How to Make Your Neighborhood Neighborly

Hi Readers! Weirdly, this advice on friendliness comes from…Los Angeles.Yes, THAT Los Angeles.

And in fact it was written by Amy Alkon, a.k.a., the Advice Goddess, who  happens to have written an entire book on  rudeness.. It’s even called “I See Rude People.” But apparently Amy also sees nice people, and if she can, by golly, so can we. This piece appeared in The L.A. Times.



Snapshot from Los Angeles, the place Travel + Leisure readers deemed the rudest city in America: It’s late morning in an L.A. coffeehouse. Everybody’s staring down into something — a laptop, spreadsheets, a college entrance exam workbook — until the door opens and an elderly woman carrying a canvas book bag walks in. Writers stop writing, students stop studying and wave, smile and call hello to the woman, who smiles brightly and waves back. A few get up, one by one, and go give her a hug.

The woman is Kay, and her husband, who comes in 20 minutes later, steadied by a walker, is Earl. Another round of hugging ensues. I can’t trace back exactly how this hugging tradition started, but somebody hugged Kay, and somebody else saw it happen, and now it’s just how things are. When Kay and Earl come in, people get up and go hug them.

The people who decided L.A. was America’s rudest city probably aren’t going to get to this coffeehouse and see how some of us make Los Angeles an incredibly warm and neighborly place. Sure, L.A. is big and spread out, and it’s easy to feel alienated here — if you let yourself be alienated. To a great extent, you inhabit the world you create wherever you are.

I totally agree! Read the rest here! — L

21 Responses

  1. I felt more at home and accepted in L.A.– LOS ANGELES– than “L.A.– Lower Alabama.” Rudest city my @$$. Southern hospitality is a myth. Try telling them you’re moving there and you’re from “New York City.”

  2. I’d love to see more people remembering the simple everyday kindness that makes a neighborhood more fun to live in. I’m working on it with some of the other parents in my area, because I’d love for all the kids to know each other, but sometimes it’s slow going.

  3. I think that what is difficult for people about LA is that it’s so huge. But when you break it down into smaller communities (sometimes MUCH smaller, like one coffee house), I think you’ll find that there is a lot of caring and consideration here. The community at my daughter’s school is very close and supportive. Yay for good portrayals of LA!

  4. Well, there’s your problem, oncefallen, you hadn’t lived in “L.A.” for 3 generations (approximate time it takes to become ‘from’ a small southern town). I was suspect the two years I lived in Andalusia but since I usually said I was from Tuscaloosa, it was ok. I tried to keep my D.C. suburb upbringing and OH birth a secret.

  5. I think L.A. can be unfriendly if you expect to gossip over the fence. But if you look at it like social media, it’s very neighborly. The neighborhoods are on a different scale than most people are used to, but they are distinct. And then you get down to the micro level, like a coffeehouse, and you see more friendliness. Those people don’t necessarily live near each other–they’re brought together by a fondness for the same thing (in this case, that coffeehouse).

    Then again, my neighborhood is the kind where people take evening walks and chat with the family six houses up, and kids play in the street. In Los Angeles, can you imagine?

  6. Another Los Angeles lover here. It took me about five years of living here to stop hating it and anther five to really love it but it wasn’t for rudeness. I’ve actually found people to be quite friendly here and my neighbors are downright…neighborly! We give each other cookies for the holidays and share stuff from our gardens and fruit trees. I love Los Angeles. However, I can see areas where I could extend my reach. Working on it.

  7. I grew up in L.A. – Lower Alabama and the only people who are treated rudely are the people that come down there thinking they are better than the redneck, backwards Southerners or spend all of their time complaining about how better things are where they are from. The rest are merely tolerated and a few – depending on where you are from – will be accepted over time. (But you pretty much have to be from another Southern state to ever be accepted.)

    I’m not trying to start a fight here and not saying you were rude or anything, but just trying to explain why people from other states find it hard to be accepted. I’ve lived away from Alabama for longer than I lived there, but it will always be home no matter where I go or how long I stay in another place. And, it’s where I will eventually end up one day. Full circle. So, just as people from Alabama don’t consider “home” to be anywhere else but Alabama, people who are not from there are generally looked at as people who are just passing through on their own journey of life until they find their way back to their true home. A job brought them there, etc.

    It’s a Southern thing, and primarily a Deep South way of thinking. Home is where you are from, not necessarily where you are. It’s your roots. It’s where your great grandparents are buried. It’s where the family cemetery and the old family homestead are. It is where the family reunions are held every summer and where all the cousins played in the creek. THAT is home. My daughter has never lived in Alabama. She was born and has lived in TN all her life. But, she knows Alabama is her home. She’s only one generation out, so that still makes her an Alabamian if that makes any sense. LOL!

