It's a hidden talent that many New Yorkers have but no one really talks about: the ability to tell when a person doesn't typically inhabit NYC streets. The way that New Yorkers can pick out someone who didn't grow up running to the subway with a bagel in one hand, and the New York Post in the other is practically uncanny.

So, what is it? Perhaps it's the way that one holds their pizza, or maybe it's in the single, solitary second of hesitation one has when stepping out of the subway exit. Or, maybe it's even something as small as a person looking initially confused when being handed a towering sandwich full of pastrami at Katz's Deli. Whatever it is, we're divulging the secrets behind why New Yorkers probably have every tourist's number pinned.


Updated by Lauren Feather, February 18, 2022: Like many global tourist hotspots, New York has been quiet over the last couple of years. The pandemic saw empty streets and almost zero tourists in places where they once drew en mass, with the likes of Times Square and famed NYC areas being void of visitors - whose reactions, behaviors, and excitement were once a source of amusement for locals. However, now that tourists are emerging once again, their hilarious mannerisms are beginning to pop up in public as before, providing much entertainment to giggling New Yorkers going about their daily business - and we've updated this article with a few more interesting pointers that shine a spotlight on non-New Yorkers.

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It's In The Reactions Of Non-New Yorkers

There are just some things in New York City that visitors aren't used to. While this is incredibly exciting for the tourist, it's also somewhat of an amusing giveaway for those who pass these things on a daily basis. The first giveaway is the sheer look of surprise and awe when a person walks out of Penn Station, Central Station, or steps out of the taxi for the very first time. Eyes widen when it dawns on a person just how tremendous the city skyline is, and, chances are, anyone who has their eyes peeled to the sky above is staring in shock at the skyscrapers around them.

The Reaction To Glorious NYC Food

Another common reaction? Food! Understandably, New York City is home to some of the best food in the country, and possibly even in the world. But if there's one thing that a New Yorker wishes they could do, it's to take a bite of a hot, steamy, cheesy slice of NYC pizza for the first time once again. This is second only to a religious experience, and if a blissful reaction implying pure nirvana follows a bite of pizza, it's highly likely that someone is tasting (real) pizza for the first time. The same follows suit with a New York City hot dog, bagel, and Reuben sandwich.

The Star Struck Reaction To Celebrities

Many celebrities not only visit New York, but also call the city "home." As such, long-term New Yorkers are overly used to bumping into big stars - almost on a daily basis. Locals are so acclimatized to movie sets, celebrity-spotting, which means that walking alongside and running into A-listers quickly loses its wow-factor. Any inhabitant of New York won't even bat an eyelid when they see a familiar face off the screen, but of course, that doesn't apply to tourists - who often lose their minds and give in to a serious case of star struck-ness when running into anyone with an ounce of fame. Ultimately, nothing screams "I'm a tourist!" more than their energetic kneejerk reaction - that is chasing down and swooning over a celebrity trying to go about their mundane day in the middle of New York City.

Related: 10 Things To Consider Before Visiting New York


New Yorkers know what they want and when they want it. Their communication is swift, and their ability to decide what to order is faster than one can say "bagel." As such, any visitor immediately stands out like a sore thumb when they take an era to order something - be it food, drink, or whatever else it is they're standing in line for.

To avoid mumbling confusedly like a tourist and holding up the line at a diner, deli, bagel shop or any other kind of store, it's advised to decide what to order before getting to the front of the queue. New Yorkers expect people to have figured out what they want before they get to the counter, which not only saves time, but also prevents any grumpy city-dwellers and commuters from yelling at self-unaware tourists.

Maps And General Confusion

The city might seem intimidating but it's only because it's so foreign to so many people. Its streets follow a grid system (with the exception of Broadway, which runs at someone of an angle). However, this is something that not many people would realize unless they're looking at a full map of New York City. Therefore, there's a general sense of confusion when it comes to navigating the city's sidewalks and streets. While not everyone with their GPS out is a tourist (hey, sometimes it's tough finding that shopping center or hole-in-the-wall bar) - but there's a pretty good chance they're not all too familiar with its streets.

  • Tip: At this point, it's probably easier to just ask someone for directions - New Yorkers aren't known to bite without reason.

Related: New York City: The First-Timer's Guide On Where To Stay

The Rush... Or Lack Thereof

There's undeniable energy when it comes to New York City. It's not one that feels rushed, necessarily, but it is one that feels very high-strung and energizing. While New Yorkers can be leisurely, it's not something that's in overwhelming abundance in the city - so someone that's standing to the side of the sidewalk, strolling lazily through Times Square, or taking their sweet, sweet time in the subway is probably fairly new.

Speaking of which, the subway is the one place that's bound to separate the tourists from the locals. Subway maps are not exactly helpful when it comes to navigating the somewhat confusing lines that go from place to place throughout the Five Boroughs, and it shows. While we have a helpful guide on how to use NYC's subway system, it can still be confusing. Anyone who's not rushing into the subway car to find a seat or grab a spot doesn't realize the fate they've resigned themselves to... if there's room at all during rush hour.

There are certain times when the city is poppin', and rush hour is only one of those times throughout the day. No one is more determined to arrive at their job on time than early-morning commuters, and this is something that tourists will quickly recognize if they happen to be out and about. This general sense of rush-and-go is a) definitely not something anyone wants to indulge in on vacation and b) fairly unique to New York City, and any other major city in the world. However, when it comes to a tourist trying to keep up, it can become fairly obvious who carries sneakers with them to work, only to change into heels once they arrive.

Related: 10 Of New York City's Best Neighborhoods For First-Timers

The Local Lingo

Just because one can speak English doesn't mean one can speak "New Yorkian." A hilarious combination of a lack of understanding when communicating with New York folk coupled with the non-use of typical New York words and phrases says enough about a person's tourist status, much to locals' entertainment. There's a whole dictionary of examples of fine New York lingo, with a few in particular to be aware of.

New York-dwellers don't "stand in line," they "stand on line," and uptown and downtown are both traffic and subway directions as well as actual destinations. There's also a street called "Houston," but it is absolutely not pronounced the same as the Texan city - it's pronounced "Howston," and saying it any other way will result in confused faces of local people that don't have a clue what you're talking about.

Next: 10 Free Things To Do In NYC (That Are Also Bucket-List Items)