What stereotypes do Americans have of Massachusetts and New England?
January 1, 2008 6:49 PM   Subscribe

What stereotypes do Americans have of Massachusetts and New England?

Ever since hearing President Bush's derisive reference to John Kerry as a "Massachusetts" liberal, I've asked myself whether Americans who live far from the bay state have negative stereotypes of Mass (and New England) in general. I've also had some foreigners tell me that they think that Mass is overrun with rich wasps. (That impression apparently derived from viewing law sitcoms.) Anyhow, my question is: What stereotypes, if any, do Americans have of Mass?
posted by gregb1007 to Society & Culture (64 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think you can judge a state by a crack made in some political arena. Every state has good and bad, poor and rich, urban and rural, etc.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:53 PM on January 1, 2008

There's only state in the country that has legalized same-sex marriage. I have a feeling calling someone a "Massachusetts liberal" is at least partially a shoutout to the religious right.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:56 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]



(I am a Mainer...these were both ways, during college, I heard folks from away finish the sentence, "I always thought people from New England were...")

We (New England) do have a lot of WASPs. Just not necessarily rich ones.
posted by lampoil at 6:57 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well, political remarks don't exactly come out of thin air. Politicians are careful to make reference most of the country would understand. After all, these are the people who poll test every single phrase that makes it into their speeches. So, I am sure that "Massachusetts liberal" is a concept known by most of the country.
posted by gregb1007 at 6:58 PM on January 1, 2008

Maybe, but I don't think I'd judge all of Texas based on George Bush.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:04 PM on January 1, 2008

People from Mass are often referred to as "Massholes" by the inhabitants of the other New England states. Use this how you will.
posted by SassHat at 7:04 PM on January 1, 2008

No one asked "What stereotypes of Mass/NE does 45moore45 subscribe to?"

Anyway, other than the generic "Massachusetts liberal" stererotype, there's the less political notion that everyone from Boston who isn't rich is some sort of rough-neck Irish Catholic who says "wicked" and pronounces words like "bar" and "car" funny.
posted by mullacc at 7:08 PM on January 1, 2008

Y'all talk funny, and keep providing odd and mostly unelectable politicians (eg Dean, Kerry, Dukakis, Romney) for the rest of us to pick on every four years.

Even though really I know there is an amazing amount of poverty, I do associate New England with rich WASPs (and the lonely and disaffected Jewish teenagers who are in a lot of novels). And I'm always surprised when I meet someone from there who isn't white -- again, I know better, but my stereotype of people there is pretty monochromatic.

I think that there is a vague stereotype of corruption and mob influence in state and city politics out there -- there was that mayor of Providence, the Big Dig problems, and so on -- that blends together everything urban from New Jersey all the way north.
posted by Forktine at 7:09 PM on January 1, 2008

As a New Hampshire native, I've found the most common stereotype regarding Massachusetts residents is that they are bad drivers.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:11 PM on January 1, 2008

"You can't get there from here"

Way out here on the west coast, I tend to see people use phrases like 'he/she is very east coast,' (meaning new england), with the idea that they're abrupt, impatient, possibly stuck up, possibly WASP.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:18 PM on January 1, 2008

And you can blame King for portraying everyone from Maine as seriously messed up people.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:18 PM on January 1, 2008

2nding the bad driving.
posted by azure_swing at 7:19 PM on January 1, 2008

WASPy and stuck-up pretty much says it. I know this is a stereotype, of course. I've been through Massachusetts and the rest of New England and mostly enjoyed my time there; but yeah, I admittedly think "fuckin' Yankee" when I run afoul of an assholish, white, upper middle class "liberal".
posted by Roman Graves at 7:20 PM on January 1, 2008

*People from Mass are often referred to as "Massholes" by the inhabitants of the other New England states. Use this how you will.
*As a New Hampshire native, I've found the most common stereotype regarding Massachusetts residents is that they are bad drivers.

As a Connecticut native, I've found the only context in which I refer to my neighbors to the north as Massholes is indeed when noting their poor driving skills. In any other arena, they're just my fellow yankees.
posted by spinturtle at 7:21 PM on January 1, 2008

Having never lived or visited New England (Detroit, North Carolina, and now Montana), I would say the stereotype seems to be elite, snobby, politically liberal, well-educated, and out of touch with "middle America."

Of course I don't think this is accurate. Just listen to Car Talk. It perpetrates the accent, but none of the rest.

