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A viral post argues East Coast folks are better people even if they aren't as 'nice' as those out West

It's sparked a "nice vs. kind" debate from people across the country.

A viral post argues East Coast folks are better people even if they aren't as 'nice' as those out West

Having lived in small towns and large cities in the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, and Midwest, and after spending a year traveling around the U.S. with my family, I've seen first-hand that Americans have much more in common than not. I've also gotten to experience some of the cultural differences, subtle and not-so-subtle, real and not-so-real, that exist in various parts of the country.

Some of those differences are being discussed in a viral thread on Twitter. Self-described "West coaster" Jordan Green kicked it off with an observation about East coasters being kind and West coasters being nice, which then prompted people to share their own social experiences in various regions around the country.

Green wrote:

"When I describe East Coast vs West Coast culture to my friends I often say 'The East Coast is kind but not nice, the West Coast is nice but not kind,' and East Coasters immediately get it. West Coasters get mad.

Niceness is saying 'I'm so sorry you're cold,' while kindness may be 'Ugh, you've said that five times, here's a sweater!' Kindness is addressing the need, regardless of tone.

I'm a West Coaster through and through—born and raised in San Francisco, moved to Portland for college, and now live in Seattle. We're nice, but we're not kind. We'll listen to your rant politely, smile, and then never speak to you again. We hit mute in real life. ALOT.


So often, we West Coasters think that showing *sympathy* or feeling *empathy* is an act of kindness. Sadly, it's really just a nice act. Kindness is making sure the baby has a hat. (s/o to breenewsome and BlackAmazon)

When you translate this to institutions or policy, you'll see alot of nice words being used, & West Coast liberals/radicals are really good at *sounding* nice. But I've seen organizers & activists from other places get frustrated because nothing happens after ALOT of talk.

Nothing happens after the pronoun check-ins and the icebreakers. It's rare we make sure that people's immediate needs are addressed. There's no kindness. You have people show up to meetings hungry, or needing rides home, and watching those with means freeze when asked to help.

As we begin to 'get back a sense of normalcy' or 're-calibrate' to what people in Blue States™ think is Right™ and Just™, I want us to keep in mind the difference between Niceness and Kindness. If something sounds nice, doesn't mean that it's kind."

Of course, there are genuinely kind and surface nice people everywhere you go, so no one should take these observations as a personal affront to them individually. Generalizations that lead to stereotypes are inherently problematic, and broad strokes like "East coast" and "West coast" are also somewhat meaningless, so they should taken with a grain of salt as well.

In reality, a small town in South Carolina is probably more culturally similar to a small town in Eastern Oregon than it is to New York City, and there are some strong differences between various subregions as well. A more specific cultural comparison, such as "big cities on the West coast vs. big cities in the Northeast" might be more accurate as far as generalizations go, but regardless, many people related to Green's observations based on their own experiences.

To kick things off, a slew of responses poured in from people describing how New Yorkers can be cold on the surface while simultaneously reaching out their hand to help you.

Several people explained that the hustle required to afford the expense of living in New York explains why people skip the niceties. It's about valuing people's time; wasting it with nice words is ruder than just quickly helping out and then moving on.

Many people chimed in with agreement with the original post (even some Canadians confirming that their East/West differences aligned with ours).

"No sense of urgency" is definitely a West coast vibe, but is generally viewed a positive out here. And "inconveniencing everyone around them" might be a subjective observation. Maybe.

Plenty of people with bicoastal experience weighed in with their stories of how their experiences lined up with the basic premise of the thread, though.

Though certainly not universally true, the tendency for West coasters to be more hands-off might extend back to the frontier days. The pioneer and gold rush mindset was necessarily individualistic and self-sufficient. In my experience, West coasters assume you don't need help unless you directly ask for it. But people don't ask because of the individualistic and self-sufficient thing, so automatic helpfulness just hasn't become part of the dominant culture.

Things got even more interesting once the South and Midwest entered the chat.

But the takes on warm/nice/kind thing varied quite a bit.

One thing that seems quite clear if you read through the various responses to the thread is that specific states and cities seem to have their own cultures that don't break down as simply as East/West/Midwest/South. There's an entire book about how the U.S. can actually be subdivided into 11 different regions that are almost like nations unto themselves. Even this map from 1940 included 34 different cultural regions in the U.S.

And don't even get a Californian started on the differences between Northern CA, Southern CA, and the Central Valley. "Culture" can even be narrowed down even to specific neighborhoods, and people's experiences and perceptions vary for all kinds of reasons, so once again, generalizations only go so far before they fall flat.

If you're curious about what the data says about all of this, a cursory search of surveys about which states are the kindest brings up a fairly mixed bag, but people seem to find Minnesota quite friendly. A Wallethub ranking of charitability by state based on 19 factors including volunteerism also placed Minnesota at number one, followed by Utah, Maryland, Oregon, and Ohio. Pretty hard to make a regional generalization with those states.

Then again, there's the whole "Minnesota nice" thing, which brings us full circle back to the original thread.

So many elements go into the culture of a place, from population density to the history of settlement to the individual personalities of the people who make someplace their home. And nothing is set in stone—the atmosphere of a place can change over time, as anyone who's visited a city a decade or two apart can attest.

One thing that's true, no matter where we live, is that we play a role in molding the culture of our immediate surroundings. If we want where we live to be friendlier, we can be friendlier ourselves. If we want to see people help one another, we can serve as that example. We might stand out, but we also might inspire others who yearn for the same thing.

"Be the change" might seem a bit cliche, but it truly is the key to shifting or world in the way we want it to go, no matter what part of the country—or the world—we live in.


This article originally appeared on 01.22.21

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


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Elya/Wikimedia Commons

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