3. Street smarts
During his six months in India, my friend managed to get his cellphone stolen not once, not twice, but THREE times. Just… how?! He wasn’t from New York, obviously. As New Yorkers, we’re trained to always watch our bags, be on the lookout for the next psycho on the loose, don’t smile at the guy who whistles at you, and know that anyone who does smile is a con artist. We also realize that any purse or briefcase left behind is a bomb and if anyone seems too generous, they’re swindling you. Okay, I’m kidding (not really). This is extreme, but even a small dose of this skepticism can keep you out of easily avoidable situations abroad, like having your phone stolen three times. This awareness also means that when a shop owner tries to overcharge me because I’m foreign, I don’t freak out or take it personally. A shrug of the shoulders and a mental reminder that we all rip off tourists (hello, midtown Manhattan) makes it more bearable.
4. Cultural sensitivity and appreciation
I’ve always thought it was really interesting that I could stand on the corner of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street inhaling a sandwich just purchased from a French restaurant, as I hear a father scold his child in Spanish, see a woman clad in traditional Indian dress, and feel the aroma from a Greek gyro food stand hit my nose… all in the very same second. In New York, you never know where someone’s from, what language they speak, or what religion they practice. Needless to say, this awareness goes a long way in a foreign place. We get past the shocking, ‘weird’, uncomfortable, and different shenanigans more quickly and have the liberty to zoom into the culture itself.
5. If your two feet work properly, you walk.
It’s funny when my international or even just out-of-state friends visit New York and complain about having to walk 10 city blocks — “shouldn’t we just take a taxi?” Umm, no dude, we shouldn’t. We can spend that money on pizza when we’re drunk later, we’d take three times as long sitting in traffic, and Uber surge is about 5.7x right now… so, no. When you’re traveling, you usually don’t have a car, taking constant taxis is either a drain on your bank account or a sketchy scam, and places are much more charming when explored on foot anyway.