    Anyway, it is something that is so strong and so ingrained that it’s hard to believe the rest of the country doesn’t think the same way. So, if you are from somewhere else, you are just in Alabama temporarily. Even if you are there for the rest of your life and raise your kids there, it isn’t home and never will be. Home is where you are from. Like I said, I’ve lived over half of my life in TN, but it’s not home. And, I am not a Tennessean. And, neither is my child who has lived here all of her life.

  8. That is SO cool! We try to stay connected with our neighbors, and it feels so good to make friends and know that you can trust those who live near you. I admire people who have the guts to make friends out of strangers wherever we go.

  9. Teri, you hit on some of the things that make the Eastern Shore of MD what it is. But, I will say that in some places, including the Eastern Shore, if you have not lived there for generations, you are tolerated, but not accepted. I was a pretty quite kid when I moved there, and lived there for close to 20 years, but the fact was, the “natives” (there about the time Captain Smith came up the bay, and there ever since – don’t dare leave for a while) you were a foreigner. And Natives do not interact with foreigners. I married there, but my husband, and all my friends ended up being foreigners, except for one native whose mother went to college, so she was not quite either. It was kind of funny though, my step grandma (who left for a while, so no longer a native) asked me who was in my 4-H group, and I was step related to everyone except one girl. When I had been there 19 years, I was told to my face by a native that I wasn’t from there and couldn’t relate. (Yes, I had a really hard time with the racism and good old boy stuff, though I never said that to anyone because I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut.)

    Now, when I moved to Montana, people waived (from their horses) as we drove down the road, even though we still had MD plates on our car. In MD, you would get frowns with out of state tags, and now with cell phones it wouldn’t be beyond reason that they were calling neighbors to warn of the out of state people. Of course, MT had their thing too – “As long as you aren’t from California!” (Because people from CA moved in and wanted to change the laws.) After a few years in MT, I felt accepted in a way that I never had on the Eastern Shore in over 20.

    Since then, we have moved a couple times. We try to get to know our neighbors on our street, and we try not to get involved in “politics” or take sides against people because of grudges that others have. We try to help out when needed, and hopefully we are garnering some good will.

    I like hearing about this with LA. I lived for a while in Santa Cruz area – a little town and we had a wonderful community there, almost Norman Rockwellian.

  10. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and I absolutely loved it. While I no longer live there, my parents and siblings still do.

    In my own experience, I have met more rude people in little towns than in the big city. It really is about attitude though. If you are kind to others, then they are kind to you.

  11. Nice article with a lot of good advice.
    Friendliness really does have a lot to do with your own attitude. I’ve lived in 7 states and found people everywhere to be friendly.

    I remember many years ago, hearing a story told as a sort of Aesop’s fable: A man moved to a new town. He asked a local resident whether the people there were friendly or not.

    The resident asked the man, “What were people like where you used to live?”

    The newcomer scowled and said, “They were really an unfriendly and rude bunch, and I couldn’t wait to get away from that place.”

    The resident said, “Well, I’m afraid you’ll find the people here are pretty much the same.”

    A week later, another man came to town. He happened to meet the same resident and asked him the same question. The local asked this second newcomer the same question: “What were the people like in the town where you used to live?”

    This newcomer smiled and said, “Oh, that town was the friendliest place you could ever imagine.”

    The local returned the smile and said, “Well, I’m glad to hear it, I think you’ll find people here are very friendly too.”

    Attitude has so much to do with your whole outlook on life.

    Dale Carnegie’s famous book – HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE – has a chapter about the importance of smiling. And a whole lot more. If you haven’t read it, you might want to at least read some of the 658 FIVE STAR reviews at Amazon here:

  12. If I had to live in LA I would be hostile too.

    The example of neighborly behavior is giving directions to tourists? If you live in Manhattan or Rome or Paris you do that 3 times a week and throw in restaurant suggestions as a little bonus. The problem in LA is you have to try to talk to someone in a car since no one walks anywhere.

  13. Just like anywhere else, it’s not the city, it’s the people. If people are going to be paranoid, rude, and selfish, others will react and/or follow suite. Kinda of like an infection. It spreads. But it can true for the other spectrum, if others respected, trusted, and came together as a community, other people feel the draw to join in.

    Too many people have the mindset that THEY alone can’t do anything to make change. So they don’t bother, and deal with their own things. But what they don’t understand is that every journey takes one step. So one person might not be able to make any significant changes, but they can certainly get the ball rolling.

