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Thread: NYC the most courteous city in the world?

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    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Default NYC the most courteous city in the world?

    Uncommon Courtesy
    We keep hearing about the death of civility -- but it's alive and well in a place you'd least expect.



    By Neena Samuel and Joseph K. Vetter
    From Reader's Digest
    July 2006


    Politeness Put to the Test

    A woman heads into a popular New York City coffee shop on a chilly winter morning. Just ahead of her, a man drops a file full of documents. The woman pauses, and stoops to help gather the papers.

    Six blocks away, a different man enters another shop, but not before politely holding the door for the person behind him. A clerk at another busy store thanks a customer who's just made a purchase. "Enjoy," the young woman says, smiling widely. "Have a nice day." She sounds like she really means it.

    Whoa. Common courtesy on the mean streets of a city known for its in-your-face style? Have New Yorkers suddenly gone soft?

    In her international bestselling death-of-manners manifesto Talk to the Hand, author Lynne Truss argues that common courtesies such as saying "Excuse me" are practically extinct. There are certainly plenty who would agree with her. Consider that in one recent survey, 70 percent of U.S. adults said people are ruder now than they were 20 years ago.

    Is it really true? Reader's Digest decided to find out if courtesy truly is kaput. RD sent reporters to major cities in 35 countries where the magazine is published -- from Auckland, New Zealand, to Zagreb, Croatia. In the United States, that meant targeting New York, where looking out for No. 1 -- the heck with the other guy -- has always been a basic survival skill.

    The routine in New York was similar to the one followed elsewhere: Two reporters -- one woman and one man -- fanned out across the city, homing in on neighborhoods where street life and retail shops thrive. They performed three experiments: "door tests" (would anyone hold one open for them?); "document drops" (who would help them retrieve a pile of "accidentally" dropped papers?); and "service tests" (which salesclerks would thank them for a purchase?). For consistency, the New York tests were conducted at Starbucks coffee shops, by now almost as common in the Big Apple as streetlights. In all, 60 tests (20 of each type) were done.

    Along the way, the reporters encountered all types: men and women of different races, ages, professions, and income levels. They met an aspiring actress, a high school student, a hedge-fund analyst and two New York City police officers. And guess what? In the end, four out of every five people they encountered passed RD's courtesy test -- making New York the most courteous city in the world. Imagine that.


    A for Effort

    While 90 percent of New Yorkers passed the door test, only 55 percent aced the document drop. Are people less likely to help others when doing so takes extra effort or time? Not always, the reporters found. Take the pregnant woman who thought nothing of bending down to help us with our papers. Or the Queens woman named Liz who precariously balanced two coffees, her keys and her wallet on a takeout tray with one hand, while picking up papers off the wet pavement with the other. Her reason for helping? "I was there," she said matter-of-factly.


    Part of the Job

    Nineteen of the 20 clerks who were subjected to service tests passed. Roger Benjamin, the manager and coffee master at a Manhattan Starbucks, acknowledged that the chain trains its employees to be courteous. And some baristas the RD reporters encountered went beyond basic niceties. "You have to feed off people's vibes," said one clerk. "You go out of your way to show customers they did us a favor by coming here." At another store, a green-apron-clad attendant said that while courtesy was part of his job, he sought respect in return: "It's contagious."


    Chivalry -- Not Dead Yet

    Overall, men were the most willing to help, especially when it came to document drops. In those, men offered aid 63 percent of the time, compared to 47 percent among women. Of course, men weren't entirely democratic about whom they'd help. All of them held the door for RD's female reporter, and were more than twice as likely to help her pick up fallen papers than they were to help our male reporter. "I'll hold the door for whoever's behind me," said Pete Muller, 27, an account executive from Brooklyn. "But I'm definitely more conscious of women!" he added with a smile.


    Mother Knows Best

    By far, the most common reason people cited for being willing to go out of their way to help others was their upbringing. "It's the way I was raised," said one young woman who held a door open despite struggling with her umbrella on a frigid, sleety day in Brooklyn.

    Her sentiment was echoed by Christine DuBois, a 49-year-old sales manager from Bayside, Queens. DuBois was headed to the gym when she stopped to retrieve a pile of scattered papers. "It's something that's taught to you when you're young," she said.

    A few people, including Frederick Martin, 29, credited their mothers' influence specifically. "My mom brought me up like that," Martin said. "It's pure manners."


    What Goes Around...

