Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Returning to Sweden in 2 weeks. First time there? This is what you need to know.

If late for an appointment or meeting, even with friends, the average Swede gets physically ill. If you invite us over for dinner at 7, you can start regarding your door bell as an alarm set to exactly 7 pm. I have a close Swedish friend who tried to be late on purpose, just to see if she could do it. She could not.

Rain gear
Swedes live by the annoying saying "No bad weather, just bad clothing". This philosophy dates back to pagan times and people have hated it ever since. Nevertheless, every Swede who makes the transition into parenthood mysteriously starts believing it's true, forcing kids out to play in rain, blizzards or any other challenging climate.

A favorite topic of conversation is how poor other nations are at catching up to us and our rain gear.

If you see a Swede with a stressed facial expression, it's likely sunny out. That means the day must be seized frantically and immediately in every imaginable way.

Ideals - summer
The Swedish ideal is to be out in the countryside looking for mushrooms that you will fry and eat on crisp bread. Preferably, you should find lots of chanterelles and they should be close to your stuga. The stuga is a cabin, ideally located in the middle of nowhere and very far away from the nearest neighbor.

Then you have pickled herring or soured milk with crisp bread  for lunch. You should then proceed to work up a heavy sweat in a sauna while beating yourself with fresh birch twigs before skinny dipping in freezing water. For dinner, you eat pickled herring again. This is the epitome of Swedish summer. Be sure to spend 95 % of your awake time out of doors (except for time in sauna). This is very very important. There will be lots of mosquitoes and the weather will certainly be shitty. Does not matter, put your rain gear on!

If you manage to do this all in one day, you score 10/10 and the envy of all other Swedes who do exactly the same thing.

Ideals - winter
In winter, it is customary to complain. And to not complain is almost impossible, since Swedish winters never ever end. They begin in early October and last till May. When not complaining, go skiing. All the time. Cross country skiing is good. Plan your life around it.

Disagreeing is frowned upon. 
Swedes love agreeing so much, work meetings take exactly the time it takes for a room full of people to finally agree on a compromise no one is exactly happy with (= 3-4 hours). You will be served lots and lots of coffee to stay awake and get to hear every participant's opinion on everything in their life, regardless if it has anything to do with the topic at hand.