  14. I think there is this misconception of any big city…that they are unfriendly and dangerous. Growing up in Chicago I’ve heard it all my life when I travel or when I went off to college. When I inform people that I grew up in the city (not the burbs) people look at me like I’m crazy or damaged somehow. Like no one could come out of that “normal”. Yeah, I saw some of my friends fall to gangs (joining, getting thrown in jail, who knows what else) but for the most part it was a great childhood.
    And I raised my kids most of their lives so far there, in the same house I spent most of my childhood. People automatically assume it’s dangerous to live in the city and you must lock your kids up to keep them safe and I find it the complete opposite. I never felt safer than in my neighborhood in Chicago. There were always neighbors out, chatting, keeping an eye on each other (but not being overly nosy). When you walk down the street people wave and say, “hi”. They talk to the kids and shovel snow for each other. The neighbors that bar their doors and windows and hide inside are thought of as a bit “off”. When you go into a local store everyone smiles and greets you even if you don’t speak the same language (it was a majority Mexican neighborhood with a large secondary Polish immigrant population…English was heard third to Spanish and Polish).
    Not everywhere in a city is the “ghetto” but that’s all that is shown on the news and TV shows and people get this idea about what it will be like and then react to that when they visit.
    Although I love the small Pacific Northwest town we live in now I’m glad I grew up in the city and loved the Saturdays I spent in high school taking the L downtown to just wander around the “loop” or walk up the lakeshore to Lincoln Park Zoo (sans phone and parents and explicitly pushed out the door by my dad to go “explore”).

  15. Six years ago I had an overnight layover at LAX, so I took a city bus to have dinner at the beach. I swear I could write a book filled with snippets and stories from those two 45 minute rides, including, yes, hugs from the driver for a blind, crusty old grouch at his own personal mid-block bus stop.

    On the return, I asked the driver for help with a non-English speaking boy of maybe 19 who was waiting with me at the stop and had missed the last bus to another area (his boss had kept him overtime). He was crying. People got off the bus to assist. Ours was the last bus in the neighborhood for the night. The driver offered to take him on a detour to a boulevard so he could catch a connecting bus but he was confused by all the chatter in English and would not get on. We left him, but everyone on the bus was talking about his plight and one man announced that he would drive back after he got home and give the kid a ride home if he could find him.

    I will spare you the rest of the things that happened (I made friends) except for the last. When I missed my stop at the airport hotel, the driver offered to let me sleep on the bus while she finished her all-night route through Hollywood. She would then drop me off at my hotel in the morning in time to get my stuff and catch my plane. I have always wondered what I missed by declining the offer and walking back to the hotel instead.

    Depressed about the decline of civilization and civility? Take a late-night bus ride through a seedy section of Los Angeles!

  16. I was born and raised in Ogden, Utah. That’s a place that never makes the media, but by Utah standards it’s the capitol of violence, drugs, railroad town seediness, gangs, and rudeness. I absolutely love the place. It really is an attitude thing.

  17. This was a great article – thanks for sharing it with us :0)

  18. I think it matters what part of Los Angeles you are in where you will find rude people. I’m not going to mention the name of my college, but people can be so rude there! Once I got yelled at because I walked into an open store because it was apparently closed, and the guy was yelling at me while I tried to tell him that he needs to put up a “CLOSED” sign and keep his door locked if the store is officially closed. Another time some club would let me look at some stuff they were selling for charity until I paid money to them before looking at it, and one guy jumped between me and the tables of stuff with his arms rudely crossed and said I need to pay $10 to the cashier before looking at the stuff . I decided not to donate to their charity because of their rudeness. Also I reported a popular teacher to the dean as he seemed to throw anti-Semitic rants into his lectures, and would look at this one Jewish lady when he said something. As I live in O.C. people ask why I don’t go to school there, but it was because I thought this college had a better track record for my major. I’m glad I only have another year to graduate as I’m planning to do my Masters at a private Buddhist run university ( with aid to low income students) as I have never been in such a rude school in all of my life.

  19. * Sorry I meant in that one sentence ” Another time some club would NOT let me look at some stuff they were selling for charity until I paid money to them before looking at it.”

  20. I think the only thing that makes LA “rude” and “unfriendly” is that you are always insulated by your car. But I did take the bus and the subway for a few years (yes, we have one!) and shared them with the friendliest people you can imagine. Much friendlier than in New York City, for example, just because there were so few of us on that bus that we started to recognize each other.

    I lived in my apartment building for several years and never met anyone who lived in it, for the same reason: we popped out of our cars and straight into our homes every day. Now the apartment building allows dogs, and I have a kid, so some of us spend more time outside in the common areas, and again, the friendliest people you will ever meet.

    LA isn’t rude on purpose. It’s just closed off by its car culture, in my experience.

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