Judging Perceptions

Quite a few years ago I happened to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a meeting. Clean city, nice people. As I was waiting for the hotel elevator with a middle-aged couple, we had a brief but very nice conversation. In the few minutes it took for the elevator to arrive and take us to our floor, we talked briefly about the city of Milwaukee. They were from Wisconsin but visiting for a couple of days. As we stepped off on the same floor, we continued speaking about the new ballpark and the city’s proximity to Chicago, which was only a 45 minute drive. It was a very nice conversation and we even laughed once or twice. As we were saying goodbye, the woman asked me what brought me to Milwaukee and where I was from. I told her I was in the city on business and that I was from New Jersey. In an instant, her facial expression changed as she said, “I’m surprised you’re even speaking to us.”  With that, they both turned and walked away quickly, as if I had some sort of infectious disease they were afraid of catching.

New Jersey.

Those two words conjure up all kinds of jokes, hostilities and images. Hollywood and late night talk shows have had a field day with it. Comedians regularly include it in their acts. Speak with people from other states and many times their feelings are similar to that Wisconsin couple. Traveling by car to another state with New Jersey plates and you will be lucky if they don’t flip the closed sign on you as you pull up. A recent poll I read claims New Jersey is the least liked state in the union and the only state in the U.S. in which more people have an unfavorable opinion of than a favorable one.

I’ve often wondered why people feel this way and what all these negative opinions are based on. I suppose the impression many people have of New Jersey is what they see when they fly into Newark Airport. The see the ports and the smoke stacks of the refineries on their way into New York and they think the entire state looks like that. They run into someone who may be rude to them at the airport and think everyone in the state will have the same personality. They watch the Sopranos and think everyone in the state is mobbed up. The watch Jersey Shore and believe everyone at the beach is a lewd drunk with little common sense or morals, even though the people in that show were from New York.

How sad that we allow others to define our views and opinions based on what their limited experiences may have been. Is the area around Newark Airport unattractive? You bet. But if that’s all you care to see, then you’re missing this……..

holmdel-nj119fall_05_001barn_fall_sville_02Batsto_Village_008hamilton-nj146 Fall_07_126horse_fall_02longstreet-farm-holmdel-nj135middletown-nj136DSC_0206

And if you think the beaches are only what you’ve seen on the embarrassment of the Jersey Shore show, then you’re missing this…..

sailboat-on-the-jersey-shore-nj181wooden-rollercoaster-in-new-jersey-nj163imagesocean-grove-nj104ocean-grove-nj220colorful-buildings-on-a-beach-in-sea-bright-in-new-jersey-nj177boardwalk-through-marsh-land-in-new-jersey-nj187atlantic-city-nj158

At this point, I’m guessing you think this is an advertisement about New Jersey. It isn’t. It’s about allowing others to decide for us. It’s about making up our own minds about a place or, more importantly, a person. It’s about giving everyone an opportunity.

Every state has their armpit areas as well as their fair share of rudeness. Maybe we’re a little more direct here about what we say and how we say it but quite honestly, I prefer that approach. I’ve been places where people smile at you and say, “bless your heart,” as the knife is going in your back. How sweet.

I wonder how many people we never got to know because someone else told us to avoid them. I wonder how many places we’ve never visited because someone else had a bad experience, which may have been their own doing. How much music, how many restaurants, how many trips have we lost because of what someone else said.

Why?

After all, when was the last time you believed anything that came out of Hollywood? Talk show hosts and comedians? Really? These are the people whose opinion you really want to take into consideration?

We’re all smarter than that.

Aren’t we?

 

61 thoughts on “Judging Perceptions

  1. Helen Devries

    Apparently there is a sizeable Costa Rican community in New Jersey. Our objectionable North American neighbour (from Arizona) was talking to another neighbour’s daughter…Costa Rican living in the U.S. A.

    Where do you live?

    New Jersey

    Oh, that’s what I’d have expected…what a dump…..

    On the whole, if brain dead, brainwashed people tell us how bad somewhere is then it’s an incentive to go there….and we’ve seen some wonderful places and met some great people that way…..though I’m not too sure about going to Arizona…

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  2. Carrie Rubin

    I’ve only been to New Jersey once, and it was merely as a drive-through from Philadelphia to New Hampshire. But it was one of the prettiest drives I’ve ever had! I drove through Princeton. So picturesque. I was glad traffic was slow so I could take it all in. I’d love to go back and see more.