But I don't think the politicians have latched onto a stereotype as much as they have created it themselves. Without the endless drone, every election cycle, of someone being called a New England liberal, or northeast elitist, I don't think the stereotype would exist. I would never think of a Bostonian as being a snob, yet someone from "Massachusetts" brings that to mind somehow.
posted by The Deej at 7:23 PM on January 1, 2008

New Englanders are crusty outdoorsy types who wear LL Bean when out hunting with their fox hounds, while on vacation from a job in the defense industry (specifically shipbuilding and the like).
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:26 PM on January 1, 2008

I grew up in Massachusetts and lived there through college. I have also travelled abroad and people even in other countries think of Mass folks as rich Kennedyesque sort of do-gooder liberal types. They think of Harvard [and possibly snooty overtones] and they think of old money and yacht clubs and blue blazers and people whose descendants have lived in the country forever. They think the state is all-white and that it's run by semi-entrenched politicians, but not like Mafia types. I think some people who know more about it think of it as more of a Catholic or Irish mafia thing.

There is also the driving. There is also the sense that it's a tax-n-spend state. Hence the nicknames Massholes (for drivers) and Taxachusetts (for the population generally). If you get deeper into it you get to the historical stuff about it, but lately, especially with the high profile Big Dig the corrupt and entrenched government is getting a lot of press. Mass historically has Republican governors and Democratic Mayors and iirc a pretty Democratic congressional delegation.
posted by jessamyn at 7:26 PM on January 1, 2008

Dude, everyone from Maine *is* seriously messed up people.
said with love and affection, as Maine is the ancestral home of my people
posted by spinturtle at 7:27 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: There's the less political notion that everyone from Boston who isn't rich is some sort of rough-neck Irish Catholic who says "wicked" and pronounces words like "bar" and "car" funny.

Sounds like Peter Griffin from Family Guy ;-)
posted by gregb1007 at 7:27 PM on January 1, 2008

(Note that I'm from Massachusetts, and haven't spent a lot of time in the other NE states, so this is from a Mass. perspective.)

I think that New England, and Massachusetts/Boston in particular, have a reputation for being somewhat insular. There's a lot of pride in this area, and I think a tendency to be pretty adversarial towards the rest of the country (especially when it comes to sports...) None of these things is abnormal in and of itself, it's more the degree it's taken to. Massachusetts is the most stereotyped of the New England states, I think, simply because Boston is the cultural center of the region and has the the loudest "voice." It's kind of weird when you think about it... New England and MA in particular have a reputation for being full of "old money" WASPs--certainly true, looking at Boston socialites, places like Nantucket and Martha's Vineyeard, etc. But also, at least in this generation, New England has a reputation for being liberal to a "radical" extent compared to the rest of the country. Especially Massachusetts with the gay marriage thing.

(For what it's worth, I'm not one who tends to feel a lot of "group pride" in general... but I have a strange affinity and pride in being from this place, mostly due to the good site of the politics here, even if there is a lot of dirt and cronyism, esp. at the state level. I like being from the only state in the union where full marriage rights for gays and lesbians were not only first legalized but also have withstood several challenges, even though I had nothing to do with it. Illogical, I know, but I think a lot of group pride/identity things are.)

Of course, you have the standard staples already mentioned: bad drivers, weird accent, stuck up, Irish, very white, high taxes ("Taxachusetts"), etc. I think there's some truth in all of these things... but in Massachusetts, at least, we often take our negative stereotypes and wear them. There are many who'll bear the term "Masshole" with pride. I think the rudeness/impatience in general ties into the insularity of the place... it may be politically liberal in a lot of ways, but it's not terribly welcoming if you aren't from around here, and sometimes even if you are. It can be hard to make friends here. That said, there's a lot of loyalty, too, when you are accepted.

All of these things are nebulous perceptions from a Boston-area native who's lived here most of his life, but has spent a couple years here and there in the Midwest. YMMV.
posted by Kosh at 7:28 PM on January 1, 2008

I'm from the midwest and have heard every stereotype mentioned, except the bad driving one - why is there that stereotype, and are people from Mass. really bad drivers??
posted by la petite marie at 7:29 PM on January 1, 2008

I've always thought of Massachusetts as the land of ivory tower academics. Of course, I've never actually been there, so....

