‘Nice but not kind’ vs ‘kind but not nice’ — A Californian’s take on California vs New England

Marc Hoag
6 min readJul 21, 2023
Photo by Oliver Plattner on Unsplash

Ever since my wife and I returned with our baby to Marin County, CA back in February of this year following our delightful two year stint in New England, we often get asked what we loved most about it there; more cynically, we get asked whether we returned because we didn’t like it.

The truth is, while we love being back here and this was definitely the correct choice for us now, we were very bittersweet to leave. (Long convoluted story as to why we returned.)

We loved it there very much for many reasons, most of which, the sincerity and warmth of the people (i.e., no “fakeness” like we Californians are so universally criticized for); New Englanders’ complete inability to sugarcoat everything they say like we tend to do here (you knew who loved you and who hated you); and their striking ability to disagree peacefully, find common ground, and to learn from each other.

A family to one side of our home was very liberal politically; the family on the other side voted for Trump. We all got along and loved one another, and I have no doubt we’ll remain friends forever; there were many tears when we left, and we already look forward to the day we can host them here, or indeed, visit them there.

This, after just two years of living there.

More to the point, what was most striking, whenever we disagreed on something — politically or otherwise — we got a good laugh, often playfully teased each other about it, and usually talked it out; more often than not, we surprised one another with mutual understanding.

Most importantly, nobody was scared to disagree; nobody bit their tongues; and most crucially, nobody was scared to ask questions. Even on NextDoor, the general vibe was one of courtesy and politeness; very rarely did I witness the sort of rude, antagonistic, “my way or the highway”-type comments so prevalent here in our community in Marin, at least.

And in general, we rarely saw posts that existed solely to shame, blame, or otherwise call out another neighbor in a negative light. It just didn’t happen. And this mutual respect — for lack of a better term — seems to have paid off in dividends. In general, intangible an…