Student columnist: hospitality lacking in Bay Area

Here’s the third student column, which we’ve started running monthly on the blog. Leslie Salvador is a senior at James Logan High in Union City.

Last month’s column was by Evangel Penumaka of Newark. Next month’s column will be by Jennifer Siew of Fremont.


leslie salvadorBy Leslie Salvador

New Haven Unified student board member

I have been fortunate to travel across the nation as a member of the renowned James Logan Forensics Speech and Debate Team. Last month, on my second trip to Mississippi to compete in the 2010 Hattiesburg Hub City Classic, I again experienced southern hospitality and realized that that trait is lacking in the Bay Area.

After roughly six hours of being on a plane, the James Logan Forensics Speech and Debate Team, headed by Coach Tommie Lindsey, was welcomed with open arms by two members of the Hattiesburg High School Forensics Team, Reggie and Cory, at the New Orleans airport. They rode with our team for two hours to Hattiesburg.

The time they sacrificed out of their schedules on a weekday to welcome us was a huge gesture, but the hospitality did not stop with the two young men. It started the moment I stepped off the plane and continued throughout the trip, which was something extraordinary. I have never felt so comfortable in a city other than Union City.

The major differences between Hattiesburg and Union City would be the courtesy and respect embedded among Southerners in their everyday lives. No matter where I went in Hattiesburg,  be it the local grocery store or family-run restaurant,  or in my interactions with other competitors, the use of “ma’am,” “sir,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome” were  used in every conversation.

The use of manners is not as apparent in Union City. Bay Area people are not as hospitable, simply because we like to keep to ourselves. We are so accustomed to going about our business with no expectations from those around us. Bay Area folks like to hold the door open occasionally or do the minimal day-to-day human interaction. However, down South, almost every person is willing to lend a helping hand – not only to neighbors or those they know but to complete strangers.

If only residents of Union City and other Bay Area cities could realize the impact warmness has, cities here would thrive more.  This could be accomplished by a small smile or tiny acts of kindness. Union City has some work to do to catch up with the hospitality of Hattiesburg, which will always be a home away from home.

Linh Tat


  1. I hate to pop your bubble but a veneer of courtesy, illustrated via the use of “ma’am,” “sir,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome” can often be exactly that – a veneer. I’m from the south. My mother was born in Hattiesburg. You have to live in the south for a while and pay attention to more than words to begin to see through that veneer (which is noticably thinner in some places than others). It’s quite common to hear someone being addressed as “honey,” just before that person is verbally cut to the quick. “Bless his heart” is often followed by criticism, sometimes thinly disguised, sometimes not so thinly.
    It’s easy for the casual tourist to be fooled by the layer of syrupy sweetness used to disguise the backward-thinking, narrow-mindedness of much of the south. Is it better now than it used to be? Of course, but there is also a relatively new habit of people keeping their thoughts to themselves around outsiders.
    Some years back, my mother moved to Seattle to be with my youngest sister. A couple of years after she’d moved, I asked her if she wanted to go back to the south. She replied that she never wanted to go back to that hatred and ignorance for as long as she lived. And she didn’t.

  2. A colleague of mine traveled around Australia for a few months and upon returning he commented on the contrast between the warm reception he found there and the self obsession and coldness prevalent in the souls of many Californians. His further point was that people in the Bay Area couldn’t give a sh– about any aspect of your life because they were so involved with themselves.

    I think he is misunderstanding his Bay Area brethren. We’re not rude and self obsessed, we’ve just evolved into a ultra sophisticated species that has no need for a “veneer of courtesy”.

  3. Nothing about the district and your views on it as a student? It’s mind-boggling to me you do not use this space as something to talk about your school board’s decisions

  4. Our daughter, who was born and raised here, is now residing in the southeastern part of the U.S. She has commented many times on the differences between the two coasts. She enjoys the friendliness she experiences during trips to the grocery store or shops, but is frustrated by the narrow mindedness also encountered, which in many instances is a reflection of that good ol’ time religious upbringing.

    I agree with Eyesbright, that when somebody in the South says, “Y’all come back and see us, ya here,” it doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

    When you get too many people living close together, as we do here in the Bay Area, people become more protective of their personal space. It happens in any large metro area. If Leslie visited Atlanta she would see that same condition.

  5. It’s just a cultural difference, not necessarily good or bad. My Israeli friend commented on how fake Americans are because we ask things like, “How are you?” as a greeting, not as a truly curious and caring gesture. I’m usually not a cultural relativist, but in this case I am.

    Personally, I agree with Ms. Salvador; everyday courtesy makes life nicer. Please. Thank you. Sorry.

  6. Californians have to be among the rudest people on earth. Mostly because they are from (almost) everywhere but California. All those rude East Coasters and rude immigrants. There is no civility here–just everyone looking our for the narcissistic self absorbing self. Screw you, ya I’m cutting in line, etc–what ever it takes to get ahead mentality.

    Manners and courtesy are a lost art here –plain and simple.

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