Where are people most friendly and civil?
November 12, 2004 8:58 PM   Subscribe

People are rude. Really. Don't say thank you, run over your feet. Don't hold doors open. If you could live anywhere, particularly where people are friendly and civil, where would that be?

More: Several cities I've been to recently (on the east coast) all have a consistency - people complaining about the lack of civility and behaving as such. I do believe social manners are the lubrication that keeps us from killing each other.

Little things: Thank you. Please. Running the yellow/VERY RED light.
posted by filmgeek to Human Relations (69 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I hear Canada's a lot more civilized. Great Britain isn't exactly less rude, but they'll be rude in a far more clever way, which is nice for a change. I'm not sure if rudeness is illegal in Singapore, but it might be.

I'd personally rather have the in-your-face attitude of the East Coast than the "Thank-you-have-a-nice-day-(you shmuck)" bullshit that permeates the Mid-West. Also, don't confuse bluntness with rudeness. "Hey idiot, you sure you wanna park your fuckin' car in front of my driveway?" is a lot less rude than a smile and a wave followed by a tow-truck.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:16 PM on November 12, 2004


As a former resident of the Midwest and the South, I'll echo what C_D said: pervasive politeness comes at a price.

But, to answer your question as you asked it: Savannah, Georgia. Don't say I didn't warn you!
posted by samh23 at 9:33 PM on November 12, 2004


Believe it or not, Lubbock, Texas
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:36 PM on November 12, 2004


Seattle. I found it a very equitable balance between politeness, forthrightness, and humility. In my experience it's the only place on the West Coast where one can find both intelligence AND humility when talking to the average person on the street. I like the way every single car brakes for you if there's even the slightest chance you might consider trying to cross the street. The only thing 'rude' about Seattle is the police force - and they're pretty easy to avoid interacting with.

Background: I've been to 46 states for at least a few days each (most for a week or more), and nearly every major American city. I grew up in the Northeast - I'd like to think I've experienced most of 'America' (Hawaii, Alaska, Delaware, and Rhode Island excepted).
posted by Ryvar at 9:58 PM on November 12, 2004


Civil_Disobedient++

If someone on the west coast (USA) is rude to you, they probably went out of their way to do so, just because they could, or were pissed off. On the east coast, if someone is rude to you, it is because you got in their damn way. If you stay out of their way, it won't happen again.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:02 PM on November 12, 2004


I am moving from Manhattan to San Francisco next year, and this played a large role in my decision. I think it might be nice for a change to be one of the nastier people on the street, rather than the most polite and gentle.

There's a song about this, but deviled if I can remember it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:08 PM on November 12, 2004


When I moved from Kansas to New York to go to college, I didn't find the change in politeness the least bit startling; in fact, I didn't notice it at all until I came back to Kansas one summer break and noticed that people were practically getting in my face every time I went into a store to ask me how I was.

In Manhattan, people are not rude; they just aren't overtly friendly. They are, however, polite. There's a difference. Ask just about any New Yorker on the street directions, and you will find them extremely patient. Occasionally, they will walk you partway to make sure you get there, and then give you a gentle warning to be careful.

I personally find going into a place to buy a soda and having the person behind the counter yak at me about something asinine like the weather or sports obnoxious. They don't do that in New York.

After college, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and there it was again: the interminable counter banter. I got used to it, and once I was running a bookstore myself, even realized that the locals *wanted* it sometimes. I had to do it myself when I had a retail job.

Now that I'm back in Kansas--living in a little blue county on a blood red state--I've realized that it's not harder or easier to be polite. When I go to work, people always say "good morning" when I get there and "good night" when I leave. These terms seem vaguely intimate to me, so they make me uncomfortable. I respond with "hi" or "hello".

In conclusion (if I actually have one), it depends on what you're looking for. If you actually like having people say "please" and "thank you" and "good morning", I'd recommend the Midwest, minus Illinois, where they are so cruel and hateful that their grass grows brown. < -- hyperbolic statement made in jest.br>
If you don't like being asked pointless questions about how you feel about what it's like outside [sic], move east.

On the other hand, I was at a Border's tonight without a watch, and I asked a man passing the graphic novels section what time it was. He went out of his way to tell me, and I thanked him--I myself try to be polite--and he said something charming and almost archaic in response: "I'm very much obliged".
posted by interrobang at 10:18 PM on November 12, 2004


If you want people to encover you in kindness and then gossip about you at cocktail parties: move to the South

If you want people to stay out of your way, yet still know everything about you and gossip about you at a shitkicker bar: move to the Southwest

If you want to make lots of fuck-buddies and friends to get high with, who you might actually enjoy and whom you'll gossip about around the bong: move to California.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:33 PM on November 12, 2004


People in San Francisco seem nice.

