Rude cities: KL ranks third
Asian cities generally fared poorly in these rankings, eight of nine of them in the bottom 11, raising the notion that what is considered courtesy in the West — holding doors, helping strangers, service with a smile — is culturally alien in Asia.
The Times of London reported that Reader’s Digest magazine sent reporters into the principal city of each of the 35 countries in which it publishes to conduct a survey of local politeness. Three tests were employed: Dropping papers in a busy street to see if anyone would help; checking how often shop assistants said "thank you"; and counting how often someone held a door open.
London and Paris came a disappointing joint 15th, beaten by such cities as Berlin, Warsaw, Madrid and Prague. New York came top in the survey, with a score of 80 per cent, compared with 57 per cent for London and Paris.
Ed Koch, a former mayor of the city, said: "Since 9/11, New Yorkers are more caring. They understand the shortness of life."
The rudest city in the world, according to the survey, is Mumbai, which is even ruder than Bucharest, judged the rudest city in Europe, where door-holding, paper-picking and thanking the retail customer are not part of the culture. The Romanians are, the results show, much surlier than even the French.
Citizens of Zagreb, in Croatia, are the most willing to help you to pick up a pile of papers; one man insisted on helping despite arthritis and a bad back. The shop assistants of Stockholm are the most polite, unfailingly thanking customers for making a purchase.
In São Paulo, Brazil, even the criminals are civil; the researchers were attempting to buy sunglasses in an illegal market when the police arrived; the stallholder said "thank you" as he fled.
Moscow, meanwhile, is a very rude place indeed, with a score of only 42 per cent.
One woman, refusing to hold a door open, sneered to a Reader’s Digest researcher: "I’m not a doorman; it’s not my job to hold doors. If someone gets hurt, they should be quicker."
Courtesy is not big in Asia, either. Every city on that continent tested, with the exception of Hong Kong, finished in the bottom 10.
None of the three tests scored more than 40 per cent in any Asian city.
Overall, the tests found that the under-40s were the most courteous, and the over-60s, particularly the men, the least. Some claimed that they were concerned about patronising modern independent females, and were particularly unwilling to hold a door open for a woman. Grumpy old men are clearly not a purely British phenomenon.
Katherine Walker, editor in chief of the Digest’s British edition, said: "This was the world’s biggest real-life test of common courtesy; our researchers conducted more than 2,000 separate tests."
Analysis of the results suggest that the worldwide level of politeness stands at 55 per cent. If common courtesy is the oil that keeps society running, Reader’s Digest concludes, some cities could do with a top-up.