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MIT student blogger Kim D. '09

Are people on the East Coast friendly? by Kim D. '09

An entry especially for those from the Midwest.

When I applied to MIT, I didn’t consider whether the people of Boston would be as friendly as the people of Wisconsin. I probably wouldn’t have given it a second (or first) thought, except for a conversation I had with my school librarian. She asked me what I would be doing the next year, and I told her about MIT. Unlike most people I had told, her reaction wasn’t just to congratulate me. She said “… but… aren’t people on the East Coast a bit… unfriendly?”

Now, to be fair, I still can’t answer that question entirely. Most MIT students don’t leave campus much. There are so many awesome people to meet and activities to try (and so much work to do) at MIT that I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in Boston. That’s actually point number 1: This isn’t a very important question to answer, because MIT is the community you will spend most of your time in, and it is plenty friendly.

As for Boston though, it might help to share a few anecdotes to give you a picture of what the city is like. And, in the comments please let us know if you have other anecdotes to add.

Anecdote 1: My family came to visit me about a year ago. My mom was always striking up conversations with people on the subway! She would talk to them about their children or where they were going or how to get where she was going, all the time. Most people in Boston would not initiate a conversation with a stranger, but they will talk to you if you initiate the conversation.

Anecdote 2: I left my purse on a city bus a few months ago. When I called my phone (which was in the purse) the woman who had found the purse answered, we met, and I got my things back. A similar incident happened a couple of months later; my wallet fell out of my pocket as I was crossing a street, and the man who found it looked me up so that he could return it. Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe this says something about the residents of Boston.

Anecdote 3: One of my friends who lives in an apartment in a bit of a shady area (not near MIT) was mugged a few months ago, and was badly beaten up.

Anecdote 4: About a month ago, on a cold rainy night, a city employee made me get off of the subway because I had a bicycle. Never mind that I had already paid, never mind that it was miserable out, never mind that people with strollers and large packages are allowed on – rules are rules. The guy was also a complete jerk to me. I had to sit around for an hour until 7pm, when I was allowed back on (the reason the rule exists is so that during ‘rush hour’ the subway doesn’t get overcrowded). On the brighter side, once the jerk went off duty his coworker let me back in for free since I had already paid once.

Anecdote 5: Yesterday, my boyfriend and I rented a Zipcar. We were way out in Weymouth when the car broke down. The woman whose driveway we ended up in invited us in for tea while we waited for a tow truck to come!

Anecdote 6: One day last year I stumbled upon a giant outdoor dance party, put on by the city to increase community spirit. It was nighttime, and colorful lights lit a crowd of hundred of people, dancing in the street outside of City Hall.

These certainly don’t sum up the whole city, but they can give you an idea of what to expect. Boston is a city, and it can be a little dangerous. On average people are a bit more direct here, which I think is what my librarian had actually picked up on. When they mean “no,” they are more likely to just say “no” than “sorry, I would, but… .” In my experience though, most of the people I’ve interacted with are decent people who are perfectly willing to help a stranger out. Some will even dance with strangers in the street. Really, I think that you get a similar mix of people here as anywhere else: some friendly, some not, some nice to you if you’re nice to them first.

What have other people’s experiences been, coming to Boston for the first time? How are people different here? What other questions are admitted students thinking about? (And by the way, congrats if you got in! Come hang out with us for CPW!)

32 responses to “Are people on the East Coast friendly?”

  1. king says:


    Hi Kim. What are you doing currently? Are you a graduate student?

  2. kimd says:

    Yes, I am a grad student. I’m doing research on speech at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory for my thesis work in Electrical Engineering. I’m also working on a teaching certificate (High School Math).

  3. Anna says:

    Sounds definitely true. However, NYC may be an exception. wink Come to Philly, City of Brotherly Love! Haha But yes. Sounds like you had a really good time. Always fun stories to tell right?

    reCaptcha: are randomly

    Things randomly and spontaneously done usually lead to some sort of adventure. I know since we went on a field trip and on the way home on the train, my friend started up a conversation with this one lady. She pointed out her coworker and after interrogation, turned out he had dated a girl from my school 15 years ago and her mom is our AP Stat teacher and he graduated from the boys school right beside our school. Plus, my friend got a promise of an internship for her freshman year next year from the lady. Win? Yes.

