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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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The Power of Politeness in Swedish Society

Introducing: The Power of Politeness

Hey there! If you’ve ever spent some time in Sweden, you’ve probably noticed that society operates pretty smoothly here. Part of that reason? Politeness rules. Trust me, I got a solid reminder of it this week.

Respect Missing in Action

On a recent visit to the ubiquitous 7-Eleven, I had a shocking encounter with a little bloke, about 10 or 11 years old, trying to slyly cut in front of me in line. His audacity wound me up so much, I was ready to give him a quick lesson in manners.

Ever count to ten when you’re angry? Not me. Not even with kids.

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The kid tried to justify his antics with a nonchalant “can I go ahead?” I replied, “sorry, I’m in a real hurry,” to which he responded with a similarly urgent excuse. When I reminded him I was first in line, his friends joined the insolence circus. Thankfully, the cashier intervened, reminding the boys to show some respect.

A Lesson in Manners

Days later, I was at my local grocery store, run by a couple of guys who, though gruffly affable, aren’t easy to win over. I believe they’re related, though I’ve never confirmed it. Maybe brothers?

While I was there, a delivery guy came in. The shopkeeper casually greeted him with “amo” and was responded to with “habibi”. Curious about these terms, I asked for an explanation.

“`Amo` means uncle,” one shopkeeper shared. “We say it to those older than us to show respect.” The other added they’d never use first names for their elders – it wasn’t their upbringing. `Habibi`, an Arabic term of endearment, is used by elders to express their affection and respect for the younger ones.

I have a soft spot for politeness, an unspoken social contract that need not be earned, just extended willingly.*

I won’t lie, I teared up a bit. There’s something about unassuming decency that tugs at my heartstrings. The exchanges of courtesy that make life a bit more bearable: saying thank you, holding doors open, respecting queues. In an increasingly unsettling society, such values are absolutely necessary. Plus, these kind gestures can make a world of difference, don’t you agree?

I found a little comfort and understanding after sharing the 7-Eleven incident with the shopkeepers. They were horrified at the thought of acting in such a manner. They affirmed the importance of instilling respect in the young ones by always saying `amo`.

In Conclusion: Spread the Politeness

As I was leaving the store, I asked the delivery man how to address him. “You can call me habibi, dear,” he responded with a generous smile. It’s in these small exchanges that we find humanity and a glimmer of hope. The kindness and respect culturally embedded in words like amo and habibi are transformative.

So, here’s to bringing a bit more politeness into the world – courtesy is, after all, a universal language. Now, let’s pay it forward, dear (or should I say, habibi?).

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