People in Portland, Oregon are nice too, although not so much as San Francisco. I've been hit and miss with Seattle.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 11:09 PM on November 12, 2004


Civility can be subjective. I'm annoyed by people who blurt out: "Bless you" when someone sneezes. I'd rather the moment be allowed to pass in silence instead of drawing extra attention to it.
posted by RavinDave at 11:50 PM on November 12, 2004


I'm annoyed by people who blurt out: "Bless you" when someone sneezes.

Someone saying that after a sneeze sounds to me exactly like the Arabic sun-down wailing you hear on televison.
posted by interrobang at 11:56 PM on November 12, 2004


People are almost never rude to me - and I diligently give them reason to be. If you are suffering rudeness, I have to assume that something about you is irritating, that somehow you bring out the worst in people, that for some reason you bug the shit out of basically friendly people, that you pull peoples' triggers, you make them want to hurt you, you piss people off, you make them want to beat the living hell out of you, you just rub people the wrong fucking way you simpering clown and we want to break your fuckin' legs and smash your smooth little face and kill your snotty worthless ass.

[Name of town withheld suckface.]
posted by Opus Dark at 1:32 AM on November 13, 2004


In Manhattan, people are not rude.

You've obviously never taken the subway. I'm a New Yorker, and I love my fellow city-dwellers, but the boxed-in conditions down there make people into apes. Or rather (since there's no excuse for rudeness), people USE the boxed-in conditions as an excuse for rude behavior: spreading out over several seats (men: sitting with legs spread apart; women: putting handbag on the seat next to them) when there are people without a seat; pushing to get in the train; rushing into the train without letting passengers off first; littering; using the train-ride to apply makeup; eating smelly food in a crowded train car; listening to cranked music; whistling or rapping out loud; not showering; etc.; etc.; etc.
posted by grumblebee at 2:23 AM on November 13, 2004


"Hey idiot, you sure you wanna park your fuckin' car in front of my driveway?" is a lot less rude than a smile and a wave followed by a tow-truck.

That's an interesting way of looking at it. The burden of courtesy is on the worthless piece of shit who blocked the driveway with his car, and he has now sacrificed his right to it.

It's true, in Seattle the cars stop for you no matter what, even when they shouldn't, even when you stand there and gesture for them to go by, even when they are blocking other traffic, even when you are getting ready to cross a four-lane street and cars in the other lanes are not stopping for you, thus ensuring your death if you take the first car's offer. This also happens sometimes in L.A.

Now that I'm back in Kansas--living in a little blue county on a blood red state...

...ah. So how is Lawrence/Johnson County these days? :)
posted by bingo at 2:41 AM on November 13, 2004


Coming from London to visit New York, I was amazed by how polite and courteous everybody was. It seemed to me that the whole "pushy New Yorker" thing was something of a myth - my fellow citizens of London are much more rude, and, on occasion, more than a little aggressive. Stand on the left of a Tube escalator, and that whole "reserved Brit" stereotype will dissolve before you in seconds.
posted by influx at 3:32 AM on November 13, 2004


Halifax, Nova Scotia is a very friendly town. Just about any of the east-coast Canadian cities are that way - don't know what makes them so different from east-coast American cities, but they are.
posted by Gortuk at 4:12 AM on November 13, 2004



Halifax, Nova Scotia is a very friendly town. Just about any of the east-coast Canadian cities are that way - don't know what makes them so different from east-coast American cities, but they are.


It's the pervasive small-town racism, I think ;) central and eastern canada can go bojangle themselves as far as I'm concerned. Western Canada is all polite if you ignore me, and I'm polite when I'm not railing against the rest of Canada.
posted by The God Complex at 4:17 AM on November 13, 2004


Australia.
posted by SpaceCadet at 4:24 AM on November 13, 2004


You'll want to stay as far away from Boston as humanly possible.
posted by briank at 4:44 AM on November 13, 2004


When I go to work, people always say "good morning" when I get there and "good night" when I leave. These terms seem vaguely intimate to me
Um, wow.

Minneapolis is one no-counter-banter city; they're not rude, just not chatty. A MPLS/Cali friend once told me he'd know me anywhere as from Wisconsin because I exchange more than three sentences with any service person. (Dammit, there I go again with the too chatty.) It may be a Scandinavian/Lutheran vs. German/Catholic thing. We're all about the gem├╝tlichkeit. One nice thing about Milwaukee friendliness, you can go into a bar alone and always find a good conversation with a stranger.

