New York Manners
New York manners are based on common sense, a respect of equality and the notion we inhabit this city willingly and in the pursuit of a common goal. New York manners are not about inherited social norms, hierarchy and formality (of course, social hierarchy does exist, but it is not good manners to behave as such).
New Yorkers smile a lot and greet people around them in a friendly way. They shake each others right hands when introduced. New Yorkers tend to be informal and are not easily offended. Contrary to rumors, New Yorkers are some of the most helpful and friendly people you will ever meet.
Multi-Cultural New York
New York is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world and we love it. Most of us tend to respect - if not enjoy - this rich treasure of diversity. From the food to the religious traditions, our differences, are what make New York unique.
Men And Women In The Workplace (who will pay the bill?)
In the work place there is little distinction between men and women and it is not unusual for co-workers of both genders to meet for lunch or a drink after work with each person paying their own share of the bill. This is called "going Dutch". Of course, if you invite someone to join you, you are expected to pay the "bill".
Sexist remarks (especially in the presence of the opposite sex), sexual innuendoes or sexual harassment are illegal in the work place and usually not tolerated in public (and not appreciated in private).
Business Gifts It is not appropriate to give gifts when first meeting new business associates. Gifts are not normally exchanged in the business world and valuable gifts could be misinterpreted. The economics of the deal drives most transactions in American business - the exceptions are few and could be illegal.
However, around the winter holidays, it is customary to send a card of good wishes. Small gifts are often appropriate, however, giving gifts over $100 in value may produce a large amount of paperwork for the gift receiver and should be avoided.
Gifts should reflect your knowledge of your colleague and could range from a nice book to a bottle of wine or liquor. (Note that alcoholic beverages cannot be sent in the mail). Gift baskets of fruit and gourmet food items such as coffee, cheese, and specialty items are quite common. These can often be ordered from distant places for local delivery.
Dress In New York Although New Yorkers generally dress casually, they also love fashion and individually dress to express themselves. New York is one of the few places in the world where self-expression through fashion is perfectly acceptable on a daily basis. In fact it is expected. We love to dress up for special occasions, even if that special occasion might be a casual stroll in the park. Below are a few places where dress codes exist.
In some smaller businesses, or creative arts and academic settings, men will feel comfortable in nice dark slacks and a tweed sports jacket, blazer or sweater. Ties are often optional, especially in hot weather. Women wear skirts or slacks. Professors and artists can dress more casually.
Blue jeans, T-shirts and sneakers are expected when working during "off hours" or when deemed appropriate by one’s employer.
Formal: "Formal or Black Tie" refers to a tuxedo for men and a long gown or very chic designer cocktail dress for women.
Cocktail Party or Dinner: Attire depends on where the event will take place and with whom (personal invitation or business). In addition, the widely varying seasonal temperatures of New York are a factor in dress. For personal invitations to a home it is advisable to ask your host what the "dress" will be.
In the autumn, winter and spring, men will usually feel comfortable with a suit, nice sports jacket or cashmere blazer with dark flannel slacks, and almost always a tie. Women will feel comfortable in something dressy; a stylish suit (a skirt a bit shorter than what is appropriate for business or a mid-calf skirt) and as much jewelry as they feel comfortable in. Charitable events tend to be a bit more glamorous.
In the summer most men will feel at home with a nice lightweight blazer and sporty slacks. Women can wear lighter colors and cooler materials.
Picnics: Causal shorts, slacks, sports shirt, loafers or tennis sneakers (definitely no tie). Pack a swimming suit if called for.
Concert, Operas, and Theaters: The better the seat and the more special the occasion, the more dressy the clothing. For the opera, opening nights, awards and charity events, some men still wear a tuxedo and women often wear long gowns. It is not rude to call your host for some guidance with the question: "What is the dress for tonight?".
Up-scale Restaurants: Almost always a tie and jacket or a suit. Generally, New Yorkers find it rude to dress casually at up-scale dining establishments. Avoid t-shirts and sneakers.
Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, et cetera: Again, it is best to avoid causal styles. Make sure you are properly covered up. Women (and men) should be prepared to cover their head. Ignore how some rude people dress.
Court: Depends if you are the lawyer or the defendant. In any event, it is best to dress as if in business attire.
TYP Fashion Note: White Socks. White socks are worn only with sneakers and are reserved for playing sports.
Business Etiquette New Yorkers are fairly punctual and exchange business cards when they first meet. It is not unusual to be offered something to drink such as coffee or a soft drink at a meeting. Do not arrive to a business meeting more than 15 minutes early. It is impolite to make the business in question feel they have to accommodate you before you are scheduled.
Social Etiquette In social settings women are still treated as the "fairer sex". It is still considered polite for men to hold doors, hail taxis, help a woman with her coat, stand when a woman enters the room, and pull a female companions chair.
In today’s New York home we are more commonly seeing an equal division of labor. In that since both the male and female work they also divide household chores equally. There is a lesser sense of “woman’s work” or “man’s work”.
Gifts When Visiting When invited to a person's home, a small gift is appropriate such as a bouquet of flowers, bottle of wine, box of chocolates, a book or something special from your home town or country. A thank you note is also well appreciated but if time is short a phone call can take its place.
What Does Offend Americans Depending on what circles you travel in, the following behavior is likely to offend and make you a social pariah.
