St. Louis Confidential

Midwestern Hospitality


One of my favorite things about St. Louis, and about the Midwest in general, is how friendly people are there. The stereotype says that people in the Midwest are nicer than people on either coast. I never really believed this was in any way true until I lived out East and experienced it for myself. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are from the East Coast, and are as nice as can be. I can only speak for the East Coast, since I’ve never lived out west, but I do think that overall, there is some truth to the stereotype. To be sure, there are definitely nice people here. But between rowdy Philadelphia sports fans and crazed Metro riders who stop at nothing to make their trains, I have found that many people out here are not always the most friendly. They seem to be impatient and in a rush all the time.

If you don’t know what I mean, pay attention next time you’re taking the Metro in DC. People push each other, yell at people when they stand in the walking lane of the escalator (I’ve learned the hard way not to stand on the left), and run as fast as they can, weaving in and out between elderly people and young children, to make the train as if their lives depended on it. Why is everyone in such a hurry? Waiting ten minutes for the next train is not the end of the world. I’ve literally seen people jump over the sides of escalators to make the train before the doors close. The morning commute in DC can be extremely stressful, and at times I’ve found myself wondering why I live here, after being shoved and packed into a train like sardines.

Photo by The Washington Examiner: Crowds pack Farragut North Metro station during the busy morning commute. Washington D.C., Tuesday, Nov 1, 2011

People’s impatience also manifests itself on the roads. I have never been behind the wheel out here, but I have been in the passenger’s seat many times, and each time my life flashes before my eyes. In St. Louis, when we make a left turn at an intersection, we wait patiently until there are no cars and then we turn. We do not pull completely into the middle of the intersection (I’ve been told I would never be able to turn left in Philadelphia). We also do not start to drive when the opposite light turns red. We wait until our light turns green. We slow down and almost come to a stop when going through yield lanes. And if someone ahead of us is turning right, we don’t go around them. We wait for them to turn, and then continue on our way. So you can imagine how shocked I was the first time I was in a car in suburban South Jersey or on 295. I’m pretty sure I’d get eaten alive on these roads, and I’m dreading the day when I have to venture out on them.

Life in St. Louis, on the other hand, is much slower and more relaxed. There is less traffic and no constant honking. The city itself is much less crowded. You can go to a grocery store without the line winding around the store and without having to fight your way through crowds to get what you need. It’s nice to be able to enjoy a leisurely trip up or down an escalator there. Instead of telling me to move out of the way, someone on an escalator in St. Louis might tell me that they like my Cardinals shirt.

A lot of families in St. Louis have been living there for generations. So when you meet people in St. Louis, the first question they ask you is “where did you go to high school?,” rather than the competitive “what do you do?” that is so common in DC.

The River Front Times just published an article about the high school question and included a flow chart that shows “where you should have gone to high school” based on certain demographics. The chart has gone viral among the St. Louis community and has been all over my Facebook and email inbox. I went to Parkway Central High School. You can actually find out a good deal about me from the chart just by knowing that.

I’ve lived away from St. Louis long enough that I’m not always used to how nice people are there. Last time I was home, I went to the bank to cash a check and was taken aback when the teller wanted to know all about why I’m living in DC, how I like it there, how it compares to St. Louis, and what I’m studying. Even our baseball fans are well-known for being nice and are often called the best fans in baseball. We rarely, if ever, boo our players.

Photo by The International Business Times: Cardinals fans gather outside of Busch Stadium to watch the 2011 World Series Victory Parade.

Even though I’m living on the East Coast right now, I’m determined not to become an impatient person and not to lose sight of my St. Louis roots. So come to St. Louis, and I guarantee people will treat you well. The city would love to have you.