The Rudeness of Strangers

I Love NY FU

After spending the last three and a half years traveling around the U.S. we’ve come to at least one definitive conclusion: we New Yorkers get a bum wrap. For a long time, most of our lives actually, we assumed the stereotypes must be true. Everyone agreed, after all. New Yorkers are rude. A poll released this week, and The New York Post’s coverage of said poll, both confirmed it. But now, having meandered from coast to coast, from north to south, we’ve come to a different conclusion.

New Yorkers ain’t got nothing on some y’all.

We’re not even talking about the strange habit of non-city-dwellers to stand in the most inconvenient places; in the middle of sidewalks, in doorways, or – for crying out loud – the tops and bottoms of escalators.

No, what we’re thinking about today is the kind of conversation we’ve had with countless strangers over the years. Small details change from person to person but the general outline goes something like this:

Stranger: “Where in Texas you from?” Says a man (always a man) who stops to admire our Texas license plates

Us: “We’re not actually from Texas. We’re originally from New York.”

Stranger: “New York, huh? Better you than me. I wouldn’t be caught dead living there.”

At that point any normal person might feel justified in responding “So you choose to live here instead? Have you ever considered moving out of jerkwaterville to some place real?”

Of course we never actually say that. Why? Because we’re not dicks.

Usually we just nod and quietly hope the person will go away. Most of the time we’re not that lucky. On particularly unlucky days the stranger just transitions from insult to politics. We try not to indulge. “Nice day, today, huh?”

We're not from texas

The disturbing thing is that none of these people ever seem the slightest bit self-conscious about trashing the hometown of people they just met. They do it reflexively, as if suffering from some form of Tourette’s syndrome. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say for sure. But I do have a theory.

The ease with which they insult us, often with a knowing smile – sometimes even a wink – leads me to believe they’re not deliberately offensive. They’re simply clueless.

In their insular worldview no one would ever choose to live in New York. Certainly they wouldn’t. None of their friends would. Hell, nobody they know has ever been there so they can’t imagine why anyone would actually want to live in such a place.

It’s not an insult, or even an opinion. You see. It’s an undisputed fact.

Never mind that the 20 million people who have chosen to live in New York State might disagree. Of course, to consider that point you’d have to first know that New York is not just a city, but an entire state; one with beautiful open spaces, rolling hills, babbling brooks, hardworking farmers and, yes, even god-fearing Republicans.

On at least one blessed occasion we were spared all of this aggravation. That guy, upon hearing we weren’t Texans, turned on his heels, got in his car, and drove away without another word. We were stunned.

Now we’re just grateful. Silence is such a beautiful thing. Some people should use it more often.

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45 Comments on “The Rudeness of Strangers”

  1. customtripplanning August 23, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Well, personally I joke I’m proud to be FROM New Jersey, not IN New Jersey. Researched and moving shortly to Oregon, which you know from your recent travels has a lot of neat places, people seem to be friendly, the attitude towards careful stewardship of the earth is fantastic, and there is wonderful food and wine. New York is an exciting place to visit… sisters chose to live there for quite some time but recognized, once they moved away, that the stresses reduced.


    • Brian August 23, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

      We haven’t noticed a change in stress levels after leaving New York. I think that’s because wherever we go, there we are. LOL. But having left, I do notice the heightened energy level of the city now when I return. Something I didn’t really appreciate before. I have to say, I love it.


  2. Gina left the mall August 23, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    I am a native New Yorker and I live in Manhattan. In my travels, I’ve had many people say the same thing to me. It’s funny because I can appreciate wonder/beauty in their hometown, yet they assume there is nothing worthwhile in mine. When I encounter this, I pretend I’m surprised and politely say, “Really? I love the _________” and I fill the blank with whatever would challenge their assumption most.

    Many people (including some Texans) go out of their way to come to New York. They do so to follow their dreams, for school, or just to visit. If we were that awful, this wouldn’t be true.

    Every place has it’s own vibe/flavor. That’s what makes the world worth seeing (everywhere once!) Whether I stay here my whole life or one day move, I will always love New York. No matter what the strangers say.


    • Brian August 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      “I can appreciate wonder/beauty in their hometown, yet they assume there is nothing worthwhile in mine.” We feel the same way.


  3. cyclingrandma August 23, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    I’m also live in New Jersey– from CT originally. I usually find New Yorkers very helpful. As to the rest… well.


    • Brian August 23, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

      If you can slow us down we’re delighted to lend a hand. LOL


  4. David August 23, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    It seems as though people are people where ever we go. The rude ones are rude and the nice ones are nice.

