Ranking of the World's Most Polite Cities

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ranking of the World's Most Polite Cities

Recently, Reader's Digest released the results of a survey that ranked 35 cities around the world on the basis of politeness. New York ranked first, Zurich second. Asian cities ranked at the bottom.

As you might guess, this has brought a, well, rude response from Asians. A professor of accounting at the University of Bahrain slammed the RD ranking:
... the three criteria chosen to measure politeness were trivial things. For example, saying "thank you" or "please" is not the only measure of politeness or kindness. Every country or city has its own traditions and customs.

... Some people may not say "thank you" but rather nod his or her head with a smile. Someone remarked that the social criteria for rude and polite behavior in India are not the same as in Western cultures. We are not accustomed to saying "thank you" to strangers.

... The questions designed to rank politeness [are] skewed as different cultures have different ways to say or suggest, "thank you."

If we don't feel an emotion in our heart, we don't utter words to express politeness or gratitude. For example, will a shopkeeper in New York say "thank you" to a customer who is unable to pay even if one is a regular customer?

In Mumbai, one can find several such shopkeepers showing some politeness if a regular customer does not have sufficient money to pay. And the shopkeeper may say "no problem," next time you can pay or send it later.
The British were no less thrilled with seeing Londoners ranked well below New Yorkers. A commentator in the Times of London offered this reaction:
"Interesting that Readers' Digest (headquartered in a N.Y. suburb) just happened to pick three things that New Yorkers tend to be good at as their measure of politeness. I, like many Americans, who have spent time in that city, have always found it to be rude, cold shouldered, and uncaring about what goes on around them."

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