Whenever you travel to another country, there are always certain customs or unspoken rules that the locals follow. I like to immerse myself in the culture of another country while I am there, and try to be respectful and honor any traditions that an area may abide by. New Yorkers are their own special breed, and here are some unspoken rules that they want you to know:
In many countries, the tip is included in the final price you are given. However, that is not generally the case in New York. If you are at a restaurant and the waiter is providing great service, please tip your server 15-20% of your bill. If you are in a cab, please tip your driver at least 10% of your bill.
If you walk around Manhattan, you will come across many carts filled with hot dogs, pretzels, nuts, and what we call “street meat” (meat that is made on the street in a little cart!) I have seen a vendor drop a pretzel on the floor, dust it off, and put it back on the pile of pretzels to be sold. CJ has also gotten sick on a couple of occasions from a cart. Lastly, a lot of these carts are open to the very polluted air of New York. Therefore, I found that it is best to avoid these quick and cheap places for food. Please look to my post on Fast & Healthy Places to Eat in NYC for better options!
New Yorkers are FAST. They have places to go and people to see. Do not stop in the middle of the sidewalk to take a photo or you will get bumped into! If you would like to stop, move to the side. Also, when you are walking, stay to the right. This way you will not run into any oncoming people.
If you are using the subway to get around the city, you will find that there are many stairs and escalators to get to and from the trains. When walking up or down the stairs, it is important to stick to the right side of the stairwell, similarly to when you are walking on the sidewalk. Additionally on escalators, stay to the right if you are not walking up or down. If you are indeed walking up or down the escalator, move to the left side of the moving steps to do so.
There are many neighborhoods to stay in New York City, but one in particular that many gravitate to is Times Square. This is the area you want to avoid due to the insane crowds, noise, and lights! Consider staying in Soho or Greenwich Village where the shopping, architecture, and restaurants are where the locals gravitate towards.
While there are a ton of restaurants to enjoy in Manhattan, there are also many people all on one little island! I would suggest making a reservation at a sit-down restaurant, especially during peak times or on the weekends. Also, please wait to be seated by a host or hostess at a restaurant unless otherwise instructed.
New York City is famous for its yellow cabs, but there are a couple of nuances to hailing a cab. If a cab is already occupied or the driver is no longer picking people up, their light on the top of the cab will be off. If a cab is available to pick people up, their light on the top of the cab will be on. Only stick out your hand to call a cab if the light on the cab is on. Also, yellow cabs are not the only cars owning the streets! There are green cabs as well. These taxis either pick people up in Manhattan above East 96th and West 110th streets or one of the outer boroughs (Queens, Brooklyn, etc). Green taxis do not pick people up who are looking to go from point A to point B within Manhattan. Lastly, do not get in a black car, especially at the airport! They generally charge you inflated prices.
I hope this helps you during your stay in New York!