  4. Maria says:

    Please tell me what could be a good SAT score for reasoning test and subject test for international applicant, undergrad admission .please let me know.
    And how can the secondary school reports, teacher evaluation forms be sent online.
    What could be a good 11th class marks to make chances alive.
    can it be 80 percent
    Thank you

  5. kimd says:

    Sorry, but I don’t know any of those answers. I do know that there’s no formula for getting in… admission depends on a lot more than just your test scores. I don’t know if the secondary school reports and teacher evaluation forms can be sent online or not. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

  6. Kristina '14 says:

    Thanks for the post Kim! I’m from Iowa, so it’s nice to read what you’ve experienced. smile

  7. Amethyst says:

    Thanks, Kim! I’m not going to be at MIT this year, but I had been having those same concerns you addressed for quite a while (and my parents, too) because I’m probably going to a school in the Northeast. The city where I live is very warm, open, and relaxed for the most part, so I was kind of apprehensive about the rumored “coldness” of that part of the country. You put some of those fears more to rest…

    ReCaptcha: leader clap smile

  8. shawn '11 says:

    Since I grew up in Florida and have spent almost my whole life on the East Coast, I might just be at a different gauge, but I wouldn’t say people on the East Coast are unfriendly.

    However, my rather limited experience with states out to the west (i.e. New Mexico) is that the people there are so incredibly friendly. Like, I remember being astounded by random strangers striking up conversations with me and how outgoing and warm every random person I walked by seemed–I’d be going for a walk around the city and people would just come up to me and start talking. It was actually really nice. Not sure if this means that people are unfriendly on the East Coast or that people are just incredibly friendly in the midwest, though.

  9. D '14 says:

    So, you get your purse and wallet back after dropping them….and then you get invited for tea! You’re really lucky Kim, especially considering your friend who got mugged. Anyways, thanks for the post.

  10. Paula says:

    I live 25 miles outside of NYC, so that’s what I use as my gauge in measuring friendliness. In my opinion, NYC is much more “every man for himself” than Boston is, or was when I’ve visited. In New York, there are thousands of people passing by you and they each have their own agenda. It’s tough to ask for directions, or have a decent conversation with people in New York, simply because they seem like they’re very determined to get where they’re going.

    I’ve never really been to any other parts of the country, but I have heard from many people that people in the Northeast move a lot faster than people in the South. For example, at restaurants, people hate to wait a long time, whereas in the south, from what I’ve heard, they’re much more patient and take their time doing things.

    I don’t know if my insight helps at all, but nevertheless, I’m so excited to experience the Boston/Cambridge area for myself at CPW! :]

  11. Anonymous says:


    Getting above 700 in all your SAT tests would definitely be a good thing, especially for an international applicant. However, you should not let a few low scores discourage you from applying. The only sure way of knowing whether or not you will get in is applying.

    Personally, I had one very low score (560 in critical reading, to be precise) and also a 680. The other three were well above 700 (very close to 800). I applied this year and got in!

    About the teacher evaluations, I do not think you can send them online. You have to post them to the MIT office of admissions.

    Best of luck to you.

  12. oasis '11 says:

    For people from Asia:

    -Here, the cars actually stop for you when you cross the street.

    -It is NOT appropriate to squeeze onto the T car when it’s jam-packed like you do in the subways in Asia. People will actually squirm and look at you with an evil eye.

    -Never be in a rush to get off the T or the bus. People yell at you for being in too much of a rush.

    -You may have to wait 15 minutes before a train comes, as opposed to 2.

    -Never argue with the police. They are always right, even if they say the sun rises in the west.

  13. J says:

    People in the Midwest aren’t too friendly either. In fact, I think East Coasters have more culture and manners than Midwesterners.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I’m personally not from the east coast but do visit the Boston area once every other summer to see friends and conduct research at various sites.

    Although I love the Cambridge/Boston area for its cultural diversity and college friendly environment, I have to say that I’ve had very unfortunate experiences with many East coasters. I saw a guy stand in the middle of the road once and scream at a guy for driving with dim front car lights. I’ve had police men in the Boston area scream rudely at me, to the point where I’ve started to cry. I’ve made the mistake of getting on the wrong side of the T-line stop when taking the subway, and have had the city employee deny me the right to have a new ticket in order to take the right subway train, even seconds after having paid.

    I actually visited Orlando, Fl and Nashville, TN soon after leaving Boston last summer and was utterly shocked by how kind, warm and welcoming people in the south are compared to northeastern citizens. I’ve also met with several workmates currently in Boston who are originally from the west and southern coast who share a similar opinion. I don’t mean to generalize. I have met wonderful people in the Boston/ Cambridge area, and they’re one of the reasons I always want to return to this city. But it was definitely a big change and I had some adjustments to make myself in order not to take strangers so seriously.

  15. Anonymous says:


  16. City Dweller says:

    As another urban dweller I have to say that people in New York (and probably Boston, Philly and DC too) are not unfriendly at all. We are time challenged, though. It takes us so long to get from one place to another, and often requires all of our concentration to do so competently, that idle chit chat is just tuned out. But if you find yourself in trouble of any kind, New Yorkers (and probably all of the other east coast cities) are the warmest, friendliest and most courageous people you’d ever want to meet. Its just that we could hear so MANY stories in a day, that we don’t feel we need to hear yours too, unless there’s a very good reason to.

