There is a cartoon quality to the relationship between New Yorkers and tourists, a Road Runner and Wylie Coyote tug-of-war that causes steam to pour from locals’ ears and visitors to run screeching over cliffs. It is an exaggerated, farcical, co-dependent relationship, and one that was flamed this week by Travel & Leisure magazine’s annual “America’s Favorite Cities” survey. The public has spoken, and they’ve voted New York as the number one rudest city in the USA.
Of course, we’ve heard this all before, and as a tour guide I see things from both perspectives. I empathize with New York’s over-eager, confused visitors, but I also get furious when they don’t stay to the right of the escalator. Because I wrangle tourists for a living, though, it’s imperative that I bite my lip. Tourists pay my bills.
Rudeness works both ways, however, and I think it only fair to point out that yes, while New Yorker’s may be rude, New York’s visitors can also be awful. Looking back through my years as a Sex and the City tour guide, I have boiled the worst offenders down to two categories:
1. Tourists who treat New York as if it were Las Vegas.
These are the folks who come here to PARTY and are under the mistaken assumption that everyone else is here to do the same. Sure New Yorkers like to have a good time, but they take pride in the fact that their excessive drinking goes down with a little bit of culture, some jazz or an experimental dance piece to chase that third martini (Travel & Leisure ranked us #1 in theatre, performance art, and classical music). New Yorkers are also notoriously private—that whole theory about how living in such close quarters makes people want to keep to themselves. So when a New Yorker is drunk or hungover, they try to hide it, fighting to keep their eyes open and their dinner down on the long subway ride home. The party crowd, though, has no such dignity. Women get on my tour in the morning clutching their stomachs and running back and forth to the bus bathroom. I once had a passenger who threw up three times in the doorway of Buddakan when we hopped off for a photo op. Buddakan might be slightly cheesy and past its prime, but it’s a lot classier than that. And last year a group of drunk bachelorettes (drunk before the tour started), asked a police officer if they could take turns wearing his hat. The officer in question was in the midst of conducting mandatory vehicle checks for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
2. Tourists who won’t shut up about how awful New York is.
Because New York is so large and so notorious, people everywhere feel they have the right to editorialize about it. What they seem to forget is that some people actually live here, and insulting someone’s hometown is not just rude, it’s mean. A woman from Memphis recently said to me, “Ugh, I could never live here. Where would my dog run around?” Can you imagine going on vacation in Memphis and saying to a local, “Ugh, I could never live here. Where would I get a decent cappuccino?” You’d be murdered (this is not just hyperbole—Memphis’s murder rate is twice as high as New York’s). The endless chatter from some folks about how dirty/loud/smelly/crowded New York is gets grating, especially considering that the person bitching has undoubtedly walked through only one neighborhood (Times Square), eaten at one restaurant (Serendipity), and seen one show (Jersey Boys). That’s like going to Maine, eating at Red Lobster, and then complaining that the local flavor is just not as authentic as you’d hoped.