New York City is known for its tall buildings and late-late-late night life. It’s known as the “Big Apple”, interestingly because of its history with horse racing. It’s also, and for more obvious reasons, known as “The City that Never Sleeps”. As soon as you mention that you’re from New York, people from out of state automatically assume you mean NYC. It’s America’s melting pot, holding 8 million residents of all different backgrounds, nationalities, races, religions, sexual identities and preferences, etc and so forth.
And among these familiar names and characteristics, New York City is highly known for being home to a lot of rude people. When NYCers step foot outside the city, they are astounded by how friendly people are in other places (especially Upstate and The South). They realize that people in other towns smile as they pass one another, usually throwing in a greeting, and seem so genuine while doing so.
Now, coming from a small town in Upstate/Western New York, I get it. People back home are friendly. When taking a leisurely walk down the street, everyone tends to smile and say “Hi” to one another. Things are much slower-paced, allowing for time to stop/slow down and smell the roses.
But the thing is, people are rude in small places, too. I worked at Walmart back home – believe me, rude people are everywhere. Plus, people in small towns and/or cities have less interactions with others on a daily basis. While they’re in their cars driving to work, maybe cursing at other drivers for poor driving skills, we don’t have that luxury (well, most of us don’t).
On the same note, friendly people are in large places. I’m on a first-name basis with the two guys at the deli I go to every weekday morning for breakfast. They greet me by name, ask how I am, and know my usual order. My co-workers are lovely people. The ladies at the laundromat are friendly; although their first language is not English, they still give me a smile and tell me to have a nice day.
So, sure, there are rude people in New York City, but there are also wonderful people, too.
Plus, not to defend jerks with outright disinterest for other people’s well-being, but I can kind of understand why some people are rude here in NYC (to an extent). I was thinking about this the other day after an older gentlemen sitting next to me on the subway told me to have a nice day. I smiled and said the same to him, kind of hanging back before putting my book away and getting up to leave the train. I didn’t want him to notice that we had the same stop. I didn’t want him to try to strike up a conversation.
After living in the city for 2 years, I’ve realized that no interaction means no bad interaction. I understand that it was 7 a.m. so there were tons of people around. If he tried any funny business, after dealing with me there wouldn’t be a lack of people around to help if I needed it. Not that the presence of a lot of people guarantees safety, but that’s another can of worms.
So anyways, I stayed 10 feet behind this older man to ensure that we wouldn’t cross paths again. But then he looked back and noticed me and as I walked by him, he made some comment to me with a smile. It was not a rude, sexualized, or otherwise uncomfortable comment; it was something like the coincidence of us meeting again.
Now, this guy was friendly, polite, and didn’t approach me in a threatening way. BUT. Hearing stories of how women (and men) get sucked into uncomfortable and dangerous situations has me on high alert most of the time. I’ve tensed up when someone approached me (male or female, any color) just to ask directions because I’m not sure what they are going to ask or potentially try to do to me. I know this sounds so dramatic and like I’m making up crazy stories in my head. But these things happen!
One morning before work last year, I was once getting a Metrocard from the machine in my local station when I felt someone grab my butt. And I mean grab. It wasn’t just a brush of someone’s hand or someone’s bag bumping into it. It was a full-palm-and-fingers-curled-around-the-left-cheek grab.
Stunned and flustered, I turned to the first sign of movement to my left and yelled with lots of attitude, “Excuse me, please don’t ever do that again!” Who knows if that was the culprit? I don’t. But either way, that person felt like it was okay to grab me and make me feel vulnerable. I held back tears because I was mortified, embarrassed, and scared. Has this person been watching me? Did they know I would be here at this time? Will they try it again?
I wasn’t even wearing anything revealing or anything that might lead someone on – I was wearing a pair of flare jeans (not skinny, not tight), sneakers, a plain black t-shirt, and my hair was up in a ponytail. That is like the most “leave me alone, don’t talk to me” outfit.
And that ruined my whole day. I was worried about coming home that night because I still wasn’t 100% sure who the culprit was and whether they would try it again. What if they brought a friend or two along and cornered me? My station is pretty busy all the time, but still. They have their ways.
So anyways, long tangent, but same point. I think a lot of people are more cautious than they are rude. It may be a different story in Manhattan during morning and evening rush hours, but in my case I have a trust issue. Especially as a white female – the looks I’ve gotten from guys of all ages is enough to creep me out forever. The things that have been mumbled to me on street corners as I’m taking my laundry to the laundromat in broad daylight amidst a large group of people is not appropriate for my blog. It’s disheartening and frustrating.
So for those of you that are not from NYC or have only visited and were put-off by the rudeness you’ve experienced, just remember that you don’t know where that person has been and what they’ve been through that day or in life. There are a lot of high-stress jobs here in the city. Their home lives may not be great. Their train could have been delayed, making them late to work. You never know.
Also, just a heads up that tourists can be very annoying to residents going about our daily lives. Now, believe me, I’ve been a tourist in the city. I get it. You’re excited, you’re in a new place. I’m just asking that you be more aware of your surroundings like you would anywhere else. We rely on public transportation which can be unreliable, smelly, and cramped when all of your luggage, book bags, and fanny packs take up excess room. There are hundreds of people walking down sidewalks, so we appreciate it when the flow of foot traffic is steady. Please don’t stop abruptly to look up at the tall buildings, take a picture/selfie, look at a map, etc. We have places to be while you have sites to see. Keep it moving and stay to the right.
Anyways, that’s my two cents on why people in NYC seem rude. I hope this sheds some light for those thinking that everyone in NYC are asses. We’re not all bad. Occasionally, we might let our stress get the best of us, but that’s a universal thing we all share as human beings, whether small-town or big-city.