You work in London but have just been given the chance to work out of the New York office for two months. OK – bear with me – it does happen and it happened to me back in October 2014. Home was the Wellington Hotel on 7th Avenue and work was a 20 min stroll via Times Square to 34th Street. Here’s some things I noticed while living out there along with the odd top tip!
1. Starbucks Wi-Fi
Do what most other tourists/natives do and that’s stand outside Starbucks to use their free Wi-Fi. There are 208 to choose from (212 in total) and this chap tried to go to them all – http://nycstarbucks.com/. NB. Other cafe/hotel receptions’ are available 😉
2. Good Morning America
Get a free TV show every morning, Monday to Friday, at 7am in Times Square by watching ‘Good Morning America’ on the corner of 44th Street and Broadway, or the ‘Today’ programme at the Rockerfeller Plaza in-between 48th and 49th Street. The presenters are stars in themselves but each show has a variety of A-listers too. Both have windows for viewing and in the Summer/Autumn months they do daily sketches outside where if you’re lucky you can appear in the background for your 5 seconds of fame. I walked past at 08:15 each week day to check out what was happening for 30 minutes or so:
3. Lunch costs
I never did find out how to eat cheap in Midtown. Watch out for the salad bars that charge by weight as before you know it an average sized plastic container is costing upwards of $10-12.
4. Remember the sales tax – The price on the label isn’t always what you pay! I knew that tips in restaurants/bars can add 15%+ to the bill but in stores the price you see doesn’t tend to have the tax of 7% on it until you get to the till. Still – cheaper than 20% VAT in the UK and the U.S. products tend to be way cheaper in the first place too.
5. Sneaky UK bank charges
Admittedly I should have listened to Martin Lewis’ credit card advice sooner but unfortunately every one of my credit card transactions included a ‘Non-Sterling transaction fee’ so basically a 2.75% extra fee on top. So my £4.85 Starbucks brekkie incurred an extra £0.13. It all added up. So just apply for a Halifax Clarity Credit Card before you go with no fees when using it abroad – http://www.halifax.co.uk/creditcards/clarity-card/.
Many waiters/waitresses liked to circle the amount on the bill or even write on the bill what the tip should be. Just to make sure you didn’t forget! That’s the custom so there’s nothing wrong with that but it leads me to another point. Why can’t the restaurant/bar owner actually pay his or her staff a fair rate in the first place rather than the customer having to pay for the food PLUS top up the waiters/waitresses wages in the form of a tip!?
Never a problem. More often than not I’d see jaywalking pedestrians “having a go” at car drivers rather than the other way round. Although I always heard the odd story of the cops doing on -the-spot fines/warnings for those unlucky enough to get caught.
8. Honking horns
Cars would honk their horns even if the vehicle in front had nowhere to go due to pedestrians crossing. However I later found out that the driver at the front of the queue is obligated to speed things up for everybody else behind and isn’t actually tooting people out of the way in an unfriendly manner.
9. Toilet Doors
Maybe it’s because I’m British and a little bit prude but I could never get used to the gaps around the toilet doors that strangers could easily peer through if they wanted to … or the huge gaps underneath that could easily be conquered by a passing limbo dancer.
I’m sure some TV programmes were actually shorter than the combined time of all the ad breaks that interrupted it.
11. Drug commercials
I loved the U.S. Drug commercials that remedied something like the common cold but the legal speak at the end was actually longer than the main part of the ad. Usually ending with the wording “In some circumstances using product “X” had lead to blindness, coma and even death”. I might just stick with my cold thanks! 😉