I haven't found New Yorkers to be rude; just in a hurry. When we were in Ireland, I was astonished at the friendliness and politeness. The reverse-culture shock upon returning to O'Hare was really, really dismaying.
posted by mimi at 5:00 AM on November 13, 2004


San Antonio, New Orleans, Baton Rouge - Deep south or anyplace with lots of retired people who aren't in a hurry to get anywhere. (So let me add Phoenix and parts of Florida.)

People are just overwhelmed these days and shut down outside stimulus just to get through their (commute, errands, day.) They often don't realize they ran over your feet, they're just talking on the phone while holding a baby and trying to get their shopping done before picking someone up at school.

Go to place where people aren't in such a hurry and you'll get better treatment.
posted by pomegranate at 5:09 AM on November 13, 2004


I have lived in the following places:
Phoenix, AZ
Ft Walton Beach, FL
Columbus, OH
England
Mountain View, CA
Oklahoma City, OK
Enid, OK
San Antonio, TX

And traveled to many other places on numerous occasions: Colorado Springs, Austin, NYC, Tampa, etc.

And now I reside in Montana. Without question, the people in Montana are the friendliest, most civil, most courteous people that I have ever encountered. My theory is that the population density (or lack thereof in Big Sky Country) is a large factor in this wonderful by-product of living in this magnificent place.
posted by davidmsc at 5:41 AM on November 13, 2004


Someone saying that after a sneeze sounds to me exactly like the Arabic sun-down wailing you hear on televison.

Me: Achoo!
You: Don't try to force your religion on me!
Me: Too much pepper in my hummus, you see.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:06 AM on November 13, 2004


Lots of places in American mistake blandness for niceness, lack of public engagement for politeness, and using the right words--please, thank you, you're welcome--as courtesy when all it is is thoughtless custom.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:09 AM on November 13, 2004


What interrobang said (and Mo Nickels too). New Yorkers are perfectly polite (except, yeah, not so much in the subway); it's just a different set of expectations. "Counter banter" is a perfect example. In NYC, where you've got a dozen people in line all of whom have to be somewhere in five minutes, it's incredibly rude to hold up the line by trying to chat with the cashier about the weather or how different life is back in Smallville; tourists do this and get rebuffed and go away complaining about "rude New Yorkers" when they should be realizing that big cities work differently and require different behavior. I've found New Yorkers uniformly willing to go out of their way to be helpful to strangers. And as someone with a bunch of Southern relatives, I can assure you that all that superficial politeness, charming as it can be to the casual visitor, can be a cover for a snakepit of malice, prejudice, and other aspects of the less attractive side of human nature.

In conclusion: if my car is blocking your fucking driveway, just tell me to move my fucking car. Don't wish me a good day and don't call the tow truck.

Oh, and you want total, complete, smothering politeness? Visit Japan.
posted by languagehat at 6:38 AM on November 13, 2004


Milwaukee.
posted by pieoverdone at 6:50 AM on November 13, 2004


it's not that some places are "really" polite, while others are "fake polite", but that people like/judge things by what they are used to. so someone from new york will find people from there reasonable; people slightly more outgoing about being friendly "friendly"; and those who behave in a more extreme way "fake". similarly someone from a culture where manners are more explicit will find people from new york "rude". being polite is a judgement that ponly makes sense within a single (micro-)cuture - here people are trying to make cross-cultural claims and it's getting pretty meaningless.

the japanese, presumably, find japan pretty normal (particularly those who have never experienced other cultures) and americans, in general, pretty amazingly rude.

of course, tastes change, and "culture" itself is multi-scaled and flexible. so someone can go somewhere else, find them overwhelming at first, and then "friendly", returning to what they used to be used to to find them, in many ways "rude". etc etc - all the obvious stuff i'm sure anyone here could trot out and that people are presumably ignoring because this makes such discussion pointless. meh.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:58 AM on November 13, 2004


I was terrified of moving to Toronto from Kansas (ha! Larryville reprazent!) for just this reason, but T.O. was by far the friendliest place I've ever lived. Eye contact on the sidewalks, people honking and waving (in a nice friendly way) in the streets, etc. You can't be a timid driver, but the people couldn't be nicer.
posted by gleuschk at 7:06 AM on November 13, 2004


I've lived on the east and west coast and have to agree with everything Ryvar said about Seattle. People go beyond polite to actually being nice [and I agree about the police] and thoughtful and some other things. The only non-polite thing I've found in Seattle is the "I'll call you" scenario where you see a friend, you have a nice long chat, you say "we should get together, I'll give you a call, maybe next weekend" and then they never call. Ever. This may be a big city thing, or it actually may be the polite way of dealing with a friend you don't actually want to get together with but to my literal mind it was always really odd and the sort of thing that doesn't happen to me on the East Coast at all.