    The only thing I didn’t like was not being able to pump my own gas. When I saw all the pumps were full-service, I kept driving and fueled up in the next state instead. Hey, I’m an introvert, what can I say? 🙂

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    1. George Post author

      Princeton’s a beautiful area, a great place to spend a day taking a tour of the university, visiting shops, all types of restaurants and some pretty interesting, quirky people who are on a very different intellectual level than most of us. The gas thing is crazy. I think we’re the only state that doesn’t allow self serve. The first time I traveled out of state, I had to learn how. I just sat at the pump and waited for someone to come…:) That was a long time ago. Glad you enjoyed your drive. I love New England, especially Maine, but we’ve been to NH several times. Beautiful area. Thanks for reading.

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    1. George Post author

      The airport is a tough area, Kelly. I can understand a persons perception of the state if that’s all they see. But like people, there’s so much more under the hood if we take the time to look..:) thank you.

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  3. Kate Crimmins

    I lived in north Jersey for 4 years a while back. I really learned how to drive and also how to say what I think. I too like the directness. No need to figure out someone’s agenda cause they will tell you. It’s also beautiful, full of small suburbs and has a broad demographic. I could go into my local bagel shop and hear 4 different languages, 5 if you include English. I loved my stay there. In contrast my next move was to a smaller city and it felt like a third world country.

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    1. George Post author

      I agree, Kate. I live in North Jersey and really love it. So much to see and do and so close to NYC, if that’s your thing. You’re right, the diversity of culture, food and people is a constant education. And there are few places where you can get bagels like you can here..:)Thank you for reading.

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  4. vanbytheriver

    I’m so glad you did this post and included all the lovely photos…after all, New Jersey got the name “The Garden State” for a reason…there is so much beauty, agriculture, beach territory, and yes…gardens! It is sad the reputation that the area has…I think a lot of that comes from the voice of New Yorkers, who are quite snobbish about their “wannabe” neighbors…their words, not mine. Hollywood hasn’t helped the image much either.

    Thanks for showing another side, George, and you’re so right…I’ll take the NJ direct approach over “Bless Your Heart” hypocrisy….any day ! ☺

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Van. You’re right, we are a misunderstood state and unfortunately we are sometimes thrown under the umbrella of New York City. I’m like you, I prefer someone tell me what they think rather than go back door on me.

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  5. Carol Ferenc

    My husband and I flew into the Newark airport on our way to NYC to board a cruise ship sailing to Bermuda. We had a bad experience with a rude employee at the airport. In the cruise ship dining room we were seated with two couples from New Jersey. Their extended family was on board ~ twelve people in all, three generations. They were absolutely lovely people who helped us forget about the moron at the airport. And George, your photos are beautiful ~ but then, it is the Garden State, isn’t it?

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Carol. I’m glad your overall impression of the people you met from New Jersey was positive. The rude person you met at the airport was probably from New York..:) just kidding. Thank you for reading and your feedback.

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  6. Dale

    I cannot believe the couple changed their attitude towards you! They just finish having a conversation with you, why on earth would they immediately turn themselves off to you? Lack of class. We’ve been going to New Jersey for four summers. Absolutely love it. Are there the caricatures of Jersey Shore? You betcha! Does that mean all NJ residents are like Snookie and whatever the hell else the others are called? NO!!! That’s ridiculous. You live in a beautiful state, George and I would go back in a flash. Actually, because of my situation, it was the first summer camping trip I missed… 😦

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    1. George Post author

      I know, it was a very strange reaction, Dale, but not one I ever forgot. Thanks for the compliment about New Jersey. My guess is you visited the Cape May/Wildwood area?. We always see lots of Canadian plates down there. Who knows, we may have even passed each other or waited on an ice cream line together and never even known it…:) Good to see you.

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  7. Beth

    I’m originally from Kentucky, George (many many years ago), and people believe that Kentuckians rarely wear shoes and all live in trailers on mountain ridges. I used to work with someone from New Jersey who told me that people joke about what Turnpike Exit they live off of. Those pictures are gorgeous. I’ll be flying through Newark soon and will wave.

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    1. George Post author

      I’ll be looking for that wave, Beth…:) it is strange how we perceive people simply by where they’re from. Every area of the country has things that are specific to that region but it’s hard to paint an entire area with a broad stroke of the brush.

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      1. Beth

        Did you ever see The Onion’s “Our Dumb World”? It’s screamingly funny, but completely based on geographical stereotypes and I’d imagine it could be pretty offensive if it weren’t so clearly meant to be outrageous.

