200 things you simply have to know about New York

Anybody who’s been reading A Brit Out Of Water for a while will know that after 34 years of living in the UK, I moved to New York in 2007 – and all because I fell in love with the woman known in these parts as The Special One.

Two years on, and I’m still coming to terms with the difference between Britain and Brooklyn, and I’m blogging about it here. For anyone who loves New York, is thinking about going to New York, or even is a New Yorker, I’d like to think it’s a wry look at one of the best cities on earth. Why not add me to your RSS feed? Come on, you know it makes sense…

In the meantime, the list below are the facts about the city that you really need to know about before you come here. New York’s all about survival of the fittest, don’t you know?

1. Whatever your nationality, there’s a little community of your fellow countrymen somewhere in this city. Guaranteed.
2. People actually do seem to say ‘whassup’.
3. The streets aren’t paved with gold, they’re paved with the spit of a million construction workers.
4. State taxes are higher than any other place I’ve ever lived. After all, Eliot Spitzer’s high class hookers won’t pay for themselves.
5. It’s a little known fact that every molecule of dirt on the planet originated at some point from the New York subway system.
6. That person shouting randomly in the street is definitely shouting at you.
7. In the 1960s TV show The Invaders, you could always spot the alien by their rigid little finger. In New York, you spot the outsider because they’re smiling.
8. There is one Chinese take out joint per head of population in the city.
9. The longest and most depressing queueline in the world is at Whole Foods in Union Square.
10. Strike that, I’ve just been to Trader Joe’s.
11. The $2 subway fare is probably the best value public transport system in the Western world.
12. Thousands of New Yorkers still complain bitterly about the cost, as if that $2 cost is the one thing that’s preventing them from hiring a yacht in the harbour at Monte Carlo next summer.
13. How many New Yorkers does it take to change a lightbulb? One, to hold it in place while the world revolves around him.
14. Nobody does anything by halves in this city. Whether they’re campaigning on behalf of Tibet, or taking up rollerblading, New Yorkers put their heart and soul into everything they do. Apart from anger management, obviously.
15. The sound of popping animal skin that occurs when you bite into a hot dog on a New York street may be one of the satisfying noises known to man.
16. There is no louder sound on earth than an emergency services vehicle going past you with its siren blaring. They make them that loud so that no-one confuses them with an ice cream van.
17. It is a statistically proven fact that it is impossible to catch sight of the Statue of Liberty without internally exclaiming “f**k me, that’s the Statue of Liberty!”
18. Some New Yorkers really do think that the British say ‘potarto’.
19. On the London Underground you sometimes see tiny little mice scuttling around the tracks. In New York, the subway has stonking great rats who look like they’d eat your grandmother if they were given half the chance.
20. Most people seem to leave offices by about 3pm during the summer, to get an early start on the weekend. Of course, if they just gave everybody proper holidays in the first place…
21. Impatience is the number one religion in New York. Most New Yorkers reading this are already annoyed that I’m not on point 183 by now.
22. Such is sheer array of good food available in New York that it is more than possible to put on in excess of ten pounds in weight after just eight months in the city. So I hear, at least…
23. Co-ops are an opportunity for people who were bullied at school to feel like they have some power at last.
24. Brits in New York are the ones wearing t-shirts and shorts in February.
25. When it rains in New York, it really pours down. Which is embarrassing if you’re wearing a t-shirt and shorts. In February.
26. If you want a glimpse of what hell is surely like, walk down 5th Avenue on a Saturday afternoon.
27. For all the praise heaped upon New York cheesecake, (whisper it in hushed tones) it’s really not all that.
28. I *heart* NY is surely the greatest city logo of all time. More impressive than “Slough: It’s Not As Bad As You Think” at least.
29. Accidentally sneeze as you walk past a doctors in the city, and it’ll almost certainly cost you $20.
30. Customer service is something that New York schoolkids read about in fairytales.
31. A white walk sign is no indication that it’s safe to walk. It’s just to inform you that you will probably have a watertight legal case when the car that’s turning right hits you.
