I lived in the United Kingdom for almost a decade starting the beginning of the 21st century. In the first few years of the century, I worked and lived in a small town called Bristol.
I would rate Bristol as one of the best cities I lived in. People were warm and friendly not only at a social level, but also at work. I always believed people being kind to you at work is the most important aspect of your life, for your mental well being because you spend at least 9-10 hours with them.
I had planned a trip to Paris on my wife’s birthday and this was just 6 months after my marriage.
My manager was a regular tourist to Paris. So, I asked him what it was like to be in Paris. He replied that he absolutely loved the city.
And the people ?
I was surprised when my manager responded that ‘You might find the people little rude, just like in London because it is a big city.’. This may well have been a very subtle observation which most people don’t notice, especially if you are visiting the city as a tourist.
Also, since I lived in a fast paced city, Mumbai, for over 3 decades, where being rude is the norm, I did not notice much difference in the way people behaved in either London or Paris.
However, at work though, I noticed a huge difference between Bristol and London. My employer both in London and Bristol were in similar industry – telecoms. The difference was in the work culture and a significant one.
The company in Bristol was more relaxed, laid-back and a more friendly atmosphere to all employees, where the company in London was fast paced but very toxic and a blame culture. This could well just be a co-incidence, but I strongly believe that work culture has got a lot to do with, whether the location of work is city based or in small towns. I am not sure if there was any research ever carried out on these lines.
The difference in people’s behavior may not be work related at all. People who live in big cities have to travel through heavy traffic, or experience delays in public transport systems – delays in London tube is very common. Whereas, in small towns, you can get from point A to B without much problem.
Also, cities develop as cities because people are very ambitious, work long hours and hence the stress is bound to show.
It is no surprise then that people want to get away from cities over the weekend.
So I guess, people are not rude, they may be indifferent. Busy, fast paced life leaves no time for a social or a polite conversation.
Another reason could be that human brain does not like clutter. Just like at home, we tend to get irritated when things are not in place or sometimes even too many furniture at home can make you irritable, city life has too many clutter too.
Traffic, people, billboards – they all make a difference to human brain and how we behave as there is lot of information to digest.
I guess the price you pay for a better life in cities is that you live a stressed life.
It is no wonder that people who live far away from cities and enjoy the beauty of nature are the most peaceful souls on earth.