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  8. In My Cluttered Attic

    George, how kind of you for using your home state of New Jersey to stand in for our state of California. For years people have despised us out here in the Golden State. If you don’t believe me, just try driving up into Oregon. A California License Plate seen up there is like declaring open season on Californians. Only a slight exaggeration, but it seems everyone forms opinions about us and on the flimsiness of details. Like our always wearing sunglasses even when we’re indoors—and at night. Carrying our surfboards into all the fine dining restaurants, and while wearing swimming trunks—even the women! And how all of us out here are really… celebrities. And everybody wants me to stop signing someone else’s autograph so that I’ll pose with them in their photos. Okay, alright, I admit everything I just said is a lie…except that last one… its totally true. But its only because I look so much like Robert Downey Jr.—yes, I know I’m cursed, but I’ll get along somehow. But if this is how other people view New Jersey—THEN THEY’RE REALLY GOING TO HATE US OUT HERE IN CALIFORNIA! HELP US, GEORGE!!!

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    1. George Post author

      I knew you resembled someone famous but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Go figure…Robert Downey.
      Never knew Californians were so disliked up in Oregon. What did you guys ever do to piss then off? You didn’t try to poach beavers or siphon off their lakes did you? Just out of curiosity, why do all Californians wear sunglasses indoors? I always wanted to know..:)

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      1. In My Cluttered Attic

        I know. Everyone down at the bar says I look just like him. But, for some strange reason, my wife continues to insist on calling me Bozo. Sure her contact lenses haven’t been changed in a while, but I can’t believe she’s that blind, can you? And as to the feud we have with those Oregonians up there… I confess there was that one time when I pulled into a Portland gas station wearing my Davy Crockett beaver skin hat and buckskins, but I had just attended a Fess Parker convention. But as for why all Californians wear sunglasses indoors 24 /7 even when we’re asleep… well all I can say is… if it was good enough for the great Greek orator, Homer, to wear Ray-Ban sunglasses, then it was good enough for Hollywood star Mr. Magoo and the rest of us Californians too! But please don’t hate us for looking stylish, we can’t help it. Especially me, I’m missing one of my lenses on purpose, because its cool looking.

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  9. Ann Coleman

    Well, we certainly should be smarter than to quickly judge places, or even people! Think of all that is missed when we don’t keep an open mind! You are absolutely right…. P.S.: A good friend of mine has a son who lives quite happily in New Jersey with his family!

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    1. George Post author

      Yes, we should be smarter but I suppose we all fall into the same trap at times. Glad your friends son is happy in NJ. Do you know where he’s settled?
      Enjoy the wedding this weekend!!!

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  10. Pistachios

    If left to form my own opinions, I very rarely dislike/hate a place, restaurant, book, movie, etc. Most places have their merits. Most people have their merits. It’s a pity, though, when some prejudices get so ingrained

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  11. fillyourownglass

    Great piece, George! Funny how people have this perception, yet I know of no other people who are as proud of their state as those of us lucky enough to have been born in New Jersey. Preconceived notions rarely hold water…something I both learned and taught when I moved to the South. And oh, those pictures, you know they have made me homesick once again! 🙂

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Karen. It’s really strange how some people make determinations based on little Or no information.
      I’m sorry and glad I made you homesick… Don’t want you to get too comfortable down south..:)

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  12. Holly'sMom

    I must confess being a little girl and hearing my older sister (who had never been to NJ, and she still hasn’t) speaking derogatorily of NJ. Have no clue what she could have heard about it to give her such a bad impression of it when she was just a teenager. Whatever. I’ve never been, but I knew there was beautiful countryside there. Amusingly enough, when I was living in the Atlanta area, and attending Georgia State University, one of my classmates had moved from NJ to Atlanta. He said he honestly thought, coming South, he would see cows walking loose in the streets. My guess is every state has some misconceived notion of the other states. I can’t imagine ever behaving towards someone the way that lady did to you. How ridiculous. Heck, even in the South, people have different attitudes towards different Southern states. Tell a die hard South Carolinian you used to live in Atlanta (even though you grew up in S.C.) and how you miss Atlanta, and they look at you like you have two heads! They can’t understand why anyone would like Atlanta and all that traffic. That’s all anyone here can bring themselves to see when they think of Atlanta. Yeah,…………there is traffic, but there’s so much more……………….Loved all your pictures, but that third one down…………Gorgeous! And could I just LIVE in the house that is the fourth picture down? Sigh……………

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    1. George Post author

      It really us strange what forms people’s opinions especially when they gave no first hand knowledge of done thing. Glad you enjoyed the photos. Yes, I could live in that home in a heartbeat..:)

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  13. Mindy

    One of my best friends is from New Jersey and she is always telling me about how great it is, and your pictures make it seem even better than she does! How could a place called “the garden state” not be great?

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