32. Coffee doesn’t actually taste better in New York. But everybody else is wired, so it’s best to grab yourself a cup and go with the flow.
33. There’s probably greater inertia in this city than most cities in the world. Anybody announcing that they’re leaving gets treated like there’s been a death in the family.
34. The everything bagel should be named alongside the Colossus of Rhodes as one of the seven wonders of the world.
35. Writing a blog entry about the woefulness of New York sport will inevitably lead to a last minute New York triumph in one of the biggest sports matches of the year.
36. The Knicks are still rubbish.
37. It is quicker to do forward rolls all the way to China than take a subway train any more than ten stops on a Sunday.
38. The Union Square Greenmarket is the only place in the world that I’ve ever seen edible ferns for sale. But then, I’ve led a sheltered life.
39. Despite the legendary nickname of the city, the apples here are no bigger than they are anywhere else in the US as far as I can tell.
40. If there’s currently a billboard in this town without Sex & The City on it, I’m yet to see it.
41. Given how many actors and actresses there must be in this city, it seems slightly unjust that the only one I’ve seen so far is Becky from Roseanne.
42. There must be a good reason why people wear New Era baseball caps with the gold sales sticker still on the peak. But for the life of me I can’t think what it is.
43. Breakfast in the city is eggs. If you don’t like eggs, you are legally required to make your way to the city borders if you want to eat before 11am.
44. International news coverage means reporting on events in Pennsylvania.
45. There is more privacy in Guantanamo Bay than in toilet cubicles anywhere in New York.
46. There are no stray cats or dogs anywhere in the city. This may or may not be linked to the number of Chinese takeout joints.
47. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway should really be called ‘That Road That Links Brooklyn and Queens’.
48. There are 103 different reasons for schoolkids to have random days off, each more spurious than the last. Today is apparently Brooklyn Day. Next week it’s Fraggle Rock Friday.
49. Nobody in this city gives a toss what anybody else thinks. Which would explain why people are capable of having fully-fledged screaming arguments at the tops of their voices infront of hundreds of commuters on the streets.
50. Being uncovered as a closet pizza hater has been enough to end at least three political campaigns in the last twenty-five years.
51. Your stepsstoop is a much more civilised place from which to get rid of any old crap from your house than the back of a Ford Cortina.
52. Any city that can invent the beer milkshake is alright by me.
53. The view from the N train as you go across the Williamsburg Bridge is as good as any cityscape this country has to offer. I know it sounds strange, but that view of the Brooklyn Bridge just gets me every time.
54. Hipsters really do exist. Their level of actual hipness is only exceeded by their own opinion of themselves.
55. Everybody’s got an opinion in New York. And they’re not afraid to share it with you.
56. That’s an old lady behind you pushing you out of the way so that she can get off the train.
57. Nothing is sacred when it comes to advertising. Anything, anyone or anywhere can be used by big evil brands to get their message across. By the way, this blog entry is brought to you by Taco Bell: Thinking Outside The Bun.
58. The quality of the roads in this country is comparable to those in rural Tunisia. Except a little bumpier.
59. ‘Spicy’ is a swear word in New York restaurants.
60. Someone, somewhere in this city, is getting very very angry right now.
61. Mayor Bloomberg does not control this city. The makers of Boars Head deli meats do.
62. Well, either Boars Head or Chase Bank.
63. Given the number of manicure and pedicure salons in the city, I’m forced to the reluctant conclusion that the average New York hand has at least seven fingers.
64. There’s no shortage of parking in the city, but it’d still be cheaper to park outside Philadelphia and get a taxi back.
65. There must be a world surplus of cream cheese. It’s the only explanation for why delis put so much of the damn stuff on every single bagel.
66. People actually speak to their neighbours here. I didn’t know what the word neighbour meant until I got here.
67. That said, ‘nabe’ as a word is an assault on the soul of the English language.
68. Did I miss a meeting that declared frozen yoghurt one of the five essential foodstuffs?
69. The best day of my life took place in this city.
70. I’m not counting Manchester United’s two most recent European Cup victories in the above, obviously.
71. Hell hath no fury like a Brooklyn resident having a big apartment building built just down the road from their lovely brownstone.
