If you're a New Yorker...

by John Cowan

Born in Jersey, John moved to New York about as soon as he could, has been there for forty years, and isn't leaving except feet-first. His friends say that he knows at least something about almost everything; his enemies, if any, think he knows far too much about far too much.

See the other culture tests. Items identical to the American culture test are grayed out.

(This doesn't really apply to the 36% of New Yorkers who are foreign-born.)

If you're a New Yorker

  • You believe deep down in the First Amendment, guaranteed by the government and perhaps by God.
  • You're familiar with the same media personalities as any other American. A lot of TV shows and movies are set in New York; you laugh or get annoyed if it's obvious they weren't also filmed there.
  • You know how baseball, basketball, and American football are played. If you're male, you can argue intricate points about their rules. On the other hand (and unless you're under about 40), you don't care that much for soccer.
  • You count yourself fortunate if you get three weeks of vacation a year. You expect to work long hours, though you may be able to work from home at least part of the time.

If you died tonight...

  • You're fairly likely to believe in God; if not, you've certainly been approached by people asking whether you know that you're going to Heaven.
  • You think of McDonald's, Burger King, KFC etc. as cheap food.
  • You can find Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican, or almost any other kind of restaurant in easy walking distance, at almost any time of day or night. (If you want Tibetan, you may have to take the subway.)
  • You rent an apartment, or possibly own a condo or cooperative apartment, for which you pay far too much. Other Americans would think your apartment was the size of a couple of closets, but to you it's home.
  • You own a cellphone and a TV. You probably have a landline phone too, unless you are under 30. Your place is heated in the winter and has its own bathroom. You do your laundry in a laundromat, or possibly send it out to one and have it delivered back. You don't kill your own food. You don't have a dirt floor. You eat sitting on chairs, but not necessarily at a table. You get take-out or delivered food a lot if you can afford it.
  • You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, or guinea pigs to be food.
  • A bathroom typically has both a bathtub/shower and a toilet. If you live in an old apartment, it may have the bathtub in the kitchen. In really old buildings, the toilet may be in the hall.
  • It seems natural to you that the telephone system, railroads, airlines, and power companies are privately run; indeed, you can hardly picture things working differently.
  • You expect, as a matter of course, that the phones will work. Getting a new phone is routine. However, pay phones are usually broken and nobody uses them.
  • You find a one-party system natural in local politics. You are a registered Democrat, unless you live in Staten Island, in which case you are a registered Republican. You expect the local politicians of both parties to be responsive to business, and concerned with all classes, though not necessarily equally. You find parliamentary systems (such as Italy's) inefficient and comic.
  • You may or may not expect to hear socialism seriously defended. Communism, fuhgeddaboudit.
  • Between "black" and "white" there are no other races, but you expect black people to come in many different colors. Non-Hispanic whites are less than 50% of the city's population. Christians are only about 60%, and there are more Jews in the city than anywhere else except Israel. There are no less than six Chinatowns, but when you say "Chinatown" you usually mean the one in Lower Manhattan.
  • You share the city with people who make way more money than you do as well as way less. This seems normal to you.
  • You think most problems could be solved if only people would put aside their prejudices and work together.
  • You take a strong court system for granted, even if you don't use it. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take them to court.
  • You'd respect someone who speaks French, German, or Japanese — but you very likely don't yourself speak them well enough to communicate with a monolingual foreigner. You're somewhat likely to speak Spanish; if you are brown-skinned, everyone will assume you do. You think the schools should teach kids English.
  • It's not all that necessary to learn foreign languages anyway. You expect everyone to speak English, but you are used to hearing conversations all around you that you don't understand. If you grew up here, you know other Americans look down on you because of your accent.
  • You think a tax level of 60% is scandalously high.
  • School is free through high school (at least, it's an option, even if you went to private school). College isn't, unless you get a scholarship, but there are fairly cheap schools for city residents.
  • College is (normally, and excluding graduate study) four years long.

