Sunday, February 25, 2007

I'm no de Tocqueville

West Coasters are fun but flakey. East Coasters are dependable but insecure.

Gross generalizations? Yup. Lumping L.A.ers with Seattlites? Heh, yes. Northwest and East Coast bias? Pretty much. Bound to irritate you? I SURE HOPE SO!! But I'm on to something here. And since I'm talking about gross generalizations, please forgive me in advance for the excessive use of "tend", "can", "prone to", "a tendency to", "seem more inclined", "demonstrate a proclivity toward", "can be generalized as", and "should be rounded up and launched in to the sun". So yes, I KNOW, I have a VERY SKEWED view of both coasts and my GENERALIZATIONS SHOULDN'T BE APPLIED TO ANYONE, unless they happen to live in one of the affected areas in which case they should suck it up.

So, why risk offending my six precious readers? I'm looking for feedback. I always like to hear what you think, mostly so I can tell you how fucking wrong you are. Or, delictably, vice versa. Or, best possible result, I start a war of escalating comments that tragically ends outside a Las Vegas casino.

  • East Coasters tend to be an economically, ethnically, and politically diverse group. Politically they represent the entire political spectrum, though they tend to group by rural, suburban, and urban geography, shading from the conservative rural areas to the liberal urban areas.
  • They're more willing to raise the "bullshit flag" and be confrontational. East Coasters are more prone to honk.
  • East Coasters tend to be more formal and serious in their interactions, but are more likely to be able to cope with personal crises.
  • If you invite an East Coaster to dinner, they're more likely to be on time and wearing something "decent". They might secretly pick apart your decor, however.
  • Ethnically they are El Salvadoran, Vietnamese, Eritrean, Ethiopean, Iranian, white, Jamaican, Mexican, black, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, and Afghani.
  • East Coasters are more likely to be church-goers, or at least more prone to feeling some guilt around religious holidays. And a note about guilt: it's more likely to be used, consciously or unconsciously, in every-day interactions.
  • East Coasters are more likely to be "financially responsible", chasing jobs and conscientiously investing their money.
  • When greeting a customer with "hey, how's it going?", a server or retail slave leaves the question mark off the end.
  • If I could use a phrase to sum East Coasters up, it would be "Do your best". Why? It captures a lot of the drive to be competitive and successful while also hinting at the insecurity driving that attitude--you could get hit at any time so view the world with at least a tinge of Machiavellianism.

  • West Coasters tend to be more individualistic and accepting of alternate lifestyles. Politically there is a tendency towards liberalism, though die-hard conservatives can be found anywhere. A common libertarian thread runs through the political fabric--no one trusts the government.
  • They're more willing to accept you at face value and be unabashadely open about their personal lives. West Coasters are more prone to casually swear.
  • West Coasters tend to be informal and casual in their interactions, but are less likely to be able to cope with personal crises.
  • If you invite a West Coaster to dinner, they're more likely to be late and wearing some "casual". They'll be focused on wringing every ounce of fun out of the evening, however.
  • Ethnically they are white, white, white, white, white, white, Mexican, and white.
  • West Coasters are less likely to be church-goers but more likely to define their beliefs as "spiritual". And a note about guilt: uh, they've heard of the definition before but ... guilt? Why would you make someone feel guilty, man?
  • West Coasters are more likely to view money as a simple thing, something to be used for lifestyle or fun--"easy come, easy go".
  • When greeting a customer with "hey, how's it going?", a barista or server is likely to really mean it and engage in a conversation.
  • If I could use a phrase to sum West Coasters up, it would be "Live in the moment". Why? It captures a lot of the openness and carefree fun while also hinting at the flakiness--personal accountability isn't so important if you're constantly living in the moment.
It's a little tough to make comparisons from my limited exposure. DC had the distinction of being filled with transplants whose egos matched their ambitions to be an aide for one of the gazillion Important People cycling in and out of power. Eugene has the distinction of getting nearby towns high when the wind shifts. Both are extremes in their own right. But my experiences in the East Coast weren't confined to the DC area or people born-and-bred there; and the same here in Eugene. God knows I've run in to ignorant bastards everywhere.

On that note, I get a seriously perverse thrill out of shutting people down when discussion turns to the East Coast. The elitism here in the Northwest empowers lots of people to make bold pronouncements about the arrogant, moneyed, close-minded Easterners--but they suddenly become very cautious when they realize they're around a native. This brings no small amount of satisfaction to my life, like the desert Tarantula waiting in his burrow for unsuspecting Prius-driving beer/coffee elitists to stroll by, whereupon it darts out like hairy lightning and sinks its rhetorical pincers in. ("So how long did you live on the East Coast for? Oh, you didn't? Ever? So how do you know what it's like?" Oops, did you just let an East Coaster make you look like one of those close-minded arrogant assholes you were just railing against? Fuckhead?)

But pointing out hypocrisy is one thing; choosing a place to live is another. I'll admit to some exasperation with West Coasters. And it's fair to ask, "So Warren, if you don't like it here, when are you leaving?" That's a toughie. Truth be told, I'm a big syrupy romantic at heart. The American West is an incredibly special place and when I'm traveling or hiking in it I can't help but crack a big shit-eating grin. At the same time, I've found it refreshing to be around people who truly appreciate the smalls things in to day-to-day life. Lifestyle is no small matter. Many transplants would agree, I think.

