Is Boston one of the rudest cities in the country? Yes, Boston.com readers have decided, but what’s it to you?
Boston was recently ranked fifth on a list of the top rudest American cities, and we asked Boston.com readers if they agreed with the ranking. Most of the 205 who responded to our survey said, if anything, we should be ranked first. Another 400 readers responded to our poll on Boston.com’s Instagram page, where the responses were mixed, but leaned toward an embrace of our less than courteous attitudes.
“I love Boston, and lived and worked there most of my life, but I didn’t realize how rude it was until I returned after I moved out of state,” said Sandra, a former Bostonian who now lives in Atlanta. “In public settings, people are just not very friendly, impolite, and often display aggression, especially while driving. In contrast to where I live now, I hate to say it, but Boston is one of the rudest (but not as rude as NY).”
Driving came up both in the Preply study and our survey as one of the areas where Bostonians are showing their rudest behaviors. Boston is apparently the worst city in America for drivers not slowing down for pedestrians. When we asked readers to name some of the city’s worst habits, bad driving was mentioned again and again.
“Aggression to the point of hostility,” David T. from Malden said. “A disregard if not outright ignorance of traffic laws.”
Despite this, however, many readers are insistent that our supposed rudeness is all a matter of perception.
“People in and around Boston mind their own business, don’t butt into other people’s conversations, and can sound like curt monosyllabic Yankees when asked a question. In other parts of the U.S. people talk louder, intervene in overheard conversations, and are tooth-achingly (fake) polite even if they despise you,” Lisa D. from Chelmsford said. “By contrast, that makes Bostonians seem rude. Actually, it’s less rude and more honest than the saccharine, passive-aggressive ‘niceness’ you get elsewhere.”
Below you’ll find a sampling of responses from readers who responded to our survey and through social media, sharing their thoughts on our city’s perceived rudeness.
Some entries may be edited for length and clarity.
Do you think Boston is a rude city?
“I am originally from Boston born and raised but moved away when I was in my 30s. Compared to other places I lived, Bostonians are impatient, generally not willing to chat with any stranger, and aren’t at all gracious to others. In some cars, people purposely look away to avoid eye contact or ignore others.” — Alan, Lynnfield
“I have lived in what I would consider major or moderate cities in places like Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Florida, D.C., Vermont, and now Massachusetts, and I have never met such entitled people as I have in Boston, Massachusetts.” — Spinazzola, Wakefield
“I grew up outside Boston and have lived in Arizona for the past 25 years. All northeastern cities are rude. It’s in our DNA. Drive through anywhere else, you don’t hear horns beeping, birds being flipped.” — Ed D., formerly Marlborough
“As a Boston native who has moved outside the state to the South, I am always shocked when I come home about the rudeness that goes on here. I went to [a new restaurant] in Middleton during the summer where I POLITELY informed the server I was brought the wrong meal and they completely forgot my dad’s. No lie the server said, ‘What do you want me to do about it?!’ So snarky. Geez! Never mind the impatient drivers. Can’t we all just play nice?” — Tina, formerly Malden
“You have to have sharp elbows in Boston from time to time (or anywhere in the Northeast for that matter). Whether dealing with a business, government office, or strangers, if you are not assertive or sometimes aggressive then you will get pushed aside. In other parts of the country, people will go out of their way to help you. That tends to be an exceptional event in Boston. It often feels like you have to demand help here. People will be nice in Boston, but you have to extend that olive branch first if they have never met you before.” — Ben, Newton
“I agree 100%. The rudeness stems from what I’d describe as a sense of entitlement in a lot of cases, but in other cases, a total lack of self-awareness. Common courtesy is a foreign concept. A lot of people in Boston behave as though they are the only person on earth. There’s an obvious lack of boundaries.
