Houston’s “personality” became evident to me the first hour I spent there in November. It was around midnight, and I had just checked into my downtown hotel. I was looking for a bodega to pick up some beer. I couldn’t find one, and stopped a man to ask. Nothing was open, he said. But sensing my dilemma, he reached into his grocery bag and produced a can. Before I could pay, he had handed it over, waved me off and said, “Welcome to Houston.”
This encounter has played out again and again in different ways throughout my monthlong stay. Rather than fast-paced and impersonal, Houston has a friendly, small-town feel that is surprising for America’s fourth largest city. People hold doors, provide in-depth directions and smile at you on the street. Even in denser interior neighborhoods, it is common to greet passersby.