A Cultural Touchstone: the ‘Pittsburgh Hello'

It's the Pittsburgh Hello – not the Pittsburgh Left – that really keeps things flowing in this city.

I'm a lifelong Pittsburgher: born and raised in the West suburbs and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon. After dabbling with the idea of leaving in my early 20s, I found a job in my field (-ish) and stayed to build my career and, eventually, marry and start a family.

As do others who spend time in Pittsburgh, I recognize there's something different about the people and the purpose here. We have many little quirks and idiosyncrasies that set us apart from other cities: the dialect, the Primanti's Sandwich, the cookie table. And let's not forget the Pittsburgh Left, a courtesy that leaves drivers from other towns utterly flummoxed.

But my favorite thing about this town is what I call the "Pittsburgh Hello."

Visitors and residents alike probably don't need me to elaborate about the Pittsburgh Hello. But I will, because it's worth talking about – and worth sharing. The Pittsburgh Hello is not for people you know, it's for people you don't know. It's freely given multiple times a day, and most often paired with eye contact and a smile. It's generally reserved for on-the-go situations: entering or exiting an elevator; navigating the aisles of the supermarket; jogging on one of the local trails; or simply walking down the sidewalk.

Pittsburgh is mighty, beautiful & friendly. 

The Pittsburgh Hello is the most simple and basic of interactions, but it is fundamental to our local culture. It's a sign that everyone is welcome, that we're in this together, that strangers won't necessarily be strangers for long. This outward display of kindness and consideration is one of the things that makes Pittsburgh feel less like a city and more like a community.

I'm not a world traveler by any means, but I've been around enough to know that casual greetings are not commonplace in other towns. In fact, when I give the Pittsburgh Hello in other cities – it's a reflex I often can't contain – the recipients tend to look at me like I'm crazy. As they avert their eyes and ponder my ulterior motive, I simply chuckle to myself and miss the 'burgh.

No, I don't claim perfection for this corner of the world. Nor do I automatically classify a Pittsburgher as a "good person." But it's no accident that visitors to our neck of the woods tend to come away with a warm and fuzzy feeling about their experiences. And I'd wager the Pittsburgh Hello is a big reason why.