Everybody knows that

Contributions to world civilization

  • You see the same movies and musical groups as all other Americans. See above.
  • You count on excellent medical treatment. You know you're not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases. You expect very strong measures to be taken to save very ill babies or people in their eighties. You think dying at 65 would be a tragedy.
  • You went over US history, and some European, in school, Not much Russian, Chinese, or Latin American. You couldn't name ten US interventions in Latin America.
  • You expect the military to fight wars (which you generally are against), not get involved in politics.
  • Your country has never been conquered by a foreign nation. Your city used to belong to the Dutch, but that was a very long time ago.
  • You're used to a wide variety of choices for almost anything you buy. However, your supermarkets are smaller than those monstrosities the rest of the United States has. You think it's normal to buy meat at a meat market, fish at a fish market, vegetables at an open-air greenmarket, and other groceries at a bodega.
  • You still measure things in feet, pounds, and gallons, except wine and soda.
  • You are not a farmer. Obviously.
  • Comics basically come in two varieties: newspaper (and web) comics and magazines; the latter pretty much all feature superheroes.
  • Your city still has three competing newspapers.
  • The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are mostly entertainers, politicians, or rather strange individuals. Certainly not, say, authors.
  • If you drive, it's on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights (what do you mean, "even if nobody's around"? Someone is always around.) If you're a pedestrian (and you are), you cross the street whenever and wherever you think you won't actually be run down.
  • You think of Canada as a pleasant, peaceful, but rather dull country. You probably couldn't explain why the Canadians didn't join the other British colonies in rebelling against King George.
  • You don't own a car; what would you do with one, fold it up and put it in your pocket? If you were born in the city, you probably don't even know how to drive. You go places by subway train, bus, taxi (see below), commuter train, or on foot. You walk a lot, unless you are very young or very old. Your state issues non-driver's licenses for all the non-drivers who need hard IDs. You use as much gasoline per capita as the average American did in 1920.
  • The police are armed, but not with submachine guns.
  • If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn't improve her looks.
  • The biggest meal of the day is in the evening.
  • The places people most often make jokes about are Hoboken, Jersey City, or Jersey in general. You don't say "New Jersey", even if you come from there. Manhattanites talk about "the bridge and tunnel crowd", meaning anyone who doesn't live in Manhattan; this is not complimentary.
  • There's parts of the city you definitely want to avoid at night. However, you know the crime rate has dropped a lot since the 1970s (or 1990s), and you are proud of this and think people who see the whole city as a deathtrap are ... uninformed.

Outside the Beltway

  • You feel that your kind of people aren't being listened to enough in Washington.
  • Even though the official inflation rate is low, you still seem to pay too much for everything. You know that official unemployment figures are a joke, especially for minorities and young people.
  • You don't care very much what family someone comes from.
  • The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their estate to be divided equally between their children. If they have an estate, that is.
  • You think of opera and ballet as rather elite entertainments, but you can see as many plays as you want: it would be easy (if you had the money) to see a different play every day except Mondays, indefinitely. Broadway shows are for tourists and people on expense accounts, though.
  • Christmas is in the winter. Unless you're Jewish or Muslim, you spend it with your family, give presents, and put up a tree.
  • You may think the government is too powerful. You probably also think it doesn't do enough for you and your family.
  • You'd be hard pressed to name the capital of your own state (unless you are specially interested in state politics), never mind any other capital except Washington.
  • You aren't familiar with Mafalda, Lucky Luke, Corto Maltese, Milo Manara, Guido Crepax, Gotlib, or Moebius. If you're under 40, though, you're familiar with some manga and/or anime.
  • You've left a message at the beep many times, unless you are under 25, in which case you avoid making phone calls like the plague and expect your parents to make them for you.
  • Taxis are generally operated by immigrants, who are often deplorably ignorant about the city. However, you usually know how to get where you are going, and most drivers will listen to your instructions. You think of taxis as expensive, even though they actually aren't by American standards.
  • You take unemployment insurance, Social Security, and Medicare or Medicaid for granted.
  • If you want to be a doctor, you need to get a bachelor's first.
  • There sure are a lot of lawyers.

Space and time

  • If you have an appointment, you'll mutter an excuse if you're ten minutes late, and apologize profusely if it's fifteen minutes. An hour late is almost inexcusable. However, you expect to wait a long time in a doctor's office or government office. You have a lot of practice at "standing on line", which is what you call it, for one thing or another.
  • If you're talking to someone you don't know well, you get uncomfortable if they approach closer than about two feet. You accept crowding on subways and buses even to the point of intimate bodily contact, but don't think of that as a social situation.
  • You don't expect to bargain for anything, but if you do, it's largely a matter of finding the hidden point that's the buyer's minimum.
  • Once you're past college, you very rarely simply show up at someone's place. People have to invite each other over — especially if a meal is involved.
  • When you negotiate, you are polite, of course, but it's only good business to play hardball. However, your idea of "polite" is other Americans' idea of "rude". In particular, you don't look at people when you pass them in the street — being ignored is the only kind of privacy many New Yorkers have.
  • If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you expect to have that person to yourself, and the business shouldn't take more than an hour or so.

If you're under 50...

  • You're on Facebook, though you're not sure how much you like it.
  • You feel like something's wrong if you aren't connected to the web. You routinely use it to shop, get directions, check facts, and connect with friends.
  • You have no real expectation that jobs, wages, and living standards are getting better for people like you.

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