Extroverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging People Belong in Birmingham

by drewnilsen

I think about what cities I’d like to live in the way college-age women do Cosmo quizzes to determine what kind of man they should be with. Frankly, I have no idea who reads Cosmo, and maybe I should also be asking if Denver or Minneapolis are as into me as I’m into them.

The problem with some Web-based “where should I live?” quizzes is that they place a trumping premium on weather, or too much on objective criteria like proximity to the opera and property tax rates.

Certainly, the economy is important, but any of us who’ve ever chosen a city to which to move know that it’s not that housing starts are five percent higher in Kansas City than Chicago, it’s that Chicago is cooler than Kansas City. Sorry, Kansas City.

What appeals about different places is a je ne sais quoi one feels when they’re there. New York, Washington, and San Francisco are all creative class-type coastal cities that draw highly-educated and have insanely-expensive housing (“$1700 for a basement studio? Sold!”). We all know, though, that they have different temperaments, and no one moves to one over the other because one has three percent more park space than the other. (I’m not an anti-parkist, it’s just an example.)

Attempting instead to categorize places by personality type poses an intriguing alternative. Admittedly, it’s completely unscientific, as well as unfair to try to box in the rich tapestry of any city. Nonetheless, it provides an interesting layer to overlay on the more objective (e.g. economic) and tangible (e.g. “I have friends there”) data.

Richard Florida, the influential urban theorist who popularized the “creative class” concept, provides a bunch of snazzy tools to find your spot on his website, “Who’s Your City?” Bonus: there’s an entire Canadian section! (Who knew Ottawa was so gay-friendly?)

One of Florida’s studies interestingly characterized cities and regions (in ‘Murca) by personality traits: where agreeable, open to experience, neurotic (read: the Northeast), and conscientious people reside. Note to extroverts in West Texas: what are you doing out there?!?

A travel blog extrapolated those figures into a fun rundown matching personality types to cities. Cynics should head to New York (shocking) or the Rust Belt; Artists to Los Angeles (where you’ll end up being one of 750 massage therapists advertising in the classifieds of L.A. Weekly); Model Citizens to boring places; and Party-Animal Types to a bunch of places where Kenny Chesney is in regular rotation at the bar.

“Taken By The Wind” also runs down a book, Where in the World Do I Belong?, in which the author applies Myers-Briggs (you know, that INTJ and ESFP stuff you took in a staff retreat and subsequently forgot which one you are) to countries, and comes up with some interesting collections of countries for each type. (If you need me, I’ll be in Kyrgystan.)

While I doubt this would ever pass peer review muster, it’s a cool way to think about places. I’d love to see this applied to cities. What’s the Myers-Briggs for passive-aggressive Scandinavian-immigrant Upper Midwestern cities?