    It is always hard for us to answer that question since we are originally from Missouri and still think of it as home. We have South Dakota license plates and seem to spend more of our time so far in Texas.


    • Brian August 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

      We almost became SD residents. I’m curious, do you get a lot of people asking South Dakota when you’re out of state? There seems to be this strange fascination with Texas that I don’t quite understand.


  5. Robin B August 23, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    After visiting Las Vegas countless times and New York City four, I have come to the conclusion that both cities offer the same degree of rudeness, but have also discovered it’s not the natives but the tourists and visitors. Worst is during the book expo at the Javits, especially when the free books are released (duck and cover!). New York City residents and workers have always been nothing but courteous and friendly, even offering help to this lost-looking tourist. And New Jersey residents rock. So now if someone says they are from New York City, I don’t go “Ewww, really?” I say “Wow, what a fantastic place that must be to live!”–and I mean it.

    I hope you found us Oregonians on the helpful and kind side, not rude when they noticed your license plate. 🙂


    • Brian August 23, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

      No, you Oregonians rock! As do, quite frankly, most folks everywhere. We’ve just had this same conversation with the odd random person all over the country (but nobody from Oregon, as I recall 😉 )


  6. sisteranan August 23, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Unfortunately i don’t think your malady is restricted to the States. When i was travelling in England, for example, i would hear great cautions and insults about the next town i was about to walk to… even tho no one in the present village had been there and it was only six miles down the road…


    • Brian August 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

      Ha, too funny. We recently shared a communal dinner table with a bunch of travelers from London who had none too many kind words to say about the Scotts. As an outsider I found their clannish disputes fascinating.


      • sweetsound August 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

        Currently in Scotland – the people are SO nice, courteous, friendly, and helpful. And it’s gorgeous. It might almost be my favorite place to live, second to New York City. 😉


        • Brian August 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

          We loved Scotland. Can’t wait to get back.


  7. John August 23, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    After moving to Vegas, I can say the rudest thing here are the drivers. You are expected to drive rude, aggressive and own that tiny spot between two cars on the 215. We love Vegas! People are rude anywhere you go, people are not rude everywhere you go.


  8. Sunnyplace August 23, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Jersey Girl here. I used to defend my state, tell people how beautiful NJ really is, but now I let them think the whole state looks like the Sopranos intro. Maybe it will keep the “Jersey Shore”-like people out. 🙂 NYC dwellers are very nice. But stay the hell out of their way, they’re trying to get on with life in a crowded environment, and don’t have time to run an obstacle course of doorway blockers, sidewalk hogs, escalator stallers, amateur photographers and videographers, etc.
    This is why I love travel. The rude people you come in contact with have no idea of relativity. They think the whole world is just like Whatevertown, Texas. I would respond to them, “Oh, you’ve spent time in New York? What exactly didn’t you like?” 😉


    • Brian August 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

      That’s a good suggestion. Although I worry that asking such an open ended question will only prolong the pain.


  9. digger666 August 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    Rude? Your restraint is admirable and an inspiration to every aspirant travel writer. The attitude you fillet so quickly and effectively is not a million miles from the ignorant and casual bigotry which made lynching such an entertaining pastime in previous decades, and gay bashing so hilarious today. Fortunately, the actively offensive have never been a majority, else you’d have been overwhelmed by similar encounters.


  10. digger666 August 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    Reblogged this on digger666 and commented:
    Introductory course in how to effectively fillet the natives when they get up on their hind legs.


  11. Touring NH August 23, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    I think different cultures lead to different undisputed facts…no one in Texas is in a hurry – says a New Englander, everyone in NY is in a hurry – says someone from AL, nobody but people in the north east know that NY is a state not just a city. Even so far to say when I was stationed in 29 Palms, CA I had a young southerner ask me where I was from, I responded NH and he then asked me what state that was in. Clueless is right! BUT, even NY has a bad apple or two (hahaha)


    • Brian August 23, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

      Quite right. The NY Post article I linked to in the text described the rest of the poll results this way: “Pollsters asked Americans about their views on other states, and the results were an abject lesson in stereotypes.”


  12. billybob200138 August 23, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    I’m wondering who wrote this blog today? Your advice at the end was some people should use it more often?(Silence) I also see that everyone that you allowed to post an answer 0n your blog went along with you? Strange,no detractors. And the finger? You should be ashamed.But hey! Your”re from New York, what else should I have expected.HoboJoe


    • Brian August 23, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      My, oh mercy me, I do believe I’m getting the vapors.