In Vermont, people aren't quite as manners-polite but they're very very helpful, gracious and downright human. I say hello to everyone I pass on the street in my town, even though I don't know most of them, it's just the way people are. There's a sort of hold-the-door-open-for-people politeness without the accompanying "let me help you out with that, little lady" patronizing tone. Older people are respected and accomodated, even if they're a little high maintenance. The big non-polite thing around here is the drivers. Tailgaiters and light-runners, the lot of them.

On the other hand, there are a lot of country mannerisms in my town that people might find rude. People you know knock on the door to your house and come in, whether you answer it or not, including the mailman sometimes. People have lingering discussions and, like mimi says, it's seen as a bit on the rude side if you don't go out and say hi and talk about the weather for a few minutes with the dishwasher repairman or the wood delivery guy. Everyone isn't super-outgoing or chatty or even friendly all the time, but they are civil and anyone in this town would help me drag a tree limb out of my yard or jump my car in zero degree weather which is really more important to me than smiling or hygeine.
posted by jessamyn at 7:16 AM on November 13, 2004


A major caveat if you are thinking about moving to the South: Cars rule, and Pedestrians drool.

I was raised in California, so I developed the crazy notion that people wielding 2 ton instruments of death should be on the look out for people roaming about in the (relatively) fragile flesh. But as polite as the South is to your face, give them a windshield to hide behind and they become oblivious to your petty concerns. In fact, most of the grocery stores around here not only have marked (zebra) pedestrian crossways in front of the store, they reinforce the absurd idea that cars might want to stop for shoppers on foot by putting stop signs on either side of the walk ways.

So it is no big surprise that yesterday in a famous hit and run accident in which a beloved sports reporter was killed while changing a tire, the jury acquitted the man charged with driving away, while the actual driver was charged with a misdemeanor.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:26 AM on November 13, 2004


In Manhattan, people are not rude; they just aren't overtly friendly. They are, however, polite. There's a difference. Ask just about any New Yorker on the street directions, and you will find them extremely patient. Occasionally, they will walk you partway to make sure you get there, and then give you a gentle warning to be careful.
I completely agree with this sentiment. Even for the subway. I was once standing on the subway with my GF while this giagantic fat man took up two seats. Not that we even cared about standing -- sometimes you get the seat, sometimes you miss it. Big deal, right? Anyway, this huge guy gets up out of his seats and offers them to us.

Thing is, I think everyone in New York has these little anecdotes, because we have to have something in our arsenal to combat the automatic "New Yorkers are rude" crap we hear everywhere else in the world. New Yorkers are egotistical assholes, sure, but they aren't rude. The perfect image I have of a New Yorker is at the beginning of a Woody Allen movie, during the openning credits. Woody Allen is happily walking down the streets of New York, he sees a car trying to back into a tight parking spot. He gets behind the car to help the driver and starts waving his hands like he's got more space. So the car backs up, Woody keeps waving him on, backs up some more, and BAM. The car hits the car behind it. Woddy then gives a happy wave and continues on, his good deed for the day done.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:43 AM on November 13, 2004


Hahahaha, C_D--that's great!

I for one agree with andrew cooke--it's all about relative differences. I don't even think this is an answerable question; the only answer I'd whole-heartedly agree with is that Japan is one intense, mannered place, but of course if you move there you'd have to be intensely mannered all the time too. (The one exception I can think of that I've seen is that in Japan you can summon the waiter by making a giant X with your forearms and shouting Sumimasen!--which is pretty hilarious--but that only shows how 'politeness' doesn't really mean anything in itself.)

For what it's worth, I prefer a feeling of community to a sense of manners, and for this reason I like New York City the most--that's where I've felt the most community. Sometimes people on the subway are rude (or psycho), but at least the Polite People are all in it together and can roll their eyes at one another. I live in Boston now, where on the sidewalk everyone seems to be a frat boy with a buzz cut or a sorority girl with a college hoodie. Those people are not only not polite, but they're also not even there--they're perpetual tourists.

So in other words, as with so many things, YMMV. I would chose relatively frank and unmannered, but considerate and deliberate, communication with strangers, as in NYC, over any other options.
posted by josh at 8:20 AM on November 13, 2004


I've lived in NYC, St Louis, LA, and Boston each for more than 5 years. Plus shorter stints in Minn and NH.

