Monday, September 10, 2007

More Swedish Fun Facts (and another Crayfish party)

It has recently been brought to my attention in one form or another that Linköpinglivin' could be a very helpful resource for a foreigner, particularly American, who is coming to live in Sweden for a period of time or forever. With that in mind, I've started to think of a few things that I have perhaps overlooked, but that need some mention, if I ever want this blog to be a legitimate resource for the naïve foreigner looking to make it past their first queue line in Sweden. For the rest of you, consider these some more Swedish fun facts "not important enough to have a full blog entry":

1. What happens when you mix Scandinavian equality, love of nature, a small population and one of the largest square km. countries in all of Europe? Allemansrätten or "Every man's right," which every Swede knows, loves and uses, states that you may sleep for one night anywhere in the countryside or islands of Sweden, yes even inside of fences on owned property, without permission as long as you don't disturb anyone and leave everything as you found it. But if you want to stay two nights, well you're just gonna have to ask permission!

2. I'm no expert on this subject, but Swedish male fashion, with it's liotard-tight jeans, skin-tight shirts and "fo-hawk," which probably comes from the French word "faux" or "fake" and I just like to call the "Swedish mullet," leaves a lot to be desired...I'll try to get a good picture of this someday soon for Linköpinglivin'.

3. If you submitted a tax return in Sweden, which of course everyone should, then it is public record and anyone can look up how much you submitted, thus being able to approximate one's salary and worth. This shocked me for a society as private as Sweden.

4. Sweden is a country of systems and order. When you go into almost any retail shop or business that expects multiple customers at once, you must obey the almighty queue - immediately take a nummerlapp in order to stand in the queue line. Eventually your number will be called, but if you ever want to piss off a Swede, just ignore the queue and step up to the front of the line. The Swedish queue system is always one of the first things a foreigner must learn, and also one of the first things discussed when foreigners are making fun of Sweden. Trust me, I know.

5. The U.S. often laments the two-party stranglehold on politics by the Republicans and Democrats (I guess there is also the Green Party). In Sweden, there are seven different parties, but in the end, most align themselves with one of the equivalents of the conservative (Moderate) or liberal (Social Democrat) parties. Last year, the Moderates won a victory for the first time in over 50 years. The next election is in three years.

6. Every Swede knows that "Sweden's most bought car" is not a Volvo, SAAB, Audi, BMW, Mercedes or any other manufactured car, but Sweden's beloved "Ahlgrens Bilar" marshmellow/gummy candy that no Swede is able to resist when offered... kind of like the American's love for gummy candy, but much more love.

7. Once again, systems and order. After learning about the almighty queue, all foreigners must go obtain their personnummer or "personal number." Much more than the Social Security number in the U.S., you need your personal number at all times in all places in Sweden if you hope to accomplish anything. Swedes are fond of saying that they "don't have names, just numbers," but unlike in the U.S. where we are concerned about eventually becoming controlled by these numbers, it appears that Swedes actually kind of like it!

8. In the U.S., hot dogs are looked down upon as unhealthy, cheap, bad-for-you food (except when at a baseball game, on a national holiday in the spring or summer or on a Manhattan or Chicago street corner). However, it seems that in Sweden and much of Europe, corner-bought street food, and especially hot dogs, are perfectly acceptable and permissable, not looked down upon or considered socially ignorant. This is one of the few ways in which Sweden is like Manhattan.

9. Unlike the stereotype, it simply isn't true that all Swedes are blonde. However, it is true that all Swedish children are blonde. It's really quite remarkable. And we're not just talkin' light hair or sandy blonde, it's called toe-head, almost-white blonde and Swedish children are all that! I think the cutest kids on earth are little black kids, but Swedish kids and their shiny blonde hair are a close second.

10. Just in case you were wondering, Fall has hit Sweden. Almost on cue, as August turned to September, the temperature dropped 20 degrees (10 Celsius) and all the shorts and shirts were put away until Valborgsmässoafton.

Pictures above:

1. This past week, I celebrated my second Kräftfiske party. Unlike last year, this year we successfully captured hundreds of live crayfish. For more on my thoughts about Swedes and their beloved crayfish, see the Linköpinglivin' entry from about a year ago.
2. A colleague, Cecilia, says "Hej" to a crayfish.
3. It's not Deadliest Catch, but it was fun.
4. Songs, crayfish bibs, plenty of food and drink and cameras are all part of a Swedish Crayfish party.
5. My summary of this delightful Swedish festivity.

See you next week.


Todd said...

Sean - I take issue with your statement "This is one of the few ways in which Sweden is like Manhattan." That is a sweeping generalization that violates one of the important tenets that Linkopinglivin' holds so dear.

There are many similarities between Manhattan and Sweden that I address time after time...but apparently I need to address again. Here are just a few that can be taken directly from this weeks Linkipinglivin' entry.

1. We, in Manhattan, have our own Allemansrä's what happens to SOME people after a few too many Aquavits.

2. We too have fo-hawks...and judging by the number of them in the Village...I think it's a virus. When I woke up this morning, I was sure I had caught this virus...but a dash of water killed it!

3. We have a queue system as well...but, if violated, we face a swifter sentence in the form of New Yorker's fist and an education on the best way to combine profane words.

And finally, I wish to rebuke Sean's encouragement to enjoy a Manhattan hot dog from a street vendor...which we affectionately call "street meat." You'll be making an unplanned tourist stop at the Times Square bathroom if you follow his advice.

So, Sean, please remember that the comments you make reach millions of people through your blog. Have some journalistic responsibility, please!

Björn said...

Well Sean, someone has been lying to you. The moderates and thier allies won the election of 1991.

They have been in power for a period here and there, but it is true that the Social Democrates have been in power for MOST of the last 60 years.

Christopher said...

Sean, I'm so glad you're getting to do this time in Sweden (not that it's "doing time" but you get the idea). Sarah and I have finally moved to Princeton and classes start next week. I'm excited, nervous and anxious all at once.

Anyway, we were talking about you the other day as we were trapped in a queue in IKEA (Swedish for "hell") trying to buy some furniture. I was joking that if it wasn't for Sean this would be all I know of a very interesting country.

We had a good laugh in a tight spot. Drop us a line sometime and let us know if you're on the Eastern seaboard anytime soon.