If you would
ask the average New Yorker to rate their city in etiquette most
would rate it as average or below. I know. I’ve done it. My
survey was very informal but I probably questioned a good
cross-section of the city’s inhabitants and their estimation of
NY’s etiquette was none too positive. Yet, when the
Reader’s Digest did a fascinating study on the level of
politeness and rudeness in 35 major cities in the world, NY city
came in number one in politeness. The fact that NY came in first
in something doesn’t surprise me; NY is one of the greatest
cities in the world. That NY came in first in politeness
out of 35 world wide cities was surprising to me and 70% of US
adults who think that people are ruder than they were 20 years
on a recent visit to Sedona, Arizona other tourists asked me a
question that amused me. They wanted to know how I live in as
nasty and dangerous a place as NY city. At the end of the day, I
wonder how well the tourists would have done if a politeness
survey was done in their home towns?
We know that
New Yorkers are heroic, deeply caring, and would give the shirts
off their backs for another person, as the whole world witnessed
during the 9/11 attacks and its aftermath. However in this survey,
being polite was rated by three criteria: holding open the door
for someone, picking up papers that were dropped on the floor and
the courteousness of the clerks in stores. While NY is a fast
paced and competitive city which can bring about a certain
harshness and seeming callousness NY’ers came in first in these
three basic polite acts. This survey and its implications have
left me wondering. Where did our negative view come from?
Why do we view OURSELVES so negatively?
Part of the
reason why NY has such a negative
reputation is because all that is reported is the negative. If all
people see and read is the crime, the nastiness, people out to get
each other and hurt each other, people ignoring crime even though
they watch it take place, that is what outsiders think NY is like.
What they don’t realize is that if everyone was like that such
actions wouldn’t be newsworthy. The fact is that most NY’ers
are great, nice people who will go the extra mile for a fellow
reason for our negative reputation
is because we underestimate ourselves. We accepted the world
view that NY is a nasty place. We don’t fight that reputation or
explain to others that most people are not like that. Like people
with low self esteem NY’ers believe that NY is a nasty place. We
shrug our collective shoulders to the negative reputation and say,
“If you say so.” That’s why, we too are shocked that we won
first place in a politeness contest instead of saying, “Of
course we won! It’s about time someone noticed!”.
this survey NY’ers
ought to keep their head up high and feel proud of themselves. NY
is a great city with so many concerned and giving people.
Certainly now that we’ve won the politeness survey, we should
raise our collective positive self-esteem, since we live in the
city that’s #1 in more ways than one!
more articles by Rabbi Hecht