I hear so many visitors say that New Yorkers are unfriendly. I remember reading one particularly resonant (but stupid) comment: “New Yorkers are so unfriendly—they don’t even look at each other on the street!” Really? So you’re unfriendly if you don’t look up at everyone who passes by?
I grew up in Seoul, South Korea, a suburb of D.C., and Central Jersey before moving to New York City for college. (I consider the Jersey suburb my hometown.) I didn’t find the city or its people overwhelming or off-putting at all, but then again, i did grow up in a fairly large and developed suburb. On the contrary, i actually found New Yorkers to be much friendlier than Jerseyans. I found myself in many an argument with those who complained about the unfriendliness of New Yorkers.
In the end, it comes down to this: it’s a matter of privacy, not friendliness. New Yorkers, like all inhabitants of big cities, work hard to stay inside their individual bubbles. Everyone is constantly bumping into one another, but they’re all encapsulated in their own dedicated bubbles, so they bounce right off of one another and keep on truckin’ along. But once the bubble is broken—and they do break, whether by accident or purpose—they’re the same human beings as all the other human beings in the world. (For a similar take on this, read these excerpts from E. B. White’s Here is New York.) We need those bubbles; otherwise, we’d all go crazy from the constant contact and interaction! We’re already overstimulated.