I'm curious about the upper Midwest. Good people, a bit lefty, outdoors-oriented ... flat, brutally cold, and insular. Dammit.

Maybe I should tend this garden. Though I keep hearing good things about Utah. And Norway.


Blogger tortaluga said...

first, my credentials: born and raised on the east coast (seventeen in suburbia, eight in big northeast city), five years in the pac nw. now then, time to be a close minded arrogant asshole.

my sweeping generalization about east coasters (and really i would just say about northeasterners) is they are possessed with a consuming sense of self-importance. they know best, they are doing Important Things, and they don't have much time for leisure, and even less time for you.

whereas northwesterners don't feel that the world turns on the work they do.

so overall i live out here, because i like to be surrounded by people who make time for fun and enjoyment, and for helping each other out. but i'll never stop missing the (usually delusional) sense that everyone is really, truly up to Big Things.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Waan said...

B, you've got mad street cred--stronger than mine in fact, though I think nine years in Burke, VA is about as hideously suburban as one can get.

I've been away from the East Coast long enough to appreciate the things I left behind, but I still remember why I left (and the occasional trip back East is always full of healthy reminders for both). However, I've come to realize what I don't like here. The hole in my soul was filled but another appeared.

The overemphasis on Good Times is tiring. No, really. When you hear a new person described, the highest compliment is "fun" not "good"--as in "yeah, she's really great, a really fun person". The content of one's character is de-emphasized: if you make me feel good, you rate highly. People here are a bit more self-centered but not in a malicious way ... it's more like heads in the clouds. The priorities are different and in that respect I'm more East than West.

Basically it's a fundamental argument between my lifestyle and values. My warm center of Self is just so darned happy driving around and going to the mountains and wondering at the empty landscapes and cutting my own course. But I don't have many opportunities to share it, you know? I've had a hard time finding people I can relate to, whose advice I not only trust but seek out, whose opinions are worth a damn. I get a sense it's not just Eugene.

But damn, dancing at 80s Night? So fun.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous mijoy said...

I don't agree with your assessment of Easterners at all.

However, I will say now that I'm all dressed in my formal work attire at 7:30 in the morning and about to leave for my Important Job at my Important Place of Work, I somehow now feel less important. Thanks a lot, you jerk! I'm sure I'll feel guilty about calling you a jerk, but I'll repent for it in my multi-cultural church on Sunday.


5:52 AM  
Blogger Mr. Nutty said...

The difference between East Coasters to West Coasters is something I've been keenly aware of for the past several years. I've spent my entire life living on the east coast, but I have a lot of family and friends in the Seattle and SF Bay areas. Clearly, this makes me an expert in the field.

The biggest thing that has always summed up the difference for me is that in the East, all my friends have always called their friends' parents "Mr. and Mrs. so and so," whereas on the West Coast, parents are always "Jean and Mike" or "Jim and Susan." Until very recently I wouldn't have ever referred to my friends' parents by their first names. Even now there are only very few that I will do that for. But every time I went to Seattle to visit my cousins, I called all their friends' parents by their first names. Even if they were people I had just met. And everyone was totally cool with it.

I think another distinction to be made comes with attitudes toward work. On the East Coast, people tend more to "live to work" whereas out west, they "work to live." East Coasters talk/complain/define themselves by their work much more than they do out West in my experience. I always sort of look at my aunt and uncle as living this fantasy life where they're always flying somewhere to play golf, or spending the weekend in the San Juans on their boat. They do that because my uncle owns a company and works his ass off, but he never talks about it. If they were East Coast people, he'd probably never take the time to do any of those things he enjoys, and every conversation he had outside of work would be about work.

So yes, living on the East Coast, I guess I am more likely to die of a heart attack from stress at a younger age, but at least I'll go to my grave knowing that I'm not a dirty West Coast hippie.

And on that note, I'm off to spend a week in Texas.

6:00 AM  
Blogger Waan said...

Rear Adm. Nutty, if you ever become a dirty hippie I'll quickly repent my sins and prepare for the coming Apocalypse. It'd be proof that God has a great sense of humor.

I absolutely agree with your observations. I'm still weirded out that my mineralogy professor is Dana instead of Dr. Johnston. It's everywhere. Also, you're much MUCH more likely out here to meet someone named Tree or Spirit (or both). I still haven't quite gotten used to it.

And the work-to-live description is perfect. Come summer it's a given that about a fifth of anyone's staff is going to be gone at any one time. A cardinal rule where I work is that vacation time is virtually sacred--regardless of deadlines, meetings, conferences, etc. That said, I think there is a greater proportion of people here who manage to mix jobs they love with recreation fanaticism--e.g. the rock-climbing CEO of your average dotcom who trains for triathalons during lunch.

It's not that one or the other doesn't exist on either coast--it's that one or the other is more likely to exist on either coast. I wonder how the average Texan would compare ...

2:07 AM  

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