  17. Camille '14 says:

    I’m a Midwesterner (what’s round on the sides and high in the middle? OHIO!) but neither I nor my parents were really worried. My parents are not Midwesterners; my father is a Southerner who has gotten used to the North and my mother is from the East Coast. So, y’know, I visit a lot. In my experience, people, overall, are nice in Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, even Paris (Just in case, I do know that’s not on the East Coas;, it’s just often seen as snooty).

    I guess no one will say “Please” when they mean “Could you repeat that?” though. I’ll miss that :( .

  18. MIT student says:

    I study at MIT, am a midwesterner and can tell you that the people on the east coast are very different. They are not generally as open and talking to strangers is strange. This is probably the result of having so many people in one place. I first thought that everyone was very rude, and was really surprised that even MIT students rarely even acknowledge each other in the hallways. This is likely because they’re often very stressed.

    But you get used to the standoffish and sometimes annoyingly ambivalent attitudes of east coasters. Even if you feel out of place as a midwesterner at first, there are many pros to being in such a grand and diverse place. I personally love it!

  19. Kiwi says:

    Are from Cincinnati?
    And no one will no what buckeyes are (the candy or the nut). That made me very sad:-(

  20. MIT '11 says:

    I suspect that a large portion (majority, even) of MIT students aren’t east-coasters.

  21. Decree'12 says:

    I’m a Massachusetts native at MIT and I’d say I’m pretty nice raspberry

  22. genius ('18) says:

    Totally right! As someone who lives around MIT, I can tell you this is completely true. While people aren’t as totally open as soon as you meet them, as in other parts of the country, people are 99% of the time very nice, and always helpful. As with every city in the world, it’s best not to go to the “shadier” neighborhoods of Boston, for that is really where all the bad things happen. As long as you avoid those areas (of which there really are very few-maybe 3-ish around boston), everything is nice.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Brought our horses up for pony rides a few months ago and everyone on EC greeted us with smiles and did everything they could to make us and the horses as comfortable as possible. Seemed pretty friendly to me.

  24. Nasser '18 ? says:

    I’m from Trinidad (Caribbean)and I have visited Boston several times last year and in my encounters with Bostonians have always found them to be pleasaant and very helpful.

  25. Amethyst says:

    Living in San Antonio, I can honestly say that the people here are some of the warmest in the country…first thing you notice as you get off the plane is that everyone in the airport is smiling and laughing and joking, asking you questions about your trip, kids, etc. There are murals on the walls, and the staff are all wearing Western gear, lol. Very different from being in the airport at Frankfurt or Heathrow or Atlanta!! Sure, there are some bad neighborhoods, but those can be avoided. To tell the truth, the garrulousness (did I spell that right?) and extrovertedness can be a bit annoying sometimes, especially when you’re trying to walk down the hallway/sidewalk and everyone is chatting in slow-moving huddles raspberry But it is nice. And as for the privacy factor–it is quite common for strangers to strike up 45 minute long conversations in Starbucks here…

    Definitely one of the most unique places I have ever lived smile Everyone come visit!

  26. Anonymous says:

    My daughter goes to school in Philadelphia–we are from Michigan. She has found the people at her school (a lot from N.J., Boston, Maryland, etc.) extremely friendly. The non-student people have also been friendly. The only difference is that people are often more “direct.” As someone earlier said, they won’t say “No, thank you.” They’ll just say, “No.” Like they are in a hurry to get on to the next thing they need to do. One day getting off a plane in Phila she had to take a shuttle bus to the train station. She was having trouble w/all her luggage (2 suitcases & a backpack). A man jumped up and carried it onto the bus, then got out at the train station with her, asked her what train she needed to catch, and carried her luggage all the way to the platform for her (and didn’t even ask for her #). The only rude people I’ve encountered work for the NYC subway system.

    ReCaptcha: inaction that !

  27. 10765 says:

    I’ve lived in Maine my whole life and find that people here are quieter than Southerns and West Coast Peoples. However almost everyone in New England will help you out if you need a hand. However people used to smiles all around and conversation with strangers will be surprised. My theory is that, since it is colder in New England, people talk less and move faster, trying to get to their heated destinations. The cold also makes New Englanders help others so that they too can escape the chill.
    The people here are wicked good if you get to know them.

  28. Sophie says:

    I am an incoming freshman from Nashville, TN, a city full of extra-friendly people. Whenever you ask people from out of town what they think of Nashville, nine times out of ten the first thing they comment on is the friendliness of the people. So first of all, I just want to say thank you for writing this post because I’ve been a little apprehensive about culture shock when I move to Boston. Second, if there are any MIT students from the South reading this, what are your impressions of the shift from South to Northeast? The good and the bad? (There are some things about the south I’ll be happy to leave behind, I’m sure.)