Thursday, June 22, 2006


In their basically juvenile "Which city is the rudest?" survey, Readers Digest resorted to the outlandish scheme of looking at skewed and highly context dependent mores of behaviour. Is it surprising that Asian cities turned out to be the "rudest"??
What I find equally dubious is that New York city turned out to be the "most courteous".

As anyone can easily guage and as people have vociferously argued, politeness is highly context dependent, and the magazine followed codes of conduct which are largely restricted to, or at least proliferated by, Western civilization. As Amit has noted, if Sakal or an Asian service, magazine, or paper had done the survey and put in questions of their liking, almost every city in the US may have topped the list of cities that gall.
What about tribes in Africa which show their politeness by rubbing noses or smearing your face with gum? The more the gum on your face, the more you are honoured and liked. What would RD think about that?

I feel sad. I thrived on Readers Digest as a kid. We regularly subscribed to RD since the early 70s. We had a stock of literally hundreds of issues dating back to the fifties that occupied two bookshelves. I absorbed almost every one of those issues like a sponge. We bought books from them at the then prohibitive prices of almost a thousand rupees each. RD forms an endearing part of my childhood, especially the Book Sections.

But a couple of years ago, we canceled our subscription. The quality is just not what it used to be. RD used to pride itself on featuring articles that would appeal to every ilk of human society, from the rocket scientist to the housewife to the plumber. Now, the articles' quality is so poor and the content frequently so tepid (like this survey), that it appeals to nobody. I agree that an information explosion of the kind that RD's founders would not have imagined in their wildest dreams has taken place with the advent of the internet. But my point is that even then, if RD had just consistently kept up its past quality, it would still have endured. Sadly, it hasn't.


Blogger Hirak said...

Such surveys are ultimately silly and serve no purpose. Even the authors admit in their story that theirs was not a scientific study. Their methodology is quite flawed.
for eg: All the data for New York was taken from only Starbucks (for 'consistency'). I am not surprised that the staff in all the NY Starbucks cafes were courteous. Why was this 'consistency' not applied to other places?

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never been to Mumbai, so wouldnt know!! But, NYC most courteous???? Bollocks!!!

2:39 PM  
Anonymous sks said...

Have been to both mumbai and NY and can say that both of them have a lot of similairities and rudeness level would more or less be the same. You do not have shoes staring up your faces like in NY subways and almost nobody 'steals' away your cab in Mumbai. Pretty positive that you wouldn't recieve so many thank you's if you held the door open in mumbai, they would rather look as you askance. This study was a major disappointment from RD.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Vivek Gupta said...

NYC as most polite is certainly outlandish. If any Indian metropolis is rudest than it has to be Delhi. Mumbai certainly is far better than the capital in terms of behaviour.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Hirak: Yes, even as an unscientific survey, I think its preposterous. The only credibility that can be lent to it it as a joke.

SKS and Vivek: I think every big city is similar in some respects. Maybe people their appreciate the difficulties other people have when they ask for help, because they themselves have been through the same problems. But at the same time, city life has probably so dulled their feelings that they cannot reciprocate.

1:48 PM  

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