Culture of the Suburbs

Jesse Fried • Jun 14, 2017

Cultural Makeup of Suburban NJ Culture

Resorting to broad cultural stereotypes may be intellectually irresponsible, but it's fun. Hoping that I can get away with it because I'm not trying to disparage any. New Jersey's suburbs are no single one of these to any great extent.

New England / Liberal Suburbs

Resonance with Westchester and Connecticut. Emphasis on class, high culture, moral discipline. Prim and proper but comfortable homes, with more of a relaxed, woodsy attitude towards lawn care. Rustic ornamental stonework and picket fences. Priuses. Running and biking as leisure activities. Lacrosse, cross country. Sense of humor sometimes a little lacking.

Middle American Suburbs

Remarkably neat landscaping, obsessive lawn care featuring ride-on mowers. Grilling and yard work taken to almost religious levels of devotion. Beer. TV. Emphasis on hard work, financial stability, and making good life choices, with a dark underside of laziness. Resonance with suburbs of any American city that's not too regionally influenced: Louisville, Columbus, Chicago... Little league, high school football, baseball, softball, wrestling.

NY Area White Ethnic Suburbs

Fountains, columns, statues, or any kind of Christian iconography adorning homes and yards. Impressive vegetable gardens. Elderly residents taking long slow walks while having deep conversations. Emphasis on food and family. Resonance with Queens, Long Island, Staten Island, etc. Egoism and arrogance mixed with earthy humility. Conspicuous consumption. Endearing cynicism. New York intensity transplanted awkwardly, sometimes resulting in the inability to adapt to suburban calmness. Moderate to high risk of trashiness.

Immigrant Suburbs

Obviously very hard to generalize. Foreign-born parents bringing up kids as suburban Americans, figuring it out as they go. Some seem to be loving it, others struggling. Often strong patriotic convictions. By virtue of broader life experiences, parents often have more self-awareness about the suburban lifestyle. Some particular ethnic subcultures are on the rise towards the status of major suburban NJ cultural categories, but are still too localized. I'd say Chinese, Indian and to some extent Colombian are big contenders.


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