10 Annoying Things Tourists Do When NYC Sightseeing
January 20, 2017

How can one avoid making some serious faux pas while visiting the Big Apple? We put together a guide that includes ten annoying things tourists do that tend to bother the heck out of native New Yorkers– and how to avoid these insensitive behaviors.

Annoying Things Tourists Do – An Introduction

Are you planning on taking a trip to New York City? If so, congratulations! Visiting New York City for the first time is a once in a lifetime experience. And we at Monarch love that people come from all around the world to see our beloved city.

There’s so much to do in New York City. From bars to clubs to tours to NYC sightseeing, there’s no shortage of adventure and discover in New York City.

However, tourists from elsewhere tend to get a little too involved in the adventure and become downright offensive or intrusive towards native New Yorkers.

Why should I care about what New Yorkers think of me?

This is a very valid question. Why should anybody be concerned about the opinions of others, especially when one is out having a great time on vacation in New York City?

The issue is less about what New Yorkers think of you in the petty sort of way, and more about why you should care about how you behave in someone else’s culture and home.

Think of it this way. There’s a certain etiquette to how you behave as a guest in someone’s home. This etiquette, more or less, is fairly universal.

When someone does something downright rude, even if they didn’t intend to, it feels a little violating and disrespectful.

This is no different when you are out visiting New York City, or any new place in general.

While New York City may be your current vacation spot, it’s also a very dense city where over eight million people have to get to work every morning.

It’s important to not get in people’s way, but you can still have fun shopping, partying it up, and sightseeing while avoiding these ten major New York city tourist bad behaviors.

10 Annoying Things Tourists Do When NYC Sightseeing

Some of these common annoying tourist behaviors might surprise you.

10. Asking for directions when you don’t have a clue where you’re going

If you can’t remember the address or cross streets of where your special event is taking place and the building itself doesn’t have a super well-known name, how could you possibly expect a random New Yorker to now where it is?

This faux pas is the equivalent of someone coming up to you in your home town asking where Bill’s house is at. Who is Bill? How on earth are you supposed to know?

This happens a lot in New York City. Tourists tend to assume New Yorkers have psychic abilities and will be able to tell you what train to get on and where to get a taxi.

How To Avoid This Tourist Blunder

Before you leave your hotel, do your best to familiarize yourself with these key things:

  • The name of the place you are trying to get to.
  • What borough it is in (Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island).
  • What side (east, west, north, or south) of that borough it is located.

Most New Yorkers won’t mind giving you directions– just be polite and have a ballpark idea of where you’re going!

9. Stopping in the middle of the sidewalk/street/etc.

This may not be a big deal in other smaller cities and towns, but not only is stopping in inconvenient spots rude, but it can be downright dangerous during high-traffic hours.

Like we said before, millions of people are trying to get to work. Many of them walk or bike there, or are trying to get to the subway as quickly as possible.

Stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, especially if you’re biking it, is a huge no-no.

How To Avoid This Tourist Blunder

If you need to stop to check something, look at a map, or just get out of the salmon stream that is New York City’s sidewalks, try to move to the side.

Don’t stop in the middle of walking traffic to take a picture or take in the scenery– especially if you’re visiting the city with your partner and kids. It’s rude, and you can enjoy the sights and take photos without getting in people’s way!

8. Walking side by side

In the same vein as stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, it is also very rude to walk side by side with a pal while NYC sightseeing.

Sean Murphy (MurphGuide), who’s definitely pro-tourist, even told us that his pet peeve is people walking three abreast on the sidewalk. 

Why? Well, you’re blocking traffic! And for that reason, it made our list of annoying things tourists do in NYC.

New York City’s sidewalks aren’t quite big enough to accommodate a massive amount of people walking at different paces.

So when you walk side by side holding hands with someone, you’re taking up a lot of space that makes it difficult for New Yorkers (once again, the people trying to get to their job on time or catch the subway) to get around you.

How To Avoid This Tourist Blunder

When trying to get from point A to point B via New York City sidewalks, try to keep it single file so other people can walk around you.

7. Bad food ordering

In a lot of places, especially in small towns where the lines are significantly shorter, it’s not a total jerk move to not know what you want to order by the time you get up to the counter.

However, in New York City, this is one of the annoying things tourists do. There’s probably a huge line at whatever deli or restaurant you’re at, and everybody’s just trying to grab a bite before they have to go back to work from their lunch break.

How To Avoid This Tourist Blunder

Figure out what you want to order before getting to the front counter. The people behind the counter, as well as other customers around you, will be thankful.

Be as clear and quick as you can when ordering, too. Move out of the way to organize your wallet after paying instead of standing there.

6. Disrespecting personal space

Tons of different cultures have different ideas of what is acceptable personal space. In New York City, the guidelines are pretty strict.

It’s not cool to stare at people for a very long time, and unfortunately it’s one of the annoying things tourists do. While NYC sightseeing, you may want to people watch. This is, however, a big no-no in New York City.

It’s also not cool to make small talk with most New Yorkers. This is kind of a bummer, but it’s true.

Unless you have a specific purpose or question when approaching somebody, it’s best to leave everybody be.

Just as well, New Yorkers don’t like to be touched without permission. This kind of goes for most people, but New Yorkers have no time for that.

It’s hard to avoid being mashed up against a bunch of people while on the subway, of course, but this is the only exception.

How To Avoid This Tourist Blunder

While NYC sightseeing, don’t stare people down. It’s okay to get a brief glance of your surroundings, but eyeballing somebody for too long is pretty unacceptable in New York City.

Don’t touch someone without permission, don’t talk to strangers without a specific purpose, and get a good sense of how personal space works while NYC sightseeing.

5. Crappy tipping

This social blunder is up for debate all over the country, but in New York City, the guidelines are pretty strict. This is definitely one of the most annoying things tourists do.

If you’re a bad tipper, don’t be surprised if your bartender ignores you for the rest of the night. And if you tip a waitress poorly, don’t expect the best service if you go back to that place again.

Want to get into a physical fight with a taxi cab driver? Don’t tip him.

How To Avoid This Tourist Blunder

Tip the standard 18-20% on a restaurant, bar, or taxi bill. When at bars, leave a dollar tip per drink.

This may seem ridiculous to some, but in a ridiculously expensive city like NYC, working people need those tips.

4. Not knowing the lingo

New Yorkers won’t be distraught if you don’t know a couple of New York City slang words, but it will help you (and them, if you’ve asked them for directions) if you know a few important key NYC words.

How To Avoid This Tourist Blunder

Remember these simple terms:

  • Downtown = South of 14th street, Lower East Side, SoHo, the Village
  • The City = Manhattan
  • Uptown = North, Upper East Side, Harlem, Upper West Side
  • The Train = the NYC subway system

While you are NYC sightseeing, knowing the lingo could help you get around a bit easier.

3. Poor subway etiquette

If you’re in a big tourist group, you can seriously agitate New Yorkers by taking up space, taking too long to swipe your card, and be a general bad subway rider.

How To Avoid This Tourist Blunder

If you can’t get your Metro Card to swipe properly the first time, swipe it slowly instead of laughing about how ridiculous and crappy the subway cards and technology is.

If you’re in a group, disperse through several turnstiles instead of crowding around just one.

2. Encouraging dangerous breakdancing

This one sounds a bit odd, but it’s one of the annoying things tourists do in NYC. “Show time” is when teenagers get on a subway car and breakdance while accompanied by loud music.

How To Avoid This Tourist Blunder

Don’t clap along, don’t encourage them. Breakdancing on the train is dangerous and annoying, no matter how cool you think it looks as a tourist.

Your NYC sightseeing doesn’t need to include watching innocent subway patrons get kicked in the face by a teen boy.

1. Complaining about how rude New Yorkers are

Many New Yorkers think that New York City is the friendliest city in the world. Others know that New Yorkers can be gruff, brief, and in a rush– this, however, is because the city is all about “time is money”. 

Everyone’s in a rush and brief with their words and gestures because they need to survive. It’s part of the culture, and it doesn’t mean that they are rude. For this reason, complaining about this is the #1 thing on our list of annoying things tourists do.

How To Avoid This Tourist Blunder

Keep your criticisms to yourself. Review this list and check off which of these blunders you’ve done, and evaluate if maybe you might be the rude one in New York City.

Sightsee Without Intrusion

Was our guide to annoying things tourists do when NYC sightseeing helpful for your upcoming trip?

We’d love to hear from you. Tell us what you think in the comments below!