Planning a country getaway? Here’s how to prevent yourself from being on the receiving end of this popular slight.
We rural, Hudson Valley dwellers get it: City folk have been cooped up in their diminutive apartments and doormat-sized backyards for months and are excited for a moment of respite in the country. So you pack your rental car and drive up for a visit, only to promptly hear the locals whispering about “citiots.” But they mean the person behind you, in front of you, the next table over, right? Right?
If you’re one of the many city visitors who come to the country in the summer—to take advantage of our wide-open landscapes and newly reopened hiking trails, unspoiled lakes and riverfronts, organic farms, restaurants, and outdoor performance venues—but behave like you’re still in the middle of a densely packed city, you’ll probably be saddled with that unfortunate moniker.
Here’s how not to be a citiot.
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Make Eye Contact and Say Hello or Good Morning
Your mother was right: it costs nothing to be polite. Quickly brushing past the locals on the street without so much as a nod isn’t just rude, it’s one of the telltale signs of the citiot.
As with Northeasterners in general, upstaters are often reputed for being aloof, but “cautious” is a better description—and this is one of the reasons why. You’ll be surprised how friendly we can be, especially if you extend yourself a little.
INSIDER TIPIf you do sweep by without saying hello, don’t be surprised to hear a testy “Good morning!” as you pass.
Be an Equal-Opportunity Visitor
City transplants have made some incredible contributions to our area, opening dozens of interesting shops, restaurants, and cultural organizations. But these aren’t the only worthwhile places to visit. Since you’re looking for an authentic travel experience, make it a priority to be a patron at some of the excellent stores, cafés, music clubs, galleries, and more founded by born-and-bred locals.
INSIDER TIPVenues founded by locals are often frequented by locals, but many are beloved by tourists and residents alike. Blueberry Hill Café in New Lebanon, New York, is one great example.
Respect the Line
We don’t want to wait in line at the grocery store, bakery, or handmade-goods shop any more than you do. But cutting, invading personal space, or barking orders at the person behind the counter won’t have the intended effect of speeding up service. What it will get you is dirty looks and colorful recommendations for how to take a hike to the back of the line. And if you catch the serviceperson on a bad day, you can expect to wait even longer for whatever you’re buying.
INSIDER TIPThe pace of life is generally slower here—which is probably why you came here in the first place. The sooner you’re able to go with the flow, the more pleasant your country getaway will be.
Make Like Ron Swanson and Say Please and Thank You
Yes, we live in a place where there appear to be more cows than people. No, we weren’t raised in a barn. Were you?
It might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be shocked by the number of visitors who fail to remember basic good manners when dealing with restaurant and hotel staff, shopkeepers, healing arts therapists, mechanics, and other people in service trades. Be kind and show gratitude and you’re likely to get even better service. And don’t forget to tip whenever appropriate.
Pay People What They’re Worth
Nothing makes an upstater bristle more than hearing city folks complain about the dearth of or how expensive it is to find “good help,” from massage to landscaping to home cleaning. While rates in these parts are generally more affordable than in the city, the adage holds: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Fork over a fair wage—without whining about it—and you’ll go a long way toward finding loyal help that does good work.
Likewise, nothing says “citiot” faster than asking for a discount, then carping, “If I wanted to pay that, I’d have stayed in the city!” Do this, and you’ll probably get a tart suggestion for where to take your business. (Hint: It’s not the city.)
INSIDER TIPIf you’ve just purchased a weekend or vacation home in the Hudson Valley, the best way to find quality contractors, painters, cleaners, and landscapers is by asking around your immediate neighborhood, or talking to local business owners.
Slow Down. Way Down.
It’s no secret that the pace of life moves a lot more deliberately in the country. So slow down and ease up, especially on the defensive driving. That traffic light turning green a nanosecond ago isn’t an invitation to lay on your horn. And zipping in and out of traffic lanes will get you to your destination about two minutes faster than if you just drove the speed limit. You’re on vacation anyway, aren’t you?
INSIDER TIPIt’s not uncommon to get stuck traveling 15 miles an hour behind a tractor or other farm machinery. If this happens, don’t honk your horn or flash your lights. Simply check the road ahead for oncoming traffic, and when the coast is clear, make your pass.
Carry In, Carry Out
Most parks and conservation areas in the Hudson Valley are maintained by volunteers and skeleton crews who are paid to clear trails, monitor plant and animal populations, and generally make your experience safer and more pleasant. They’re not paid for janitorial services, so avoid leaving your garbage on our hiking trails and in our parks.
Take a backpack or lightweight cinch sack for toting water and snacks, and tuck an extra bag inside for refuse. Drop the inner bag in the trash on your way out. On-site garbage receptacles are full? Take your trash with you, and dispose of it at the nearest gas station or at your hotel or rental.
INSIDER TIPOur state parks are fantastic—and fantastically popular. Escape the crowds by heading for a regional preserve, such as the Columbia Land Conservancy’s ten excellent conservation areas.
We Pay Taxes, Too
Your status as a second-home owner or frequent renter doesn’t automatically entitle you to occupy two parking spaces with one car, insist on the largest table or the best view in the restaurant, or buy up an entire shelf of inventory at the minuscule local grocery store. Sure, you pay taxes on your 3,000-square-foot “weekend getaway” house. But we pay taxes too—and we keep this joint running 365 days a year, so tourists and weekenders like you can enjoy it.
INSIDER TIPCall restaurants in advance if you need a large table or can’t live without a view. While some don’t accept reservations, they’ll at least tell you how early you should arrive to get the good stuff.
Leave the Savior Complex Behind
Don’t assume rural residents are “quaint” (we know you mean uneducated), or, worse, in need of “saving.” Towns in this area are home to an eclectic mix of residents—from an art director with a Ph.D., to a berry farmer with a master’s in agriculture, a fine furniture maker, a retired financial services expert, a tractor mechanic, a chef trained at the CIA, an auctioneer, and dozens of visual artists and writers.
INSIDER TIPAre locals asking you to repeat yourself a lot? Slow down a little. Like the pace of life, the rate of speech can often be a bit more relaxed in the country.
Other Tourists Aren’t the Only People Worth Socializing With
A surefire way to be taken for a citiot: hang out only in packs of other city folk. You travel to get away from home and discover a new area, including its local culture. Why not spend some time learning about the people who make it such a worthwhile place to visit?
INSIDER TIPThe easiest way to strike up a conversation with a local is to head to the most popular diner in town and plant yourself at the counter next to an old-timer. Most are thrilled to fill you in on how the place has changed over the years.