New York, especially NYC (which is obviously the only important part.......) is definitely the land of people who move too quickly, and generally don't hold still for anything.
posted by anaelith at 7:31 PM on January 1, 2008

I think there is a sense of wanning WASP (aka Yankee) power in New England in the sense where the focus of the American zeitgeist is much more on the heartland and perhaps Hollywood.

Personally I blame the Republicans going back to the early Dixiecrats, but perhaps it was Nixon who sealed the North East's fate with his Southern Strategy. The discovery of tens of millions of Americans who would gleefully vote against their own self interests shifted power away from the cities, the white collar college grads, and other mostly north eastern types and on to working class red statists mostly found in the south and "heartland."

That and Vermonters are all pot heads.
posted by wfrgms at 7:31 PM on January 1, 2008

I'm from the midwest and have heard every stereotype mentioned, except the bad driving one - why is there that stereotype, and are people from Mass. really bad drivers??

yes, yes they are.
posted by spinturtle at 7:34 PM on January 1, 2008

Ever since hearing President Bush's derisive reference to John Kerry as a "Massachusetts" liberal

There's a few things going on with these tactics, and they have more to do with a cocktail of overt and not-so-overt coded messages to one's base than fomenting stereotypes about "pahking cahrs in Hahvahd Yahd." Among other things:

* It divides liberal from conservative, obviously, and infers social legislation concerns, such as pro-life vs. pro-choice.

* It divides the urban "blue states" from the fantasy, small-town rural "red states."

* It divides North from South, thereby triggering uneasiness about civil-rights legislation.

* It carries inferences to elitist higher-education institutions, like Harvard, that are often at the center of most liberal social movements.

* It carries inferences to famous, divisive and/or ineffective Democratic political figures like the Kennedys (JFK, RFK and Teddy) and Dukakis.

* It divides along religious lines -- Massachusetts = Catholics.

In other words, it's classic "us vs. them" positioning and messaging.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:35 PM on January 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

Opinions I've heard from Midwesterners are more of the same "stuck up, uptight" variety. I've also heard complaints that people in Mass don't socialize easily.

When I was in Boston for 3 days, the main thing I noticed was that people appeared to be richer and thinner than Midwesterners.

Generally, when I hear "Massachusetts," I think Ivy League, happy lesbians, and clams.
posted by PatoPata at 7:35 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

There is a lot more to Massachusetts than just Boston but as a neighboring Rhode Islander I agree that "Massholes" is probably the most frequently used term. This is almost entirely based on the premise of bad driving skills but RI residents have no justification to criticize MA drivers in any scenario. (If you are a Rhode Islander over 30 and have not yet recieved "a settlement" from a driving related court case then you are in the 1% minority. People will get into accidents here intentionally just to cash in on the insurance settlements - I shit you not)

Another common one is "Taxachusetts" which again, for RI residents, seems contradictory at best. Come to think of it, RI is probably an easier all-around target as New Englands whipping post but the state is so small that we get overlooked for most things (good and bad) and it falls on the neighboring states.

For the most part I think of Mass as the boring part of my drive to New Hampshire. Having been next door for so long I can say that there are far more stereotypical places in the country but as a New England representative it probably represents old boy politics and good old fashioned corruption as well as any other New England state.
posted by jtoth at 7:40 PM on January 1, 2008

When I think of Massachusetts, I mostly think of provincialism. Beyond that, the following comes to mind:

1. Annoying sports fans

2. Racism (you can always tell who's from New England because they're the type of person that looks around Boston and says "there's a lot of blacks here!")

3. Meatheads & Massholes

4. Bad drivers (ever seen a left turn from the right lane? You will.)

5. Even more provincialism (seriously, the whole "you're not from around here" thing is very prevalent, even moreso in the crappier neighborhoods)
posted by dhammond at 7:43 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Grew up in New England, lived for 10 years in Massachusetts, now live elsewhere in the US.

The outsider stereotype of Massachusetts is really of one of Boston, as no one outside of Massachusetts has ever heard much of any other part of the state except perhaps the Cape. he stereotype is that everyone drives like an aggressive jackass and has a Kennedy accent. Beyond that, there's probably a little something about people being either Irish policemen, fishermen, wealthy snobs (Harvard), or eggheads (MIT).

The outsider stereotype of New Englanders is, I suspect, that they are pasty annoying self-styled stingy sophisticates who tap Maple trees for syrup and speak with an incredibly nasal Maine accent.

