Apparently Chicago is the city where nice people go to live. I spent a couple of weeks there this winter, by far the most time I’ve ever spent in Chicago. Over and over again I heard about how “nice” the people are there. From friends. From strangers. In fact, the word “nice” is arguably the most widely used adjective to describe Chicago following the words “cold” and “windy.”
It seemed true enough. When I went running pedestrians would courteously step aside to let me pass, something I have not experienced in any other city. Usually people just expect you to go around them. Restaurant staff were also abundantly friendly, even those at the three Michelin star-rated restaurant L20 where the elegance and splendor of the cuisine could easily allow for a great deal of pretentiousness.
Yes, Chicago is a place with a lot of extraordinarily nice people. But after hearing so many good things about the nice people of Chicago I feel compelled to say that New Yorkers aren’t as nasty and unpleasant as they’re often characterized. This is especially evident when it snows. Last night was the 8th biggest snowstorm in New York City history. In just the first couple hours of my day today, I saw a man help a blind woman find a seat on the subway. I saw a teenager help a woman carry her stroller up the stairs. I saw dozens of neighbors shoveling snow from cars and walkways. It was a record snow, made even more spectacular by the solidarity I observed afterward.
I don’t want to engage in the whole Chicago vs. New York debate, but I do feel like New Yorkers get a bad rap. Not long ago a stranger asked me for directions. I didn’t know where the place was so I looked it up on my phone in order to help him. The guy seemed shocked. “Do you live here?” he asked, followed by, “Have you always been this nice?” I don’t think New York is a place that is inherently rude or a place where perfectly nice people turn bad. Sure, people can be pushy, but New York is a very fast-paced and crowded city. Don’t forget, we’re constantly surrounded by people. In fact, we live on top of each other in very small and very expensive apartments. However, just as New York is remarkably diverse in race, culture, and religion it’s also heterogeneous in personality.
Are New Yorkers nicer than Chicagoans? I’m not gonna go there. All I’m saying is we’re not so bad, and I was surrounded by plenty of supporting evidence this morning. Thank you, and be kind.