In case you didn’t know — and you probably didn’t — July 1-7 is Be Nice to New Jersey Week.

When I first heard about it, my initial reaction was, “Why would anyone in New Jersey care about people being nice to them?”

You see, I have a special connection to New Jersey: it’s my boyfriend’s home state. The first time I traveled with him to his hometown, he warned me about the “New Jersey Attitude.” He told me people would act like jerks. He gave me a crash course on New Jerseyans’ inattention to manners and their complete lack of social graces.

Having spent most of my life in Montana, I was not prepared for the culture shock I was hit with moments after stepping off of the plane at Newark Liberty International Airport. Since I didn’t see any signs pointing to the baggage claim area, I approached an airport employee and asked her where I could retrieve my luggage.

“That way,” she said without even raising her eyes to me. She pointed her finger in a vague direction.

I turned to my boyfriend with a look of complete bewilderment in my eyes. He just snickered and raised his eyebrows, as if to say, “Told you so.”

Of course, his family and friends are awesome, and so is he — but when it comes to interacting with strangers, the vibe in New Jersey is totally different from anything you would experience in Montana. Here, most people are friendly toward one another in any given situation, whether they know each other or not.

But then again, Montanans don’t have to deal with traffic congestion, air pollution and Snooki on a regular basis.

So this week, let’s all cut New Jersey some slack. We get to live in the most beautiful state in the country, and they have to live in the Armpit of America. The least we can do is be nice.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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