As a New Englander, I can say that this stereotype is completely true. We are required to say things like "you cahn't get thah from heah" to the outsides we meet in our daily trek through the snow from home to sugar shack and back.
posted by zippy at 7:45 PM on January 1, 2008

Fellow Masshole here who goes to school in Pennsylvania: the number one thing people say when I mention I'm from New England is that they're jealous of our sports teams, which, naturally, are the best :).
posted by deansfurniture5 at 7:45 PM on January 1, 2008

Well we New Yorkers think that New Englanders have a huge inferiority complex because they are next to New York, especially Boston. We New Yorkers (used to think) that Boston sports teams sucked and sucked as a matter of natural law. Now it is New York's turn to eat crow and wander the wilderness. I tell myself it builds character.

Talk funny? not so much to us.

Abrupt and unfriendly? not so much to us either. I have to say in defense of my New England brethren that the so-called friendliness of the South or the West is as superficial and ephemeral as powdered sugar on a doughnut. Give me that old time gruffness any day. At least you know where you stand.

But is any of this true anymore as we meld into one regionless McCountry?

All looks the same to me now.
posted by xetere at 7:55 PM on January 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Donut shops. Donut shops everywhere. (See SNL skit involving Adam Sandler called "How d'ya get there.")
posted by tractorfeed at 7:57 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

dhammond: I can't agree on the prejudice issue. I moved to Charlotte, NC for a few years and I was blown away at the blatant racism. We might not be perfect here but I wasn't equipped at all for that kind of thing and it caught me completely off-guard. It was one of the main reasons I came back to New England.
posted by jtoth at 7:58 PM on January 1, 2008

I'm from the midwest and have heard every stereotype mentioned, except the bad driving one - why is there that stereotype, and are people from Mass. really bad drivers??

Overall, they tend to be fairly aggressive drivers, which I think comes in part from the insanity that is driving in the greater Boston area. Boston is an old city, not really set up for ease of driving, and the Big Dig was just unholy for quite a while there. In my experience, in Boston, you often (as in several times per trip) have to make other drivers truly believe you are willing to crash into them in order to merge at all. And there's a lot of mergin' to do. At least, that's what it was like the last time I had to do much driving there.

Then once a certain number of drivers in a small geographic area start getting used to driving aggressively, well, most everyone has to start driving that way just to get anywhere.

FWIW, though, in my many summers on the road in Maine with tourists, I've seen many NH plates that were just as bad or worse. (And I'm not exactly the best driver, either, so that doesn't help--I may be the only person from New England who'll admit it though).
posted by lampoil at 7:59 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and regarding racism: a Bostonian did once tell me he didn't understand why I'd ever want to live in New York City, his reason being, "there's no white people there." WTF. Then again, I've met racists from all over the world, so.
posted by lampoil at 8:04 PM on January 1, 2008

For what it's worth:

I grew up in New Orleans. Moved to Boston as an adult and lived there for six years.

Growing up, I occasionally heard vague references to "Taxachusetts." When Dukakis and Tsongas ran for President, many folks around me expressed fear about new taxes. (As if that's all anyone that came from Massachusetts ever wanted.)

Stereotypes fall apart when confronted with the complexities of reality.

I found Massachusetts comfortable.

posted by tcv at 8:04 PM on January 1, 2008

i'm a canadian and i know next to nothing about the stereotypes of most states, but mass to me conjures vague images of kennedy, harvard, a flat accent, and well-educated, wealthy, politically active, mostly white people. this doesn't mean i believe that that's accurate, but it is what i've noticed in pop culture (mayor quimby & good will hunting, basically.)
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:05 PM on January 1, 2008

oh, and chowder. chowdah.
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:06 PM on January 1, 2008

I have lived in New Hampshire for about 4 months. I moved there from the midwest and lived in Virginia for a few years also. Sterotypes of the area:

1. They love their sports teams. (I have found a lot of people who think the Red Sox and the Patriots are "America's Teams". I think people are surprised to realize that many people hate the Red Sox and find Tom Brady annoying.)

