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What Makes a Real New Yorker?
Second anniversary special issue!! Take the real New Yorker test!!!
Welcome to Issue #90 of CAFÉ ANNE!
Oh boy! It’s our second anniversary! I launched Issue #1 two years ago, to 62 subscribers—mostly friends and family—and couldn’t be more pleased with how it’s going.
As of this morning, there are 8,800 subscribers in 122 countries. And I’m having more fun with this thing than I’ve ever had with anything ever.
Some thanks are in order.
First, huge shoutouts to the newsletter’s 280 paying subscribers. CAFÉ ANNE has no paywalls, so all you folks get is the satisfaction of paying for something everyone else gets for free. As you know, I’m a freelance writer and this publication takes about 20 hours a week to create—I could not afford to continue without your support. THANK YOU.
I’m also grateful to the wonderful crew of folks—including some fantastic newcomers—who comment and email on the regular. You are all bonkers in the best way, and your remarks make me laugh and think. Yes, all readers are equal, but some are more equal than others. I’m looking at you Judge Roy Bean, Mark D, Michael E., B.A. Lampman, Appleton King, Jillian H., Lisa, Jessica R., Rebecca H., Chevanne, Per, Nate, Fleming, Holly, Jennifer K., Mike, Therry N., Michael G., Jolene H., Drew, Kevin and aka Kevin, Alex D., Maria R., Jeff R., “Aharon,” Rat, Kimia, Rob S., Jen D., Irene, TPOP, Mark S., CCS, Amran G., KK, Mark S., D.D., Beth, Justin D. and of course Forrest in Providence not Provincetown.
Note: if anyone can guess how many comments Judge Roy Bean has left since he became a café regular, I’ll comp you a free subscription to CAFÉ ANNE—and you know what that’s worth!
Finally, thanks to everyone who reads, shares and recommends the newsletter, suggests ideas, sends in their weird trash photos or just emails to say hello. This is a group effort and everyone at the café is important.
I’m very excited about this week’s issue, of course. I’ve got the results of my big “What Makes a Real New Yorker?” survey, based largely on responses from you. Please enjoy.
Love and regards!
PS To celebrate, I am offering a SPECIAL TWO-YEAR ANNIVERSARY SUBSCRIPTION OFFER. For a limited time, you can get a one-year subscription to CAFÉ ANNE for $35—that’s 30% off the regular $50 price. How often do you get a discount on something you can read for free? It defies all logic!
CAFÉ ANNE SURVEY
What Makes a Real New Yorker?
Rah! It’s the second anniversary of CAFÉ ANNE, and I’ll party however I want! This year I thought it’d be fun to conduct a big survey on a favorite topic: What makes a real New Yorker?
Over the past two weeks, more than 35 CAFÉ ANNE readers living in NYC completed a detailed questionnaire. I also hit the streets to survey more folks living in Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx. I got 50 responses in all.
I didn’t stop with the main question, of course. I also asked how long it takes to qualify for Real New Yorker status after moving here, and if you lose your credentials when you leave.
Also, please scroll to the bottom to take the official CAFÉ ANNE R U a Real New Yorker Test to determine if you qualify for real New Yorker status!
Question One: What Makes a Real New Yorker?
Let’s get one thing straight. If you were born and raised in NYC, you're a New Yorker! Period. Even if you leave. This is a straightforward ontological fact, in the same way that someone born and raised in Mexico or Paris can forever claim to be Mexican or Parisian.
Beyond that, it gets interesting. Can you move to New York and become a New Yorker? This does not seem feasible in other contexts. "Try telling a French person that as a result of living in France for a few years that you're French now," observed Phil in Sunnyside, Queens. "Ha!"
And yet, it does seem possible to become a New Yorker. Perhaps because NYC has always been populated largely by nonnatives. More than a third of us are foreign-born, and another third hail from elsewhere in the U.S.
New York is a city full of people who chose to make it their home. In fact, several survey respondents argued that folks who move to NYC are more real than the natives!
"They have the drive to bet on themselves making it, often risking physical and/or emotional security. This is the type of person—whether from the third world or right across the river—who dreams bigger than what’s around them," wrote Nick in Bed-Stuy.
So if anyone in the world is a potential real New Yorker, what do real New Yorkers have in common? Upon analyzing the survey responses, several themes emerged.
1. Real New Yorkers are here to stay
"A real New Yorker has an unwavering love for and appreciation of their city, even when they are cursing the traffic, weather, trains, mayor, rats and whatever they encounter on a daily basis," wrote Lisa in Middle Village, Queens.
"Someone who has really put their heart into living here by investing time and sweat, even when it's challenging," agreed Paula in Kensington. "Someone who didn't flee after 9/11 or the pandemic (not counting people who had to leave because they lost work.)"
You said it, sister! Perhaps the least real New Yorkers are those who fled during the pandemic because the city "just wasn't fun anymore,” and later returned. If I were mayor, these people would all have a giant ‘F’ stamped on their forehead so everyone would know they are FAKE!
