Another great quote about signs. This one is by Anton Chekov:
Passion must be concealed in a society where cold reserve and indifference are the signs of good breeding.
When I moved to New England, I was expecting cold and unfriendly people because that’s what I’d always heard about New Englanders. I was delighted that for the most part that wasn’t true. I have been, on occasion, teased by the Wickeds because strangers tend to ask me for directions or blab about their personal lives to me.
Wickeds, do you think this is true of New Englanders? Have you used that in your writing?
Julie: Sherry, you do have that Iowa nice open face that attracts strangers, LOL. As for New Englanders, I believe that we are kind, but not necessarily nice. There’s definitely a reserve, but if folks need help, New Englanders are there. I’ve definitely used that in my writing. Lilly Jayne, for example, is very New England. She seems standoffish, but will do anything for folks. Sully Sullivan, in my Theater Cop series, is the same way. All of this said, I am a New Englander, so perhaps I am delusional and we’re all cold fishes.
Sherry: You definitely aren’t a cold fish!
Jessie: I have thought about this topic often when I have traveled or when I’ve lived in different parts of the country. What I’ve concluded is that every place has its own definition of pleasant or polite. What passes as warm and typical in some parts of the world may feel superficial and even intrusive to others. New Englanders do tend to be reserved, but it is a respectful thing, in my opinion. There is a real premium placed on privacy as well as connections that are genuine. It may be harder to establish relationships here, but they do tend to go the distance once they are forged. I’ve used those sorts of sentiments in my writing again and again and never grow tired of exploring them
Barb: I’ve thought about this a lot, too, Jessie. My novella, Scared Off, includes a family that is new to Busman’s Harbor. The husband has work colleagues and the daughter schoolmates, but the wife, who has left her job behind in Massachusetts, is having trouble making friends. Often, in New England, where people immigrated and then didn’t leave the first area where they ended up, there’s an existing web of relationships that is hard to break into. Of course, one of my most popular characters is a curmudgeon who doesn’t allow people he doesn’t know in his restaurant. He is based on a real person, so I guess that says it all.
Edith: That’s the stereotype, isn’t it? When I moved to Boston forty-two years ago, this Californian fresh from five years in the Midwest was brought to tears by a couple of people in public (all I want to know was the bus schedule…). I’ve certainly had a lot of locals be very nice to me since – especially Julie! But when I look closely at the good friends I’ve made here over those four decades, three are originally from the Midwest, one from California, and one from Washington State. Hmm. I’ve dealt with the nature of New Englanders in my various books set in Massachusetts showing the positive side – people who, in the end, will go the distance for you and have your back, even if they are not superficially friendly.
Readers: Have you visited New England? What did you think of the people?