2. Lots of goatees.

3. Lots of sports related sweatshirts, t-shirts, hats...etc.

4. Lots of bragging about weather-toughness.

My general impression of a Mass/NH person is a big guy with a goatee, in a Patriots sweatshirt, with a Red Sox wool hat and no coat even though it is 6 degrees, telling me how it really isn't that cold out and Tom Brady is a god.
posted by beachhead2 at 8:07 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

One more comment: I do agree with xetere. Having lived in a few areas of the country, I don't find New Englanders unfriendly. They are abrupt but that doesn't bother us. I feel like people are a lot nicer than they were in Virginia.
posted by beachhead2 at 8:11 PM on January 1, 2008

Regarding the driving, on highways, people in Boston respond to congestion by decreasing the interval between cars while trying to maintain speed... thus you find yourself going 80 mph three feet behind the next guy and you can't stop because someone else is three feet behind you. In many other places, the interval stays constant (more or less) and the speed decreases. In town, the narrow roads and intersections lacking right angles mean it's a free-for-all. Part of the game is pretending you don't see the other guy so that he'll yeild to you. Depending on your perspective, driving in Boston is either really fun or completely nerve-wracking. As for me, I love it.

Regarding intellectualism, Massachusetts residents share a core belief in education regardless of ethnic background, social status, economic class, etc. Plenty of the region's immigrants chose the area specifically so they (or their children) could gain access to good primary and secondary schools. To a greater extent than in many places, Massachusetts folks are interested in ideas, in approaching matters systematically, and in examining assumptions, regardless of the color of their collars.
posted by carmicha at 8:18 PM on January 1, 2008

Middle aged rich people are the new liberals and it just pisses off all the selfish old conservatives. New England etc. have their share. A lot of red staters think they are rich, but they make about the same amount of money as the cleaning ladies in New England. ;)
posted by caddis at 8:19 PM on January 1, 2008

Metafilter: Ivy League, happy lesbians, and clams.

I'm from Boston and the most common things I've heard as stereotypes are:

- quick, sarcastic humor
- super-aggressive driving
- 0 tolerance for bullshit of any kind
posted by tristeza at 8:29 PM on January 1, 2008

Carmicha - I'm with you on the driving. I love it too. I think Boston people are great drivers- just aggressive. Where else could people come THAT close to hitting you but don't??
posted by beccaj at 8:37 PM on January 1, 2008

A few of these are outdated, but a good deal of the items on this "you know you're from Massachusetts when..." list provide a good sampling of our quirks.
  • Khakis are something you start the car with
  • You think crosswalks are for wimps
  • You think if someone's nice to you, they either want something or they are from out of town and probably lost
  • You know how to cross 4 lanes of traffic in 5 seconds
  • You are amazed when traveling out of town that people who work at McDonald's actually speak English
  • You think it's not actually tailgating unless your bumper is touching the car in front of you
  • You know that a yellow light means at least 5 more cars can get through ... and that a red light means 2 more can
  • A Crown Victoria = Undercover Cop
  • The transportation system is known as the "T"
  • Subway is a fast food place
  • You could own a small town in Iowa for the cost of your house
  • There are 24 Dunkin Donuts shops within 15 minutes of your house
  • When people talk about the "curse of the Bambino," you know exactly what they are talking about, and you believe in it, too
  • You think of Rhode Island as the "deep South"
  • Anything past Worcester is "the middle of nowhere" (if you live in Boston)
  • You believe using a turn signal gives away your plan to the enemy
  • If you stay on the same road long enough, it will eventually have 3 or more different names
  • Someone has honked at you because you didn't peel out the second the light turned green
  • You've honked at someone because they didn't peel out the second the light turned green
  • All the potholes just add excitement to your driving experience
  • Stop signs mean slow down a little, but only if you feel like it
  • Six inches of snow is considered a "dusting"
  • Three days of 90+ heat is definitely a "heat wave" ... and 63° weather is "on the warm side"
  • $15 to park is a bargain
  • You cringe every time you hear some actor/actress imitate the "Boston accent" on TV or in a movie. If you don't have it, you're never going to get it right ... even if you were born here
  • At the ice cream shop, you call chocolate sprinkles "Jimmies"
  • You can go from one side of your hometown to the other in less than 15 minutes and see at least 15 losers you graduated with doing the same exact same thing they were doing the last time you saw them

posted by roomwithaview at 8:52 PM on January 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

What stereotypes do people have from other parts of the country of New England?

Well, at least one person here so far thinks it includes New York. For some reason that drives me mad. NYC and coastal CT have a not insignificant shared population that shares some stereotypical attributes, but the rest of New York is different and not New Englandy.

From what my friends in college told me, it includes:
godless liberal,
thinking we were too good for the rest of the country,
cold and unfriendly
being snobbish about my beer (this was in grad school, fwiw.)