2. Real New Yorkers give back
"A real New Yorker is someone who wants to contribute to the community rather than just consume and be entertained," wrote Lucie in Stuy Town.
"Truly caring about and supporting the slice of New York they come from, whether that be supporting small businesses or volunteering their time to help the community," agreed Matthew in Bay Ridge.
Correct! There's a certain sort of person who's forever ignoring their neighbors on their way to the hot new restaurant spotted on Instagram. These people may live here, but they are not New Yorkers! They are tourists!
3. Real New Yorkers are awfully kind—and kind of awful!
The consensus: Real New Yorkers are direct, high-energy, opinionated and resilient. We are kind, but not necessarily nice!
"Real New Yorkers know what we want too much, talk too fast, and are generally impatient," wrote Bella in Yorkville. "I know I belong in NYC because it's the only place I've ever lived where people don't call me 'intense.'"
"You need to be a little 'problematic'—not a full-blown asshole, but not too shy to make opinions known, and to believe those opinions correct," said Joe in Flatbush.
"Someone who is fed by the energy of the place," added Julia on the Upper West Side.
And real New Yorkers tolerate each other’s idiosyncrasies. "If you think you can mess with other people's right to live as they wish," wrote Eric in the East Village, "You really have not got the spirit of it all."
4. Real New Yorkers know their city and how it works
"New Yorkers walk fast and know how to navigate," wrote Marina in Hell's Kitchen. "We are always aware of our surroundings and potential danger. We refuse to pay more than $3 for a street hot dog. We know where to sit on the subway or bus to get out right where we need to be. We know how to hail a cab. We are familiar with neighborhoods other than our own."
More than 25% of respondents, in fact, cited subway expertise as an essential factor. "All New Yorkers are convinced that they know the subway system better than everyone else and we love to bestow this knowledge to anyone who will listen,” wrote Rachel in East Flatbush. “When a tourist asks for subway directions, you will typically see several New Yorkers light up at the opportunity to engage in a favorite pastime.”
Zachary in Ridgewood, meanwhile, has his own litmus test: "If you have less than three items in hand at the bodega checkout, you don’t wait in line, you just hold up what you got and pop the money on the counter.”
5. Real New Yorkers aren't normal Americans
We prefer funny little shops and restaurants to the chains. We endure tiny apartments so we can enjoy the world's coolest front yard.
"We know joining a gym is a waste of money because God invented running and CitiBikes," wrote Laurel in North Brooklyn. "We know the Post is ridiculous but we read it anyway because the headlines are funny."
"We are unfazed by celebrity sightings," said Victoria in Turtle Bay. "We don’t think walking distances like 40 blocks is a big deal."
Sam, 29, Astoria and Joselin, 28, Staten Island
What makes a real New Yorker?
Sam: A strong will!
If someone moves to NYC, how long before they qualify as a real New Yorker?
Sam: I’ve been here ten years and I don’t know if I qualify.
Joselin: When they order a bacon, egg and cheese with salt, pepper and ketchup and don’t even think about it.
Name someone you regard as a real New Yorker.
What’s the most New York place in NYC?
Sam: A halal guy’s food cart!
Question 2: How Long Does it Take?
If you move to New York, how long before you qualify as a real New Yorker? I didn't declare myself "real" until 2021, when I'd lived here 25 years. Turns out, most folks think that's way too strict.
While 11% percent of respondents said that people who move here can never qualify, 30% said you're real after hitting the five-year mark. "I think they need to live through one mayor," said Joe in Flatbush.
Another 10% set the bar at ten years. Only 4% demanded ten years or more.
And half the respondents said it wasn't a matter of time.
"Once you stop behaving like a tourist," said Katherine in Bed-Stuy.
"The first time they give directions to a non-New Yorker," wrote Tim on the Upper West Side.
"There are a few moments in life that, when they occur, they make you as a New Yorker," said Cory in Park Slope. "You leave the city for a period of time, say a weekend getaway or vacation, and return to find the sights/sounds of the city invigorating and comforting.”
“The other is more metaphysical, maybe spiritual in nature,” he continued. “You have an out-of-body experience while walking around the city, or a busy subway station, and realize the beauty of the vast amount of people around you.”
“Also,” he added, “the moment you yell at a car for almost hitting you in the crosswalk."
Edwina, South Bronx
What makes a real New Yorker?
You just go. You don’t stop!
If someone moves to New York, how long before they qualify for real New Yorker status?
Cross the street! If they make it across the street, they’re a New Yorker!
Are you a real New Yorker?
Born and raised, been here my whole life.
What’s the most New York place in NYC?
Oh wow, the Bronx! It’s the heart of the city!
Question 3: Can You Still Qualify if You Leave?
Can you call yourself a New Yorker if you move to, say, Florida? 60% of survey respondents said yes. What a bunch of softies! But they had their reasons.
