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Things people say that mean “I’m from the suburbs”

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Nice and clean and empty.
Photo from pasa47 on flickr.

Every once in a while someone tells me they like a particular city because it’s “very clean.” When that happens, what I really hear that person saying is “I judge cities by suburban standards.”

Cities are inherently messy places, and the best ones, with the most vitality, are often the messiest. If a city is too clean then it’s just an office park.

Of course, vitality means messy in the sense of being busy, which is different than messy in the sense of being dirty. But how bad do litter and grime have to become before they overwhelm one’s enjoyment of a place? Worse than in most cities, I think. Litter stinks, but a newspaper on the floor doesn’t make me want to leave the Smithsonian.

So when someone talks a lot about the cleanliness of a city, it leads me to assume they don’t spend much time in cities. That’s OK, of course. Not everyone can, nor should, nor needs to. But this is a blog about cities, and how people perceive them matters.

And being the Judgy McJudgerson urban elitist I am, that’s not the only common phrase that elicits the same reaction. Here are some more:

  • “Where do you park?”
  • “Traffic must be awful.”
  • “Do you know about froyo?”
  • “Traffic circles are so annoying!”
  • “It’s a big city with a small town character.”
  • “I can’t believe there’s no Walmart there.”

Got any others?

PS: In defense of those who think their strip mall’s froyo shop is unique, I suspect suburbanites think my views on lawn care are dubious at best.

June 27th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: in general

  • Ted

    When somebody says, “being the Judgy McJudgerson urban elitist I am”…they probably started out in the burbs at some point in their life.

    • BeyondDC

      Guilty as charged. ;-)

    • spookiness

      Recent converts are always the most zealous.

  • TJ

    u201cItu2019s a big city with a small town character.u201dnnnI’m a farm girl living in the middle of the city, and I feel that way about my neighborhood. Everything else is spot on, though.

  • Josh K

    But traffic circles ARE annoying. As a pedestrian, they add like a half mile to your trip if you walk their circumference. I always walked to avoid them entirely, if I could.

    • Craig Jones

      Traffic circles are annoying mainly because there is NO consistency regarding the right of way here in America. New England says incoming traffic has the right of way while here it’s in circle traffic that has it. No wonder pedestrians are confused. ALL circles (and some do) should announce the right of way at each entrance. But nevertheless – Josh K. is correct. They are dangerous to pedestrians.

      • http://stopandmove.blogspot.com/ Jass

        New England does not in fact say incoming traffic has the right of way…..ever.

  • WillisQ

    I don’t really get the froyo one. There are like 5,000 froyo shops in SF, and they’ve been here since before they carpeted every burb.

    • BeyondDC

      That’s the point. Froyo is so ubiquitous. If you are just now becoming aware of it, odds are you’re not in a city very often.

      • WillisQ

        Ok, I suppose. To me it sounds more like something some of the more pretentious SF folks would say to suburbanites though to mock how far behind the times they must be, “Do they even have froyo there?” :)

  • Mom

    I live in a fairly close in suburb of DC (North Bethesda) and I find that my neighbors rarely walk anywhere and drive downtown (even tho they have no clue how to drive around DC nor how to parallel park) to go the museums etc if they even go into DC at all. The suburbs are utopia for them; for me it’s purgatory. I am just here because of the public school education although I am sure there are DC public elementary schools that are as good as my kids elementary school. Not to mention more diverse. The elementary schools in this part of Montgomery County are majority white with a few international kids who fall into the same socioeconomic background.

  • Haile Unlikely

    Commenting on the cleanliness or dirtiness of a city does not imply that a person is from the suburbs and is judging cities by suburban standards. Cities vary widely in terms of cleanliness. The two places where I spend the most time are DC and Philadelphia. Most of DC is much much cleaner than most of Philadelphia. When I’m in DC, I appreciate that. When I’m in Philly, I wonder what the heck their problem is.

    • http://stopandmove.blogspot.com/ Jass

      You should try visiting queens. Its like walking through a junk yard

  • lucre

    “It’s about ten minutes away” without specifying mode typically implies that both the speaker and the subject are more suburban than I’m altogether comfortable with.

  • mnibley

    This is not a universal truth. I recently visited Barcelona, one of the world’s greatest cities. It was as clean as any suburb I’ve ever seen.

    • derleider

      I agree about dirtiness.nnI’ve lived in dirty suburbs (Edison NJ) and cities (Baltimore)nnSome cities are just surprisingly clean, without giving up anything else in their city character.nnIn fact at some point, its clear that more vibrant cities (with more people and more wealth) are in fact cleaner both than other cities and many older, downtrodden suburbs.

  • US Expat

    Having lived for substantial periods of time in downtown DC and Manhattan, I disagree with the statement ‘X city is very clean’ means you like the suburbs… Tokyo is actually very clean compared to most major cities

  • noblegiftfrommars

    This place is SOOOO ghetto…



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