I didn't help the stereotypes too much, I'm afraid.
posted by cobaltnine at 8:52 PM on January 1, 2008

Youre all annoying Red Sox fans.

Or even worse, Pats fans.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:47 PM on January 1, 2008

I'm from NC and I went just to the tip of Penn to come back into WV and I did not care for that area at all, I hate to even think what its like further north. Hopefully I'll never find out . . . .
posted by uncballzer at 11:19 PM on January 1, 2008

Friends from Connecticut joke that the Mass state motto is "Massachusetts: The Construction State" which, being from North of the (Mass) border I concur with that.

I lived in upstate New York for a while and the people there seemed to consider New England to be an extremely rural farm-country type place. That always confused me because it seemed to me that the part of upstate NY I was in (Albany area) was considerably more rural and farm-countryish than anything I've seen in New England. (They also were confused by the Native American place names in New England, I guess because most things have Dutch names in NY)

I don't know if it makes an impression outside of NE but in the North - Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont - there's a very high French Canadian population. Many of the people I went to high school with had grandparents who barely spoke English. Lots of French-Canadian food - salmon pie, pork pie, cretons, poutine.

Another thing: is "WASP" something that people say to avoid saying "white"? I think that the Irish Catholics and French Catholics around here would probably take offense to being called either Anglo-Saxon or Protestant. In fact my Catholic friends tell me that NE and other parts of the North-East are sort of the bastion of Catholicism in the US.

cobaltnine: When I was a little kid I was certain that New York and New Jersey had to be part of New England too, because I knew that Hampshire, York, and Jersey were places in Olde Englande.
posted by XMLicious at 2:33 AM on January 2, 2008

I'm from Vermont, went to school in MA, and live in RI.

Your preconceptions aren't too far off. Vermont is populated with old hippies and rednecks, and yes, we are responsible for Phish. Any mention of New Hampshire must be followed by a qualification that New Hampshire sucks. We're not sure why it sucks, but we're pretty vehement about it. Anytime I go back up to visit my parents, the things that strike me the most are really really bad haircuts and the notion that "dressing up" means putting a turtleneck on under your sweater. Which is under your barn jacket. Which you don't take off, even indoors. (Seriously, I went to mass on Christmas with my mom and I was one of about six people who took my coat off. IN CHURCH.)

I went to school in western MA in an area that was really über-liberal. There were a lot of lesbians and a lot of Subarus. Just as many hippies as Vermont, except the hippies around Amherst have more money and tend to be more obnoxious about it.

When I moved to RI, I got my cultural education by watching the first three seasons of Family Guy on DVD. It's not too far off. The most notable things about Little Rhody, in my experience: Worst drivers in the country (seriously. MA is only second worst), if you give directions based on "turn left at the Dunkin Donuts" you haven't narrowed it down, and it's so insular that "South County" is considered a day trip. Going to Boston means you'd better stay overnight. (Note: Boston to PVD is an hour by train and 45 minutes by car.) And yeah, the sports fans are really obnoxious. I currently have the great fortune of living above a strip club and I can always tell if the Patriots/Red Sox have won just by the honking and yelling outside. The noise when the Red Sox won the World Series was like we had all just escaped a nuclear holocaust.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:48 AM on January 2, 2008

When I lived out of Maine and I told people I grew up on the coast there they seemed to think that:

- It was shockingly impossible that I am both from Maine and Jewish
- I must be affluent
- There are no cities there
- It's practically the arctic circle, and so 20+ degrees colder than anywhere else in the country

Stereotypes of Massachussetts generally focus around Boston drivers, who are in fast insane.

But it really always has been the cold thing that kills me. Even within New England-- I recently told someone I met in Boston that I lived in Portland and she paused, and said "wow it must be really cold there." I pointed out that it's an hour and a half drive, not the other side of the world, but she was just befuddled.
posted by miss tea at 4:55 AM on January 2, 2008

I'm pretty sure every large city is known for its bad drivers. I've seen a list called "you know you're from northern Virginia when:" with all the same driving things as on roomwithaview's list. I'm sorry New England, but your bad drivers are really nothing special.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 5:04 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would guess that the political "Massachusetts liberal" tag would imply more of a disconnect from the rest of the world and its problems. Implying that Kerry is a (albeit Catholic) WASP-y type with no real concept of how anything works outside of the relatively-wealthy eastern Mass area (and Capitol Hill, perhaps). That he wouldn't be good for the states in the south or the west, that have different problems than Boston.
posted by that girl at 5:58 AM on January 2, 2008

