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Old 09-26-2009, 06:53 PM
Location: Beautiful Pelham Pkwy (da Bronx)
966 posts, read 2,435,028 times
Reputation: 565


Many Madisonians are friendly, but after three weeks or so of being back in Madison I have also come across many people who are fearful, reactive, touchy, and pretentious. Iow, I haven't got a fix on the vibe of the whole city. So far, I just think that people are people, in any city. You will find all types. I must admit though that for a city that prides itself on being so liberal or progressive, the majority of the people I have encountered are very conservative. If you fit in, you will find friendliness. If you don't, you will find fearful standoffishness, until they get to know you.
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Old 09-27-2009, 02:02 PM
228 posts, read 662,870 times
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Madison is a strange town in many ways- the geography makes it a pain in the neck to get around (and yes, I have several bikes and use them) and I have had considerable difficulty in getting to know people to the point where I have been here two years and have no real friends at all. Ive tried joining a couple of groups but have been put off by either extreme amounts of politics ("you reform the club, then let me remind you that its OUR age group that puts in the time and money and if you reform things that go against our wishes then we wont help anymore!") or people so rooted that they arent exactly welcoming to new blood and ideas- despite how they may like to project the town and themselves to the world. Ill admit that I sit at an interesting position- Im waiting for my partner to finish his undergrad so we can leave, (we are transient) but Im not in school, am 32, have no kids and dont plan to have any (no mom groups, no school groups, etc), and we dont fit the blue collar grouping that sits on the fringes of the city.

People are friendly... to an extent. When my car was stuck on ice going up East Washington two winters ago- some awesome undergrad boys were out there helping people up the steepest part of the road... because the city didnt plow/sand sufficiently. I havent found it to be as friendly as other parts of Wisconsin, however.

Its a nice town, but its not for us and even though the move we made here will result in a good degree and jumping off point for my partner, it has been disastrous for my career (laid off 10 months after I started and there is nothing remotely close to my career paths here).

And my one MAJOR beef with this city (besides terrible drivers)- what the hell is that sad pile of bricks downtown they call the flagship public library? Seriously- its disgusting and the most pathetic library I have EVER been in. I finally signed up to take a class this semester so I could access the fine UW libraries (among other reasons) but it is unbelievable how awful the downtown library is. I was just there on Saturday to give it another chance- that maybe I was being a snob about it last year- but no. Its bad. I worked at a university library for 5 years- I used to love walking the shelves and "shopping" for reading material for hours in a dank basement from the 1960s. The Madison building is the same age but I lasted 15 minutes before I HAD to get out of there. The collection is horrible- few new books and most are from the last 20 years and they all seem so destroyed- sticky covers or wrecked pages. I thought to order my books online (as I have in the past) but the books I wanted were "lost", not held in the downtown library, or had tens to hundreds of names ahead of me on the borrow list. AND... it smells in there. Sour... not like the dusty library smell, but like there is an old open container of milk somewhere and its permeating throughout the building. Im not even going to get in to the all-day patrons either.

Sorry for the library rant I think if you have kids and are used to the Midwestern weather and like to do outdoor stuff then you would be fine in this town, but be aware that the people may be a little snotty and standoffish compared to where you are coming from
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Old 09-27-2009, 02:18 PM
2,987 posts, read 10,093,156 times
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I agree that Madison is friendly on one level and not on another. In general, if you fit into the established mold, like the city and are the environmentalist type, you will make friends easily. Lots of activistm and NIMBYism here as said in other posts. You know how it goes, if you have a cause to rally around, you unite and bond with others...kind of universal concept, but here the cause is usually the environment and micro management of development, which gets old after a while.

If you move here and have negative feelings or opinions about the place, many locals will fiercly challenge and debate you...which in itself isn't a bad thing, but it does show that there is a complex that many locals have that this is "God's Country" and can never understand why someone would want to live anywhere else. Another common complex is that in Madison we do things "the right way" and the way they do things everywhere else is wrong or flawed (hollier than though). I think this comes from isolation and naivity in my opinion.

Making friends is difficult if you are not the activist type or a university student...but it is possible. However, people are friendly on a day to day basis overall. For example, most people will hold the door for a stranger, say hello to a passerby, let you merge in traffic, inquire (superficially) about you and where you are from...but as in life, it is what you make of it. Madison is not a utopia, but if you take it for what it is and just enjoy the positive aspects it offers, it can be a pretty great place. Although, it is transient for a reason and many people do not live here forever unless they are from here.

