Culture and Customs
Note: This information applies to NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai students considering a semester in New York. Students from other colleges and universities who are interested in enrolling as a visiting student at NYU's campus in New York should consider programs hosted by NYU's Office of University Programs.
Things to Keep in Mind
Many new to New York, both within and outside of the U.S., think that New Yorkers are rude and impatient, in a constant hurry, and jaded. Without a doubt New York is a fast-paced city, but as you come to meet people who call New York home you will find that they have individual qualities to which you easily relate. There are, however, some tips you will want to follow to better immerse yourself in the local culture.
Tipping: Tipping is customary in the U.S., and most certainly in N.Y.C. When a person performs a service, you are expected to tip at least 15%. If you frequent a restaurant with wait staff service, take a taxi cab, or have food delivered be prepared with a tip. Failure to offer a tip is considered rude by U.S. standards.
Personal Space: Although sidewalks, buses, and subways can be very crowded, when given a choice Americans prefer to have space between themselves and the persons surrounding them. If you accidentally bump in to someone, it is customary to say "excuse me" to explain that the touch was accidental. So don't be offended if you are on the subway and no one takes a seat next to you. They are looking for a seat with the most personal space.
Smoking: Across the U.S. it is increasingly uncommon to be allowed to smoke in public establishments due to anti-smoking laws. In New York you cannot smoke in restaurants, places of business, and public parks. If you smoke and wish to avoid offending anyone, you should always ask permission to smoke in their vicinity.
How are you?: In the U.S., asking "How are you?" is not necessarily a request for your state of health, but rather a general greeting, to which one might respond by asking that same question.
Introductions: When you are introduced to someone new, it is common to shake hands and look the person directly in the eye.
Blocking Traffic: If at all possible, do not come to a sudden stop in the middle of the sidewalk or decide to hold a group discussion in a heavily trafficked place. If you wish to stop or slow down you should move to the side to allow others to pass.