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9 Simple Tips to Survive Living in NYC

It’s hard to believe the spring semester of Newhouse NYC is over. We asked the students to reflect on their time in NYC, and here is what spring Newhouse NYC student (and recent Magazine alumna!) Elisha Hahm had to share about how she “survived” living in NYC for the semester.

As a first-time city dweller adjusting to the Big Apple, there were a few things I learned during my stay that helped me navigate my day-to-day life. While some of the things I share may seem like common sense, you’ll be amazed at the difference these simple tricks can have on your overall living experience in the city. So here are my nine life-changing tips:

1. Plan your commute ahead of time.
Underground cell service is mostly nonexistent, so instead of freaking out when you can’t pull up Google maps or HopStop on your phone to figure out your next stop, plan your commute from start to finish before heading out. As a newbie to the NYC transit system, I planned and practiced my commute to the office before the first day of my internship at Martha Stewart Weddings. It ended up being more of a walk than I imagined, and I struggled a lot to find my transfer to a different train. But preparing myself ahead of time made my commute to work so much less stressful, and I ended up arriving almost 30 minutes early on my first day–giving me time to buy some coffee and take a breather before going inside. It’s never a bad thing to be early, and trust me, it’ll also give you a much-needed peace of mind as you trek through the bustling city.

2. Always let passengers exit a train before you get on.
This may sound like a given, but I witnessed people push past passengers countless times trying to get off the train in order to secure a spot for themselves on board. This is not only inconsiderate, but also completely illogical. Even if you’re in a rush, there’s no excuse for this kind of behavior!

3. Be wary of empty train cars.
Most of the time, these cars are empty for a reason. From broken air conditioning to strange odors, there are a number of things that can taint the subway riding experience. So just make sure you take a good look around your train car before boarding it–especially if it’s empty.

4. Stay focused on your surroundings.
This is a basic rule of thumb, but in a congested city like New York, you’re bound to run into the unexpected. For someone like me who likes listening to music through earphones while commuting, I initially didn’t bother to turn down my tunes when public announcements on the subway were made. Instead, I’d assume it was something irrelevant to me and brush it off, only to later realize they skipped my stop, or that my train was headed in the wrong direction. No matter how easy it can be to get distracted, it’s best to pay attention to the little things because in the end, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.

5. NEVER stop in the middle of a crowded sidewalk.
When I first moved to the city, I had no idea how to get anywhere. While I memorized which trains I needed to take, I was clueless once I got out of the subway station. So I’d use my trusty smartphone GPS to navigate through the streets and avenues, sometimes stopping dead in my tracks when the blue dot on my screen wouldn’t update. This led to people bumping into me or yelling at me to move out of the way, and rightly so. Whether you’re pausing to send a text, take a selfie, or check your GPS, it’s rude to stop in the middle of a sidewalk when there are people walking behind you. Simply maneuver yourself to the side, or wait for the space to clear before doing whatever you have to do. You’ll save yourself from a lot of mean glares and complaints.

6. Stand on right, walk on left
You’re bound to figure this one out as soon as you step onto an escalator in a NYC subway station. New Yorkers are all about efficiency, so if you’re standing on the left side of the escalator checking your Twitter or Facebook feed while people are trying to make it on their next train, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of angry people. So if you’re the type to stand on an escalator, stay on the right and let people by on the left.

7. Whatever it is, put it on your lap.
I didn’t realize how precious a seat on the train could be after a long day of walking around, and there were times I’d see passengers taking up extra seats with a large purse or backpack unaware that they were doing anything wrong. As long as you’re carrying something that can comfortably fit in your lap without disturbing the people sitting next to you, do it! It’ll make someone’s day a lot better.

8. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Communication is key when you find yourself in an awkward or uncomfortable situation. If someone is hogging a pole on the train, politely ask him or her to share with other passengers. If you need to walk by an extremely dense crowd of people, speak up and politely ask them to move aside. If you’re lost, ask someone who might know. Communicate your thoughts assertively to let others know what you need.

9. Always carry some cash with you.
It’s always helpful to have cash in NYC for a lot of reasons: splitting bills, tipping, dining in places that don’t take cards, or of course, in case of an emergency. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount, but carrying a spare $20 is smart and will come in handy.

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