72. If every deli in New York were placed alongside the next, they’d reach from here to Salt Lake City. Or somewhere else quite a long way away.
73. If you want to a scary night out, don’t bother with a trip to the latest slasher movie. Just attend a class play at your local elementary school and watch the parents.
74. Million dollar fines are issued to any New York radio station playing any more than 20 different records in one day.
75. New York apartments are like the everyday living version of attempting to fit 22 people in a Mini. Never in the field of human contact were so many squeezed into so little for so much cash.
76. Jars of sweetscandies seem to feature on everybody’s desks. Did I mention that New York has a collective sweet tooth?
77. Spontaneous combustion has been known to occur in documented cases where a member of the public has managed to find one of the three square yards in the city where a Starbucks cannot be seen in any direction.
78. Should Duane Reade go out of business tomorrow, the resultant collapse in the commercial property market in New York as approximately 67,000 locations instantly went on the market could make the subprime market look like a schoolkid losing their pocket moneyallowance.
79. There’s a truly astonishing sense of community in this city. Even if it’s generally rallied in order to prevent a bar from selling alcohol within an 83 block radius of a school.
80. There really is a hell of a lot less crime here than you’d think given the size of the city.
81. You can always guarantee that the only time you’ll actually see a crime taking place is while you’re showing around a nervous friend or family member who is convinced they’re going to die in New York.
82. On a hot day in June, with a pleasant breeze taking the edge off the sun, there can sometimes feel like there’s no greater place on earth.
83. The amount of time for needed for an outsider to make themselves understood to a native will always be in direct inverse proportion to the amount of time you have.
84. The sudden need for a taxi always rises about five minutes after the 4pm changeover has caused all bar three taxis to turn their lights onto ‘off duty’.
85. Recycling is particularly effective in this city. If London wants to play catch-up, all they need to do is place a 5p deposit on all cans and plastic bottles, and let homeless people do the rest.
86. Fresh Direct is heaven sent – imagine Ocado, but without all the Waitrose stores to make you feel guilty that you’ve had your groceries delivered rather than walking the eighteen yards down the road to get them. Admittedly Fresh Direct’s sixteen yards of foam wrap may be overkill for two bananas.
87. There are maybe only three public toilets in the whole of New York City. And I can’t find two of them.
88. New York is the undisputed cupcake capital of the world. New Yorkers didn’t even know that they liked cupcakes until these shops started appearing randomly on their streets.
89. Brooklyn is the new Manhattan. Queens is the new Brooklyn. The Bronx is the Bronx. And Staten Island is a funny little place that’s difficult to get to.
90. If you can make it here, you can apparently make it anywhere.
91. They’ll hold a parade for anything in this city. 60 years of Israel? Let’s have a parade. Releasing a Disney film? Time for a parade!! A new line of toothpaste now available at Rite Aid? Parade!!!
92. For all its urban sprawl, New York has some of the most impressive parkland of any city I’ve ever been to. Even if the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a poor man’s Kew Gardens.
93. If I hear “Ladies and gentlemen, we are delayed because of train traffic ahead of us” one more time, I swear I will not be held responsible for my actions.
94. In Britain, your inducement to give blood is a biscuit. In New York, it’s Mets tickets.
95. World hunger could be solved if all the cinema snacks in New York were packaged up and airdropped in major poverty-stricken areas. Obviously dentists and industrial quantities of floss would also be required.
96. The phrase ‘thank you’ was abolished under the state 1883 Politeness Reduction Act
97. People, bacon doesn’t belong with waffles.
98. Strangers have no issue with starting up a conversation with you. Very disconcerting at first. Particularly for the British, who have to run a full background check on any newcomer before engaging in even a stolen glance with an outsider.
