A few weeks back I was talking with a businessman from Germany who was trying to navigate the complexities of life in Minnesota.
“Why,” he asked me, “do the checkout clerks in stores ask me how my day is going?”
“And when they ask, how should I respond??”
He was completely flummoxed!
I assured him that the question was not being asked out of a genuine desire to know, or in order to elicit an elaborate and detailed response; rather it was merely a greeting, a way of saying “hell0.”
I also told him that the appropriate response to such a question is some variation of “great!,” and that it would be polite for him to follow with some variation of “and you?”
The poor man just shook his head in disbelief, and I then got to introduce him to the concept of “Minnesota Nice.”
Since then I have been thinking and reading about Minnesota Nice. It often gets a bad rap as being simply a fancy term for passive aggression or conflict avoidance.
To my mind, however, a key feature of Minnesota Nice is just being pleasant. And after living for nearly 3 decades where interactions in stores and other service venues ran the gamut from robotic to indifferent to surly, I kind of like the polite banter at the check-out counter. So what if the clerk doesn’t really care how my day is going. Is it wrong to be pleasant?
I’ll take Minnesota Nice over Surly Socialism any day!