St. Louis: people are by far the most polite. And by far the most boring. Please wake up people, thank you. I couldn't imagine living there again.

LA: Have a nice day. Have a nice day. Have a nice day. Until you go insane. But don't cut someone off on the freeway. They won't tell you to have a nice day.

NYC: People mistake the NY style of conversation for rudeness. It's OK in NY to interrupt someone, to not pause respectfully after hearing what you have to say, to demand you get to the effing point. And I don't really care if you have a nice day or not, I got my own problems.

Boston: Rude Rude Rude Rude. I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Minn and NH: Whatever.

Whatever happened to "You're welcome"? "Thank you" you say, "Yeah" is the response. When did this become acceptable?

In Japan, where people conform most rigidly to rules of social interaction, people carry umbrellas even when it isn't going to rain so they have something to poke people with in order to get on the subway. Every culture has it's place(s) where it's OK or required to be rude.
posted by TimeFactor at 8:49 AM on November 13, 2004


People in Austin, Texas are about the friendliest, most polite people I know. Don't believe the hype about people in England being polite. They are, but they can manage this very passive-aggressive way of being rude at the same time. For example they will say "sorry" while obviously not meaning it. I'd actually prefer in-your-face rudeness to that. But really I'd rather avoid rudeness altogether.
posted by grouse at 9:10 AM on November 13, 2004


god complex is full of shit, east coast canadian cities are great. Exactly the way Jessamyn described Vermont, interestingly.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:29 AM on November 13, 2004


I've got to fourth or fifth Seattle. People leave you alone when you want to be left alone, but if you need help or just a bit of small talk they're perfectly willing. You just gotta ask. The flip side is, when someone else asks, you're obligated to provide, which seems a small price to pay, and I have obliged the time or two I've needed to.
posted by kindall at 9:45 AM on November 13, 2004


In both Texas and the PNW people are very polite and, as previously mentioned, almost too friendly. I don't really recall how SoCal was on the politeness scale, plus I grew up there and was used to whatever way it was.

I have to say I was surprised how polite New Yorkers were. There were several times on the subway that a seat was given up for my mum (she was in her late 50s at the time) and occasionally for myself.
posted by deborah at 10:23 AM on November 13, 2004


As a lifelong Louisianian, I can tell you for sure: you don't want to be in fucking Louisiana. You get covert stab-you-in-the-back operatives cloaked with wouldn't-you-like-another-glass-of-tea-dear goodness, and if that doesn't get you, having to listen to the Republican Jesus bullshit all day long will. People will smile, and smile, and be nice, and then casually drop some bombshell on you like, "Well, we haven't been able to rent that place out ye-yuht; the awnly people who seem interested in it are n******, bless their hearts." They will lean in to you as though you are sharing a secret together, and you will sit there with your face turning red, in shock, and not know what the hell to do. Expect something like this to happen once a week or so if you are white.

And when they don't give you the apartment, if you are Black/gay, they will be very polite, and go out of their way to make up an elaborate story about how a teenage marathon runner with one leg and one arm just put down a deposit on it in the five minutes it took you to call about the place and drive over. "Isn't that just something!" the landlady will say, and you will both shake your heads and smile, and she will smile, uncomfortably, long past the right smile-timing and one or both of you will exclaim, "What a coincidence!" and you will get in your car, and she will call her friend, and she will tell her friend, in a grating, aggravated, not-at-all-polite tone, about all the n****** and f****** trying to rent that apartment.
posted by littlegreenlights at 10:25 AM on November 13, 2004


Lots of places in American mistake...using the right words--please, thank you, you're welcome--as courtesy when all it is is thoughtless custom.

I live in San Francisco, and I've had cashiers say "you're so polite," when all I do is say "please" and "thank you," which I regard as the bare minimum.

Whatever happened to "You're welcome"? "Thank you" you say, "Yeah" is the response. When did this become acceptable?

Even worse: "No problem."

One of my biggest pet peeves is people not paying attention to their surroundings in public places, and think that the doorway to a store or the top or bottom of an escalator are good places to stop and talk.

Also, there's what I call "rubberband couples," who can only be about six feet apart. For instance, a man and woman are walking down the street. She's window shopping, he's thinking about sports/checking out women/whatever, and they're not really paying attention to each other. She starts to go into a store, one of them notices they're too far apart, and they snap together very fast. This can be trouble when you try to pass through the temporary five-foot gap between them.