99. Salad is drowned not dressed
100. By my reckoning, Christmas decorations should be appearing around the city in approximately 34 days.
101. If officials made it any easier to access the subway without paying, babies who have consistently had their candy taken from them for the last 200 years would be relieved of their ridicule.
102. Aviator sunglasses are compulsory uniform in New York. Especially on the subway.
103. You have to pay a toll to get out of Brooklyn on the Verrazano Bridge, but it’s free to come back. This can only be a ploy to stop cheap New Yorkers from leaving.
104. It is easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than to find a New York block that doesn’t have some kind of shop offering you ten different types of turkey.
105. Native New Yorkers love their city with a passion.
106. If you ever needed proof that the legs of 80% of Americans will drop off if they’re forced to walk more than 100 yards in a day, look no further than New York and its subway system that stops every ten blocks.
107. Drop a nickel from the Empire State Building and it’ll be worth two cents by the time it hits the ground, such is the economic crisis afflicting the US at the moment.
108. Too many Brits in New York use their nationality as an excuse for their arrogant behaviour. It’s no excuse, fellow countrymen…
109. There are more knock offcounterfeit bags purporting to be genuine Prada/Coach/Louis Vuitton than in all of Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore combined. It’s easier to pick up a fake Chloe handbag in Chinatown than it is to get a portion of General Tso’s chicken with steamed rice.
110. Everybody’s desperate to be part of New York. Especially the people of West New York. They’re in New Jersey.
111. I’ve seen more broken feet in New York in the last two months than I’ve probably ever seen in my life. Either that, or vain New Yorkers have been told that the orthopedic boot you have to wear is actually a post-modernist fashion statement. But only if you wear it on one foot.
112. There is so much construction work in the city that official estimates suggest the whole of New York could be rebuilt within three years.
113. The cannoli. Why?
114. Walking past a bar and seeing ‘soccer’ on a big screen still surprises me every time.
115. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 3 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning, there is traffic everywhere in New York.
116. Especially when you’re in a hurry to get to the airport.
117. If you can conceive of a type of entertainment, then there is somewhere in New York that will be able to provide it for you. Even those fetishists who insist on hearing German Schlager music while having their toes gently stroked by feather-toting Azerbaijani immigrants.
118. The prevalence of the one cent coin is directly due to the sheer volume of 99 cent stores in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
119. There has not been a consumer product yet invented that will not be directly delivered to your door by one or more New York stores.
120. For a city that banned smoking in bars well before the UK, there’s a hell of a lot of smokers in this city.
121. Please stop making me wait for the rest of my party to arrive before you’ll seat me in your restaurant. I promise you that they’re just having a cigarette outside.
122. More New Yorkers take advantage of the opportunity to drink until 4am than anywhere else in America. If New York didn’t exist, Advil would have to invent it.
123. As a neat counterpoint to number 82 on the list, when the sun is blazing at 97 degrees and there’s 80% humidity, New York is about as tempting a destination as war-torn Cambodia.
124. Times Square is the rich man’s Piccadilly Circus.
125. Halloween in New York is incredibly scary. Not because it’s when ghouls and goblins come out to play, but because of the likelihood of being trampled to death by marauding kids seeking out sweetscandy.
126. New Yorkers are taxed according to the average number of syllables they use every day. Their refusal to pronounce every syllable is the reason that a shudder of fear shakes you to your bones when you realise you’ve got a New Yorker on your charades team.
127. Mayor Bloomberg is no Boris Johnson. Thankfully.
128. Grand Central Station is both an utterly stunning piece of architecture, and a fine place to get some food. Apparently you can also catch trains there.
129. ‘Sorry’ is the most-uttered word by the British in New York. Ironically, the apology was outlawed for all native New Yorkers, by state judges in 1969.
130. I’ve yet to find a restaurant or bar in the city which offers Pepsi that doesn’t taste like it’s been made in a Soda Stream.
