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A lot of natives take the city for granted but I was lucky that my grandparents instilled a love of the city in me from an early age. We were always going to shows, parades, and museums. I was also made very aware of our family history. I knew the stories of how my family struggled to build a new life here that would be better for future generations. I feel a responsibility to enjoy the city and appreciate living in this house that my great grandparents bought with money they saved penny by penny. Because that’s what they worked so hard for.
It’s hard to say there’s a ‘typical day’ in NYC as everyone is so different. We have everything from bankers who take the subway (or private cars) during rush hour and work until late at night (at which point they go to fancy steakhouses to network), to aspiring artists who work two different waitressing jobs, then run to auditions in between and go to rehearsals at night.
I think what we all have in common is we’re busy. Super busy. I don’t know a single person who lives here who lives a chill, relaxed life. There’s just so much to do. Every night, so many events. People end up packing their calendars.
About once a month I go to the theatre — we just have such an incredible theatre scene in NYC. I actually rarely see Broadway shows, mainly because of the price, but also because they tend to be more commercial. The off-Broadway scene and off-off-Broadway scene are much more accessible and tend to be more inventive and relevant. I usually go with the same few people and we grab drinks afterward to talk about the show.
I can name two friends off the top of my head who live in Manhattan. That’s it. Everyone else lives in Queens, or Brooklyn, or even the Bronx or Staten Island (most of those boroughs tend to be natives). Manhattan’s just too expensive. Yes you have to see Times Square and Central Park, but you should at least get out of Manhattan once — that’s where the more average New Yorkers live. There are definitely local spots in Manhattan (outside of Midtown), as people hang out there often, but at the end of the night, everyone leaves Manhattan to go home.
That ‘gruff New Yorker’ is such an old stereotype. The city was terrible and dangerous in the 1970s and 80s, so people were definitely tough, but today I think people are pleasantly surprised when they meet New Yorkers. We’re actually super helpful and more than willing to point you in the right direction or suggest a spot for a great slice of pizza. We might be blunt and not spend a lot of time with you but that’s because we’re busy. Very busy.
What people have to remember is that this is a BIG city with A LOT going on. Everyone’s in a rush and trying to do 1,000 things at once. And even though you’re on vacation, we’re not. NYC had 60 million tourists (!!!) in 2015 (our population is 8.4 million). So those crowded NYC streets? Your fault, not ours! The best you can do as a visitor is be conscious. Be conscious of space — if you’re strolling down the sidewalk, make sure to stay to the right and leave room so we can pass on the left. If you stop to take a picture, get out of the way first.
We’re also pretty blunt and practical. So if you’re asking for directions to the F train, we’re going to first ask where you’re going because we probably know a better way to get there.
I think I’m a good guide because, as a New Yorker, I take it really personal if someone doesn’t have a good time in my city. So I’m going to do everything within my power to make sure you have a great time. All of the main complaints about NYC (too crowded, too expensive, no public restrooms) are all things that can be remedied — or at least, I can prepare you for them and show you how the locals get around this. I make sure to include all of this practical stuff on my tours because I know you’re going to enjoy my tour, but I also want to make sure you enjoy the rest of your time in what I think is the greatest city in the world. Because what a missed opportunity if you don’t!
The pretzels are terrible. I don’t know why we’re still famous for them. Don’t waste your carbs on a pretzel — get a hot dog instead.