Sometimes I am struck by how Swedish I have become in my actions. And it’s not necessarily a good thing. And the train between Uppsala and Stockholm is a perfect example. Again, that’s not necessarily a good thing.
There are a whole lot of commuters going back and forth between Stockholm and Uppsala. A few students, but most of them are working in one city or the other. And it’s amazing to watch the interaction.
I was on this train yesterday when it struck me. Again. Swedes, or at least those in Stockholm and Uppsala, seem to fear any sort of human interaction. They do not want to sit next to each other. Most of the seats are in groups of two. There are a few in groups of four with a table in the middle separating the four though. These tend to be the last seats to go. The prime seats are the groups of two right next to the window. That way people have a reason to stare the other way. They’re looking out the window. That’s less weird than staring at the wall to avoid eye contact with others.
People will walk halfway through the train just to find a seat where they don’t need to sit next to anyone. People won’t even look up at those who are walking by. Eye contact could be interpreted as a sign that the seat is open. Even when the conductor comes to check the tickets there is little interaction. Most people just put their ticket on the seat next to them, or on the table, or hold it up silently. No need to speak more than absolutely necessary.
Now granted this was the commuter crowd and perhaps their will to live has been sucked out of them as they make their way back and forth to work. I don’t know. But somewhere in there you would imagine a spark of life. A spark that might turn into a conversation. Or at least a slight nod of the head to acknowledge some sort of existence.
The scary thing is that I’ve found myself doing the same thing. Walking through a few cars just so I can find a seat to myself. That way I can sit and read in peace. That’s my excuse. But it’s not a very good one. Of course, I do have limits. While most Swedes either sit themselves on the outside seat or plop all of their coats/backpacks/briefcases on the outside seat so no one can sit there, I have yet to take that step. While I might search for a group of empty seats I haven’t stooped so low as to keep everyone else from sitting next to me. Yet at least.
Welcome to Sweden.