Smoking in prohibited areas or in the presence of someone without asking. Often they will ask you (hopefully politely, but sometimes not so politely) not to smoke or to stop smoking in their presence. It is rude to persist and usually illegal to smoke in most public places in New York City.
Speaking "down" or rudely to anybody, such as a waiter, porter or cleaning person. (Being angry is not being rude. There is no sense of hierarchy in frustration.)
Poor hygiene. Although it may seem a bit taboo to bring up, poor hygiene is an issue. New Yorkers are often crowded together and if one has not bathed, it can be very unpleasant for many.
Racist, sexist and vulgar language.
Being obnoxiously drunk.
Drinking and driving.
Cutting ahead in the queue.
Aggressive driving such as tail-gating, cutting off other cars, flashing lights to move over and driving up the shoulder. New York traffic has a life of it’s own and it may seem there are no rules but, considerate driving is appreciated.
Disrespecting other cultural traditions.
We have created the best list of the best shops in this big city and have found the quality of ownership to be top notch. These store owners will go the extra mile to make your shopping experience sparkle.
Payment: Not all shops accept major credit cards. Be sure to check before you make a purchase.
Returns: When dealing with boutiques returns are rude unless there is something wrong with the article. Is it torn? did it fade after the first washing or split at the seams? The best part about purchasing from a boutique is that you are not being rushed and are given the time to make a sound decision about the merchandise you are buying. I discourage any returns based on "I don't like it". The main reason for this is that you need to take into account that these are hard working entrepreneurs who cover all costs and overhead. they count on the integrity of your purchase and have worked with you to insure that you have made the right decision while shopping in their store. If you're hesitant about purchasing the item make it clear to the shop owner and ask their return/exchange policy.
Service: When shopping in New York's boutiques your behavior towards the shop owner will dictate the quality of service received. Most small stores in New York are owned and operated by the artist in charge. Respect this person and he/she will respect you. Because the sales person and the owner are one in the same, they care and want you to be satisfied with their wares. They aren't out to get-rich-quick. They like what they do and believe that they do it better than anyone else could.
Gift Wrapping: When shopping for a gift, ask the sales person if this service is available. Many time gift wrapping is complementary but with some small boutiques may charge a small fee to cover the costs.
Tipping is an important social convention in New York City. For waiters, busboys, bellboys, taxi drivers, bartenders, doorman, tips are the biggest source of income. The IRS assumes they are being tipped and they assess a tax based on restaurant sales. Tips are expected and should be factored into the cost of dining out in New York City.
An appropriate tip is between 15% & 20% for good service, perhaps more for exceptional service or less for poor service. Leaving no tip is a statement that the service was poor. When judging "service" in a restaurant please be sure to recognize that there are factors out of the waiter's control. For example, if the chef is having a bad day, but the waiter is attentive, please don't blame the waiter. It is rude not to tip - unless they personally gave you bad service.
A good rule of thumb is to double the tax on your bill. I would never leave less than $1 unless of course is was something like a coffee To Go. Many businesses where you have to go to the counter to order your food, wait for it and then find a place to sit have a tip cup. Tipping under these circumstances is questionable - are they waiting on you or serving you in any way? I've always wondered what is the coffee person being paid? Probably not very much, in this case tip I would leave .25 or .50 depending upon his/her service in making my coffee. If someone behind the counter just pulled a sandwich and handed it to you we wouldn't suggest tipping. They did their job and have been paid for it, they didn't serve or fulfill a special request.
When not to tip: In the USA, the "mandatory" service charge, often found in many countries, is not usually included in the price. Check your bill to be sure. Note that for some big affairs in hotels or major restaurants, a "10% or 15% service charge" is included. Then no further tip is needed, except for exceptional personal service. In recent years many establishments such as coffee bars and delis have placed a tipping cup next to the cash register. In these places, it is up to your discretion whether to tip or not, many people don't.
Remember a mandatory service charge is not included in the price. Here are some people you always tip:
Delivery people: variable, depending on the size of the delivery and the quality of the service. For small packages $2.00 is fine, but if there are several packages, the tip should be $4 - $5 dollars.
Doorman: depending upon the service provided. For getting a cab or opening a door, $1.00 is fine, but if he carries packages to your apartment, the tip should be $3 - $5 dollars. Remember, a good doorman is a great asset.
Hairdressers & Barbers: between 15% and 20%. This also applies to manicurists, pedicurists, and masseuses.
Hotel Staff: between $2.00 - $3.00 for each time they clean your room. Usually, this tip is paid at the end of your stay.
Parking Garage Attendants: between $1.00 - $2.00 each time they deliver your car.
Skycaps: they should get at least a dollar for each bag you check. You may want to tip more, remember, your luggage is in their hands.
Taxi Drivers: between 10% and 15%. If the service is excellent you can tip more, but if it's poor, tip less, or not at all if the driver is downright awful.
Waiters, Waitresses & Bartenders: between 15% and 20%. If you are with a party of 6 or more, you should tip 20%. Again, the quality of service is a factor.
Large Parties: some restaurants will automatically add the tip to the bill. Check for this.
In most cases, tips are given directly to the service person, however, at restaurants, clubs and bars, tips can be added to your bill if you pay by credit card or if you are dining at the restaurant of the hotel you are staying in, you may include a tip on the house charge slip. In either case, you must write the amount of the tip on either the charge card slip or the house charge slip and enter a "total" amount at the bottom.