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Ah, New York. The land of bagels, pizza and more than 8.6 million grumpy citizens . . . right?
The city definitely has a reputation for too busy, can’t-be-bothered residents — but according to a recent study by StreetEasy, the Big Apple may actually be one of the friendliest cities in the nation.
We know. We were shocked, too (and we live here).
Of course, the report from the New York-based real estate database was focused on friendliness as it applied to neighborliness. So, New Yorkers are nice to each other. But are they really that cordial to tourists walking around the city, getting lost in the subway stations and taking photos in the middle of the sidewalk?
In light of this news, we couldn’t help but wonder: Are New Yorkers actually that friendly to travelers from out of town?
To determine whether or not the myth of the friendly Gothamite was fact, I went on a little adventure around the Flatiron neighborhood around 10am on Wednesday morning, pretending to be a tourist in need of help. I asked unassuming passerby questions like, “Is that the Flatiron Building?” and, “Where’s a good place to get breakfast around here?” (Answer: Daily Provisions).
I’ll preface this all by saying that, subjectively, I’m a pretty approachable, friendly woman. So if you’re not, well, friendly and approachable, you should expect the results of this test to vary.
The first woman I spoke with in Union Square also looked like she was in her mid-20s; I asked her how I could get to the Flatiron Building and she took off her headphones to point me in the right direction. This became a common theme — Every single person I spoke with dropped what they were doing to answer my questions.
Case in point: I approached a man working on a laptop at Madison Square Park and asked him where I could get breakfast. He stopped what he was doing, racked his brain and, when he couldn’t remember the name of the place he was thinking of, took out Google Maps on his phone to look it up for me. It was a really kind gesture, and I actually felt bad that I wasn’t really going to get breakfast.
When I walked past the dog park, I asked a man if I could pet his absolutely adorable Labradoodle, to which he said, “Of course.”
This was the best part of the assignment, obviously.
When I stopped a woman walking her dog in Union Square to take my picture, she seemed a little confused but obliged anyway. I even took a trip down to the Union Square subway station — which, not for nothing, felt like the Ninth Circle of Hell — and approached a woman wearing headphones and walking fast. I stopped her to ask how to get uptown, to which she took out her headphones and asked specifically where I was heading. When I told her Central Park, she gave me detailed instructions about how to get all the way to the West Side of Manhattan.
All told, I spoke with about 20 people on Wednesday, and every single one stopped to help me and answer my question, even if only for a few seconds, and even if it was an absolutely ridiculous question. I didn’t encounter one person who was “too busy” — if anything, people seemed happy for a distraction and the satisfaction of helping someone out.
That said, you’ll have to go out of your way to talk to New Yorkers. No one is just going to approach you asking if you need help or anything. But if my morning walk around the city was any indication, you’re bound to find some of the friendliest people you’ll meet on your next trip to New York.
Featured image courtesy of Alexander Spatari/Getty Images.
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