      More seriously, you should know that everyone is allowed to comment here. The only comments that get deleted on this site are those that are blatant spam. The only exception was a single instance when I deleted a comment because it had no other content than to attack (name-call) another commenter. And that particular comment I deleted actually defended me. As a policy, I don’t delete criticisms. I prefer to respond to them and let the community judge the merits for themselves.

      As to the merits of your detraction, I can’t quite tell if you’re defending the right of folks to insult the hometowns of people they just met and think legions of other (presumably deleted) commenters feel similarly. The only complaint I see actually spelled out is about the banner picture, of which I am not at all ashamed. If you missed the irony and the humor of it because of an apparent heightened sensitivity to middle-school finger gestures, well, there’s not much to be done about that.


  13. Debra Kolkka August 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    I love New York and have not found people to be rude there. I have been treated kindly and politely on my many trips there.


  14. writecrites August 23, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    Have you not come into contact with worse rudeness than bashing someone’s hometown? That’s mild rudeness and usually attributed to cluelessness, as you mention. Except maybe for actor (debatable) Scott Caan’s bashing of Hawaii and saying Hawaii’s food “sucks” and that we are all meth heads. But unfortunately there is real rudeness in the Aloha State. I was walking along a sidewalk in downtown Honolulu one day when a bicyclist rounded a corner from behind some bushes. He was going at top speed and I stopped, like a deer in the headlights, not knowing which way to go, as he was coming right at me. As he swerved off the sidewalk and onto the grass to avoid hitting me, he yelled, “stupid bitch.” Now THAT’s rude! There are really rude AND nasty people everywhere.


    • Brian August 23, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      Funny. Sure we’ve had worse things happen to us but nothing so repeatedly. If we were constantly being mowed down by “stupid bitch” yelling bicyclists we almost certainly would have chosen to write about that instead (and, oh, what a better blog post that would have made). So it’s not the severity of rudeness that we’re really commenting on. It’s the uniformity of this particular type of rudeness that we really find so amazing.


  15. earthriderjudyberman August 23, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    I’m from Central New York (moved to Florida in 1999), but I miss my former home immensely. Wonderful people and places. I’d never bash someone’s home. That’s just rude. The closest I got to that was today when a co-worker told me: “Have a nice day.” I shot back: “Don’t tell me what kind of day to have.” (chuckle)

    It’s too bad some people are so eager to slap a label on someone that they fail to appreciate that person as an individual.


  16. jmeyersforeman August 25, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    my husband and I have travelled to NY, through the state, and to the city many times, we love it, and the people there have always been helpful. It has generally be our experience that most people, most places we go are both courtesy and helpful. we have met a few, some of them family, that are perfectly happy right where they are, never travel, and can’t imagine why they woud go anywhere else if everything they want is right their at home! I love reading your blog, both entertaining and enlightening. thanks


  17. Allison August 25, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    We have SD plates. When we show our identification to buy something we frequently get the response of “whoa you’re a long way from home” or in the winter “it’s really cold there.” No one has ever asked us what part of SD we’re from. I wonder if people don’t actually know anything about the state, so they don’t ask. Sometimes we’ll explain the requirement to domicile somewhere and may mention we’re from Seattle; people seem to respond favorably to Seattle. We get more static from people telling us they could never live in an RV. People are interesting.


    • Brian August 25, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

      That all sounds about right to us. People from around the country seem to have a favorable impression of Seattle and are really fascinated by Texas. I’m not sure where the animosity toward New York comes from but I also get the feeling that people don’t have much of an opinion about South Dakota.


      • Tom August 25, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

        Unfortunately, the rudeness of this post has caused me to stop following your blog…Sorry you feel as you do about those who are different than you.


        • Brian August 25, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

          LOL. Defending people who insult New York? Way to go. You should be proud.


  18. sweetsound August 26, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    Not saying that you were singling out Texans only, but my oh my, it always does seem to be Texans, doesn’t it?


    • Brian August 26, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

      We didn’t intend to single out Texans in this post. We’ve encountered this all over the country. We’re not sure if these folks have any ties at all to Texas or are just particularly interested in the state.


  19. Wilbur August 27, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    It’s been a while since I’ve read a blog post that is any more rude than this one. It seems to me that a lot of New Yorkers (and some other Northeasterners) just don’t get it. Why not just go home and be happy living among those with like attitudes? Sorry, but I’m done following ya…perhaps the rant will gain you more followers than than you will lose.


