Hello, Boston 6

Hello, Boston, do you hear me?
Hello, Boston.
What’s wrong with me?  I said hello in Boston and expected a return greeting.

(iStock photo.)

I say hello and you say, well, despite the lyrics to the song by the Beatles,* you often times don’t say a word, Boston; except for yesterday.  Yesterday was an exceptional day because on my walk up Ashmont Street to Ashmont Station, three, count them, three people spoke to me first.

This is noteworthy.

I vowed a few years back to act like the up-South, St. Louis-bred girl that I am and say hello to people as I pass them along the way, throughout my day.

I quickly had to vow that I would continue this practice even when people didn’t speak back to me.  It is my decision to say hello, it’s on them whether they speak back or not.

I try not to get my feelings hurt when people don’t speak back.  This is especially easy on days when I’m breezing along feeling sprightly.  On other days, as I’m trudging along or just feel a need for a spark of human connection, it is hard.  On still other days I’m feeling that all is right with the world and so joyful  I feel compelled to greet people.

It’s hard to have a greeting ignored and avoided. Sometimes I want to shout, “YOU KNOW YOU HEARD ME!  IS IT SO HARD TO SAY HELLO?”

Really, is it?

In terms of speaking, my observations are:

  • Teens and younger people speak back more than older people.  (The teens are often surprised that they’ve been spoken to.

  • Men speak back more than women do.

  • Walkers, joggers and cyclists are more apt to speak, wave or nod than people merely ambulating some place.  (There’s a camaraderie among those of us getting our “exercise on.”


Why do so many Bostonians, New Englanders not speak?

  • Is it the cold weather?

  • Is it the fact that there are so many of us in this crowded geography?

  • Is it that we’re often in a rush?

  • Or are we just some inconsiderate souls whose habit of not-greeting each other rubs off on non-natives once they life here? (Sorta like how, in order to survive as a driver in Boston, you have to adopt the dangerous driving habits/techniques of your brother and sister Bostonians.)


I don’t require a whole conversation with my greeting as is done down South.  That would be too much to ask and, hey, I’m usually rushing or heading someplace with all deliberate speed myself and not interested in getting sidetracked.  

But a hello, a return greeting, is that too much to ask?


If you dig this post, you might also dig:  I saw you see me  (and pretend you didn’t)

*From “Hello, Goodbye” by The Beatles (lyrics by Paul McCartney & John Lennon)

“You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello, hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye
I say hello
Hello, hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye
I say hello.”

About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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6 thoughts on “Hello, Boston

  • Barbara

    Sad but all too common. I grew up in a small town in upstate NY where everybody pretty much knew everybody and so of course everyone said hello. Boston is not a small town and I quickly learned that most people (not all, but most) people who spoke to me were either crazy, panhandling, or trying to sell me something. For a long time it made me very leery of anyone who tried to talk to me.

    Still, I make a point of saying hello to anyone who walks by my yard when I am there and saying hello to people I see on my walk to the T. My experience has been that pretty much everyone makes some sort of acknowledgement, with the exception of teenage girls.

  • Jim

    When I’m walking in my quiet neighborhood, I routinely wave at people in cars and almost always get a return wave. As for the dog walkers among us, a friendly sniff is always in vogue.

  • Abz

    Hello, dearie!
    Heck, *I* would be glad to say “HI!!” to you any old time. And I’m a fairly ancient New Englander, with many generations of prim and proper New Englanders behind me. (grin) I was taught that Nice Ladies Don’t Do Such Things!!! and should mind their P’s&Q’s (translation: be as nearly invisible to the outside world as possible) – it’s the way I was brought up by my Very Correct Grandmother and Mother. But my main excuse for not responding used to be similar to your own – poor vision and excessive shyness. I’ve found that the older I get the more outgoing that way I’ve become, and I pretty much say hello to everyone I cross paths with, and no longer get upset when folks don’t respond. Heck *most* of the kids I say hello to just look glum and glower at me, even though they know OF me, if not personally, as I’ve lived around here for quite a while and a fat, nearly blind, crazy white lady with a cane, cats and lots of plants who is actually FRIENDLY is kinda rare in this neck of the woods (grin!) so I’m kinda hard to miss! Anyway, it’s a very bad neighborhood and most folks don’t even look at ya… But life’s too short IMO, and you never know, maybe someone will be kind. One always needs hope! And I’ve met some interesting folks that way, and some really nice ones too. Hope springs eternal!
    affectionately, Abbey
    (who loves, loves, loves Ashmont and Peabody Square and sure wishes she still lived near there!)

  • Whalehead King

    I’m the quintessential cranky Yankee. I don’t expect to anyone to talk to me until we’ve seen each other at least four times in the past and vice versa and those four times had better be close together. I’m in New Orleans now and adapting nicely, being talkative and offering what would normally be prohibited information, like saying hello.

    New Englanders aren’t unfriendly, they are just used to being left alone. The boundaries are different. Let loose from their confines, I’ve found that Yankees (Bostonians included) are as warm as anyone else. I find it amazing how much I’ve loosened up when people answer back.

    Keep up the good fight for conversation and neighborliness! Cordiality is never wasted.


  • Candelaria

    I agree with you that New Englanders can be as warm as anyone else especially one-on-one and in other places.
    It’s that darn greeting thing they don’t do well at.  I’m also a bit of a curmudgeon and crank sometime myself, but speaking is still something that I do.

  • Candelaria

    Thanks for your comments.  As we get older, most of us are able to decide to just be who we are and do what we want to do without being self-conscious about it.  So, if we run into each other, one of us will say hello first and one of us will say hello back.