Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The most polite city of the world

According to a Redear's Digest survey, the most polite city in the world is New York.

"They have a reputation for being big-headed, but New Yorkers showed they are big-hearted, too, by finishing first in our global courtesy ratings. They placed in the top five in all three tests and were particularly polite when it came to holding doors open, with only two people failing to do so."

Second is Zurich, followed by Toronto, Berlin and Sao Paulo. The criteria for the ranking were based on these three tests:

1) walking into public buildings 20 times behind people to see if they would hold the door open

2) buying small items from 20 stores and recording whether the sales assistants said thank you

3) dropping a folder full of papers in 20 busy locations to see if anyone would help pick them up

I am about to drop a folder full of papers on the corridor and see what's going to happen.

If you liked this post you might also like: The 2007 Quality of Living Survey and The National Data Book.



  1. Funny... I am wondering how comes that Berlin makes it on place 4. I mean, Berlin is famous for many things, but usually not for politeness. Had they chosen Frankfurt as the German city on their list, there may have been a good chance to beat New York, I am confident ;-)

    Best, stefan

  2. Indeed, I asked myself the same thing.

    Might be because of the three test scenarios? If they had chosen other tests, it might have looked very different. E.g. take a scenario where you actually have to talk to somebody. Like asking for the way. I am convinced the German is more likely to say 'Don't know' and walk on, whereas the American would tell something, even if (s)he doesn't know. It's easy to interpret the former as being impolite. On the other hand I have to say Frankfurt gives me the impression you can drop dead on the street and the average Frankfurter would be too 'polite' to ask you how you're doing.

    Anyway. Have to go, be polite to some Canadians. Best,


  3. Why Tokyo not listed? Ah yes, you need to establish a baseline and if Tokyo (or most Japanese cities) is listed, its score will realign New York's 80 to an embarrassing 40. And you don't want to make New Yokers mad with a score of 40 'cause they're likely to do some very impolite things to you.

  4. Hi Anonymous,

    yes, they have a funny choice of cities. It seems they just picked the ones that have a Reader's Digest branch. At least they all are about the same size (I mean more than several Mio inhabitants). I believe the differences between larger and smaller cities could have messed up the whole rating. In my experience, if you are noticeably not a local, the smaller the city, the unfriendlier the people.



  5. Looks like a list of capitals, except for NY.

  6. Doesn't politeness also consist of what people will not do? (e.g., not cut into a queue)

  7. Hi Thomas,

    I really hate to be nitpicking, but Zurich is not the capital of Switzerland (its not Basel or Geneva either, no it's Bern), Toronto is not the capital of Canada (its not Montreal or Vancouver either, no it's Ottawa), Sao Paolo is not the capital of Brazil (it's not Rio or Wax either, it's Brasilia), and the capital of South Africa is as far as I know Pretoria (though the situation is slightly confusing here, because they actually have three capitals).

    Boy, my teacher would be so proud of me (I almost failed geography, but frequent conference hopping helps a lot ;-) )



  8. Once, in a busy street in a suburb of Thessaloniki, late in the evening, I found two crisp 50 Euro notes sitting on the pavement.

    I'm not sure what this proves (except that I can spot a 50 Euro note in the dusk from half a mile away) - but it beats having strangers pick up your loose sheets of paper.

    By the way, if anyone lost 100 Euro in Thessaloniki, just tell me the date and the neighbourhood you were in and I'll happily reimburse you.

    I wonder why they give Sao Paulo its correct accent, but not Zuerich.


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