New England Hospitality…An Oxymoron?

May 12, 2008

Recently I was travelling in California for business when I was called out for having, “…a rather New York sounding accent.”  Having spent my entire 27 years of life in New England, I’m sure I have picked up more than a few regional idioms to accompany my love of coffee milk, johnnycakes, lighthouses and quahogs. After I corrected the accuser (who was from Oregon) as to my state of origin, an interesting conversation about New Englanders and why they are less hospitable than people from other parts of the country ensued.

It has been pretty well documented that New Englanders tend to be surlier and a little less neighborly than their fellow Americans, even resulting in the moniker “the cranky yankee.” While this is a broad generalization of a diverse and cultured group, I can’t resist sharing my thoughts on why New Englanders don’t care about you or your stupid hospitality. 

Historically speaking, New England has strong Puritanical roots, which means eternal damnation for everything from wearing your knickers too low to cursing when your neighbors Clydesdale leaves a steaming pile on your front lawn. While living a sin-free life is like soooo 1500’s, the underlying ideology still exists contributing to a general doom and gloom mentality.

Another contributing factor is that we simply dislike any new neighbors. I believe this is the case because so many New Englanders have lived in the same home/hometown for generations so a new neighbor generally means one of three things:

A.) Property was just built so new neighbors are now obstructing what used to be a nice view

B.) Newcomers are replacing older, beloved neighbors whom used to bring me fresh strawberries in the summer

C.) Neighbors have teenagers who will undoubtedly contribute to downfall of the community


The third and most noticeable attribute of New Englanders is their lack of interest in exchanging pleasantries or making any sort of small talk. Sure, you can visit a B&B or local antique shop to enjoy some local folklore and chat about the weather, but I’m talking about gas stations, convenience stores and other bastions of everyday necessity that dot our great region. New Englanders simply don’t care if you’ve never seen snow, can’t tell a littleneck from a quahog or don’t know how to get to the Cape.  


Despite a rich tradition of crankiness, New England seems to be mending its surly ways. An unscientific poll of five people from five non-New England states resulted in each one recounting a positive overall New England vacation experience from the past three years. While it’s surprising that New Englanders haven’t lived down to their expectations, there is a popular bumper sticker that summarizes how most New Englanders feel about hospitality. It reads, “Welcome to Newport…Now Spend your Money and Go Home!”