Umbrellas for all?

21st July, 2007

Dear Economist,

I am an immigrant who has lived in England long enough to know that I should never leave home without an umbrella. Many of my colleagues lack my foresight, which means that I often find myself bumping into them in the rain.

I always offer to share my umbrella and have noticed a pattern. Foreigners always accept. Indeed, one New Yorker actually links her arm with mine as we walk. But those whose families have lived here for generations prefer getting soaked.

A cost-benefit analysis would seem to suggest my umbrella is the better option. Yet fear of intimacy appears to trump self-interest. Can you explain?

Cosmo, London

Answer at, subscription free.

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