I love this post! I grew up on Long Island but spent a ton of time in the city at my aunts co-op. I miss NY. The pizza, the art, the freedom, but not the taxes. I love to go back and visit. It is such a blessing to grow up one place and share it with people in another.

  2. says

    How fun! Every single bit of that just sounds like fun. =) My sister may end up moving to NYC. While I’d hate for her to live so far away from me, I’d love the chance to visit her! I’ve never been there and so desperately want to!

  3. says

    I loved everything about this. We currently live in Northern NJ and I grew up in a suburb of Phila. I went to college in Tennessee which is where I met my husband, a well mannered Southern boy : ) We’ve lived In northern NJ twice, the south a few times, the Midwest (briefly), and in England for several years. There is nothing quite like NYCity and you’ve captured it so well with your words.

  4. says

    I’m not sure private and mousy are the same thing. I’m a private person but in no way mousy. I’m clearly from the South but half my family is from NY and I can relate to a lot of what you said but it seems close to miserable to me to be so rushed all the time. I’m definitely one to move with a purpose and get things done. My most happy days are my most productive but I can always hold the door for the next person or say hi to a stranger or thank you to the boy sacking my groceries. No matter how rushed you are there’s still a place for manners. I don’t see you being this person you just described. You’re so kind and lovely! I know many New York City-ites and this description isn’t what I know about them. They can be harsh and certainly don’t sugar coat anything but very genuine and kind people that love to have fun.

    • says

      Christy, Yes, I suppose I used a poor choice in words when I wrote “mousey”. I edited this last evening with a terrible migraine and didn’t give specific as much thought as I probably should have.

      And I agree, New Yorkers are very genuine and kind when you get to know them. They just don’t always come across that way at first.

    • says

      I came back to revisit this comment one more time, because I do want to give a clear picture of New Yorkers. They are kind and loyal and will go out of their way to help you. Absolutely. But, it’s not all deli sandwiches and kindness.

      As a kid, I’ve had fluorescent light bulbs thrown at me while I was standing on the sidewalk blowing bubbles. They burned down apartments all around me. There was a fire nearly every night. My car has been broken into. My father has been held at gunpoint twice. It’s not always nice. It’s one thing to be a tourist and another to live in the armpit of New York where people rob you and don’t give you a second thought.

      Unfortunately, this is just as big of a reality as the all the good things. So, it makes you hard. As nice, as “Christian” as you want to be, you get hardened to a degree.

      • says

        I agree with you there completely. It can be the same way in every part of the country but I’m sure with so many people being crammed in so tightly and NY really being such a melting pot that those type of things are magnified. I know that so many, probably most of the population in the US feels that in general NY’ers are rude and I think it’s a bad rap. Rudeness isn’t geographical…sadly it’s human.

  5. says

    I think you captured NYC life pretty well. Although, you failed to mention that pizza is King. And that a good bagel can ONLY be found in NYC. Just sayin’… 😉

  6. says

    I’ve always loved New York City. I only have a few bad memories of my visits there…like being hit on at Tower Records (by a man)….Nina has horrified and mad. Oh, and being led to a hotel room with police tape and 1000 cockroaches before being given another only slightly cleaner room to pass the night. I love the people who live there and never bought into the bad rap that they got for being rude. Everyone I ran into was always kind and helpful. If we didn’t have 5 kids, I would love to live there, even for just a few years.

  7. Bev says

    There is no place like New York. You captured city living and the mind set of city dwellers in today’s post. Sometimes I miss the city living since I moved to the “country”! I have no clue who my neighbors are, I travel miles to do any sort of shopping and sometimes the quiet is so loud!

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