The other positive thing is, you can avoid some of the Madison elitism if you live outside of downtown (to an extent), you can travel to Milwaukee, Chicago or other places often because they are close...you have internet nowadays to stay in touch and find others in your same boat...so don't worry. Madison has its pros and cons, but there are many places that are much less friendlier and more miserable to live in.
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Old 09-27-2009, 06:53 PM
Location: Beautiful Pelham Pkwy (da Bronx)
966 posts, read 2,435,028 times
Reputation: 565
Originally Posted by Megan1967 View Post
Huh. I've only lived in two other three other places for any amount of time, admittedly all in WI, and of the 3, Madison was overwhelmingly the friendliest.
Yes. lol. We could definitely do worse. There is a running joke in my new workplace. Whenever someone complains about how bad it is in Madison, or how much Madison has changed in these trying times, someone pipes up by saying, "It could be Chicago" or "It could be Milwaukee." Everyone laughs and lightens up. As a returning Madisonian who has been in Chicago and Milwaukee only briefly, years ago, these statements/jokes make me wonder. How bad is it in Chicago or Milwaukee? Are these cities really so bad?
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Old 09-27-2009, 08:21 PM
Location: Mequon, WI
8,275 posts, read 22,985,270 times
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How bad is it in Chicago or Milwaukee? Are these cities really so bad?

LOL... we say the same thing about madison "At least I don't live in Madison". Usually you hear these comments from people who aren't big city people and often you hear the rag on every big city. Chances also are they haven't really been to Milwaukee or Chicago except for a ball game or to use the airport. I also a credit this to people in WI not being "city educated", a lot of times you or I have met people that expect a big city to be just like madison. So they expect no traffic, no crime, clean everywhere you go and nice polite people. Sorry but that's just not the nature of a big city. In every big city in America you have extreme poverty and extreme wealth and every spectrum of human life walking around.

Also I don't know if they are referring to crime or rude people or how clean a city is. In any event Milwaukee are not bad compared to other big cities. I think we all know by now that Milwaukee's revitalization and dropping crime rate for the last 3 years has made it a great place to live not to mention the very nice suburbs, Chicago likewise.

People that rag on Chicago or Milwaukee or any big city typically aren't city people anyways and so therefore do not understand city life. People in Madison tend to be more outdoorsy, fishing, hiking, camping. People in big cities tend to be more "event" or amenities driven and like to be seen and go out and do things in the city. Chances are the people who make these comments haven't been to Milwaukee or Chicago in a long time or just have a grudge b/c of one bad trip to the city.

Either way there is a reason people live in madison and Chicago, it's a lifestyle choice. Small vs BIG, and one doesn't make the other better for that reason.
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Old 09-27-2009, 08:35 PM
47 posts, read 166,560 times
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I agree with quite a few points already mentioned.

While people here aren't exactly mean, they're not welcoming either. You might make some sort of connection/good conversation/etc., but you won't see that person for another two months, if ever.

There are people here in the post/non-collegiate years, and go out for various events, etc., but most are either from the area, or are from somewhere else, and work for Epic, and are established in their Epic clique. Or they're working really hard to be a hippie, so if you have the appearance like you've showered lately, it gets awkward because you probably wasted umpteen gallons of water during those 5 minutes, as you may be told by them.

I'm in the education field, and the school systems hardly sniff at you if you didn't attend one of the UW schools, or again, aren't from here. For example, MANY of the staff in the high schools attended that particular high school.

I'm not sure what the joke is on Milwaukee or Chicago. Both of those places are what the town of Madison (a lot of times) collectively likes to pretend it is as far as opportunities/things to do are concerned, and both have WAY more going on in general, obviously. I've also found people, in general, to be much more open to conversation in both of those cities. That does not happen in Madison, WI.
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Old 09-27-2009, 09:24 PM
Location: Madison, WI
1,741 posts, read 5,374,906 times
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This is so weird. I've never had - well, okay rarely had - people in Milwaukee, Chicago or Madison be rude or unfriendly.

I admit my friendship with my neighbors might have taken a while to bloom, but then again they are in their late sixties, have very different interests and are married while I'm 42 and single.

Maybe I'm an example of what so many of you are complaining about, however.

