• Ongoing coronavirus / COVID-19 discussion: how is the pandemic affecting your community, workplace, and wellness? 🦠

    Working from home? So are we. Come join us! Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no social distancing.

Your City's Personality


I'm a firm believer that cities adopt personalities over time. For example, Chicago got the nickname "Windy City" in the 1890s from New York journalists at the Chicago World's Fair -- because of its vigorous boosterism, not because of strong lake breezes. I think Chicago still has a healthy ego bent on self-promotion.

My take on cities and their personalities:

Inferiority Complex (we don't have this, we don't have that..)
St. Louis

Superiority Complex (everyone should be like us!)
New York
Washington, DC

Emerging Young Lions (we wanna be big, too!)
Charlotte, NC
Jacksonville, FL
Nashville, TN

We're Different (and we like being that way)
San Francisco
Portland, OR
New Orleans

Can you think of other cities and their respective personalities?

el Guapo

Good Post.

I would agree with your assessment -but I have not been to but a third of the cities on your list.

I have also noticed that the flavor of communities can change on the micro level also. Certain people in one rural county may have vastly different attitudes than another. But no apparent reason for the major difference in attitudes is noticeable to the outside observer.

Kansas City, MO - We're an ongoing governmental/school district disaster - but please be kind enough not to metion it will you?

Repo Man

You can add Milwaukee, WI to your inferiority complex.
People here have Chicago envy. They will deny it, but being so close to Chicago, it is inevitable.

I think the addition of the Calatrava Art Museum, Miller Park, and the all star game are helping, but Milwaukee has a long way to go before people here will get over this inferiority complex.


I'd agree that Milwaukee has a good case of Chicago envy. However, I think it doesn't compare to Detroit's defensiveness.

Are there other cities whose envy of a nearby big brother affects its general community psyche?

Oakland and San Jose? (San Francisco)
Houston? (Dallas)
Phoenix and San Diego? (LA)

Just asking.


Dear Leader
Staff member
Quiet cities - those cities that you don't really hear much about, despite their positive or negative qualities.

Greensboro, North Carolina
Sacramento, California
Spokane, Washington
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Omaha, Nebraska
Des Moines, Iowa
Wichita, Kansas
Rochester, New York
Scranton, Pennsylvania
Dayton, Ohio
Columbia, South Carolina
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

"Why can't you be more like your brother" -- the somewhat smaller sibling city, a town that's always in the shadows of their nearby big brother/sister.

St. Paul, Minnesota
Oakland, California
St. Petersburg, Florida
Fort Worth, Texas
Hamilton, Ontario
Durham, North Carolina
Tacoma, Washington
Vancouver, Washington
Lansing, Michigan

That unlucky neighbor kids -- parents always gave them secondhand clothes, and maybe slapped them around a little too much. Life's been hard on them, especially compared to the kid next door who had it okay.

Gary, Indiana
East St. Louis, Illinois
Camden, New Jersey

The fat girls that insist on wearing Spandex (tm) - politically incorrect, I know, but I can't think of any other way to describe such places. They're less than appealing aesthetically, but they know how to strut.

El Paso, Texas
Memphis, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
Chatanooga, Tennessee
Atlantic City, New Jersey

The good, wholesome kids - gets good grades, goes to church, does well in sports, and is generally thought of as allright, albiet a bit dull.

Columbus, Ohio
Indianapolis, Indiana
Kansas City, Missouri
Edmonton, Alberta

The thumpers - those cities you run away from as soon as they approach you, for fear that you'll be stuck in a long conversation about acknowledgement of Christ Jesus as your personal lord and savior.

Colorado Springs, Colorado
Topeka, Kansas
Greenville, South Carolina

The perfect kids - Straight A student, a champ at sports, gets all the girls/guys, never had a zit ... you hate them, don't you?

Denver, Colorado
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Phoenix, Arizona
San Diego, California
Seattle, Washington
Vancouver, British Columbia

The snotty perfect kids - They're a straight A student, a champ at sports, gets all the girls/guys, never had a zit ... and they constantly chatter on about how they're all that.

Toronto, Ontario

The slut -- self-explanatory.

New Orleans, Louisiana
Orlando, Florida
Las Vegas, Nevada
Miami, Florida


Hmm..I'd have to disagree about your assent of Boston (At least from an insiders view)
I always felt we've live under the shadow of NYC.
The Sox vs The Yanks
The NYC subway system Vs The T
5 million pop vs 500,000 pop.
The Babe Ruth Trade
Boston was once the main shipping port in the US till all the commerce went to NYC.
Even today there is a lot of 'worry' in the local press about the best academics and doctors leaving Boston institutions (schools and hospitials are the only 'world class' things we have left) and heading down to 'The City"
For a while there was at least one story a week in the local paper about whether Boston was a 'World Class' city (it 's not)

I think Boston is kind of like a school-yard bully. Confident on the outside but a scared, insecure little kid on the inside.
Just my opinion.

Virtue City


Minor Leaguers

I think that any major city in the rustbelt is like the veteran minor league player who called up for a game in the majors every now and then. They've had the taste of the bigtime (i.e. Industrial Revolution in their younger years, national fame from time to time), and they strive to acquire a spot on the permanent major league roster for its prestige. However, they just never have that luck and skill.


Re: Rustbeltia

Virtue City said:
I think that any major city in the rustbelt is like the veteran minor league player who called up for a game in the majors every now and then. [/B]

Conversely, Sun Belt cities are the hot-shot prospects in the minors whose progess is closely watched? Who reach the majors full of arrogance and physical skills, but with little knowledge of how to actually play the game?

The prospect who is occasionally humbled by the veteran minor leaguer who has survived on grit?


Following up on Virtue City's observations, the Cleveland T shirt of the late '70s was "Cleveland: You've got to be tough!" The taste of the big time was so far away in so many ways the city didn't think it could ever get up again. Later, when the breaks started to come it's way there was always a slight to follow. Cleveland lobbied hard to be the home of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, but when it comes to induction time the ceremonies are held in NYC or elsewhere.

Clevelanders have thin skins: They're proud of Drew Carey and his nostalgic views of local culture but really get sore when some out-of-towner cracks on the city. They like to see the city named in print but if it's on the list of most overweight populations or most segregated city they're quick to object. They love that blue collar rock and country and can't understand why more "artistic" or "difficult" entertainment seldom makes it to town.

Smaller cities like Akron have it worse. They're under the shadow of the shadow. Grudges against Cleveland last for decades. When Akron lost a network affiliate residents refused to tune in the Cleveland station that pulled the plug. The mayors are talking to one another these days and the fact makes headlines.


San Diego...

Dan... I really think of San Diego as a Catholic School Girl... It looks all snotty and perfect, but hangs out with the bad neighborhood kids (such as TJ) and can be a little slutty when she wants to be (like when all the Navy boys are back from cruise).