In her essay from 2002, “Living With Strangers”, American author Siri Hustvedt explores how we go about living in big cities and how that affects us. Most of her observations are based on the experiences of her family, her friends, and herself.

Hustvedt starts off her essay by describing the social code of her rural Minnesota upbringing: Everybody would greet one another, even if they were strangers. Simply ignoring another person would be considered extremely rude and snobbish.

However, after she grew up and moved to New York, she discovered that there is a very different social code of conduct in a big city like that. In the big city, we simply pretend others - and their sometimes irrational behavior - do not exist.

Hustvedt mentions three specific examples of incidents in the public sphere where irrational behavior was ignored. An Iranian friend of hers once saw a woman enter a bus wearing only a bathrobe over her naked body as if that were completely normal. Hustvedt once experienced a fanatic preacher lecture an entire train compartment on their sins. And at another occa...

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