"Of course," wrote Zachary in Ridgewood. "New Yorkers who leave often become exaggerated versions of themselves."
"Yes, of course. Everyone else will call them that anyway," said Joe in Flatbush.
Another quarter said no, absolutely not.
"Real New Yorkers don't leave, because the idea of living somewhere else is silly," said Steve in Prospect Heights.
"Nope, sorry. They can reminisce. Maybe they can be a Real New Yorker Emeritus," said Janet in Greenwich Village.
Others split the difference. "That depends upon why they left," said Matthew on the Upper East Side. "If they left to get some peace and quiet and more space, definitely not!"
"Only if they regret leaving with every fiber of their being," said Janet in Bushwick.
The correct answer? If you were born and raised in NYC, you are always a real New Yorker, even if you move to Mars.
If you move to NYC and leave, however, you lose your real New Yorker status the minute your U-Haul hits the Holland Tunnel. If I moved to Mars tomorrow, I'd be a Buffalo native, a Martian resident, and a former New Yorker. Dang!
Duke, 32, East Elmhurst, and Phil, 78, Boro Park
If you move here from someplace else, how long before you qualify for real New Yorker status?
Phil: They must work here, ride the subway regularly, learn the basic history of NYC and learn the different neighborhoods. A minimum of ten years.
Duke: A real New Yorker? Never!
Name a real New Yorker, famous or not:
Duke: Bill de Blasio
Phil: Robert DeNiro. Spike Lee.
Are you a real New Yorker?
Duke: Absolutely. Because I was born and raised here. Because I champion New York everywhere I go.
Phil: Of course! I’ve lived here my whole life. A hell of a long time. 78 years.
What is the most New York place in NYC?
Phil: Times Square.
Duke: Times Square. It has to be. You kidding?
Question Four: Are You a Real New Yorker?
While some respondents moved here as recently as this year, and 25% within the last ten years, 90% said they qualify as real New Yorkers. That takes chutzpah—so maybe they are real!
Many said they earned their title the hard way: "I've been through a lot of the list of things many New Yorkers have been through," wrote Samantha in Astoria, who just hit the ten-year mark. "Bed bugs, cockroaches, a shady unreachable management company, a shady unreachable landlady who eventually ended up in rehab, getting stuck in a train underground, injuries, seeing someone(s) masturbating on the street, a couple who scream fights in front of my window..."
Others cited their street smarts. "Because I know how to make myself invisible or super intimidating, depending on what the situation calls for," wrote Maria in Williamsburg.
I was even more intrigued by the respondents who admitted they're not real New Yorkers. Kelly in Clinton Hill said she doesn't qualify because she doesn't plan to stay: “I see real New Yorkers who truly love this place and consider it their forever home, and I admire them,” she wrote. “And I know I'm not one of them. Proof: If you tell me I'm not a real New Yorker, I will not argue with you!"
And then there is Neal in Brighton Beach, a New York native who bristled at the very suggestion he isn’t the real deal: "What kind of @#$%^&* question is that?"
The CAFÉ ANNE Real New Yorker Test!
Are you a real New Yorker? I created a totally arbitrary and subjective test to help you understand where you stand. If your score adds up to 100 points or more, you’re the real deal.
Don’t like my criteria? Too bad, it’s my newsletter. Make your own test!
I was born and raised up in NYC. (+100 points—you’re forever a real New Yorker, even if you left)
I live in NYC. (+2 points for each year)
I shop local before Amazon or the chains. (+10)
I refer to Manhattan as “the city.” (+5)
I volunteer with community groups including religious organizations, civic clubs, 12-step meetings, etc. (+5 for each group)
I mainly rely on the subway, biking, walking or the bus to get around. (+20)
I don’t own a car. (+10)
I’ve visited a borough outside my own and Manhattan in the last three months. (+5 for each)
I haven’t left my neighborhood all year. (+50)
I greet my neighbors by name. (+1 for each human and each dog)
The guys at the bodega let me pay later when I forget my wallet. (+10)
Walking a few miles is no big deal. (+10)
I can take the subway pretty much anywhere without consulting a map. (+20)
I was here for 9/11 and never considered leaving. (+10)
I was here for Hurricane Sandy and never considered leaving. (+10, but only if your neighborhood got flooded)
I was here for the pandemic and never considered leaving. (+10)
I love all New Yorkers including rats, trust fund kids, delivery guys biking on the sidewalk, conservatives, cops, thugs and hipsters. (+1 for each outsider group you embrace that typically garners universal distain)
I love every NYC neighborhood, even the crap area around Penn Station and the most suburban stretches of Queens. (+10)
I enjoy street cart fare. (+5—and food trucks don’t count!!!)
My newsstand guy calls me “boss.” (+20)
How did you score?!? Let us know in the comments. I got 239 points, which makes me 239% real. Top that!
CAFÉ ANNE is a free weekly newsletter created by Brooklyn journalist Anne Kadet. Subscribe to get the latest issue every Monday!