200 things you simply have to know about New York (part one)

So after almost 300 days out of water, I’ve reached my 200th post. To mark the occasion, I’ve come up with 200 things that you should know about New York. Some of them apply to the rest of America, but all of them sum up why the city is completely unique. And whatever you may think sometimes, I think you all know I love the place deep down.

Obviously 200 bullet points would be one damn long post, so I’ve split it into four sections. OK, you’re right, I haven’t quite managed to finish the list yet. I’ll get there, don’t worry. And feel free to add your own New York idiosyncrasy in the comments. I might even use it (and credit you!) in the final 200…

Here goes:

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.

Only 150 more to go, you’ll be relieved to know.

Thanks for reading for the last ten months or so – your interest and comments are appreciated more than you know. I hope you’re still here for post number 400.

Just don’t expect me to do 400 things you simply have to know about New York, OK?

23 thoughts on “200 things you simply have to know about New York (part one)

  1. Jan

    I had an east coast friend who used to always call and say whassup? And I used to always say, “I don’t know. You called me,so what is up?”

  2. Jessica in Rome

    OMG, I am still laughing at potarto! Which Becky from Roseanne was it? Alicia Goranson or Sarah Chalke? I miss that show! Can’t wait for the upcoming parts, nice job!

    Jessica in Rome

    PS. Is there a reason you have your rss feed short? I usually read blogs in my google reader but only a piece of your feed shows up so I have to click through (see # 21) 🙂 Just wondering…

  3. Brooklyn


    As a native New Yorker, please accept the compliment that you’ve made a damn good start on the list.

  4. Karen

    Great list, obviously I have to take your word on these, never having visited myself.
    Although having lived in Slough for 8 months, I can say, its isn’t as bad as you think 😉

  5. GrahameD

    Excellent post!

    I live in DC, which would like to think of itself as the most important city in the USA but knows in it’s heart of hearts that it’s NYC.

    I loved the little film they used to show on the seatback tellys on Virgin flights from London, where they would outline the best things about DC for visitors.
    It was a top five list and it went something like

    1. The Smithsonian Museums
    2. The Lincoln Memorial
    3. The Capitol Building
    4. The Jefferson Memorial
    5. Only 250 miles from NY

  6. Paul Sheffrin

    Brilliant list, Dylan. Is the order arbitrary or are we on a heart-stopping countdown to No.1? If not, perhaps we should get to vote.

  7. Dylan

    It’s actually completely arbitrary, Paul. But feel free to make your own suggestions!

    GrahameD – I laughed out loud at that. I suspect it may have been written by a New Yorker (see #13)

    Tim – until I saw these fiddleheads for sale, I had no idea of their existence, let alone that their could be a fiddlehead capital of the world. Please please next time you’re there, can you post a picture to The Plummet Onions of the two of you infront of a “Tide Head – Fiddlehead Capital of the World” town sign, just to make my day.

    Jessica, it was Becky, in a restaurant in Brooklyn. And sorry about the RSS thing – I guess I just like being able to see how many people come through the site, and in any case, if it’s good enough for The Guardian, it’s good enough for me!

    Time to go looking for more shorts – it’s going to be 93 degrees in the city this weekend…

  8. Jessica in Rome

    Haha! I can live with the RSS thing 🙂 But regarding Becky, I meant which actress, since there were two that played her. Alicia was the original actress then she was replaced by Sarah Chalke who is now on Scrubs. I was just curious which actress you were referring to.

  9. Dylan

    Sorry Jessica, I meant to write that it was Alicia but my stupidity got the better of me. I never really accepted Sarah Chalke as Becky anyway…!

  10. Brooklyn

    – TV for $80, Alex.

    – She played original Becky in “Roseanne” and returned in that role after an absence.

    – Who was Alicia Goranson?

    – BUZZ!!!

    – I’m sorry but the judges have ruled that your answer is incorrect. The name of the actress for that part in the cast listing for that show was Lecy Goranson.

  11. Dylan

    Sorry Brooklyn, but Alicia decided to shorten her name to Lecy when she took adult film parts. That’s “took film roles as an adult” rather than “‘adult’ film parts”. She’s actually a famous daughter of Brooklyn (the borough, rather than your good self) – I saw her in Po restaurant on Smith Street.

    Personally, I think Jeopardy would take my answer. Or my question. Oh you know what I mean…

  12. Brooklyn


    I sorry, but I have to pull rank on you on this one.

    I’m not sure how old you are, but as a Boomer, I saw the original broadcasts (save the geezer comments, please), and I recalled her being billed in the credits as Lecy; I double-checked and IMDB confirmed my recollection of her billing.

    As for Jeopardy, if their standards have in fact fallen to Bush Administration standards of accuracy, it doesn’t mean that mine have to fall that far as well.

  13. Dylan

    No need to be a Boomer to have watched Roseanne surely – the show only started in 88. I recall many Friday nights (it ran on a Friday in the UK) watching the show with my grandmother. Hard now to believe that it was one of the biggest TV shows in the world at the time…

    Lecy/Alicia, it’s all the same to me! But the point remains, it’s a crappy celebrity spot for such a big city…!

  14. Brooklyn

    “Lecy/Alicia, it’s all the same to me! But the point remains, it’s a crappy celebrity spot for such a big city…!”


    That’s been my experience too.

    I see pictures of Uma Thurman walking in the streets of New York in the newspapers, but who have I seen on the sidewalk? The white Jay from America’s Top Model that’s who.

    (Before I’m totally humiliated, let me explain that I’ve seen him when my daughter watches the show, I swear on the proverbial stack of Bibles.)

    I’ve read that Patrick Stewart took the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn when he was in MacBeth at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. But has anyone I know said they saw him? Nope.

    Based on my experiecne (and apparently yours, Dylan), I’d sooner believe that Saddam had WMD’s than this sort of fairy tale.

  15. Alasdair

    Tim (#3) (mutter, grumble) you preempted my response to Dylan’s #38 …

    I had it all prepared …

    So I’m going to use it, anyway ! (Nyah, Nyah !)


    (As an aside, doesn’t the “Ny” in “Nyah” originate from New York ? (grin))

  16. Expatmum

    Brilliant post. I admire your energy but you could have stretched out this material to keep posting till about 2011. You’ll be finished this list in no time and then what are you going to blog about? Oh wait – that’s never been a problem yet has it?

  17. Jessy

    This is amazing. The short time I spent in NY i found about 30 of these things to be true. It’s good that they throw their everything into doing things (14) i don’t like that we (brits) are so lax about that sort of thing..
    Good list!

  18. fishwithoutbicycle

    I was about to debate #9, but you beat me to it with #10. For me Trader Joe’s at the weekend is closer to hell than 5th Avenue on a Saturday avro. Oh and this NY inhabiting Brit doesn’t even OWN a pair of shorts, so there’s at least one of us being sensible in February 😉

  19. Dylan

    Expatmum – I have to say that I reserve the right to come back to any of these over the next 200 posts!

    Jessy – thanks for the comment…am going to go have a look at your blog now!

    And Fish – surely you’ve needed a pair of shorts today?! Man alive…

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