On the positive side, drivers in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, will move over to let people merge onto the freeway, and stop if they see you waiting to cross the street.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:10 AM on November 13, 2004


I was raised in California, so I developed the crazy notion that people wielding 2 ton instruments of death should be on the look out for people roaming about in the (relatively) fragile flesh.

Dude, Secret Life Of Gravy -- you must've not lived in Los Angeles, 'cause the cars OWN EVERYTHING down there.

Also, really randomly, if you're tired of being called "sweetheart" or "darling" or "sweetie" or "honey" or "miss" or anything else shopkeepers call you, come to the East Midlands of England, where you will constantly be called "duck". At least twice during a transaction. If not more.

I think, one time, I counted, and I got up to five times. In one transaction. That consisted of buying a soda from a newsagents.
posted by Katemonkey at 11:15 AM on November 13, 2004


If people are rude to you in Boston, it's because you're in the way you bastahd.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:16 AM on November 13, 2004


god complex is full of shit, east coast canadian cities are great. Exactly the way Jessamyn described Vermont, interestingly.

You're suggesting I was lying to make the west coast look better?!!? For shame!
posted by The God Complex at 1:21 PM on November 13, 2004


Whatever happened to "You're welcome"? "Thank you" you say, "Yeah" is the response. When did this become acceptable?

To me, this question suggests a difference in perspective that might be significantly deeper than different ways of expressing the same idea.

If someone does something nice for you, and you thank them, they don't owe you a response at all. If they deign to give you one, it's completely up to them what it is. If it's "Go sit on a flagpole, you ninny," then that's a bit odd, since they already just did something nice for you when they didn't have to. But complaining about the way someone chooses to acknowledge your thanks for them doing you a favor is even weirder, especially if it's something as innocuous as 'yeah.'
posted by bingo at 1:29 PM on November 13, 2004


Two notes: as a foreigner, I thought New Yorkers were quite civil compared to my expectations, even on the subway - much more so than Londoners, for example. I had no trouble. And in the north of England (and the Midlands), it is tremendously disconcerting to be called "love", "sweetheart" or "darling" by middle-aged ladies behind the counter.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:51 PM on November 13, 2004


i'm surprised portland, oregon isn't getting more play in this thread. while some of the (large population of) hipsters are too cool to speak to, most everyone else seems unflaggingly nice here. i am one of the shyest people i know and i still end up talking to random strangers all the time, despite being way too shy to say word one to anyone unless i need to borrow a lighter. the politeness comes out in peoples' driving up here too - people tend to be quite aware of anyone merging, trying to make a left turn against heavy traffic, etc. i grew up in a smallish college town in oregon (corvallis) and i still think people are nicer in portland than they are there, small town or not.

kirkaracha: what's wrong with "no problem"? i say that a lot and i hope i don't sound rude.
posted by pikachulolita at 2:19 PM on November 13, 2004


You're suggesting I was lying to make the west coast look better?!!? For shame!

It was te 'racist' statement that made me do a take. And I suppose tehre might be some truth to the statement, but I dont' come across such feelings very often in my daily life. I think it depends on which city you're in (insert Saint John / Moncton bashing here) and the higher percentage of older people.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:24 PM on November 13, 2004


bingo and pikachulolita: My comment about the disappearance of "You're welcome" is more about changes in mores and language than a judgement. I'm guessing you're from a different time and or place. There was a time that doesn't seem that long ago when "Thank you" was always countered with "You're welcome". Is it necessary ? Of course not. And why bother saying "Thank you" to cashiers when they give you change; after all they're just doing their jobs and it isn't like they're doing something they thought of doing. But we do because it's a little ritual of appreciation and respect. I feel the same way about "You're welcome". "No problem" isn't really rude, it does express the same idea, i.e. "I acknowledge your 'Thank you', and I'm happy to be of service to you". "Yeah", to me, is just insolent. Don't bother saying anything if it's such a burden that you can only grunt it out. I'd rather hear nothing than "Yeah". I'm just curious about how quickly the change from "You're welcome" to "whatever dude" happened, as though there was a memo I didn't get.
posted by TimeFactor at 2:54 PM on November 13, 2004


what languagehat said about Japan. people are so polite it's scary.
posted by matteo at 2:59 PM on November 13, 2004


oh, and as a non-USian I have to say that I agree 100% with the little Julie Delpy speech in Before Sunset where she says that as a European living in the US she liked very much the "have a nice day" American attitude. most Europeans are pretty glum, in comparison
posted by matteo at 3:03 PM on November 13, 2004


Well, I actually have come across a lot of latent racism in people my age (early 20s) from out east. Anecdotally it seems sort of like it's ingrained in the culture much like it is in the southern states (although not as pronounced). But I don't know if that's just the kind of latent racism you find in a lot of stupid people my age.
posted by The God Complex at 3:20 PM on November 13, 2004


To third or fourth, New Yorkers are actually very polite. We just like to say "fuck" a lot.
posted by jonmc at 3:32 PM on November 13, 2004


TimeFactor: I guess we really are probably from different places and times than each other. The fact that thanking a cashier for change is common courtesy for you strikes me as plain bizarre. And, don't get me (more) wrong, I have been a cashier, and customers who acted like I was doing them a favor frankly pissed me off. "Hey, forget it, I get paid," I might respond.

