Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lehigh Valley natives: on the whole, nice, but not friendly

Since moving here in 2006, I have held the belief that Lehigh Valley natives are nice, but not friendly.

True, there are exceptions. The friends who go above and beyond, the neighbors who are now like extended family members, the co-workers who show they truly care. And also - the guy who took the time to roll down his window and lecture me about how stupid I was for letting people go at an intersection (where I would have sat at a red light and they would have waited forever), and another guy who verbally assaulted me for "nearly killing him" when he and his wife stepped into my path in a parking garage without looking. (BTW, the wife looked mortified and I felt worse for her than I did for myself). There's no knowing whether those two men - I won't call them gentlemen  because they didn't behave like gentlemen - are natives or transplants. But I would be willing to bet that most people who have lived anywhere with real traffic problems would not get so bent out of shape.

I digress. Recently my nice-not-friendly belief was reinforced when my 92-year-old grandmother moved from the senior community where she lived in New Jersey to an assisted living community here in the Valley. When I asked her what she thought of the place, she seemed pleased with the staff and the facility, but remarked that although people say hello in the hallway and make a little small talk at the dinner table, not one person has reached out in a friendly way to make her feel welcome.

It made me sad, since she's "the new kid" and is still figuring out how things work there. Maybe they all think someone else will be her friend. Maybe they think she's weird since she's not from here. Or maybe, more likely, they don't think about it at all. I think that's the case with many natives. They have their friends and family close by. Work, school, church, soccer, birthday parties, repeat. No room or real need for new friends who don't fit in their tightly knit circle. And when you're 92 or thereabouts, I guess you have a network so deep you don't even notice the new kid.

Natives, what do you think? Transplants, what's your experience been?


  1. I'll agree with that. There's an impression I got when living in the LV that folks already had their friend groups established and weren't really looking to expand them.

    Once I tried to chat up a fellow lady at the gym before an exercise class started--she was nice to me and helped me get set up with my weights when I was new to the class the week before; but on second befriending attempt, she iced me out. Womp, womp.

  2. Anonymous1/17/2013

    Unfortunately, I'm right there with you. I moved here from California thinking everyone would be welcoming and pleasant. But, I now call it having a case of the "Bethlehem Bitters". I'm so disappointed with how unfriendly this area is.
    I do agree there are exceptions, but I've gone out of my way to simply smile at people...and rarely get a smile in return.
    Once at a grocery store, I smiled at an elderly woman behind me in line. She proceeded to yell at me, exclaiming to not laugh at her, and I'll be old like her someday. I went home and cried. I know I should grow tougher skin, but honestly, was that necessary?
    I refuse to become one of these grumpy-bitters. I will continue my experiment of smiling at everyone I pass. Get over it!

  3. Anonymous1/25/2013

    When I first came here in the 1980s, people struck me as closed and grim. Perhaps I've gotten used to it, or perhaps it takes that long for people to acknowledge you as belonging, but I do think people are way friendlier than they used to be. The obvious Jersey transplants are the friendliest of all, though.

  4. Anonymous1/25/2013

    OK, I'll speak up for the natives. I moved to the valley from New York many years ago, so I'm technically a transplant, but feel like a native now. The recent influx of transplants from NY and NJ has overwhelmed the area and disrupted what was a very tranquil lifestyle, transforming beautiful farmland into ugly housing developments, overtaxing the infrastructure, and crowding the roads and stores with people who are much ruder, louder and more impatient than what we were accustomed to. So please excuse us while we adjust to the feeling of violation. I realize that those who read this blog, and specifically those who responded to this post, are NOT the ones who have created the problem, but we are sensitive and on guard. Perhaps bitter is not an unreasonable characterization.

  5. Isn't it basically just how life is everywhere now? I'm in FL now I've been here ten years and it feels that way for me here to. But I've known that I really didn't want to put down roots here so I haven't really tried either. I'm looking at Lehigh Valley now and know that when I get there (if that's where I decide on) that I will plug into local groups where I have an interest through things like Meet Up.

  6. Anonymous5/10/2013

    As a long time resident, I must truly second the thoughts of Anonymous 1/25/2013.

    Further, I have to add two thoughts. One is that I have found in general that PA people are very boundary conscious, respectful, and it can seem cold. (I think that boundary respect is a large part of the issue with newbies, particularly Latinos who have less such concern and move into your personal space in a friendly way but can feel like a violation.) But on the old locals, while they are slow to warm up, they also become the people you can call when your car dies at 4 in the morning. To me, that's a real friend.

    Also must agree with David 2/06/2013. When I moved to California some years ago, I ran into the same thing he cites, and did not expect it in sunny friendly Cali... what I found was people who had an instant, kind of false intimacy, who would share life stories within 5 minutes of meeting you, but were never around if your car died at 4 in the morning.