Nicest People on the Planet
I’m often asked which country or city is inhabited by the nicest people.
“Oh, I bet it’s Ireland. I heard they are really nice,” someone mentioned.
“Watch out for the French,” some English man told me.
“Watch out for the Italians,” some French dude said.
“Here, have some wine,” said an Italian guy.
Some Belgians think the dutch are tightwads and the media says Denmark is the happiest place in the world.
In my own country, some people of the north have suggested, “people are much friendlier down south.” And I’ve heard plenty of Americans say that Europe is dangerous or that Canada is a suburb of heaven where no one locks their doors. Entire countries are feared or famed and folded up neatly into tiny boxes.
Out of the 17 countries and 45 states I’ve visited, the place with the nicest people goes to: Nowhere. Or everywhere because Geography doesn’t have a kindness magnet.
In my travels I ran into saviors and sinners without any correlation to location. Many people think that the grass is greener in other towns or countries (technically it is greener in Ireland with all that rain), but the truth is that it’s quite green right under your feet (except in the deserts of India, it’s pretty dry and brown there).
The unfortunate news is that if your town sucks, it is possible you may suck. Thinking your town sucks can be a common symptom of psychological projection; projecting uncomfortable emotions on other people and places to make them the carrier of your flaws. It is the reason that one day I think I must change everything and flee to Africa to be an elephant trainer. The next day, life at home is totally fine. Usually life is good, it just depends on how I’m perceiving it.
If you’re surrounded by knuckleheads, and you have been for sometime, you might be a knucklehead too. We attract what we are, not what we desire. Positive people pull in positive people. Attraction is true for negativity too. People(not geography) are magnets for similar people.
We tend to generate assumptions about people based on the little bubble we grew up in. Although, if you were raised in a family that moved or travelled frequently, that bubble may have popped long ago. But many of us learned things one way and it became standardized. When meeting people from different upbringings we tend to use our past to assume we understand how people are.
Something important to note is that kindness wears many suits. Oftentimes it comes down to cultural formalities. There are parts of the world where people smile less and regions where it is rude to ask, “how are you?” These people are no more or less pleasant, they just have different customs. Traveling or spending time with other cultures creates openness to these variances and leads to deeper understanding.
Taking someone’s opinion about culture is not a reliable source either. For example, your friend could’ve had a terrible time in Nicaragua and came home to tell you, “Everyone is Nicaragua is awful! I got scammed, my hotel room was double booked and the housekeeper stole my hair dryer.”
Just because such circumstances happened doesn’t mean Nicaraguans are terrible people. If you took your friends story as fact, than you have just lump summed an entire country based on one crappy series of events. We can do this with states, towns, and cities and even jobs, religions and socio-economic status. By being careful and frugal with our stern judgments, more places we go will have smiling faces. Most places are filled with wonderful people who find interest in us and also want to be known.
There comes a point where you should look at what kind of person you represent in your home town. Are you the blind-eye person or the one who asks if help is needed? Do you smile at the cashier or just pull out the credit card and say, “no receipt”? Can you strike up a conversation with someone from out of town and make them feel welcome?
It all boils down to this: Americans are not nice, they are from America. Paris isn’t a pompous city, it’s a city. Nice people are nice and rude people are rude. Everyone and every place deserves your open-mind. And if you’re weary about your neighborhood, remember that you’re a part of it.
The nicest people in the world are in your town. One of them handed you an order of fries. Another one was your 3rd grade english teacher. The older gentleman who returned your wallet is always looking for situations like that. And that lady who runs that small local real estate business, yeah her too. They are everywhere, keeping the pulse of our planet beating.
So before you say “I’ve got to get the heck outa this dump,” take a look around. Maybe you are missing something. There is an old adage that goes something like,
“don’t miss the flowers outside your window trying to dream of mountains in the distance.”
Kindness knows no borders (short tales of the nicest people):
In Trieste, Italy a young man, studying to be a doctor, invited my girlfriend and I to stay with him for the weekend. On the first night we made a giant salad and shared it out of the same bowl in his loft above The Spaghetti House restaurant.
While in Chester, England our bikes broke and a couple offered us their home for a week while our rides were brought back into commission. For dinner they would send me out to the garden with a list: a handful of basil leaves, one head of lettuce and a pocket full of raspberries for dessert.
On a canoe trip across America, a family in Alabama waved my friend and I over to shore. Intrigued by our extravagant undertaking, they offered up their family river home to us. They took us into town for supplies and made sure we ate the local-favorite BBQ sandwiches.
In northern California, my friend and I sat on a curb next to our broken motorcycle. A man walked up and prodded us to explain our situation. He opened his wallet and pulled out every dollar he had ($241) and threw it on the pavement next to us. He refused to take it back and called a mechanic to fix the motorcycle for us.
Back home in the suburbs of Chicago after teaching a yoga class, two new students invited me over to their house for tea. They shared stories of their happiest and darkest moments. To this day, for reasons yet obscure, their door is always open to me and a bag of cookies always awaits.
Kindness doesn’t build walls or draw borders. It doesn’t discriminate or resent. Simply, it extends from the heart of someone just like you and I.