I bore witness to an acute act of Swedishness. Or blatant racism. I can’t decide which.
I was sitting on the train on my way home the other night. It wasn’t horribly late, 6:30ish maybe. I had missed the rush hour traffic, because it was a Friday. And rush hour in Sweden on a Friday starts around 3.
Anyway, there were a few seats available on the train. Not a lot, but enough for me not to have to fight for one. Sitting in a pod of four seats by himself was a middle-aged man. I actually wouldn’t have paid much attention to his age except for the fact that his age didn’t match his appearance. He had somewhat spiky hair. An earring. And a dragon ring on his right hand. But he was at least 35, maybe 40. It just didn’t fit. So I took notice.
I made my way over and sat down. Diagonally from him. When you enter this country they actually give you a rulebook. One of the rules being if you are sitting down next to someone always put as much space as possible between you and the other person. So I did.
However, two other people, who obviously knew each other were following right behind me. So I scooted in so that they could sit across from each other. A third guy, who seemed to know one of the two other gentlemen wandered by. In one of those happy to see you moments they noticed each other and exchanged a brief greeting in a different language. One which I decided was Swahili. Based on my very, very, very limited knowledge of the language. Tangential at best. Anyway, all three gentlemen were black.
The third man was on the phone though so continued with his conversation while the other two men sat down. At which point the dragon ring wearing middle-aged man got up. In a bit of a huff. And then he went and sat on the floor. The floor of the train. No one had asked him for his seat. No one had shown any interest in his seat. He just got up and went and sat on the floor of the train. The floor. Not another seat. He didn’t go stand. He sat on the floor. Like a four year old pouting because he didn’t get any lördagsgodis.
I looked to the guy to my left and gave a little shrug. I was still trying to process it all. It was all so sudden. Who actually gets up out of their seat to instead sit on the floor? Either a Swede or a racist. Because I decided that either this was just blatant racism, and he didn’t want to sit next to a black man, or, it was blatant Swedishness. He didn’t want to sit next to anyone, black, white, brown, blue with red spots. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. I’d like to think it was just acute Swedishness. But either way, it was quite an experience to be witness to.
Welcome to Sweden.