I came across this interesting discussion on "City-Data-Forum" about Bostonians. The weight of opinion there seems to be that Bostonians tend to be more aloof than in other places, with some debate over whether aloof and rude go together. (I think not.)
I've blogged before once or twice about how I'm not a big Boston fan, but I do think over-generalization is problematic. Lots of Bostonians are friendly, lots are rude, lots are aloof, lots are cold, and lots overlaps one or more of these non-exclusive categories. And I doubt the proportions are that different from any other major city. Maybe a slightly higher "aloof" score.
But having lived in a number of cities (and spent time visiting the big "City"), I propose the following two indexes.
First, the "Chit Chat Index": How bizarre will a clerk in a chain store think you are if you make small talk about weather while buying an umbrella? And how much will the clerk engage in the small talk?
From lowest to highest, in my experience:
Boston: Clerk's facial expression seems similar to what it might be if you had just suggested that you move into his/her house. Clerk does not speak.
Washington: Clerk registers no facial expression but responds with a conventional pleasantry.
Philadelphia: Clerk chats amiably about rain.
Pittsburgh: Clerk tells you all about rainstorms experienced since 1997 and invites you over for dinner. (Ok that last one is an exaggeration.)
Second, the "Subway Door Index": How easily can you exit a subway car? Will passengers wishing to board the train step aside to let you off? (Here I exclude Pittsburgh--never having ridden the T here--and include New York as a major locus of subway riding.)
From easiest to exit to hardest to exit, in my experience:
Philadelphia: Not enough people trying to get on to make a difference.
Washington: The people will respectfully stand aside, lined up as a "V" on either side of the door. (I am told this is changing due to increasing ridership on the Metro and the increasing partisan rancor of the Bush years.)
New York: A lot of people on the platform, but a narrow path will open.
Boston, most stops: A solid wall of people--each giving a blank stare as you try to figure out between which two people you might escape.
Boston, Park Street, rush hour: A solid wall of people will begin pushing onto the train as soon as the door opens. This is really why Charlie couldn't get off the MTA.