Sunday, July 27, 2008

EGC: Trust And Social Condemnation In The Countryside

Greetings from the go congress. Arrived on Saturday, will spend 7 days playing go, meeting foreign people and idling. This is also my first trip to a foreign country, so I'll use this to decide if I like travelling or if watching TV has brainwashed me to believe that I MUST travel, MUST travel, MUST travel...

I grew up in Pinomäki, a farming area near Pori (pop. 80000). The go congress is at Leksand, which is very similar to Pinomäki. Big, spacious farm houses and crop fields everywhere. The distances (1 - 5km to everywhere) are also pretty similar.

What really sets small town apart from cities is the high level of trust among citizens and the power of social condemnation. I'll tell you an example. When I arrived at the Bed & Breakfast accommodation house (3k from center), there was nobody present. The door only had a note announcing opening hours and a phone number to call outside opening hours. When I called the number, a female instructed me to just open the door (no lock!), to take the room key from reception and to mark my name from the list of guests. They trusted that the person who came there will act according to their assigned role (hostel customer) and won't do any damage, that is, they'll use their common sense.

The rooms and public spaces also had lots of notes. You shouldn't take soap from the toilet, because it will prevent other guests from using it, said one. Another told that you can use the kitchen facilities as long as you leave the dishes washed where they were. I've never seen so many notes in urban premises. Basically, they believe that people will to what they are told.

This works in the countryside: They know that the people who come to the house are go players, they know their names, and should there be "rotten eggs" then the group of go player would probably get forever socially condemned. They save huge amounts of works by not keeping the house manned, and most people know how to behave, so it is economically rational to trust to the power of social condemnation.

Next, I'll compare the experience to Queen's Hotel in Stockholm, where I spent Friday night. It was in the main walking street in Stockholm (Drottingsgatan) so huge amount of people walked past, certainly containing some rotten eggs. To get inside the building you just needed to open the door, which was not locked in the first place ... no!!! you had to use a doorbell and talk with the receptionist, which opened the door. They had few instruction notes, they offered the basic hotel services which everyone knows.

The price for a night in Queen's Hotel was ~80e. In the guesthouse it was ~35e, so trust clearly makes transactions cheaper. The service is essentially the same.

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