It's important to note that all of the other New England states are jealous of New Hampshire because it's the only one that's not shaped funny. Take Vermont for example. What would happen if you put Vermont down on a table? It would fall over is what. That's right. Bunch of tofu-eating fall-over monkeys. And Massachusetts might be nice if you need something to hang a coat on but not much else.
posted by XMLicious at 6:36 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

blueberry pie, for breakfast.
posted by brooklynexperiment at 7:50 AM on January 2, 2008

On the driving issue:

I grew up in New Hampshire, spent many, many hours in cars driving around all of New England, and I've since moved to Chicago. What follows is a huge generalization, but that's sort of the point of the thread.

"Massholes" are GREAT drivers. They are aggressive as all hell, but they all want the same, wonderful thing: To get where they're going as quickly as possible while still remaining safe. If you're not used to this approach, there's a good chance you'll view it as driving "poorly" or "unsafely", but trust me, they know what they're doing.

On the other hand, drivers in Chicago are just terrible. Sometimes its aggressive and selfish, sometimes its defensive and selfish, but most times you see a surprising maneuver from a Chicago driver, it's going to negatively impact someone else on the road.

New Jersey is somewhere in between, by the way. Occasionally selfish in their approach, but usually with spectacular results. Even not being from the area, taking a right exit from the far left lane will always be known as the "Jersey Sweep" to me. Just breathtaking when properly executed.
posted by SpiffyRob at 8:16 AM on January 2, 2008

Originally from Chicago, went to school in MA, and now live in Minneapolis.

In general, the rest of the country doesn't think about New England half as often as they think we do. They have a hard time believing that there is life between the coasts.

Bostonians hate everything. The thing that they hate more than anything else are other Bostonians. This is why they try to kill each other with their cars.
There is no middle class in Connecticut; you either are rich or live in Hartford.
Vermont is full of hippies, ice cream, and hills.
It's a bad idea to to go New Hampshire; you're likely to get eaten by bears or libertarians.
There is no such thing as Rhode Island.
Around five people live in Maine and they are all obsessed with LL Bean.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:30 AM on January 2, 2008 [4 favorites]

Take Vermont for example. What would happen if you put Vermont down on a table? It would fall over is what. That's right. Bunch of tofu-eating fall-over monkeys. And Massachusetts might be nice if you need something to hang a coat on but not much else.

Yeah I really like that nicely stacked pile of rocks you guys have on your quarter... where can I go see that again?

If we're moving out into the rest of New England, this is what I know

Vermont - hippies, syrup, skiing, jam bands, Howard Dean, civil unions (before gay marriage but not hte same as gay marriage, alas), dairy farmers, no billboards
New Hampshire - no taxes, White Mountains, Mt. Washington, no social services, hiking, Hampton Beach
Maine - lobsters, freezing (although yes, this is not true), Quebequois, top part of state totally empty, tiny islands, rich vacationers (Martha Stewart, Rockefellers)
Mass - see above also Cape Cod and Western MA is a lot like VT
RI - Mob, lots of colleges & Catholic ones esp, fishermen, sailboats & boating generally
CT - may as well be in NY, going broke all the time as a state, big featureless cities
posted by jessamyn at 9:17 AM on January 2, 2008

From greater-Boston, live in Miami now.

- The stereoptypes I've heard most are the bad drivers, the liberals, the Catholics (WASP? Really? Massachusetts?), the unfriendliness, the segregation of Boston, the racism of Bostonians, the Irish thing, the Kennedy accent, the wicked slang. I think the bad driving stereotype comes - in large part - from the "ballsy left turn" (as my midwestern friend puts it) into oncoming traffic at a green light. I think this is frightening to people who do not understand that in Massachusetts, everyone (a) expects the first car or two in the left lane to quickly take the left before uncoming traffic goes (b) waits a few seconds to allow the first few cars in the left lane to turn. No crash is imminent. It's all understood implicitly, so no one needs to worry.
- (By the way, I've noticed all over the globe, including asia and africa, that when I say I'm from Boston, people jokingly repeat back to me "baahstan." That's the only word that gets the special treatment, and I'm always surprised at how wide-spread it is.)
posted by Amizu at 9:51 AM on January 2, 2008

Vermont: liberal.

