Sunday, 21 September 2008


Things I noticed about Sweden:

- Language. The language appears to be related to sensible European languages so there are points of reference you can hang on to. Hurrah! For example: 'smak' appears to be taste. There are several things I recognise as being Polish, but this is probably because they come from German. By midday on the first day I managed to order a bus ticket, a cup of coffee and a Kanelbulle.

[Aside: by midday on my first day in Poland I had learnt how to point to stuff in petrol stations and how not to get beaten up by guerilla grannies on the number 8 tram.]

All this is of little consequence however since the average Swedish person speaks embarrassingly good English.

- Road safety. When you reach a zebra crossing, do not be afraid. Step out - however gingerly - and, as if by magic, cars will slow down and stop for you. It's freaky. I also noticed that Swedes do not seem to be afraid of traffic. They do not stand politely at the side of an empty road, waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green, in fear of sudden speeding vehicles squealing round the corner from out of nowhere. When the road is empty, they look both ways, take a rational decision, and step out onto the asphalt.

The first time I saw this happen, I had to suppress the urge to dive out in front of them:

- No! Don't do it!! Save yourselves!

And yet ... nothing happened...

- Bicycles. While the cars won't hurt you, two-wheeled vehicles are definitely a hazard. On my first day in town, I went for a long walk, looking for the city centre. I found a park, with pretty trees, benches, and both young and old on bicycles, coasting by in a picturesque manner.
There was a coffee shop on one corner of the pedestrian area. I decided to walk towards it.
Only.. halfway to the other side of the park, I found myself trapped on a tiny island at a miniature crossroads. Cyclists were whizzing towards me from all directions. How they avoided colliding with each other is a mystery to me. Reaching the other side of the path seemed an impossible mission. Panic set in and I backed further away until I was pressed right up against the tree at the centre of the traffic island.

It felt like a good twenty minutes before I got safely across to that coffee shop...


Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Travels without my spaniel,

I must commend you on very astute observations of Sweden. To most Swedes, it would seem as if you had lived here your entire life.



pinolona said...

Hej hej Vilhelm,

Apologies for making snap judgements: I was only there for a week (mostly working) so I can only write about things that struck me on the surface. For the record, I'm not at all pretending (and I hope it doesn't come across that way) to have defined an entire European culture in one short blog post.

Besides which my perception of other European countries now tends to be hopelessly influenced by comparisons with Poland...

(I do like the cinnamon buns though. Next time I promise I'll at least go to the theatre)

Further apologies,


ps Disclaimer: this travel blog is strictly Tongue-in-Cheek...