How to act as a tourist in a city

I think that I’ve lived in a city long enough now to do a post like this. For those who don’t know, I live right in the heart of Chicago.

a day in the life of...

This has many benefits like instant access to amazing food, tons of fabulous shopping, and less than 5 minutes walk to all of the different L lines. In the summer I can watch parades and protests from my living room window and in less than 10 minutes I can walk to the park where countless free concerts and other events are held.

However, this prime location also has a downside. Tons of noise, constant construction (this summer they resurfaced the street outside my apartment. They did this between the hours of 11:00 pm and 5:00 am so as not to hold up traffic during the day), and tourists. The worst part is the tourist. Although tourist season is almost over, I thought I would do a post on tourist etiquette. This is my second etiquette post; you can see the first here on retail etiquette. I feel it necessary to note that these are just my opinions that I assume are shared by many individuals who live in a city. But hey, maybe I’m just a grumpy gal. Either way, read ahead for advice on how to act like a local in a city.

1) Walk Quickly: For most city dwellers, the main form of transportation is their feet. I walk or take public transit 99% of the places I go. Just as you might be frustrated driving behind a car going 10 in a 50, I am frustrated trying to edge around a person who is sauntering down the sidewalk when I’m trying to get to a meeting/work/school. Studies have shown that people who live in cities tend to walk much faster than people who live other places so do all of us a favor and step it up a notch when you’re in an urban area. If you don’t want to walk faster, at least check your surroundings. Often the sidewalk space is limited and if you are in a group that is sauntering and you hear someone loudly exhaling behind you they probably want to get through. Keep an eye out and be respectful of people who have places to be.

2) If you want to take pictures, move to the side of the sidewalk: As if the slow walking isn’t frustrating enough, tourists LOVE to STOP WALKING suddenly and take a million photos. And you know what? I want you to take your pictures too, but follow these guidelines next time you see a great photo-op.

Step One: Move to the side of the walkway/path/road/etc. Do not just stop moving and completely block the flow of traffic. I have slammed into too many people to count because they simply stopped moving. It’s awkward and makes me look like an ass. Pay attention!

Step Two: If you’re taking a group picture, make sure your group isn’t blocking the entire walkway. This is just as bad as stopping unexpectedly.

That’s it! Just make sure there is room for people to get past you. It might not seem like a big deal but it gets really frustrating after a while having to dodge large groups of tourists organizing themselves into cheesy poses while they wear matching T-shirts (WE LOVE CHI-TOWN 2011!!).

3) Mind your business on the train/bus: Nova Rella has done a few posts about this (here and here) that make me stand up at my desk and scream, SING IT SISTUH, but I’m going to touch on it anyways. For people who rely on public transportation as their main form of transit, few things are more frustrating than having their personal space invaded.

First things first, don’t start small talk with people. The last thing I want to do on the train is talk about your cat and how great your Chicago vacation has been. In some situations, it even makes me nervous when strangers approach me on the train.

Another thing to avoid is excessive eye contact or touching. I get that it is a cramped space and touching is unavoidable, but when I get off the train and some handsy guy thinks its fun to grab my ass it becomes a situation. Excessive eye contact is also awkward. Keep your eyes on the ads, the map, your book/knitting/phone/friend/etc. and off of me.

Avoid PDA, it’s disgusting. The weird thing about this is generally it’s older people who have an issue keeping their hands and tongues to themselves. I don’t want to sound like a brat but I have NO interest in watching two middle-aged people go at it on the train. It grosses me out just as much as seeing two twelve-year old kids shoving their tongues down each others throats. If you want to grope your loved one, take a cab and don’t make me watch it. Perhaps I’m just bitter about this because I’m single, who knows? Either way, knock it off.

4) Ask for directions: If you’re lost, please don’t stand in the middle of the sidewalk with a giant map looking concerned. In Chicago, most people are REALLY friendly and will give you directions if you ask. I’ve heard that New Yorkers aren’t so quick to help but here in Chicago we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. I’m usually really flattered when people ask me because to me that means I look like I live here–which I do!

That’s it. The four tips you should know when you’re visiting my city. I suppose the cool thing to do would be to put together a real tourist guide for Chicago with my favorite restaurants, stores, and tourists spots. Perhaps I’ll do that next :).


4 thoughts on “How to act as a tourist in a city

  1. haha this made me laugh, i had heard that too about New Yorkers…but we went there a couple of years ago and we found them so helpful, if we were stoof on a corner looking at a map generally someone would ask where we were going to and offer to help (maybe they just wanted us to hurry up out of their way!)

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