New York: the Politest City in the World!

Off topic, but as a proud New Yorker, I can’t resist. Over on Feministe, zuzu posted a link to an article about New Yorkers, and how when it comes to genuine helpfulness, NY is the best city in the world..
Basically, Readers Digest did a series of experiments, where they actually observed people in different cities in the world. NYers were rude, but far and away the most helpful city-dwellers.
I particularly love one thing zuzu included, because it perfectly captures the spirit of NY to me. A friend of her described New Yorkers like so:

f you fall down on the sidewalk, they’ll help you up. They’ll laugh at you, and tell you you’re a fool, but they’ll help you up.

That’s my city all right.

0 thoughts on “New York: the Politest City in the World!

  1. apalazzo

    As an ex-New Yorker I have to agree, New Yorkers have a seemingly stone-like exterior, but once they see that you need something (directions help with your groceries …) they are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

  2. PaulC

    I remember being lost in Seattle once, trying to find a bus route to get where I needed to be. Everyone I talked to was very friendly, true to the reputation. Not one of them gave me any useful information. Fortunately, the posted bus schedules turned out to be informative enough.
    London struck me as significantly ruder than New York. My experience with New York has been almost all positive, if limited (mostly in or near Greenwich Village). My overall impression is that San Francisco is a bit friendlier, but people don’t know how to mind their own business the way they do back east. What visitors to New York may fail to realize is that the lack of friendliness is itself a kind of politeness.

  3. Mark Chu-Carroll

    You’re absolutely right. As a NYer, one of the things that I’ve learned is to respect peoples privacy. You *don’t* intrude on people unnecesarily. It’s not rudeness: it’s a kind of respect.
    I remember a few years ago, a tourist had a heart attack and died on the subway. His widow later raved about how horrible NYers were: this man had died on the subway, and been left in his seat until the subway stopped running that evening, and *no one* had done anything to help him.
    My reaction as a NYer was: but people go to sleep on the subway *all the time*. It would be incredibly rude and obnoxious for me to wake up every single sleeping person I saw on the subway to make sure they’re OK. I can’t remember a single time I’ve been on the subway where I’ve ridden for more than two or three stops, and not seen a single sleeping person.
    But part of what makes the crowds of the subway tolerable is that we all respect each others space. We don’t intrude on each other for no reason. What some people would call politeness, we would call unbearable intrusiveness.
    In contrast, I can remember driving through Georgia with my family with I was younger, on our way to visit my gradparents. Our car broke down in the middle of nowhere. People would sit and chitchat with us, talk about their families, on and on… But we couldn’t get anyone to actually help us fix the damn car, because it was *sunday*, and the fact that we were stuck in the middle of nowhere with three kids, a dead car, no place to sleep – no one cared. No one would even help us figure out where the nearest hotel was, or how we could get there without a working car.
    Yeah, they had that pleasant “southern charm”, but they didn’t give a damn about the fact that we were stranded.
    In contrast, I had a summer student work with me a few years ago, who was meeting me, my wife, and some friends in Chinatown early on a sunday morning. She missed the subway stop, and when people saw her looking worriedly at the subway map, she wound up with half-a-dozen people helping her, getting of the train and walking her through the confusing canal st station to get her to where she needed to be. Total strangers, who’d never seen her before, and would never see her again, dropped what they were doing, took time out of their day, wasted subway fares, to help a stranger figure out how to get where she was going. It wasn’t an emergency, she wasn’t hysterical.

  4. Mark Palmer

    Have to agree, on our visit to NYC some years ago, i became very wary of getting a map out, one was almost immeaditely approached by someone desperate to help (but in a very friendly manner)

  5. David Harmon

    You do need to be a little cautious about whose help you accept.
    It happens that I have learning disabilities which screw up my spatial orientation and mental-mapping abilities. I’ve occasionally tried to help people, and realized afterwards that I’d given them the wrong directions! (Usually as I walked through the areas that I’d misdirected them through.)


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