    Another reason people are quick to be courteous: "You do what you'd want other people to do if it happened to you," said Christine Rossi, who pitched in on an early-morning document drop. Dennis Kleinman, a 57-year-old doctor and writer, used one word to sum up what drove his impulse to help: "Empathy." He came to the aid of an RD reporter when a middle-aged woman ignored a pile of papers in front of a shop on Manhattan's East Side. "The same thing happens to me, and I appreciate it when someone takes 10 to 15 seconds of their valuable time to help," he said.


    Excuses, Excuses

    The reporters did run into a few courtesy clods. In one case, while an RD staffer was inside a Starbucks interviewing a woman who'd passed the door test, a dozen oblivious people stepped over a second staffer's fallen papers. Another time, a wise guy offered only a snarky comment on our clumsiness: "That guy had too much coffee!" he cracked.

    And just when we thought we'd heard every excuse in the book for not helping, along came Margot Zimmerman. The 44-year-old computer saleswoman was on her way into a Queens Starbucks when a reporter dropped his folder of papers right at her feet. Looking down, Zimmerman stepped gingerly around the papers, then entered the shop. "I'm probably one of the most courteous people," she insisted later. "I pick up every other person's dog poop. I help old ladies across the street. But when he dropped his papers, he made such a face."

    Thankfully, such responses were the exception, not the rule. Which makes New York City a pretty darn polite place -- the most polite major city in the entire world, in case you missed it before. We realize this isn't a rigorous scientific study, but we believe it is a reasonable real-world test of good manners around the globe. And it's comforting to know that in a place where millions of people jostle one another each day in a relentless push to get ahead, they're able to do it with a smile and a thank-you. Hey, if they can make nice here, they can make nice anywhere.


    World of Courtesy: Ranking of 35 Cities

    Below is a ranking of the most courteous to the least courteous -- 35 major cities included in RD's Global Courtesy Test. Figures reflect the percentage of people who passed in each city. When multiple cities had identical scores, they are listed in alphabetical order.


    1. New York, USA ------------------ 80%
    2. Zurich, Switzerland -------------- 77
    3. Toronto, Canada ---------------- 70
    4. Berlin, Germany ----------------- 68
    5. São Paulo, Brazil ---------------- 68
    6. Zagreb, Croatia ----------------- 68
    7. Auckland, New Zealand ---------- 67
    8. Warsaw, Poland ----------------- 67
    9. Mexico, City Mexico ------------- 65
    10. Stockholm, Sweden ------------ 63
    11. Budapest, Hungary ------------- 60
    12. Madrid, Spain ------------------ 60
    13. Prague, Czech Republic --------- 60
    14. Vienna, Austria ----------------- 60
    15. Buenos, Aires Argentina --------- 57
    16. Johannesburg, South Africa ----- 57
    17. Lisbon, Portugal ---------------- 57
    18. London, United Kingdom -------- 57
    19. Paris, France ------------------ 57
    20. Amsterdam, Netherlands ------- 52
    21. Helsinki, Finland --------------- 48
    22. Manila, Philippines ------------- 48
    23. Milan, Italy ------------------- 47
    24. Sydney, Australia ------------- 47
    25. Bangkok, Thailand ------------- 45
    26. Hong Kong -------------------- 45
    27. Ljubljana, Slovenia ------------ 45
    28. Jakarta, Indonesia ------------ 43
    29. Taipei, Taiwan ---------------- 43
    30. Moscow, Russia --------------- 42
    31. Singapore --------------------- 42
    32. Seoul, South Korea ------------ 40
    33. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -------- 37
    34. Bucharest, Romania ----------- 35
    35. Mumbai, India ----------------- 32


    © 2006 The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.

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    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    Speaking for myself, I found people in Sydney a lot more well behaved than the typical New Yorker.

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    The test was a bit slanted as it only was happening in and around Starf**ks coffee shops.

    If tey wanted a control test they could have done Duane Reede as well, or hell, picked a few streets in Manhattan to "survey".

    Grand Central during Rush, Port Authority, Penn Station would also be a way to test a large portion of NYC occupants, namely commuters.


    I don't know. NYC is weird with this, I find many people casually courteous (holding a door for a second without even looking to see if someone is there) and some that are conciously courteous (the occaisional "Bless you" for a sneeze, or helping someone get something up a curb or the like).

    I am weird myself. I hate people walking slow in front of me, but I will help someone carry their luggage up the stairs (if they will let me). I will help someone parallel park, help a delivery guy get a cart up the curb and all of that.

