This is pretty typical for Austin, and it’s generally what’s referred to as “Texas friendly.” Strangers walk up to each other and start talking about random topics on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s merely the weather, but other times there is a bit more to it. As an introvert, I’ve had to learn how to strike up small talk conversation with people I don’t know. After getting over the initial years of fear of doing it, now I find it quite easy to talk to people whom I’ve never met before at the grocery store or farmers’ markets or pretty much anywhere else. It wasn’t like this where I grew up in Missouri, but it was something I really came to like about Texas as an undergraduate.
After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I left Austin to pursue my master’s degree at Boston College, but I missed Austin terribly from the start. Boston was beautiful and I greatly preferred the cooler weather up there, but generally the culture is much more inhibited. People aren’t intentionally mean, but they can seem rude if you aren’t used to the ways that they interact. It’s nothing like Texas friendly.
After six weeks of living in Boston, I flew to Houston to visit my fiancé. He didn’t have a car, so I had to take the bus from the airport to his college dorm. While waiting for the bus, I asked a jovial middle-aged man standing next to me if the fare was still 85 cents. He replied that it was, and then he quickly pulled out a bunch of change and asked me if I needed some. I thanked him and told him I had the fare; I just hadn’t been in Houston in several months and I wanted to make sure the rates hadn’t changed so I didn’t hold up the line when I was getting on.
Back in Boston several months later, I was riding on the T, the (partially above ground) subway system. I was sitting at front of the train to minimize my motion sickness. A business man dressed in a suit got on and was short 25 cents for the fare. So I opened my wallet and handed him a quarter. He looked at me like I was an alien. Once he paid, he thanked to me demurely. I let him know that it was only a quarter, and it was no big deal (even for me as a grad student!). Still, you could tell that he was flabbergasted by a stranger reaching out and paying even that amount of the fare for him.
Given that I moved back to Austin after only nine months in Boston and completed my master’s degree long distance, I definitely prefer the Texas friendly attitude. It can really make my day to have even a few sentences of polite chatting with a complete stranger as it did on Thursday when that other woman shared her smile and her happiness with me. While there are a great number of things about Texas I truly despise, the general friendliness is not one of them.
© 2014 Green Heart Guidance