I'm more of a private person. I like a little anonymity. My first semester in college I went to a really small private school and HATED it. I loved moving to UW Madison and becoming a "number."

Maybe I'm weird, but I don't consider a person a friend until I've known them a couple of years and we've weathered issues together. I have plenty of friendly acquaintances, but I don't want to be "friends" with the whole world.

Frankly, I don't care if I get any more involved with my neighbors than I am. We are all friendly, give each other holiday gifts, share tomatoes, help each other out in a jam and chat about things on a summer evening, but we don't do a ton of stuff together We all have our own interests and our own lives. I don't think geography can be the soul grounds for friendship.

I sound like a broken record, but I've made my friends through work and hobbies. I didn't pursue the hobbies in order to find friends, but having common interests did help that happen.

I think friendship is like any relationship. If you seem desperate, people can sense it, and it isn't attractive. Not enough people know how to be happy by themselves these days in my opinion.
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Old 09-27-2009, 09:42 PM
11,973 posts, read 31,624,552 times
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Originally Posted by Nala8 View Post
How bad is it in Chicago or Milwaukee? Are these cities really so bad?

Well, at least not in the parts of Chicago or Milwaukee you would ever consider living in. But in the really nasty parts of Chicago and Milwaukee--where shootings and violent crime are commonplace--yes, yes they really are so bad.
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Old 09-28-2009, 08:46 AM
1,340 posts, read 2,793,488 times
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Originally Posted by Milwaukee Ronnie View Post
Friendliness is so subjective. Most people have a good understanding of what makes a friendly person, but trying to label a town as friendly or unfriendly is a whole other thing.

Here are my incredibly subjective thoughts on the matter, based on living in Madison for five years in the late 1990s, early 2000s:

Madison is a college town, which means it plays host to a lot of transients. People are there one day and gone the next. So I personally feel that this leads to a certain level of coldness. People aren't putting down roots. They're not looking for a life long connection with others, in fact, their deepest connections still lie where ever they moved to Madison from.

Madison is way more pretentious than other places in the Midwest, including Chicago. It's like Madisonians make a sport out of proving to themselves and their peers how smart, sophisticated and cultured they are. So expect a lot of unsolicited lectures and a lot of very firmly held beliefs informed by some intro class somebody took when they were an undergrad.

You'll make friends in Madison if you wear your leftiness on your sleeve. That is, get a bike and make a big deal about riding it. Doesn't matter if you only bike a few times every summer, because everyone in Madison says "everyone bikes everywhere," even though 98% of people there drive everywhere just like in Des Moines. Join one of the local food co-ops and make sure to buy one of their canvas shopping bags so that everyone knows you shop there. Approach and make friends with the few minorities in your midst and gush on and on about how "diverse" the neighborhood is.

Whatever you do, don't criticize Madison. Always remember you are living in the shining city upon a hill, the place where all problems have been solved, the place that "gets it." Don't ask questions. Just go along with the show and you'll be fine.
Having lived in Madison,I will testify this post is EXACTLY telling it like it Is !
Yuppies seem to have a compulsive need to hear/tell how wonderful they are on a daily/hourly basis and Madison is a yup town par excellence in general tone.
I put it down to their religion being them.
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Old 09-28-2009, 12:00 PM
395 posts, read 1,852,855 times
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The last party I went to in Madison sums it up, for me, anyway.

Everyone at the party was a government employee in one way or another, whether working in academia or state government.

As I floated around the room mingling, here's a sampling of the conversations I partook in:

- One woman told about how she knows exactly which houses in her neighborhood had Bush/Cheney signs in their yards back in '04.

- One lady was moving into a co-operative housing arrangement, lecturing me (and whomever else would listen) on the environmental benefits of communal living. She said the big the project the co-op was embarking on was an underground parking garage, which everyone had voted unanamously for. I couldn't resist. I asked "wouldn't it be better for the environment to have no parking garage?"

- One guy recounted in detail how he commutes to work without a car. I learned that a bus trip "all the way across town" in Madison takes about an hour.

- Apparently there is a very well known newspaper columnist, published frequently in the New York Times, who resides in Madison.

- One of the hosts of the party "hardly ever drives" but evidently drove that one day for some reason, which was a mistake. Because the Badgers were playing and the traffic "was horrendous."

Friendly? Sure. I had a good time drinking fine wine with these people that night. But it reminded me once again why I'm glad I don't live in Madison anymore.
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