So, you’re fresh off the Amtrak at 30th Street Station and looking for that dream within a dream: an apartment where your stove isn’t in your living room and your rent isn’t your firstborn. Welcome, wayward Brooklynites, to the promised land.
As my colleague Alfred Lubrano reported this week, a steady stream of you is heading our way, about 3,500 a year. That’s about 400 more than we send to you. We’ll call it a win.
I was once like you: a Brooklynite through and through. But as those who read this space may know, I, too, made the tempest-tossed trek as a young man down I-95. I arrived with little more than a Flatbush accent that has since morphed into a weird amalgamation of the worst of two cities’ dialects.
All this is to say that I have some advice for you on how to acclimate to these climes. I get why you’re here — this city’s amazing. But you’ve got to pay your dues.
So here’s a guide on how to fake it until you make it in Philly, or at least to ingratiate yourself with the least forgiving and most genuine people on the planet.
1. Lose the attitude. I’m not saying you have one. But that’s going to be the perception the minute you say where you’re from.
When I first told my friends Matt and Mike Silvano, proprietors of the eponymous deli in South Philly, that I was writing a primer for newly transplanted New Yorkers, they assumed I was writing about the New York equivalent of them: street-smart guys of the old-school variety.
My neighborhood’s changed a lot since they came up, and being nice guys, they feared for the safety of the suburban 20-somethings who now make up a good portion of their clientele, even though they probably have more in common with the transplants than Mike and Matt do.
“Don’t be confrontational to the young millennial,” Mike advised. “That young millennial don’t know no better. You’re going to scare them.”
2. Follow my lead. The minute any Philadelphia sports team (barring the Phillies, forever and always my division rivals) evinces the slightest sign of success, throw yourself bodily onto the bandwagon. That’s what I did with the Eagles.
I befriended a couple of Twitter personalities and asked them to teach me the tao of Nick Foles, and we ended up going to the Super Bowl together. Even then, it wasn’t that easy: “How would a fair-weather fan endear themselves to you?” I asked @ZooWithRoy, one of my traveling companions. “It only works if they’re genuine dorks like you,” he replied. Fair enough.
3. If you have literally any oddities, lean into them. This a deeply strange town. And if you have no eccentricities, look to our local hockey mascot for examples. “Understand Gritty,” said Fergus Carey, the proprietor of Fergie’s, hands down the city’s best Irish pub. “And don’t ever call us the Sixth Borough, or you’ll never be seen again.”
If you don’t know what the Sixth Borough is, it’s better not to ask.
4. Make friends with the longtime neighbors. There’s no greater gift than the family on your block that’s been there since before you were born. They’ll help with backyard gardening, and teach you how to properly hose a sidewalk. They know all the stories. Learn from them.
6. Accept that you’ll always be a little bit of an outsider. You’ll never be truly part of the clan — because you’re from New York. Philly might assimilate, say, a Midwesterner eventually, but there’s part of the psyche you’ll just never know, because New York is the core of our inferiority complex. But that’s OK, because being an outsider means the beauty of this town will forever surprise you.
7. Know that the moment will come, in the not-so-distant future, when you see the skyline over the Ben Franklin Bridge, and your heart will swell. Or when you disembark at 30th Street Station, inhale the sweet stench of the Schuylkill Expressway, and not have to remind yourself it’s pronounced “Skookle.”