Los Angelinos are famously stereotyped as being flaky. The idea is that people who live in LA are less likely to return an email or phone call on time and more likely to show up late or not at all. Having spent half my life living in the greater New York area and half my life living in the greater Los Angeles area, I feel uniquely qualified to evaluate the two groups with some impartiality. And I must admit, I have noticed that my New York friends seem to be very reliable about returning texts and keeping scheduled plans.
I decided to test whether my LA friends are in fact flakier or if I am simply succumbing to a confirmation bias supporting the stereotype of the flaky Angelino. I tracked all correspondence with my New York and Los Angeles friends for a 10-day period and sorted the data set into groups:
In the past week, I actually had several New York friends visiting Los Angeles so I could even compare how good New Yorkers are at keeping plans versus cancelling at the last minute:
Granted, my 10-day data set isn’t large enough to be even remotely scientific, but the trend does seem pretty one-sided. By the numbers, my Los Angeles friends appear undeniably flakier than my New York friends. Of course, I cannot make a general statement about all 8 million New Yorkers or all 8 million Los Angelinos. In 10 days, I interacted with some 48 individuals, which, I will admit, isn’t quite enough to make universal statements about 16 million people.
As for the quality of the data-gathering experiment, there may be a few confounding variables. For instance, it could be the case that my New York friends simply like me better. However, there is no clear reason to suppose this. One of the New Yorkers I met in person this week is a new acquaintance and another I have known only a short while. It seems more likely that my LA relationships should be warmer since I actually live here.
I do think it could be said that my New York friends who were visiting Los Angeles might have been more likely to keep their plans because they were only in town a short while. However, I am not convinced of this. Several of the New Yorkers endured such considerable scheduling and traffic obstacles that they would have been well within their rights to cancel. And yet they did not. This must surely count for something.
Given that all my available data is so one-sided, I do think it is safe to propose that there are measurable cultural differences and etiquette differences between my friends from both coasts. And lest I offend any of my Los Angeles friends, I think there are valid geographical and logistical reasons that LA may have developed a culture of flakiness:
Los Angeles is gigantic, sprawling, and filled with traffic. So everyone understands the difficulty of showing up anywhere.
Los Angeles lacks New York’s reliable public transportation system (some people try to argue that the LA subway system is improving; but in my experience, the LA metro has never saved me time in getting me anywhere I actually needed to go).
Californians may, indeed, be more “laid back” and, therefore, more forgiving of flakiness. Whereas in New York, flaky behavior may be considered disrespectful and is less socially tolerated.
If I have offended any of my fellow Angelinos by confronting our stereotype of flakiness, please send me an email sharing your thoughts. I may or may not respond to it within a week...