New York the politest city in the world? Get outta here!

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IT IS the city where eye contact is considered an act of aggression and the most frequently used part of a car is the horn.

But New York is the most polite place in the world, according to a survey which ranked its famously brusque citizens well ahead of those in London in kindness and good manners.

The Big Apple scored 80 per cent in a series of tests, including dropping papers in a street in a busy area, seeing how long it took for someone to help, noting whether doors were held open and if shop assistants said thank you after making a sale.

Reader's Digest magazine carried out the tests by sending journalists to cities in 35 countries. London and Paris were in joint 15th place with a score of 57 per cent, while India's Mumbai came bottom with 32 per cent.

Although the United States is famous for its "have a nice day" service culture, New Yorkers have long been considered gruff and impatient, particularly the taxi drivers.

But former mayor Ed Koch said the 11 September terror attacks had given the city's inhabitants a new perspective. "Since 9/11 New Yorkers are more caring," he said. "They understand the shortness of life."

When another former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, introduced a raft of "politeness" by-laws in the 1990s, such as a $50 fine for putting feet on subway seats, the move was greeted with astonishment by residents.

Native New Yorker Dan Norman, 36, from East Rockaway, said: "The thing to remember is that New Yorkers are not rude, they are brusque.

"People will listen to you, but you've got to cut to the chase." Katherine Walker, the editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest British edition, said London was tenth out of 18 European cities tested.

"This was the world's biggest real-life test of common courtesy," she said. "The results were often surprising and consistently thought-provoking."

Zurich came second, Toronto third and So Paulo, Brazil, tied for fourth with Berlin.

People living in Zagreb were most helpful in picking up dropped papers, and shop assistants the most polite in Stockholm. Every Asian city tested, apart from Hong Kong, finished in the bottom ten. But Europe was not excluded from the bottom either, as the second rudest city was Bucharest.

It was in Bucharest that one woman, on refusing to hold open a door, told researchers: "I'm not a doorman, it's not my job to hold doors, if someone gets hurt they should be quicker."

In So Paulo, even the criminals are polite. Researchers were buying goods from a market when a call went out that the police were coming, sending the traders packing up and fleeing.

It turned out the market was illegal, but before disappearing the traders said thank you to researchers.

The tests also showed that the under-40s were the most courteous and the over-60s the least - particularly older men.

A spokesman for Reader's Digest said: "If common courtesy is the oil that keeps society running, a check suggests there's plenty of oil in the engine."