“It is not exclusive to the city; the suburbs are perhaps even worse. For a place where people are supposedly educated and earn high incomes, I was continually surprised by how people acted when I lived in the ‘burbs.” — Kat, South Boston
“I was a transplant who moved to Boston from an out-of-state rural area. At first, I did think people were rude but after about a year I realized that wasn’t the case. Boston isn’t full of rude people, it’s full of fun people who speak frankly but mean well. It’s perfect.” — Mark, Quincy
“I disagree that Boston is considered a rude city. I’m originally from Massachusetts and spent time in the San Francisco Bay Area where everyone was friendly but nowhere to be found when times got tough. In Boston, people are brusque but they’ll do anything for you — drive you to the airport, pick you up from surgery, drop off meals if you’re sick. Main takeaway: a lot of other places are friendly but very superficial. In Boston, people are ride or die.” — Jessica C., Somerville
“I just don’t see it. Maybe I choose not to see the rudeness but whenever I say hello there is always someone saying hi back. You don’t always have to wait for someone else to be friendly first.” — Mike, Malden
“I have lived in lots of places in the U.S. and Boston has been the easiest place for me to make friends. Also, people aren’t fake nice, like in some places I’ve lived, so you know when people do talk to you it’s genuine.” — Cyndi I., Hudson
“There’s a saying that the Northeast is ‘kind, but not nice,’ while the South and Midwest are ‘nice, but not kind.’ This means that Bostonians and New Yorkers might insult you to your face or be curt for small irritations, but if there’s an emergency or an accident, we will be the first to lend a hand and help solve the problem. The South and Midwest are big on smiling to your face, but once you leave will insult you behind your back. I’d rather have the brutal honesty of a native Masshole explaining to a tourist (loudly!), why they can’t walk three abreast on a sidewalk or why they need to use their blinker, but if your car breaks down in a storm, or you’re struggling with a baby carriage and a suitcase going down the stairs of the T, someone will wordlessly help.
“Being truly nice means you don’t need to put on a show. The only ones saying how mean Bostonians are are tourists expecting a big city to follow the same rules as suburban Middle America, or they want a smile and drawn-out conversation when a nod and ‘thanks’ works the same way. We have places to be.” — Leanne, Allston
What would you say are the most common rude behaviors in Boston?
“I agree that the drivers are rude, even nasty. If there were grids at every major intersection, with drivers not allowed to enter the grid unless they could clear it, it would help alleviate the aggression caused by people blocking others from entering the intersection. I think the northeast, Boston in particular, gets a bad rap for being rude when really we’re just in a rush and don’t engage in small talk because we have more important things to do.” — Ann, Metrowest
“Driving without regard to physics or others’ personal safety, swearing, tough guy mentality…” — Mike, Medford
“Racism, slurs, disrespect of differences, general tribalism, and a general keep to yourself attitude. Bostonians don’t go out of their way to welcome newcomers and it’s hard to feel like you’re accepted here if you are not a native.” — Cassie, Dorchester
“1. Not likely to willingly stop for pedestrians on a crosswalk. 2. No one looks at each other in the eye to acknowledge one another. It’s as if everyone is invisible. EVERYONE DESERVES A HELLO OR GOOD DAY on their way to or from work. 3. Our fanbase for sports is obnoxious, offensive, and downright vulgar. There’s truth to all these professional athletes’ accounts of being mistreated and having racial slurs thrown at them constantly from every angle. Truly tasteless people, generally speaking.” — Chris B, Allston
“Talking over others and thinking strangers are rude when they may not be in as much of a rush as you.” — Josh, Beverly
“Leaning on other people when standing while riding the T. Opening the newspaper on the T or bus so that it crosses that invisible but very real line between self and others. Reckless driving (weaving through traffic at high speeds, cutting people off, random braking). Inability to comprehend the meaning of ‘indoor voice.’ Gratuitous foul language in public places. Acting like they are completely unaware of whatever disrespectful behavior they are displaying when called out on it and continuing to do it anyway.” — Kat, South Boston
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinions.