Who are the politest people in the world?

New Yorkers are the politest people in the world.

And before you say "fuhgetaboutit!" - please read on.

In a city with a reputation for being rough 'n ready and, frankly, my dear, in-your-face, residents seem to be expressing themselves with a new one-finger salute: a raised pinkie.

In fact, they seem to have even better manners than people in London, Toronto and Moscow.

That is the conclusion of Reader's Digest, which sent reporters "undercover" to 36 cities, in 35 countries, to measure courtesy. New York was the only American city on the list.

In its admittedly unscientific survey, the magazine's politeness-police gave three types of tests to more than 2,000 unwitting participants.

The reporters walked into buildings to see if the people in front of them would hold the door open; bought small items in stores and recorded whether the salespeople said "thank you"; and dropped a folder full of papers in busy locations to see if anyone would help pick them up.

New Yorkers turned out to be the best bunch: 90 percent held the door open, 19 out of 20 store clerks said "thank you," and 63 percent of men and 47 percent of women helped with the flying papers.

In short, four out of five New Yorkers passed the courtesy test.

For his part, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is not surprised.

He told reporters Tuesday that whenever he travels abroad, he hears nothing but praise for the Big Apple's good manners.

"They all tell you stories. They are standing on the corner with a map, and a New York City police officer walks up and says, 'Excuse me, may I help you?"' Bloomberg said. "We are so jaded. We want to think the worst of ourselves, and people from around this country and around the world think exactly the reverse."

And which city ranks last in the politeness poll?

We are sorry to report that it is Mumbai, India.

The rudest continent is Asia. Eight out of nine cities tested there, including Mumbai, finished in the bottom 11.

In Europe, Moscow and Bucharest ranked as the least polite.

Reader's Digest, which has readers in 21 languages, is publishing the results in its July issue, reports AP.

O.Ch.