I feel a bit guilty for having a big old moan earlier and boring you all senseless, so I decided to finally finish writing up The Five Things I love About Sweden!
1. The People
Swedes are all about manners, they can be quite formal which makes them a bit hard to get to know sometimes. However, once you're in you've got a friend for life. They are extremely hospitable people who will look after you, show you around, invite you over for dinner and if you're single probably set you up with one of their friends. The old 'friend of a friend' method is one of the most common ways of finding a date and inside every Swede is a budding matchmaker. Just don't forget to take your shoes off at the door!
Due to the extreme cold you can expect to spend a lot of time at home, because of this and the proliferation of Ikea stores Swedes are very domestic and house proud creating cosy little winter nests for themselves illuminated by candles and twinkly lights. I never understood the concept of 'Christmas as cultural' as opposed to religious but in Sweden I got it. Even without the whole baby Jesus thing the people of Sweden would be wrapping everything in fairy lights, roasting up big hearty dinners and scoffing back on special sugary treats because it is pretty much the only way to survive a season where its dark when you leave for work and dark by lunch time.
Having lived a great deal of my life in England I have suffered my way through many a glass of 'mulled wine' so when I was offered my first glass of glögg and was too polite to refuse I wasn't expecting much. Trust me, mulled wine is the impoverished cousin of glögg.
Just imagine trudging through thigh high snow drifts in the pitch darkness whilst snowflakes the size of 50p pieces clog up your eyes and mouth and nose, when finally you get to your friends house dripping wet, whilst the snow from your trousers melts into your cold shoe-less feet (shoes are always left at the door) you are less than impressed. However, the anti-climax doesn't last long as within seconds you are served with a steaming receptacle of sweet red alcoholic wine floating with little nuts and raisins. I don't say this often but it may be the best thing you will ever have in your mouth.
3. The Giants.
Sweden, the native home of the albino giant. Everyday on the metro you come face to face with people so blonde and so tall it makes your follicles sweat and your bones ache. In Korea I was freakishly massive, in Sweden I can't reach the overhead handles on the bus without lifting one of my miniature feet off the ground. And speaking of the aryan race, in Sweden no one comments on how freakishly blue my eyes are, for the first time my icy gaze is relegated to mediocre and I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it is to be even shorter, mousier and mediocre than ever before.
In England you have one kind of snow and one kind only- its called catastrophe. In Sweden there are more kinds of snow than you could imagine. Theres my favourite kind- the mega snowflakes that fall slowly to the ground and look like those funky patterns you used to make in primary school where you fold the sugar-paper in half and randomly cut holes. These are the ones that get stuck in my eyelashes and make me feel all romantic.
Then theres the talcum powder snow, its very small, fine and dry and makes a creaking sound when you walk on it- sort of like the sound a leather sofa makes. The downside to talcum powder snow is that you can breathe it in and its not very pleasant to be coughing frozen water out of your nose. When the wind blows it lifts up the powder snow and it swirls around making you think the Ice Queen is about to lop the heads off some fauns. The weirdest kind is definitely the polystyrene snow that looks like the stuff that comes out of bean bags when you jump on them really hard. It usually falls down really fast and hits the ground, sometimes with a bounce, before rolling away. I also like frozen snow, when you've had a heavy blanket of extra large snowflake snow and then over night it all freezes together so walking to school in the morning its like the whole world is covered in diamonds. Because it stays dark until midmorning here all the street lights and car lights turn the ground into a giant glitter ball, its really quite surreal and makes a satisfying crunch when you stamp on it.
Last but not least there's the Swedish cultural concept of Largom. Directly translated it means 'Just the right amount' but it signifies something much deeper and more complex about Swedish culture. As I mentioned above Swedes are a very formal and well mannered society- they don't like extremes of anything (except snow). I went on a date with a Swedish architect which was a ridiculously boring way to spend an evening (not to mention the deeply uncomfortable ergonomic Ikea chairs) and we ended up making small talk about food. I asked him 'there must be something you really hate to eat, I really hate mushrooms" his response was quintessentially Largom "No, I don't like to use the word hate, its too strong, I don't hate anything. There are things I dislike". In Sweden it must be Largom, middle of the road, just the right amount. It doesn't quite work with the Swedish way of being incredibly up front though, especially about things British people consider private. For example my Swedish classmate will have no problem asking me "if you eat that won't it give you diarrhoea!?" but the point is that the only time you can not be Largom is when you are alerting someone else to the fact that they are at risk themselves of not being Largom, eating a giant punnet of plums big enough to risk having a tummy ache is the opposite of Largom so be prepared for some helpful Swede to point it out to you.
The other way to understanding Largom in one of the most permissive and liberal countries in the world is that you can do anything you want- jump off mountains, join a leather club and become someones gimp, or wrap everything in fairy lights- as long as you don't enjoy it too much!!
Tack! Hej då!
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