    • Brian August 27, 2013 at 11:46 am #

      “Why not just go home and be happy living among those with like attitudes?”

      Wow, Wilbur, it’s hard to imagine a more insular and self-limiting suggestion than this one.


  20. Erik August 27, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    As somebody who has been to New York, I find the people there to be just as bad as the people from Chicago, LA or any other massive city. The average person is selfish, rude, obnoxious and I am so happy to be out of Chicago each night as I go home from work. Big cities are filled with too many people, they are all pissed off for the same reason, the rudeness of the people around them.

    This goes back a long time, people walk into you, no apology, they don’t hold the door open, they stop in the middle of the sidewalk or door with no thought of the people around them.

    It’s not the city they live in, it’s just how people are when they are surrounded by and over-powered by the rudeness around them, they become what they are surrounded by. I could easily stop holding doors open for the ladies, not apologize when I accidentally walk into somebody etc but I refuse to become like everybody else in the big city.

    I’ve been to Texas as well and have never met a rude or accidentally rude person yet. My plates are Illinois so maybe they have no interest in asking, I don’t know but I find on average the people I met in every place I’ve been to in Texas, New Mexico etc to be polite and courteous. I have not yet met this kind of person in my travels to New York, and that includes people in my own family, I was shocked by how they acted while in the city. I don’t travel as extensively as you folks do but if you read my blog you know I have ranted about this very subject.

    Sometimes our cup runs over and we need to vent.



    • Brian August 27, 2013 at 11:40 am #

      Thanks for sharing. But needless to say, that hasn’t been our experience at all.


      • Erik August 27, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

        I gathered that, but most people I have talked to who have been to Texas seem to have the same impression I have which of course doesn’t negate your impression. None of them are from NY so maybe that explains it. I’m not a city person, I simply don’t get why people would surround themselves with so many people who could give a hoot about who they knock over to get to their next place.

        Give me a small town almost anywhere and I’m happy, of course then you have busy bodies who know everything about everybody. Pros and cons to where ever you live, I just know when I’m in a small town people open doors for others, they smile, they say hello and apologize when they do something rude.

        I have almost never had that in a city..


        • Brian August 27, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

          Hi Erik,
          I think we explain a bunch of your complaints in our latest post:

          Take, for example, this . . . “I just know when I’m in a small town people open doors for others, they smile, they say hello and apologize when they do something rude. I have almost never had that in a city.”

          The smiling and saying hello thing we cover in the other post. But I think it’s safe to say that it’s just not possible to do that when confronted with so many people. The other points about holding doors and apologizing may have a similar explanation. If you bump somebody on a crowded street in New York they’re typically three people behind you before you have a chance to react. And holding a door open is only an issue if the other person is several feet back. That’s not something you need to worry about in crowded places so, after living in a crowded place place for awhile, you might get in the habit of not worrying about it.

          To tell you the truth, I haven’t noticed these things happening more frequently in cities than in other places. But I can see how the “law of large numbers” may give the impression that they do. If 1 person out of every 1,000 is genuinely rude, you can go a long time in a rural setting without ever encountering that person. In New York, you might hit the “rudeness jackpot” and encounter one every day or so.

          Interesting thoughts.


          • Erik August 29, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

            I agree mostly, it’s darn near impossible to say hi and smile to everybody in a big city. However opening a door for somebody or holding it open as you walk through seems to be something people don’t think of in the city. I always let my hand linger on the door as I walk through so the person a few feet back can get an open door instead of it slamming in their face, it takes less than a second to glance back to see if somebody is there. To me this is common courtesy, crowded or no. 🙂


  21. cakesbykat August 28, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    I enjoyed this post. Especially the part about NY being an entire state, not just a city. When people hear that I am from NY, they automatically assume I mean New York City. I live in Central New York State. We have beauty all around us. Not that the city can’t be beautiful, as it is-in it’s own right; but there truly is more to NY than the hustle and bustle of the city. Someone that has never been here can not truly understand. And I may be biased, but I’ve never thought New Yorkers were rude. Even in the city, where life flows at a much faster pace, there are still people who are willing to take the time to help a stranger-regardless of where they come from. Thanks for your post!


  22. CurlyTraveller December 23, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    I love NY and do not have that overall feeling or idea about it’s inhabitants at all. Ofcourse there will be nasty people and annoying situations, but those are everywhere. Busy cities and streets can get on your nerves at times and people obstructing your way can irritate you immensly. But again; that’s not typical of NY.



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