--My biggest piece of advice for getting along with the locals is this: get out of the way. We (and I think in this case, I can safely speak for everyone) like to keep it moving. When you get up to the cash register at the deli or store, look at the screen. It's unlikely she's going to actually *tell* you the total. I don't know why not, but she won't. Take your change and immediately move down a step or two. No one has patience for the neatly-put-the-change-in-the-walleters. Feel free to mosey on down the sidewalk, slowly checking out the sites. Just don't walk 5 people astride. If I can pass, I'm happy. That's really all it takes.
--If you are using public transportation, forget subway maps. Use hopstop.com. It's fantastic. And if you see people riding in their underwear, don't be alarmed. Chances are it's the No Pants! Subway Ride. Drop trou and join in. (Or...don't.)
--There's a very cool little "fake ice" skating rink directly behind the planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. In the summer, it's a water park for the kiddies.
--People who work at any location of Duane Reade seem to like to argue with each other. It has nothing to do with you. Pay them no mind.
And beware of these scams:
Hot Dog / Ice Cream Vendors
They look so friendly, don't they? But double-check the prices on everything, and add up the total in your head. Otherwise, that $2 Rainbow Pop your kid is screaming for may cost you $4. Distracted parents are the easiest victims, it seems. It's certainly not ALL vendors who want to take that extra dollar or two of yours. Most are fine citizens trying to earn a living. But I've had this happen to me more than a few times (I got my eye on YOU, guy at 96th/5th!), so I thought I'd pass it along.
The I'm In Need Of Help Scam
Do you have sort of a "nice" look about you? Well, you might run into this seemingly-panicked guy: "I left my wallet in a cab and now I can't get back to Westchester! Oh please help me!" ::Looks sad, might even tear up::
I had one man lay a slightly different version on me. He was a young Hasidic man (or, at least, dressed that way) and he had his wallet stolen. He went on and on about how none of the synagogues in the area would help him out, and he only needed ten more dollars to get a ticket home. It was quite the detailed story. I, being a former sucker, gave it to him. And I saw him doing the same thing to someone else two weeks later.
The Take The Long Way Home Scam
I don't think this happens so much with taxi drivers anymore. It used to be that tourists would sometimes get a tour of all five boroughs before arriving at their hotels from the airport, but now that it's a flat fee, not so much. Still, if you need to take a livery cab with no meter, settle on the price before you get in the car.
And, of course, if you see this guy:
Keep your hand on your wallet!