Monday, May 12, 2014

The biggest differences I've noticed in Sweden: Vol. 1

Gamla Stan  |  The biggest differences I've noticed in Sweden: Vol. 1 on afeathery*nest  |

The quiet:
People don't shout, there's no excessive honking on the road (or any really) and after a few weeks here I've heard a siren only twice. In fact, when we landed from NYC I had a moment of panic thinking we had crossed one too many time zones because it was freakishly quiet at the airport—at noon all we heard was a low, gentle murmur. Nothing like the International Arrivals terminal at JFK.

The cleanliness of public transit:
The trams, light rails, subway, buses, ferries and commuter rails are so clean—even though dogs are allowed on them! In NYC dogs aren't allowed on public transit (unless they're in a bag, so forget taking your golden retriever to the park via subway). In Stockholm there's generally a car or two dedicated to animals, so you can't just jump on anywhere, but still. They're so clean. The stations, too!

Weather isn't a factor:
There's a saying here that there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes, and I can attest that these Swedes aren't kidding about that. Even on a cold, gray, rainy day when we were driving around in a car we passed schools with kids playing outside. Not only that, the sidewalks were peppered with people happily walking dogs, jogging or strolling and chatting with friends—without umbrellas (or hoods)! I was worrying about all of them getting serious head colds, but they all seemed nonchalant about the whole thing, having specifically chosen to take a stroll in the rain.

The brusqueness:
Swedes are notoriously shy and hesitant to engage (which is fine for an introvert like myself), but what I didn't count on was the passive aggressiveness. There have been a few specific attempts when I've been quite harshly shoved (at the airport, walking down the sidewalk). Since there's no threat of a confrontation maybe that makes people more confident in their rude behavior?

Paying for bathrooms:
Some, but not all, public places charge to use the facilities. It's less than 50 cents, so not a crazy amount. But still, I was a bit surprised by the concept until I went inside and saw why: the bathrooms were spotless. Come to think of it, even the ones we haven't paid for have been clean so far.

* A few more Swedish differences 

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  1. pretty pict! Sorry to hear about the brusqueness - I think cultural differences like that were what I had the hardest time adjusting to in Germany, and actually never did (an example there is cutting in line - even old sweet-looking women will brazenly cut you off). I'd be interested to hear what R says about it - does he even notice, or is he just used to it?

    1. R definitely notices it—he said he never got used to it when he lived here in his 20s. But then again, he didn't/doesn't experience it as much as I do/have: someone has to be a bit crazy to push him! :)

      I've seen the line cutting thing here, also shutting doors in people's faces! Funny because people have commented to me how "nice and friendly" Americans are. Of course we are when your barometer is willy-nilly shoving and never holding doors for anyone! :)

  2. For me it was (and still) are the MEN... being a gentleman is not something that they do. I have heard it is because the BIG TALL women found here will rip the man's head of if he tries to show any kind of chivalry. wtf. So now there are many of these uncomfortable moments as I confidently take a step to exist the elevator first and end up smushed against the frame of the door because the big tall dude also took a step to exit first.

    1. I've heard so much about that! But...haven't experienced it yet. Most of my experiences so far have been either with R and/or his Italian-Swedish friends, so I haven't been quite fully immersed in 100% Swedish Man'ness.

      On the one hand, I can take care of myself thankyouverymuch. On the other, I'm a dainty lady! Hold that door for me! ;)


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