Canadian Survival Guide for Manhattan

I am a Canadian, living undercover in New York for the past six months. Having successfully avoided detection by the New Yorkers, I have some advice for other Canadians hoping to survive Manhattan.


The first thing you must master is walking. Why? Because you’re going to do a lot of it.

This surprises many Canadians visiting New York for the first time, but the fact of the matter is that walking is frequently the most efficient – and sometimes the only – mode of transportation.

The hardest part of safely walking in Manhattan is to not made eye contact. It’s considered rude. You don’t want to be rude, do you?

As a Canadian, two fundamental forces are fighting within you: the urge to be friendly and the urge to be polite. Let the politeness win – you can chat with your buddies at Tim Horton’s when you get home.

In order to avoid detection, you must not make eye contact.

I’ve lived here for half a year and I’ve only ever made eye contact with a stranger on the sidewalk once. (I don’t want to talk about it.)

The next rule is that you must look where you are about to walk. Unlike many sidewalks in Canada, sidewalks in Manhattan often have other people walking on them. Other people who aren’t you. This means you can’t simply walk in a straight line down the sidewalk. Instead, you need to use body language to communicate which direct you’re walking in.

Walking down a sidewalk is like like driving on a highway. Keeping your face in a dead stare, check your blind spot before turning. To indicate your change in course, turn your eyes, then head, then finally shoulders. Finally, make the turn.

If at any point you need to stop on the sidewalk, pull off to the side so others can safely pass you.

Another gotcha for Canadians is being handed things. Now, if you had told me six months ago that not being handed things was a skill, I would’ve have believed you. However, there are people who will try to hand you things: stickers, coupons, flyers, CDs, and so on. These things come with strings attached. You may be asked to pay for the thing you’ve been handed, for instance.

These things you are handed are a disease; once you’ve been handed one thing, other people handing things out will see that you’re an easy target.

The best defence is a good offence. Avoiding eye contact is even more important than ever. If someone succeeds in getting your attention, keep your hands at your side. Hell, put them in your pockets. Raising your hand anywhere above your waist shows weakness, and something will be placed in your hands.

To recap, here are the rules:

  1. Don’t make eye contact with anyone for any reason.
  2. Always look where you are about to walk.
  3. Never change course or stop suddenly.
  4. Don’t get handed things.

When your destination is too far away, you will need to take the subway. Canadians, those from Toronto in particular, have a difficult time navigating the NYC transit system since there are more than two subway lines. Be careful.

And remember, all of the rules for walking one the sidewalk apply to the subway, too.


To survive in New York, you must be prepared for its climate. You may be thinking “New York is pretty close to Canada, how different can its climate be?”

Very different. Many Canadians have perished because they under estimated New York’s climate.

It’s deceiving because winter does exist in New York, and there is snow. A Canadian visiting between December and March should feel comfortably at home wearing their usual parka. Pro tip: Canada Goose will help you fit in.

However, snowfall has been known to end in April, or even March! At this point, a rapid spring occurs and ushers in summer. Yes, summer sometimes begins in March. Summers in New York last a long time, often stretching beyond Labour Day. New York children do not have to wear snow pants over their Hallowe'en costume, for example.

Besides its duration, summers in New York have one other danger: the heat. People say that Toronto is Canada’s New York. Well, people from Canada say that. Well, it’s really only people from Toronto. The point is they’re kind of right.

Both Toronto and New York have hot summers, but while Manhattan regularly has temperatures in excess of 30º for weeks at a time, Toronto summers never have the opportunity to become this intense. Eleven days simply isn’t long enough to be an intense summer.


Fellow Canadians, with these tips on transportation and climate in Manhattan, I have full confidence in you. With diligence, you too can survive – and flourish.


Posted on August 15, 2015