A Holiday Reality Check for NYNatives’ Houseguests

By Virge Randall

It’s hard for New York Natives to give houseguests coming to NYC for the holidays a reality check about staying in a NY apartment…but it’s as necessary as telling a teenager there’s no Santa Claus.

Reality Check number one:

For instance…all those NY apartments you see in movies and TV shows – those sunny, spacious places with huge rooms and appliances?

They’re not real.

They’re all sets in some Queens warehouse. Most Natives live with two or three roommates, or in walkups with direct sunlight for a half hour, or in studios small enough to give a veal calf claustrophobia.  Some residents land a trifecta and endure all three.

So adjust your expectations.  We know it’s not easy. The pull of Fantasy NYC plus holiday excitement is strong enough to warp the brain waves of even the most sensible and polite houseguest regarding:

Amenities: Don’t let those luxury high rises taking over the city fool you:  lots of us still live in walkups. Our delivery tips support several Third World nations, so we’re well aware of the drawbacks of life without elevators.  There’s no need to remind us. Every. Single. Time. There’s nothing we can do about the stairs short of carrying guests upstairs; there’s no magic elevator hidden in the 11th dimension. You’re allowed one comment, preferably “Wow, no wonder you’re in such good shape.”  Think of it as a free Stairmaster. Or pin a paper number on your back and pretend you’re in the Empire State Building Challenge.

Infrastructure:  Renters can’t even give their walls a dirty look, so reframe observations on deficiencies we can’t change, like the quality of the appliances (think “vintage” not “old,”), the size of the rooms (think “cozy” not ‘tiny”) or the apartment layout. Asking “what’s that wall doing there?” suggests that it should be holding up the ceiling in a newer, nicer apartment. The one in the 11th dimension. With the elevator. Knocking the merchandise might score a discount on some schmatta on Orchard Street, but when staying in someone’s home for free, be nice.

Reality check number two:  

All those shows and movies about “the City that never sleeps?” Also not real.

Your hosts are overscheduled, overworked, and working two or three jobs to make rent.  Dealing with jet lag is between you and whatever soundproof , secluded and dark nook of our alcove apartments you can read in while we sleep. (If you take the bathroom, we’ll kill you.)  Weekends are for sleeping in. The only logical response to a Sunday morning comment like, “I’d like to be in Red Hook by ten,” is “Really? I’d like Benedict Cumberbatch to be in my kitchen making pancakes.”

Reality Check number three:

All that stuff about how adaptable New York Natives are? Not always real.  

We can roll with a lot – The loss of the L train. SantaCon.  Pizza Rats – but not things like:

Exotic New Diets:   Let us know in advance if you need special dietary arrangements.  By “special” we mean “going to the ER” not “”Broccoli is gross.”

Any event/activity that involves standing in line.  Forget Hamilton. Forget Cronuts. The city is bursting with places to eat and things to do – and not enough time to do it in. You can have a five course meal without leaving the sidewalk- there’s free entertainment there too. (No wonder so many people just give up the whole apartment thing and live on the street.) So include us out of waiting in line in the December cold for a glorified donut, or to score discount tickets in Times Square.  And it’s not just a weather thing. We won’t stand in line in the summer for Shakespeare in the Park, either.

Animals: Don’t even think of telling your hosts to restrain their animals or lock them away during your visit.  Pets are family members, and they outrank you. If anybody is going to sleep on the floor, it’s you.

Don’t get us wrong.  We love sharing our hometown with our friends. But please, pack some special NYC approved etiquette when you come.  Remember you are staying in a home, with a friend, not a concierge. Be nice. But if you can’t resist suggesting improvements or comments about the lodging, the accommodations or the activities available, don’t tell us. Write them down on an index card.

We’ll be happy to tell you where you can put it.

But don’t get me started about that.

14 thoughts on “A Holiday Reality Check for NYNatives’ Houseguests”

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  2. What a great column. I had more guests in my NYC apartment who never bought me a beer even when I saved them hundreds of dollars on hotels! Send them to Airbnb!

  3. So funny & true. I always hated it when out of town guests would ask for recommendations. Especially things like “I have a friend from Spain coming & they have no money-can you recommend a decent hotel?”

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