Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Guest post: The Outsider's Guide to the New Englander

Today's guest post comes to us from my friend Molly of Wicked Cheap in Boston, who could no longer stand idly by as I maligned her native culture with my Southern ramblings. She offers a valuable counterpoint to my extensive whining documentation of my culture shock as a native Southerner living in Boston.

I grew up in New Hampshire, and took the 60 mile trek south to land in Boston for college and beyond. I've been away from New England for a total of less than two months of my entire life. I like it here. I like the people. I usually like the weather. So when somebody starts to talk smack on my native land I take it personally.

I've heard it all - New Englanders are rude, Boston drivers are clueless, Southie accents are horrible, Red Sox fans are the worst. I'm here to tell you IT'S WRONG. ALL OF IT. (Except maybe the drivers part.)

So, because I'm so nice and not-rude, I've put together a little something to help you all (excuse me, "y'all") out:

Molly's Wicked Awesome Outsider's Guide To The New Englander

1. What you may deem as "rude" is really just a general distaste for small talk.

Now, I like to think of myself as a polite and friendly person. But I am not about to start making conversation with a stranger just for the sake of talking. It's simply not in my genes. If someone asks me a question (I'm a magnet for lost tourists needing directions), I'll gladly answer, maybe even ask where they're from. But chit chatting about the weather or "how about those Sox?" No. NOOO.

I know I share this trait with a great many of my fellow New Englanders. I have my theories as to why. We walk, talk, generally function a little bit faster up here because you never know when the next blizzard is about to hit. It may be June but a Nor'Easter is just around the bend and I have to get my lawn chairs and orange cones out to block my parking space I DON'T HAVE TIME TO TALK. I like to think of it less as rudeness and more as EFFICIENCY. (Though it could go either way in the example of my dad ending every phone call with an abrupt "good enough!" and a click.)

The best compliment I ever received from a stranger came a few years ago. Waiting at a bus stop, an older gentleman walked over and sat by me. I was nose deep in a book (an extremely popular "this means I don't want to talk to you" device), when he said, "excuse me, I won't bother you anymore after I say this, but you have really beautiful hair." Now THAT is how you compliment a New Englander. The promise that the forced conversation does not have to follow. Straight and to the point. And not at all rude.

If you're wearing any Yankees paraphernalia, all bets are off. You asked for it.

2. Just give the accent a chance

First: The Harvard Yard is not a parking lot. That's not cute anymore. Second: the thick Boston accent is not nearly as prevalent or as exaggerated as Hollywood would have you believe.

Leo, I love you, but lets leave the dropped R's to Marky Mark.

Let me show you how it's done.

But I promise, just listen to some townies for a while, you'll learn to love it.

3. While we're on the subject of speech - nobody in Beantown actually calls it Beantown

We do say wicked, but never "wicked pissah." I have no idea where that even came from. If you're in the 'burbs, you get your Sam Adams at the Packy (though in the city its still called a Liquor Store because we don't want to confuse the college kids). The T includes the subway, bus, commuter rail and ferries but most people are just referring to the subway (which is awful). Ask for a reguluh coffee at Dunk's and they'll give you cream and sugar. The B's and C's both play in the Gahdin, but the Sox are over at Fenway Pahk. All set?

4. If you haven't tried candlepin bowling yet, you really should

5. Nobody cares about you, soccer

Yes, New England has a professional soccer team (and lacrosse for that matter). No, I've never met or heard of anyone who cares about them. It's all about Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics, Patriots. If you're gonna live here, choose one or more and stick with it. Or at least respect the fact that you moved to a sports culture and things are gonna get FIERCE. Boston sports teams go through long phases of being just awful. Then improving for a few years, then breaking our hearts again. There's a whole psyche around being a Sox fan. I may or may not have a baseball related tattoo. I'm just saying. Fans can get rambunctious and annoying at times, but it doesn't last forever. Enjoy it, get involved, paint your face.


And that, friends, is all you need to know. Now get outta my way and quit hogging the sidewalk.

Discussion Question:
What would you want an outsider to know about your native culture?


  1. I can attest to all this, having spent a lot of time (in intervals) in New England. Although I hear the dropped R's a lot while we're there, and Boston drivers really are the worst in the USA. (I've lived and been all over the country. Trust me on this.)

  2. I have never experienced anything like it.

    State motto: JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL

  3. Yay for getting along! I'm definitely getting used to New England lifestyle though I hope to have a few days above 75 just to enjoy some warmth on the beach :-)

  4. Is it so much to ask that I be able to retire my winter coat in June??? :P

  5. I have seen a man burst out of his parents' house in Brooklyn arguing about balsamic vinegar with his mother. I have heard these ridiculous, unbelievable, cartoon-like accents many times in real life. And I have seen a disheveled Sox fan walking around in team t shirt after his team lost, brandishing a baseball bat, looking for an excuse. Give it time, the stereotypes will eventually turn out to be true for a surprising amount of people.

  6. It is one of the most prolific epiphanies for those of us growing up in the suburbs to come to, actually, I think Ginsberg's voice is way apropos.
    We go to school and a disproportionate amount of the curriculum is comprised of them telling us stereotypes don't exist. We leave and discover the opposite. So it goes....

  7. I was just teasin', Anonymous!

  8. Professional soccer and lacrosse? huh. didn't realize. I've heard wicked pissa a lot in the 80s. Think it was before everything was wicked awesome. It was in Quincy technically, not Boston, maybe just some kids trying to sound like they're swearing, lol

  9. oh, you'd better not tease me. I'm getting the chilly-willies just thinkin' about it, quid.
    i get this way talking about driving or sidewalk etiquette and realized I'd stumbled onto what I think is a worthy point. Total accident.

  10. I didn't know there was any such thing as pro lacrosse.

  11. Amen! I've never even had the opportunity to visit Massachusetts but I think even I was beginning to take the Boston bashing personally. (But hmmm...maybe that's because the other place KJ loves to hate is my home state of Oregon :P) Totally and completely agree about the small talk. Good guest blog! Thanks girls!

  12. this is absolutely amazing.

    however, i have heard both of my parents (born and bred in somerville) say "wicked pissah" with an enthusiasm that could not be faked or ironic.

  13. Okay, I am from Los Angeles,CA. But I grew up in the South(Memphis,TN), I am currently going to school at NEU in Boston, and as a college student, Yes THEY ARE RUDE AS FUCK. I try having small talk (Southern thing) but no, not a simple 'hello' or 'fuck you' even. Then comes the Southies, they are bunch of pussy whipped city slickers. Now, I'm not saying they can't fight, but there is a difference between growing up dealing with Cattle and working from 5am to Dusk and growing up on the streets I give ya that, but Irish men hit like pussies. :P (Note this is all in good fun); But as a Southerner I must warn others that people in New England are some touchy mofos when it comes to the South, they ALL assume (for the most part) that everyone from the South is a Redneck..which is fine, but after awhile of getting a Redneck gets old as fuck. What im saying is, once I done with school. Im out!