Tag Archives: urban

Am I Turning Country??

I seriously wanted to throw something at him.  He was my age, beyond pompous and spoke in the most affected, patronizing tone imaginable.  Worse yet, he was the keynote speaker for the seminar. I was stuck where I was sitting and could not get up.   I could not believe how irritated I was becoming.  It was something about his totally artificial, urban style and the way it came across in the mountain town in which I work (and attend conferences).  The two simply did not mesh.

The yuppie finally sat down and up stood the next speaker – same thing… urban condescension cloaked in sugary garble for another 10 minutes.  I was beside myself.  The abuse continued for most of the evening with one or two exceptions in the lineup of speakers.  I was seething.  The whiplash from the reverse culture shock (I am a former city-dweller who moved to the country) was intense.  Three years ago I had been that first speaker.

It’s amazing how environment changes you.  You notice the externals first.  When I moved from Los Angeles to rural Northern California there were a few things I picked up right away.  In LA you wanted to look richer than you were – you drove a nicer car than you should and dressed to the hilt.  Norcal (Butte County, to be specific) was a whole different story.  If you had money, you hid it by driving beat up trucks and dressing Kmart.  More than that was different.  People talked more slowly, never honked and invited you to go shooting in the woods.  I got invited to NRA events.  My wife and I went to a Professional Bull Riding (PBR) show and THOUSANDS of people turned up.  We’d never heard of it before.  All of this gradually changes you I guess.

Back to the presenters pissing me off.  The next morning I burst into the office, ranting about how those Sacramento and Reno presenters were clueless and didn’t know their audience.  My colleagues were amused.  One finally offered, “Yeah Bjorn, you’ve gotten a lot better over the years.”  They were really enjoying the irony of this former urbanite ranting about his own.  What goes around comes around.

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Bjorn Karlman

bring.BUDDY – video cheese and potential logistical genius

The Moving Problem

I stumbled across an idea I thought was potential genius recently. It’s called bring.BUDDY and its the love child of a student team at the School of Design Thinking, Potsdam and the DHL Innovation Center. The idea is to harness commuters in transporting packages from location to location in future metropolitan areas where energy is expensive, emissions have to be cut and car access has to be kept to a minimum.

A Green Way to Fix It

The commute routes of a web of urbanites is analyzed and participants in the program are given parcels that need delivery to destinations that fall along their daily routes.  This eliminates some of the need for delivery vans and is a more organic way for parcels to travel through a city with individual commuters.  The video makes things cheerfully clear:)  Perks for the participants include creative forms of credit such as public transport credit and the fun of competition with others taking part in the experiment.

An Imperfect Yet Buzz-Worthy Solution

Obviously there are some trust and reliability issues to work out here  but the concept should not be written off just because it has kinks.  The idea’s creators would like to target “Especially cities like Copenhagen or London where administrations are actively trying to change the behaviour and attitude of their citizens towards transportation and mobility. Initial target users of bring.BUDDY are generally young, creative, internet savvy urbanites who want to be part of a social change and want to start it locally.”

An Example to Follow

As much as I like they idea behind bring.BUDDY, what I appreciate even more is the focus on innovation for savvy do-gooding.  The options to achieve positive, noteworthy things are limitless when we are able to challenge assumptions and re-think processes.

Bjorn Karlman

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Rudest Cities on the Planet

Angry driver with dollar bills.
Rude in any language: Moneygrubbing taxi drivers

Get any two world travelers bored enough and they’ll start trading war stories about the rudest cities they’ve ever visited.  This, of course, is a classic exercise in one-upmanship. The first guy will make his obligatory point about the obnoxious Parisian shop keeper he met: “he spoke English perfectly but wouldn’t help me.”

The fellow traveler will counter with some horror story about being cut off right by the turnstiles for the Hong Kong MTR  (Mass Transit Railway), getting elbowed while boarding her train and then pickpocketed – all on a simple two-stop trip to Kowloon Station to catch her airport connection: “They even stole my ticket!!”  The back and forth can continue for huge stretches of time.

I wanted to get past the hearsay and the anecdotes so I was intrigued when I came across a Reader’s Digest (Canada) article titled “How Polite Are We?”. Reader’s Digest tested people’s politeness by sending undercover reporters, 50% men, 50% women into 36 cities for the following three tests:

“• We walked into public buildings 20 times behind people to see if they would hold the door open for us.

• We bought small items from 20 stores and recorded whether the sales assistants said thank you.

• We dropped a folder full of papers in 20 busy locations to see if anyone would help pick them up.”

A full scientific test was not attempted by the study but it was the largest of its kind ever attempted. Every positive outcome was awarded a point and negative outcomes got no points.  A city could score a maximum of 60 points.  Here were the five lowest scoring cities:

[TABLE=2]

Reporters had stories to illustrate rudeness in the low-scoring cities.  In Mumbai:  “When our female reporter bought a pair of plastic hair clips at a convenience store, sales assistant Shivlal Kumavat turned his back on her as soon as she had paid. Asked why, the 31-year-old was unapologetic. ‘Madam, I am not an educated guy. I hand goods over to the customers, and that’s it.’ ”

“When an affluent-looking lady in her 40s failed to hold a door in Moscow’s Prospekt Vernadskogo, she chided us: ‘I’m not a doorman. It’s not my job to hold doors. If someone gets hurt, they should be quicker on their feet.’ ”

There were, of course, other stories, but even more interesting were the top scorers:

[TABLE=3]

Looking suspect yet?  I would suggest that the rationale behind this survey is the same that leads to tourists thinking that a city is rude and obnoxious:  a foreign set of cultural expectations are applied to the local scene to determine politeness.  Case in point: the door-holding test is unreliable as there are parts of the world, particularly parts of Asia, where holding the door for others is not necessarily considered a sign of politeness.  It is no surprise then, that Western cities like New York and Toronto scored highly and cities like Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur fared far worse.

Want to have positive experience in a new city?  Do your homework and know what to expect. Just because your own cultural niceties are not commonplace doesn’t mean that people are intentionally being rude to you.  So take courage, hop on the subway and throw some elbows.

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Bjorn Karlman