Boston And San Francisco: Dispelling The ‘Sister Cities’ Myth
From the crowds singing “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway, to the ivy-covered red brick of Harvard Yard, Boston is known for its traditionalism and history.
But it’s also known as a politically liberal waterfront city, strong in high-tech, higher education — and high home prices. Those characteristics make it somewhat of a “sister city” to the West Coast’s San Francisco. But where Boston is rich in tradition, the Bay Area is known for its free-wheeling Californian attitude, best exemplified by the dynamic start-ups of Silicon Valley or the color of Haight-Ashbury.
Victoria Plaut, a social and cultural psychologist, has conducted a series of studies to assess whether those cultural stereotypes are rooted in reality — and how cultural norms affect the well-being of residents.
By reviewing “cultural products” like newspaper headlines, as well as surveying city residents, Plaut concludes that Boston’s culture emphasizes tradition, status and community, while San Francisco’s emphasizes unlimited possibility, egalitarianism and innovation. In Boston, residents care more about local customs and status in the community; in San Francisco, norms are looser and goals are more individual. Plaut claims that this culture difference might leave transplants feeling disoriented in a new town, perhaps without knowing exactly what cultural forces are at work.
- Victoria Plaut, professor of law and social science and faculty director of the Culture, Diversity & Intergroup Relations Lab at University of California, Berkeley; lead author of the new study “The Cultural Construction of Self and Well-Being: A Tale of Two Cities“
- Boston Globe: From Bay Area To Bay State, Happiness Isn’t Same
- Atlantic Cities: Turns Out Where You Live Really Does Shape Who You Are
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