    So I guess it would also be who yuo got and how you tested them. It would also depend on how obvious the test was..


    All in all though, I would say that most NYers have a very hard outer shell, but one that is easily broken if you are nice to them first.....

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    Did they test other US cities? How about Boston, San Fran, LA, Chicago, etc?

    I love New York, but every time I travel to other parts of this country, I have an impression that people there are much nicer and more polite. Maybe because New York is a "real city", by European standards and people here are really busy and there's not enough space to be really polite.

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    ^Only near starbucks? Then Stockholm wouldn't be on the list. We have no starbucks in Sweden Also, we've got a version of Reader's Digest? huh?Your point stands tho IMO, try checking out courtesy at/near major transit hubs at rush-hour...

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    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    For consistency, the New York tests were conducted at Starbucks coffee shops, by now almost as common in the Big Apple as streetlights. In all, 60 tests (20 of each type) were done.
    Sorry, only in NY.....

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    I think they're actually more proliferative (if that's even possible) in Seattle and Vancouver.

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    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrSpice
    Did they test other US cities? How about Boston, San Fran, LA, Chicago, etc?

    I love New York, but every time I travel to other parts of this country, I have an impression that people there are much nicer and more polite. Maybe because New York is a "real city", by European standards and people here are really busy and there's not enough space to be really polite.

    Nope... New York City was the only american City on the test...


    NYC is 'world's friendliest city'



    A taxi in Times Square, New York.


    Tuesday, June 20, 2006

    NEW YORK (AP) -- New Yorkers are the politest people in the world.

    And before you say "fuhgetaboutit!" -- please read on.

    In a city with a reputation for being rough 'n ready -- and, frankly, my dear, in-your-face -- residents seem to be expressing themselves with a new one-finger salute: a raised pinkie.

    In fact, they seem to have even better manners than people in London, Toronto and Moscow.

    That is the conclusion of Reader's Digest, which sent reporters "undercover" to 36 cities, in 35 countries, to measure courtesy. New York was the only American city on the list.

    In its admittedly unscientific survey, the magazine's politeness-police gave three types of tests to more than 2,000 unwitting participants.

    The reporters walked into buildings to see if the people in front of them would hold the door open; bought small items in stores and recorded whether the salespeople said "thank you"; and dropped a folder full of papers in busy locations to see if anyone would help pick them up.

    New Yorkers turned out to be the best bunch: 90 percent held the door open, 19 out of 20 store clerks said "thank you," and 63 percent of men and 47 percent of women helped with the flying papers.

    In short, four out of five New Yorkers passed the courtesy test.

    For his part, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is not surprised.

    He told reporters Tuesday that whenever he travels abroad, he hears nothing but praise for the Big Apple's good manners.

    "They all tell you stories. They are standing on the corner with a map, and a New York City police officer walks up and says, 'Excuse me, may I help you?"' Bloomberg said. "We are so jaded. We want to think the worst of ourselves, and people from around this country and around the world think exactly the reverse."

    And which city ranks last in the politeness poll?

    We are sorry to report that it is Mumbai, India.

    The rudest continent is Asia. Eight out of nine cities tested there, including Mumbai, finished in the bottom 11.

    In Europe, Moscow and Bucharest ranked as the least polite.

    Reader's Digest, which has readers in 21 languages, is publishing the results in its July issue.


    Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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    Yeah, an American city is judged most polite based on our own etiquette. This is a revelation? I bet we'd win an Enligh speaking "study" ...at least if you stacked the deck and elinimated the U.K., Australia, Canada, Indian and lots of Europe...

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    Quote Originally Posted by ryan
    Yeah, an American city is judged most polite based on our own etiquette. This is a revelation? I bet we'd win an Enligh speaking "study" ...at least if you stacked the deck and elinimated the U.K., Australia, Canada, Indian and lots of Europe...
    Unless it is an "Enligh" typing test...

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    I won't deny I'm entirely dependant on spellchecker.

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    Furing my travels to Europe, the only place where I felt people were friendlier than the US was French Riviera and Mexico. Otherwise, people in Europe did not seem particularly nice. But US cities outside of New York seem nicer than New Yorkers.

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    Default Did Mexico move to Europe?

    : P

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    Quote Originally Posted by stache
    : P
    Cood point Correction - Mexico is not part of Europe but people there are very nice and friendly, just as they are in French Riviera where i've been 2 times.

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    Wink

    Just teasing!

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