I wish there was some way for me to detect people like you from a distance so that I could be sure not to do anything nice for you and thus save us both a lot of discomfort.
posted by bingo at 3:34 PM on November 13, 2004


The fact that thanking a cashier for change is common courtesy for you strikes me as plain bizarre.

In Seattle, most people thank the bus driver when they get off the city bus. I do it now as a matter of habit and the bus drivers on the East Coast seem to think it's fairly strange.
posted by jessamyn at 3:48 PM on November 13, 2004


In Seattle, most people thank the bus driver when they get off the city bus. I do it now as a matter of habit and the bus drivers on the East Coast seem to think it's fairly strange.

Yeah, that's pretty common practice in the pacific southwest, as we in B.C. like to call the Vancouver/Seattle area ;)

Thank the bus driver, thank people for change, tell people to have a good day, etc.
posted by The God Complex at 3:54 PM on November 13, 2004


i'd say overall, people in san francisco are reasonably polite but there is a distinct lack of awareness on muni. i hate it when i see families with kids, pregnant women, older folks and others who could do with a seat standing, while those not wibbley on their pins hunker down in their seats. i frequently give up my seat and have asked others to do the same (guaranteed to garner poopy looks). did i miss some memo about first come first served?
posted by heather at 4:33 PM on November 13, 2004


I was terrified of moving to Toronto from Kansas (ha! Larryville reprazent!) for just this reason, but T.O. was by far the friendliest place I've ever lived. Eye contact on the sidewalks, people honking and waving (in a nice friendly way) in the streets, etc. You can't be a timid driver, but the people couldn't be nicer.

Only an American can move to Toronto and find it to be a friendlier city.

I'm serious. It sounds nasty, but any Canadian who's moved there (with the exception of Northern Albertans) will tell you the people are ruder there than anywhere else in the country.
posted by Jairus at 6:28 PM on November 13, 2004


On the subway tip, grumblebee, you just have to be assertive. If someone is taking up two seats, say "Excuse me." I have never had someone not move. When getting off, square your shoulders, walk, and watch the seas part--remember to avoid making eye contact.

And count me as someone who prefers the (Northeast) city method. Being in my way is rude. Move. (God, Boston is the best for people staying out of your way, and New York away from tourists.*) Don't talk to me, don't wave at me: I don't know you and assuming you have a right to my emotional energy is fucked. But please tell me to move my fucking bike. Ahh, civility.

*All visitors, please note that mall-walking (ie, walking more than two or three abreast) is not acceptable on a sidewalk. There are people behind you who walk faster and need to go around. Stopping in the middle of the sidewalk is also unacceptable.
posted by dame at 8:05 PM on November 13, 2004


It seems to have been covered pretty well here, but let me just add:

I lived in Toronto my whole life, and moved to New York about four years ago, and I can honestly say that New York is way more courteous.

It's not even close.
posted by chicobangs at 8:17 PM on November 13, 2004


Friendliest and most creative English speakers in the world are in Ireland, particularly the west, Clare, Kerry, and Galway.

I stopped one Sunday in a small town in the west of Ireland and asked for the Irish Times. "Would you like today's or yesterday's paper?" the sweet old lady asked. "Well, I'd like today's" I said. "Well then, you must come back tomorrow" she said with a genuine and very warm smile.
posted by lometogo at 8:42 PM on November 13, 2004


In Montreal I've often had people walk three abreast and expect you to step off the sidewalk to let them continue unabated.

I've got some mass. I always smile and say "Pardon" when they bounce off me.

People rush the subway doors and hip past you to a seat. Yet, everyone lines up for the bus.

Bingo: Where y'all from? I always thank clerks for doing their job well. And it doesn't cause me any discomfort to say "Thanks." You can easily spot me from a distance. I've got a smile on my face and I'm looking people in the eye as I walk.
posted by ?! at 8:47 PM on November 13, 2004


I do that too, jessamyn, and when I ride the G train I thank the subway driver.

