Might not come as a shocker, but a common topic within the chamber and in conversation with our members, are observations of differences between Sweden and America.
The most recent one is obvious, yet so subtle that it often gets lost among the more striking ones, like skyscrapers and abundances of giant junk food. I am referring to the Americans professional Niceness.
The American people, especially the people of the southern states, have refined the art of being nice to each other without making excuses for themselves or being overly humble. They are just professionally Nice.
Walking into your average grocery store in Sweden, not finding what you are looking for, you hunt around for someone to ask. Don’t you dare ask the deli counter, you will get no help there, but a clarification that THEY don’t work on the floor.
So you find one of the store attendants and they walk you to what you need (if they have it) and off you go to the register. Usually you get a “Hej” and if you are lucky maybe a smile to go with that “Hej”. You pack your groceries and walk out. It is not an unpleasant experience, but it doesn’t leave you feeling anything really.
Now, let me take you on the amazing experience of a shopping trip in an American Grocery Store,
As you enter through the doors, the person unpacking the bananas, just as the fruit and vegetable section starts, greets you with a “Hi! Welcome to the Grocery Store!”
You start walking between the shelves of greens and fruit and another person unpacking pre- chopped white onions smiles at you and says “Let me know if you need anything!”. Continuing over to the deli counter, one person stands handing out samples and another is helping a customer to cured ham.
You remember there is actually something you need that you don't know where to find. You look around and turn back to the deli counter. The person handing out samples catches your eye and asks “Are you looking for something special Sir/ Ma'am?” The person walks around the counter and takes you down to a colleague that leads you to what you need, or if they don't have it, recommends you a store nearby where they have it and offers to look up their opening hours.
At the register you are greeted with a big smile and a “Hi! How is your day going? Did you find everything ok today? I love those glasses on you!” The person packs your goods for you, hands you the grocery bags and wishes you “A good one!”
You reading this is now thinking: they are not nice, they are good at service. Which is also true. But people are like this all the time.
Walking pass a random girl in the street, she looks at you and says. “I like your style, girl!”
Standing in line at Starbucks, the person in front of you will offer his/ her advice when you are staring at the endless menu board.
Is it always real?
Is it always sincere and authentic? Most likely not. But it has effect. I am happier, I feel better about myself after having spent a day surrounded with American professional niceness. On a subconscious level I discover myself being nicer too.
Is fake politeness and niceness better than none? I would say yes. Just like putting on your job uniform, may it be a suit or a chef’s apron, you don’t feel like it every day, but you do it. To enter a professional role being Nice is to put on you professional role as a fellow human being and contributing to a world and context which is - Nicer.
Jonna André Karlin - ambitious and driven individual that believes in climbing the professional Jungle Gym rather than the Career Ladder. Student at IHM Complex Sales B2B, now in Atlanta Georgia as Business Development Coordinator for the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce.