Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I'd love to tell you about what's different in Sweden, but the list is quite long. Where in the world to begin?

Think of a movie where a friendly alien lands on Earth, Starman, for example. I am that alien, wandering through the grocery store, the city plaza, the apartment complex, in a constant state of wonder.

Mostly it's fun, though sometimes it can get overwhelming, and sometimes plain frustrating.

Example of frustrating: a stain on one of my clothes. No problem; I will run to the store for some stain remover. But no such product seems to exist here.

No problem, I will use hydrogen peroxide. You know, the stuff that bubbles up when you put it on a cut? No, never heard of that.

I was almost defeated by all this when I suddenly remembered baking soda, which I found in the kitchen cupboard cleverly disguised as something called bakpulver, which I only identified by tasting it.

Then, just when I was feeling almost like a college graduate again, it was time to figure out how to use the washing machine. Where does the soap go? What temperature would I like? In centigrade, please, and answers like "warm" will not do.
On the other hand, it can be wondrous.

Like the discovery of the whole aisle of lösgodis (literally, loose goodies, I suppose), bulk bins of candy. Not just candy, but a strange, undisovered world of candy, maybe 15 different kinds of licorice, from salty to cream-filled, toffees, chocolates. I would say "yum" but since I am in Sweden, I will just say "mumsfilibaba."
So, things are different here, in every way. Around the house, the toilets are different (more like airplane toilets with trapdoors). The doorknobs are different (handles instead). The electrical outlets are different.
No one wears their shoes in the house so there is an area by every front door dedicated to the donning and doffing of shoes, complete with a long shoehorn for making the process easier.

The fridge is different, the cupboards, the ingredients on the shelf, the measurements in the cookbooks.

Out in the world, the people look you in the eye, but they hardly ever smile. The push in front of one another, they don't say excuse me, they take a number to stand in line, they pay to use a shopping cart at the store and they pay for the bags too.

When two people come toward one another, say through a doorway, there is no understanding that everyone will go to the right; they go every which way. Men don't let ladies go first; people just go, so if you want to go first, you better get going!

People ride bicycles, especially girls and women in pretty dresses on bicycles with baskets, pretty as a picture. There is a cool little addition to ladies' bikes, a little shield over the back wheel, just to keep your dress from getting caught in your spokes. An ekerskydd; I want one.

This is just scratching the surface. There is so much more.


beachcomber said...

mumsfilibaba"? How does this translate? No matter...I like it. What an adventure in the candy aisle; you may accidentally find something you like and not even be able to ask what the heck it is.

Indie said...

I'm pretty sure it translates to "yummy" or something like, "scrumdillyicious" or some such vernacular nonsense.

There are these licorice tubes filled with green cream. YUM! But the pink ones are horrible.

And so is the salty licorice. I bought something called Salty Kittens, which I just love the sound of, and was so disappointed that they were so disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Hi K! *rofl* *rofl* *rofl* Yep, welcome to Europe! That's how my bike looks like, my plugs, my washing machine, my supermarket and so on... *lol* This is exactly how I felt entering the US in 1995... How could I possibly use a sink, there's no knob, why do they say 'Excuse me' all the time, what weird plugs, how can the laundry possibly get clean in 20 minutes on 'cold'??? And what in the world is baking soda? I bake with it and it's called 'Backpulver' in German *lol* Well, I kept that custom, I add baking soda to my whites since back from the US. But still, my washing machine washes at least 1 hour 20 minutes (colors) and 1 hour 40 minutes (whites). People are rather rude here than polite, you gotta live with that. But most definitely try the candy, dear. Our stuff is much healthier with less chemical junk in it. Ever stood in front of an American dairy shelf at the store? Why in the world would I wanna buy non-fat milk *yuk* or milk as low as 1 or 2 % fat??? And why can't I buy, what we call 'Full milk'? *lol* I tell you, a different continent is an adventure in itself. But I really thought you've travelled to Europe before? You should come and visit with us! Pretty please? XOXOXO R.

Anonymous said...

"I suddenly remembered baking soda, which I found in the kitchen cupboard cleverly disguised as something called bakpulver, which I only identified by tasting it."

Risk-taker, are we? What if it had been some other white powder? Is tasting unknown substances really a good idea?

On the other hand, you found it in a box in a kitchen, so I guess it was bound to be all right. Your instincts are good. Me? I've got to stop worrying so much!

Seriously, Indie, thanks for telling us about your visit in Sweden.

I hope you keep having a wonderful time! Remember, most of the people you meet are not on vacation, even though you are! That might explain some of the glum faces you have been noticing!


Anicca said...

I love the images lovely lady. I like the little snippets of experience, like you are collecting things for a basket that you will sort out later and find a meaning for them, a place for them.

Anonymous said...

Now that was fun. I felt like I got to revisit my tiny little excursion to Europe.

Indie said...

Anicca, that is exactly what I'm doing. How well you know me! I am still trying to understand what everything has meant!

Kym, I am so glad you read this and that it brought back memories for you!

Petra H said...

Ha ha, you do realise that us Europeans find all those things weird in the US ;-) That there is no temperature on the washing machines (what IS cold??), door knobs (well, they have that in the UK as well) etc.
I am happy that you discovered lösgodis - the one thing that EVERY Swedish expat misses!!
I hope that you will write more about your Swedish experiences once you have had time to deal with all the impressions - both in Sweden and getting back home to the US.