131. New York is one of the world’s biggest cities, but they still couldn’t win the 2012 Olympics bid.
132. La Guardia airport is the worst airport in the country, with only 58% of its flights arriving on time. And JFK and (New Jersey’s) Newark aren’t too far behind…
133. You don’t know the meaning of stress until you’ve spent a few hours in the company of a New Yorker. Especially if you happen to be sitting next to one on a flight arriving at La Guardia.
134. New Yorkers share their city with some of the most disgusting looking bugs in the world. And the cockroaches are silently plotting to take over the city in a bloodless coup.
135. Everybody always wants something in this city.
136. New York women have the biggest hair in the world. More hairspray and hair curlers are sold per square mile than any other metropolitan centreer in the world.
137. Air quality is Beijing-esque. On a good day.
138. If you fancy spending a half a day in a queueline, just go to your nearest post office.
139. My mother always told me to avoid puddles of standing water on a dry day, just in case it’s urine. If I was to take her advice in New York, I’d never get on the subway.
140. Having your buttons broken by every dry cleaner you take your shirts to is part of the city’s unique charm
141. It’s difficult to feel too ‘out of water’ in a city where you can easily buy Mr Kipling’s cherry bakewells, and Curly Wurly’s.
142. It’s still shocking to find that shops stay open later than 6pm.
143. Finding a needle in a haystack is nothing compared to attempting to find a cleaner who will turn up every week, not charge the earth, and has papers confirming their legal right to be in the country. Or at least faked papers confirming their legal right to be in the country.
144. Getting a drink on the house actually does happen. Not very often, admittedly, but it’s always nice when it does.
145. If you want to have a proper conversation about the state of Manchester United’s attacking options, just get in a yellow cab and tell them that you’re English.
146. If you want to see dogs treated like human beings by women in big sunglasses, New York is the place for you.
147. No excuse is too small for a celebration in New York.
148. By law, disaster movies have to show New York being obliterated.
149. Lindsay Lohan accidentally taking somebody’s coat home from a club is front page news in this city.
150. The city is apparently known as Gotham, but I’ve never seen a man dressed in a cape, a yellow belt and with his pantsunderwear on over his clothes.
151. I love being preached at as much as the next man. But does it really have to be at 8 in the morning as I’m travelling into work on the subway?
152. Politics and bureaucracy is just as mindnumbingly ridiculous in New York as it is in London.
153. If you begin queuingget on line now, you will have a driving license by August 25, 2009.
154. Every second block in New York is a film set. Which makes it all the more astonishing that the only person you ever see is Becky from Roseanne.
155. Some of the best architecture in the world is in New York.
156. Some of the worst architecture in the world is in New York.
157. The more you honk a car horn on New York city streets, the more virile and attractive you become to members of the opposite sex. Apparently.
158. I’ve not been to Japan admittedly, but the best sushi I’ve ever tasted has been in this city.
159. There are more taxidermists in New York than good butchers.
160. I didn’t think it was possible, but residents have found a way to play their music on iPods (NB other MP3 players are available) at even higher ear splitting volumes to those utilised by London dwellers. Fortunately the practice of using the speakers on your phone to blast out music to an entire bus – much beloved of London kids – is yet to make its path to New York in any significant way.
161. You definitely get a better class of crazy in this city. Not just ‘erk, he’s a bit mad’, but more ‘should I phone the authorities just in case he’s escaped from somewhere?’
162. New Yorkers might like to suggest that they’ve got a thick skin, but if the comments I get on this blog are anything to go by, many of them are actually a big bunch of softies who get irate if anybody says anything even vaguely less-than-positive about their beloved city.
163. You can sit at the seat in Katz’s Deli where Sally embarrassed Harry. But if you really want an orgasm, you’d be better off having the pastrami sandwich and not bothering about where you sit.
164. Litter in the city could be reduced by half if they just stopped putting bits of paper into magazines begging readers to take up subscriptions.
165. On a packed subway train, the last space available to sit down in will be exactly 25% smaller than is necessary to fit your comfortable behind in.
166. With Greenwich Village, the West Village and the East Village, there’s a tiny little hamlet just waiting to burst out of New York.