New Hampshire: conservative.

White Bostonians hate African Americans, that's why the Celtics always had so many white players on their team who were barely NBA-caliber.

Boston/Cambridge: people generally are not friendly.
posted by wfc123 at 9:57 AM on January 2, 2008

Oh yeah: Providence, RI is apparently a mecca for The Mob.
posted by wfc123 at 10:02 AM on January 2, 2008

The most pernicious stereotype about MA is that it's synonymous with Boston. Lies and vile calumny, perpetuated even by many of you in this thread. Shame!

With that out of the way, the key word in the phrase "Massachusetts liberal" is "liberal" -- the state is only mentioned to differentiate the east coast liberal (snobby tax-and-spend granola-eaters) from the west coast liberal (bohemian anarchic tofu-eaters). That's my understanding of the stereotype, anyway; I've lived on both coasts but never in the middle, so midwestern perception may differ.

As for differences between MA and VT and NH and ME and etc: nobody who doesn't already live in one of them cares; the rest of the country considers new england just a vague squiggly collection of what really ought to be counties up in the corner of the map.
posted by ook at 11:34 AM on January 2, 2008

When I say WASP I mean WASP. Anglo-Saxon heritage, Protestant (probably Puritan) ancestors. We've got a lot of Catholics, too--we've just plain old got a lot of white people. Most demographics I've seen don't separate the WASPs from the non-WASP white people, but I'd be shocked if New England doesn't have a much higher-than-average percentage. I also think people think of WASPs because they think of pilgrims, and witch trials, and the Scarlet Letter, and things like that. Those folks were quite literally our forefathers in NE. (A direct ancestor of mine was a juror on a witch trial). I do think people think of Irish Catholics when they think of Boston, but not really when they think of wealthy privileged Massachusetts, which was, I think, a part of what Mr. Bush was conjuring when he said "Massachusetts liberal." Even though, really, some of the most famous wealthy privileged Massachusetts liberals are, in fact, Irish Catholic.

I'm pretty sure every large city is known for its bad drivers. . . .I'm sorry New England, but your bad drivers are really nothing special.

Well, I've driven in New York and Atlanta, and all up and down between Northern Maine and New York, which may not be a huge sample, but nothing so far holds a candle to Boston. Not even close. New York cab drivers have quite a reputation, it's true. But it's like the whole of Massachusetts drives as aggressively as New York's craziest cabbies. They may not be alone, but they are indeed special. Also, people who haven't driven in Boston don't (and never will) quite understand just how much of a mess the Big Dig was there for a while.

Also, Mainiacs and Massholes have a fundamental clash in potentially dangerous driving customs. When you're waiting for an opportunity to turn left, a car with Mass plates coming in the other direction might stop and wave at you to turn in front of them. Seems thoughtful, but the problem is that Mainers have this habit of speeding by you on the right if you're stopped in the middle of the road for no apparent reason, so it's still not very safe to just go ahead and turn. I'm a big fan of not being "waved" into doing anything on the road, either as a driver or a pedestrian, unless it's actually bumper-to-bumper. Just obey traffic laws, I'll get my chance soon enough. But, again, I'm not a very good driver, so take that as you will.

Oh, and Bostonians really don't use crosswalks! They just walk right out into the street, like they don't even care if they get hit. It is so strange.
posted by lampoil at 12:11 PM on January 2, 2008

When I was 15 and had my learners permit my dad took me on a job he had to do in Boston. He always drove a new company car and on that trip he handed me the keys when we were downtown at lunchtime and said "you drive the rest of the day" so yeah, Boston drivers don't scare me much. I've seen things happen in RI that I've not seen in any other part of the US. I've been looking for a place that compares since 1985 and nothing tops the bad driving here.

Grapefruitmoon has it right - RI drivers are far worse than our Mass neighbors. Oddly enough though I live in RI but work in New London, CT so unlike most RI natives, I don't cry about a hour long car ride.

Oh and to confirm what lampoil mentioned - it's completely true that in Boston pedestrians will actually walk across your car hood to get to the other side. It's the only city I've been in where people will flip you the finger and scream at you to fuck off while they make the "bring it on" gesture with their hands just because you slowed down to let them across the road. It's like one giant game of Frogger and if you disturb the groove of the traffic you risk getting dragged out of your car and beaten - and those are just the elderly women...
posted by jtoth at 6:13 PM on January 2, 2008

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