NYC Street Etiquette 101: Riding the Subway.

As there are always plenty of “out of towners” visiting the city and simply because we have many uninformed locals, I have decided to create this small list of “Unwritten New York City Subway rules.” This write up is in hopes that you will learn our ways and better blend in.

Hopefully this will help to keep traffic moving and provide us all a better NYC experience. If you have any specific questions about a certain scenario and the proper actions, leave a comment and I will respond. Should I not have an answer, I will consult my expert NYC panel and get your answer!

That being said, let us begin.

It is a fact that NYC has one of the most complex mass transportation systems in the world. Our subway and bus systems run every day of the year and are in service 24 hours a day. Though there is less frequent service as it gets later in the evening and on holidays, if you sit and wait long enough, the train or bus will arrive.

When riding the train you should not lean on the middle long poles. Its quite rude and also prevents other riders from using the pole to stabilize themselves. At this moment as I’m writing this in the subway car I’m looking at 6 people holding on to the pole, if someone where leaning on it, then now you lose how many standing spots? But don’t worry, if you forget this rule someone like myself will be certain to remind you of it. A casual reminder may come by either verbally notifying you to get off the freaking pole and hold it properly or by forcibly jamming a hand in between your back and the pole and letting you feel their knuckles digging into your back.

Another thing to note is that most people on the train don’t want to talk to you. I’m sorry, but its true. SOME people are friendly and they will respond if spoken to socially, but mostly we want to be left alone and will think you are trying to sell or hustle something from us. NYC culture is very distrusting and cynical, the invisible walls and personal space that exist in a subway car are immense! If you need quick directions, you should look confused and lost, people are always more willing to “help” a poor uninformed person. The key is to not look as if you are trying to push something on us, because quite frankly we will nod and ignore you. Should you then press the matter, you will encounter an annoyed, defensive person that feels threatened and violated.

Be aware that most people are either in a rush to get “somewhere” or tired on the way home from “somewhere”, if you are ignored don’t take it personally. Also remember we are all under the belief that you are trying to sell us something, want something or are pushing some view that benefits you. I’ll repeat, if you are holding a map and you look confused we will probably put aside that assumption and lend you an ear. Plus it helps if you are a really cute girl or a hot beefy stud. (Not really a fact, but it sounds logical.)

Here is a quick Subway survival tip, assuming no one is willing to help you, usually the trains run exactly parallel to each other in the direction they are going. You can always crossover to the other side, jump on the same train and odds are you will get back to where you came from and recover.

As a rule of thumb, when riding the subway just mind your business, don’t stare at anyone, stay alert but ignore the ruckus that may be going on around you and you will get safely to and from your destination.

I never ride the train without my headphones on, it basically says “I don’t want to talk to you”. In addition sometimes I’m writing a blog post like this one on my phone, playing a game, or reading a book.  I pick my spot and my eyes and ears are distracted the entire ride. Yet I am always aware of what is happening around me.

As I did just now, its nice to give up your seat for an elderly, injured, or pregnant woman, and depending on your personal ethics (applies to men) you should give up your seat for a woman, but that’s entirely up to you. I usually do it, but I’m a nice guy, many men do not.

Finally, unless the train is packed (and even then), never fall asleep, and if a train car is empty odds are it smells really bad, has no AC, or someone is acting up in there. Those are a few tips for you to have a safer and more enjoyable NYC Subway ride!

I know I missed some of the unwritten subway rules, won’t you use the comments and share with our readers!


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