Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > United States
Reload this Page >

Looking in the eye on the NYC subway.....true or false?

Looking in the eye on the NYC subway.....true or false?

Nov 27th, 2006, 08:20 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 1,942
Looking in the eye on the NYC subway.....true or false?

I had heard, years ago, that when you travel on the subway in NYC, you should not make eye contact. What is the deal with this? Is it just an old rumor type thing? Or is it a true practice?

ilovetotravel29 is offline  
Nov 27th, 2006, 08:51 AM
Posts: n/a
I ride the NY Subways every day, at least twice a day. If you see me, you are welcome to make eye contact. But no flash pictures, please!
Nov 27th, 2006, 09:20 AM
Posts: n/a
I think the point someone is trying to make is that you should exhibit elevator behavior unless someone asks you a direct question or someone looks like they need help.

In other words, try and respect personal space if possible. Don't wear a backpack on the train but take it off etc.
Nov 27th, 2006, 09:20 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 14
I have travelled 1-2 times in the NYC Subway as a tourists and have made eye-contacts with lot of people and specially with chicks/women. I see no problem. I dont live there.
kunb is offline  
Nov 27th, 2006, 10:09 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 567
Wear dark sunglasses and you can look all you want.
gb944 is offline  
Nov 27th, 2006, 10:11 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 16,253
I notice this a bit on the daily Metra to Chicago too. Not that there is hostility but rather game face time, and stacking out their usual places etc. We all have our comfort zone grinds, I guess.

And cell phone conversations were definitely NOT appreciated.
JJ5 is offline  
Nov 27th, 2006, 10:13 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
The no eye contact rule is for two reasons:

1) Everyone is usually squashed in together - and like in an elevator you're within what is usually someone else's personal space - and looking them in the eye can make it more uncomfortable for both of you

2) There are some unusual or ecentric people who ride the subway and will take a direct look in the eye as an invitation to become their friend - or donor

If you're trying to pick up someone you can certainly look her/him in the eye - but don't be surprised if s/he looks away or moves

And in fact, the don;t look people in the eye, don;t greet people is just basic protection - and how masses of people get along in a limited space - by not infringing on strangers.

(A visiting relative asked if I didn't greet all of my neighbors good morning. And I explaained that in New York your neighbors are the people who live in your building - or part of it, depending on how big it is - or personal friends. I can;t greet everyone on my block - since there are about 5,000 of us. And if I did many would think I was kind of odd.)
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 04:28 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 827
My experiences on the nyc subway (which I've ridden more than a handful of times in the past couple of years) have been pretty much exactly the same as my experiences on subway I ride at home, an occasional glance is okay if you don't linger. There is a difference between a quick glance, catching someones eye accidentally and then looking away, and staring them down. The former is no big deal, the latter is creepy.

when I'm squashed up against a stranger, I don't want added experience of that person staring at me as well. Usually when I find myself squashed up against another person in the subway we both just look away and try our best to pretend that the situation that we have both found ourselves in isn't really happening (at least that is how my morning commute was today)

Personally, I've been riding the train regularly for many years (probably close to 15) and I usually don't look people in the eye on the train, just habit I guess.
Vittrad is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 06:12 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 4,178
Don't make eye contact with someone you shouldn't make eye contact with.

You'll know 'em when you see 'em.

So, yes, it's partially true.

Among some people, it's viewed as a sign of agression. No kidding.

Gekko is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 06:34 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 507
Eye contact with a smile!

Don't be timid, don't be rude. Don't worry and have some fun!
cwojo99 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 07:14 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 1,432
Just don't pull a "Borat" & let a chicken escape from your carry-on bag ;-)
amp322 is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 01:00 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 17,549
Wanna have some fun? Do the "eye contact chicken" thing: make DIRECT contact and hold it...hold it..hold it.....WHO will look away first? Almost inevitably the other person.

What does it prove? Nothing. What does it do for you? Anyone's guess.
Why would you not make eye contact? Because you are studying to be Japanese?
Dukey is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 04:29 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 812
But don't be afraid to ask someone a question. Sometimes on the subway you need to know if you're getting off on the right stop. Look for someone normal looking and go ahead and ask them.

I've found New Yorkers to be friendly and helpful.
BoniseA is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 07:53 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 827
Me too. I've asked questions before on the subway and always got assistance, except from one snotty hipster in Williamsburg, but she was probably from Kansas
Vittrad is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 08:19 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 812
Now wait a second Vittrad...

I'm from Kansas
BoniseA is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 08:52 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 2,825
I don't make eye contact as a rule, and I'm from Tennessee. Actually, I'm originally from the D.C. area. Perhaps my rule is a carry-over. As kunb pointed out, it is an issue of space, and I like to use mine to think, preferrably without interruption.

I prefer the no eye-contact rule everywhere but especially in crowded places since it becomes your physical space as well as your mental space. Like most people, I'm more than happy to assist people in need that approach me.

Since we moved to TN, I've gotten used to people speaking to me everywhere I go even though I don't make eye contact. I guess it's not really much of a deterrent, at least here. On the plus side, I've had some interesting conversations.
claire_bluesky is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 09:13 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 4,178
Just don't do it as a general rule ... or at least don't instigate it ... making eye contact is rude at best and a sign of aggression at worst.

I say "as a general rule" because, if you're a tourist riding the 6 train in the mid-afternoon, it's less of an issue.

Gekko is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
United States
Nov 29th, 2017 10:17 AM
United States
Jul 7th, 2010 01:48 PM
United States
Feb 10th, 2007 08:55 PM
United States
Apr 9th, 2004 02:41 PM
Feb 4th, 2004 02:07 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:50 AM.