167. There is literally nothing that can’t be purchased in this city.
168. With the wind whistling in off the Hudson, in the height of winter, New York is enough to make you cry frozen tears in pain at the cold.
169. The not-in-my-backyard brigade are possibly ten times more vociferous in Brooklyn than they could ever be in London.
170. Forget burgers and pancakes, New York could be home to some of the finest restaurants in the world.
171. Coats are for losers.
172. There are too many British people in this city. How is a Brit Out Of Water supposed to stand out when every sodding third person seems to have a working knowledge of Coronation Street and HP Sauce?
173. If the number of Nintendo DSs and Sony PSPs is anything to go by, New Yorkers require near constant stimulation if they’re not to die before the age of 40.
174. New York may well have invented Christmas.
175. If you want to go to the cinema in New York, your family must have a total annual income of at least $150,000. And that’s without popcorn.
176. If you’re a New Yorker and you don’t know the meaning of the word ‘jobsworth’, just go to any federal licensing authority. Watch and learn.
177. There’s no package too big that it can’t be carried on the subway.
178. Contrary to popular belief, it’s sodding easy to get lost in a city that’s governed by a grid system.
179. On a humid summer’s day, subway platforms in New York are hotter than the blazing bowels of hell.
180. On a cold winter’s day, subway platforms in New York are hotter than the blazing bowels of hell.
181. If you’re able to walk past the Flatiron building without wondering what the offices are like in the narrowest part of the building, you may want to check your pulse to ensure that you’re still alive.
182. Restaurants within a ten block radius of Times Square are required by law to charge 50% above all accepted levels for any given foodstuff.
183. There’s no getting away from the fact that the New York skyline is one of the most impressive sights in the world.
184. SwearingCursing in the workplace goes down like a cup of cold sick.
185. What’s not to like about a city that has four waterfalls installed, as an Olafur Eliasson living art piece? Obviously I would be negligent in my commitment to London if I were not to point out that he did something even more impressive in London almost five years ago.
186. Anybody who thinks it rains more in London than in New York is a liar and a cheat.
187. Every New Yorker is convinced that they would die of boredom outside the city. Clearly, there are no museums, books, movies, hobbies or conversation anywhere else in the world.
188. The best pickles (pickled cucumbers, to all non-New Yorkers) are found in this city. Clearly, they don’t bear any comparison to Branston Pickle, but they’ll do in an emergency.
189. New York has invented more ways to rob tourists of their hard-earned cash than any other city on earth. And if you don’t believe me, go and have your one cent piece turned into a New York commemorative coin. For $4.99.
190. If you want to see New York at its best, see it from the water.
191. That’s ‘floating on top of the water’ for the avoidance of doubt. Frankly you don’t want to be in the Hudson if you can possibly avoid it.
192. It’s difficult to take the city’s soccer team too seriously given that they’re named after the world’s most famous energy drink.
193. Junk mail is a way of life. If businesses in New York aren’t bombarding you with unwelcome crap, they’re not fulfilling their duty in this world.
194. With a 20% deposit necessary, it’s not surprising that most people don’t buy their own property in this city.
195. Given the amount of fuss that surrounded IKEA setting up in Red Hook, I can’t even begin to imagine the furore if Adolf & Eva’s Drive-Thru came to town.
196. Apparently New York’s water is so pure that it’s one of only a handful of American cities that doesn’t need to put its water through treatment plants. It allegdely comes from the Catskills – but lets face it, the Hudson’s much closer, and if you’ve read number 190, you’ll understand why I drink bottled water.
197. Reading the adverts on the New York subway would be enough to make you think that you can sue for anything in this city. And you probably wouldn’t be far wrong.
198. You can buy good cheese in New York. But it would be easier to find a squirrel with a hairlip.
199. Toilet paper was invented in New York. So was the Waldorf salad. Good grace was invented elsewhere.
200. If you’re going to blog about any city on Earth, New York’s probably the place to do it.

2 thoughts on “200 things you simply have to know about New York

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