I think they're happy about it.
posted by goneill at 9:33 PM on November 13, 2004


In Seattle, most people thank the bus driver when they get off the city bus.

That's not as funny as some places, where people say "Goodbye" to complete strangers on the elevators!

I've always thought that one of the nice things about places where there's a subway is that you can exercise one of the kindest acts of courtesy to a stranger: holding up the automatic doors when you see someone running to catch a train. The drivers always get mad at you when you do this (in NYC in particular), but every time I do this I get thanked, and every time it's done for me I am thankful.

Of course, there are some people who get off on seeing some poor office-drone's face as the doors close just before he can make it -- there are jerks everywhere. But more often than not I think people recognize that at just about any point they could be on the other side of that door, so common civilitiy is in the best interests of everyone.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:14 AM on November 14, 2004


I do it now as a matter of habit and the bus drivers on the East Coast seem to think it's fairly strange.

Hey, no, I've seen this a million times in NYC, in different neighborhoods, over the last dozen years, from all ages and ethnic groups. I do it myself. And I withhold it from bad drivers (the kind who seem to ride the gas and the brake, resulting in a jerking, sickening motion, or lots of slam-on-the-brakes stops).
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:31 AM on November 14, 2004


The drivers always get mad at you when you do this (in NYC in particular), but every time I do this I get thanked

Yeah, well, the reason the drivers get mad at you is that you can break the door-opening system when you do this, and if you manage to do that some day and they throw everybody off the train and it takes 10 minutes to crawl out of the station and everybody has to wait 20 minutes for the next train, your fan club will diminish appreciably. Don't get me wrong -- I've held the door, and I've been grateful when it's been done for me, but I'm not under the illusion that it's a purely beneficial process that the drivers yell at you for because they're a bunch of grumpyheads.

dame, I think I love you.
posted by languagehat at 2:17 PM on November 14, 2004


Stand on the left of a Tube escalator, and that whole "reserved Brit" stereotype will dissolve before you in seconds

Stand on the left of a tube escalator and you get what you deserve...
posted by ascullion at 7:16 PM on November 14, 2004


Bingo: Where y'all from?

Kansas City (raised), by way of Seattle (4.5 years), Los Angeles (5 years), and New York (6 months and counting).

I don't think that my attitudes are typical of any of those places, or of other countries that I've traveled to; and actually most of the places I've been (e.g. Japan) are also considered more well-mannered than most.

When I lived in Seattle, I (usually) thanked the bus-driver when I got off, but I saw this as somewhere between a communal joke and a kindness to a person who has a very stressful job. And to me, all that falls under the rubric of 'it's a nice thing to do if you happen to feel like being nice.' People in Seattle do tend to be nice, and that is part of a self-perpetuating culture of niceness that it can be fun to be a part of.

But when it starts to become an obligation, that's something else. Nothing drives me batty like a car stopped at a green light so that I can walk across the street against the light. I just won't do it. And it's amazing the resilience that some drivers have. I wave them on, I shake my head, and still they sit there and gesture for me to cross, sometimes even while traffic backs up behind them. Turning my back on them, or sitting down on the sidewalk, are the most effective methods of winning this confrontation, in my experience, but I usually stay angry about it for hours afterward.
posted by bingo at 8:17 PM on November 14, 2004


you can break the door-opening system when you do this

Sure, and you can break the elevator doors if you hold them open for people, too.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:59 PM on November 14, 2004


As a couple of others have mentioned, Milwaukee is pretty good for general civility without invasive over-chattiness. "Please," "thanks," door-holding and nice little gestures are common. Most service folks seem able to sense how much interaction you're looking for and respond in kind. I have my frustrations with the ignorant and oblivious -- usually behind the wheel -- but those same people in another situation would likely help jump-start your car, or drive you home, or go get you a cup of coffee while you call AAA.
posted by Tubes at 10:47 PM on November 14, 2004


Right, holding elevator doors open when there is already an elevator full of people is pretty rude unless the delay is only a matter of seconds. And, depending on various factors that it's unlikely that you are able to monitor, you could be holding up people waiting for the elevator on other floors as well.

Holding open the subway doors, on the other hand, is essentially backing up the transit system of the entire city. You are definitely slowing down hundreds, and probably thousands, of people because...well, because of whatever stupid reason you have. The one person you hold the door open for might thank you, and you're lucky that all the others you've just deliberately and directly inconvenienced don't express their animosity to you directly. They're probably just trying to be polite.
posted by bingo at 9:29 PM on November 15, 2004


« Older Proper tip for a massage?   |   What typeface is used on the cover of Sandler &... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.