Think New Yorkers Are Rude? You Are So Wrong

by SharonKurheg

Full disclosure: Although I’ve lived in Florida for almost 1/3 of my life, I am a native New Yorker. Or, if you will, “native New Yawka.” My parents and I lived in Brooklyn until I was just shy 10 (Canarsie, represent!), and then we spent a significant number of years in “Stat Nylin” (a.k.a. Staten Island).  I decided at some point that I hated living in NY, and moved to Florida (now I’m not so thrilled about living in Floriduh and love to visit New York. Go figure. Or “figya”).

In early 2023, Ambition NYC listed several traits of New Yorkers:

  • Bold and confident
  • Fast-paced and busy
  • Resilient and resourceful
  • Direct and to-the-point
  • Diverse and accepting
  • Passionate and opinionated
  • Culturally rich and curious
  • Hardworking and entrepreneurial

Other publications have used other descriptors, of course, but one that tends to come up a lot is “rude.” As in, “New Yorkers are rude.” In fact, when Business Insider and SurveyMonkey teamed up to conduct a survey of more than 2,000 American adults a few years ago, asking them to choose the five rudest cities in the U.S. from a list of the 50 biggest cities, guess which city won? Yep, New York City (here’s the other winners. Well, losers).

Now, I get it. Ambition NYC’s list of traits is pretty spot on, and some of our traits can be seen as more of a negative than a positive, depending on your values and where/how you were raised:

  • Bold and confident – some people have been raised to be quiet or polite, or to hold their opinions close to their sleeve. Seeing someone who knows what they want, and making a solid plan to get it, could be off-putting.
  • Fast-paced and busy – New Yorkers have places to go, people to see, and things to do. The next train will be at the station in 3 minutes and we’re 2 minutes and 45 seconds away, so we don’t lollygag. So yeah, if you’re in our way, you may hear about it, so we can keep doing what we’re doing. Some people might think that’s rude.
  • Direct and to the point – I used to get into so much trouble with a boss down here in Florida because I used to tell it like it is. Well, like it was. He grew up “nowhere near NYC,” and surrounded himself with people who ignored the big white elephants in the room, and who wouldn’t ever dare say something negative to someone’s face. He had no idea how to handle a “direct and to-the-point” personality.
  • Opinionated – mix being opinionated with being direct and to-the-point, and you’re going to make many of the people my former boss grew up with VERY uncomfortable. 😉 They won’t ever tell you that they think you’re rude, of course (because THEY’RE not direct and to-the-point), but they’ll certainly talk about it, behind your back, amongst themselves.

So, ARE New Yorkers rude?


Now, I’ll tell ya. Since I haven’t lived in NY in several years now (we still visit 2-4 times a year to see Broadway shows and stuff, but we haven’t lived there since the very early 2000s), and I am not the same person I was when I initially moved to Florida, I always try to figure out if New Yorkers actually WERE rude, but because I lived there, I didn’t notice it.

They’re not.

Travel friends, I heard “Please” and “thank you” quite a bit. If someone bumped into you, they said “Sorry.” When we were on the bus or subway, people offered me a seat if it was crowded (if you’re new to our blog, I’m 4’6″ tall, with silver hair, but “good skin.” NO ONE can tell how old I am. I don’t personally think I’m old enough to be offered a seat on the subway; that puts me into the “little old lady” category. Yes, I’m little. But I’m no old lady LOL!).

But here’s how I know they’re not rude.

Joe and I had taken the subway after we got off the free bus from LaGuardia Airport. It was an accessible subway station, so they had elevators to bring you to the different levels. Unfortunately, one elevator was as slow as molasses. We were going “down” though, so I suggested we take the stairs.

Typically, we both carry our own luggage – a backpack, one carry-on and one regular-sized suitcase. But because my asthma has been giving me more problems and my appointment with my new pulmonologist isn’t until late January, we have a new system where he handles the 2 big bags, and I take care of the 2 carry-ons. My sense of stubborn independence hates it, but for now, “it is what it is,” it’s better than quickly losing my breath and gasping for air.

Joe had no problem holding the 2 big bags and going down the 15 or so steps. I could hold the 2 carry-on bags easily enough, but I was concerned about keeping my balance while holding them and going down the stairs. So I took the steps one at a time and leaned on the handrail for balance.

a stairs in a subway stationWhen I was about 1/3 of the way down, all of a sudden, some guy with a thick NY accent said, “Heeyah, let me help ya” (“Here, let me help you”). A second or two later, another guy says, “I got that for ya, ma’am.” And they each took one of my bags and brought them to the bottom of the staircase.

Of course, I thanked them both profusely, and they went on their separate way.

When I went to Japan for the first time in the mid-1990s, I was with a friend of mine, and we got lost a whole lot (it’s not like it is nowadays. There was no internet, there was little English in Japan back then, we couldn’t read Japanese, etc. There was a lot going against us). Some people saw our “deer in the headlights” look and simply went out of their way to ensure we were going in the right direction, got off at the right train stop, etc.

These New Yorkers reminded me of those kindhearted people in Japan. SO, not rude. SUCH the opposite.

So, are New Yorkers bold, fast-paced, direct and opinionated? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean we’re rude, far from it. Two native New Yorkers just reminded me of that.

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michael December 18, 2023 - 5:09 pm

I have stopped visiting New York City due to my own personal experience interacting with New Yorkers

They may not like me saying it, but I have been shocked at their rudeness and I am well traveled, Listing all of the 2023 traits above in a positive manner is silly, those of us who have been at the receiving end of rudeness know what it looks and sounds like

SharonKurheg December 18, 2023 - 5:11 pm

Have you ever considered that what you consider to be rude is not necessarily rude per se, but just something you don’t personally like? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all that.

Peter December 18, 2023 - 8:00 pm

I think people who think New Yorkers are rude maybe underestimate that they themselves are a little clueless… In order for that many people to get along and live together, a lot of what I would call common sense etiquette is magnified and more important. Don’t stand still in the middle of a busy sidewalk; don’t block the whole escalator with your suitcases; have your change ready before you get to the cash register, etc. It’s all stuff that’s really etiquette anywhere. Not hard.

But in New York, if you break that etiquette, you’ll hear about it. That’s the big difference. So really who’s being rude then? The person who’s moving through life with common sense and expects others to do the same? Or the person who’s a little clueless and expects the world to accommodate them?

SharonKurheg December 18, 2023 - 8:54 pm


Christian December 18, 2023 - 10:53 pm

I think that’s kind of an intolerant perspective. Expecting everyone who happens to be in your city to just know that they must have their change instantly ready or that they can’t stop on a sidewalk or any of the hundreds of other things a local doesn’t think twice about is asking a lot. A little empathy and understanding can go a long way rather than screeching at some poor shmuck who just doesn’t know any better.

Christian December 18, 2023 - 10:44 pm

There’s a lot of grey area in this topic. For starters, does rudeness have to be intentional? Is someone who’s brusque and short on social graces rude? Is one incident with strangers helping with your luggage a lucky fluke or the normal way of things? I don’t have solid answers on any of these. I do think that the extreme directness and fewer social graces can at least be construed as being rude by people from other parts of the country and suspect that may be where a lot of the perception – right or wrong – is coming from.

Claire December 19, 2023 - 8:49 pm

I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of NYC. I could NOT get my card to slide through the subway bars. It was comical. A kind gentleman was coming from the opposite direction asked for my card..he slid it for me–handed it back..and off I went. I’ve been treated rudely in small town America ,than I have in NYC.


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