Friday, February 27, 2009

Terrorism in Sweden - Arson in Södertälje

Last night, four grocery stores were set on fire. They suspect mordbrand. Arson. (On a lighter note, mordbrand is another one of those words that I like to translate directly to English. Murder fire.) Three of them were gutted while one was slightly damaged thanks to some quick thinking grocery store personnel. Of the stores, two were Willy’s, one was an Ica, and the fourth was Tempo. Luckily, it seems that no one was hurt. The fires were all set in the middle of the night. Possibly with the help of timed fire bombs.

The fires were set in Södertälje, a city I have written about in the past because of their impressive record of taking in refugees.

As of now, there are no official suspects. But that hasn’t stopped speculation. The fact that Säpo, Sweden’s version of the heavy duty security police, was called in kind of ramped up that speculation. A force of 40-50 police are working on the case. The threatening letters that some grocery stores received a couple of weeks ago has also raised some eyebrows.

Turns out there are some people who believe this was an anti-American attack carried out by a group calling itself Global Intifada. The group claimed responsibility for a couple of fires just last December that were started in grocery stores. They have also been plastering the town of Södertälje with leaflets calling for people to throw Molotov cocktails into stores carrying American products.

Of course, that includes a damn lot of stores in Sweden. Many of which are in no way associated with the US aside from a few American products being for sale. Many of which employ no Americans at all. Many of which provide the Swedish people with everything they need. Obviously it makes sense to target these stores. Idiots.

So anti-American terrorism is alive and well even in Sweden. Which is disgusting. And a shame. But maybe not horribly surprising. The hatred some people have for America knows no borders. Even Sweden, priding itself on its strategic neutrality, isn’t safe from these sorts of terrorist attacks. I have yet to see Swedish media refer to this as a terrorist group. They are referred to as leftist extremists. It’s a very Swedish nomenclature. I’ll call them terrorists. It’s a very American nomenclature. Because I’m American.

I guess I wouldn’t make a very good terrorist or arsonist. Maybe I think too much. But if you want to make a statement against the US wouldn’t it be more effective to target places that have incredibly strong connections to the US? Not just some store that sells American products along with products from the rest of the world. Silly terrorists.

I talked to my mom last night about this briefly. She jokingly said in passing that she thought everyone loved the US now that Obama was president. Especially Sweden. Apparently his grace period is over.

Welcome to Sweden. Where anti-Americanism seems to be becoming more brazen.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Royal Wedding in Sweden. During a Recession.

The crown princess of Sweden is engaged. Finally. Crown princess Victoria and Daniel Westling. Apparently, she’s been dating this guy for about eight years. Poor schlep. That’s a lot of pressure. What with the whole dating an actual princess thing. And the media. And the debate on whether he should even get to marry her because he’s not nobility. Poor guy was even worried about getting turned down. But apparently, things worked out for him and Victoria said yes. And now once he seals the deal they can start the ever important task of baby-making. Or as the princess said - “family-building.”

I’ll be honest, I really don’t care. I tried to resist writing about this, but most of Sweden seems to be pretty excited about all of this. Of course, some people see this as some sort of medieval backwards ceremony in which the princess wasn’t allowed to marry who she wanted when she wanted and needed to get permission. Those people have too much time on their hands and worry too much about a monarchy that is purely ceremonial.

I’m not too worried about that sort of thing. I’m just hoping for a day off. Maybe some sort of national holiday. It seems like a Swedish thing to do. The wedding will take place in the summer of 2010. So it’s going to be a while I suppose.

But really, I’m more interested in the possible economic implications. In fact, I sense a conspiracy. Clearly, the monarchy is in cahoots with the reigning government. A recession rolls in that is expected to stick around for quite a while. What better way to distract the people of Sweden than by holding the first royal wedding in about thirty years?

Most people don’t expect the party to suffer because of the financial crisis. If anything, the wedding will only help. This should give the monarchy plenty of opportunity to pump money into the Swedish economy. And really goes back to a theory I’ve taken under my wing about weddings being good for the economy. As I wrote about same-sex marriage, there is plenty of money to be made in the wedding business.

So, because this has been expected for a while there is quite a bit of money set aside in the budget. In fact, some reports are expecting thousands of guests, as well as leaders from around the world to attend. There will even be three days of celebrations. One of which has to be a day off right?

Welcome to Sweden. Where the country prepares for a big ass party.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

My Love Affair with Saab Faces its Greatest Challenge

I have always driven Saabs. Except for a brief two month stint of driving an Opel while living near Lund and working in Helsingborg and Malmö, I have always driven a Saab. Automatics and manuals. 9000s and 900s. They are glorious cars. And now they are struggling horribly as a company.

I bought my first Saab before I could legally drive. I paid $1,000 for a 1989 Saab 9000 Turbo about two months before my 16th birthday. Without a transmission. It was a bronze colored beauty. Of course, over the years and the numerous trips to the mechanic, it was described at various times by various mechanics as pink, brown, maroon, purple, well you get the idea. It was like a chameleon really. But I preferred bronze. It sounded much more regal.

I drove the hell out of that thing throughout high school, and even into my first year at college. I don't think I have a single friend from high school or even freshman year of college that hasn't pushed that car at least once. It caused me so very much grief. And I loved it. Because I could fit two dorm rooms full of stuff in it and drive 20 hours without any trouble, but I struggled to get from school to my house when the weather was too hot. Because I could let the Turbo kick in and get it up to 140 mph on the way out to Nebraska, but I wasn't able to roll down the windows at drive-ins and instead had to go through the sun roof. It was quite a first car.

The next car I got was a bit of an adventure too. Not because it was always in the shop, but because it was a manual. And after four years of driving an automatic, a manual transmission was a bit new. But I managed to never roll backwards on a hill into someone. I did however manage to blow out my clutch. Stranding me in quite possibly one of the worse areas in all of Portland, OR. On a street called Killingsworth. Awesome.

Since moving here I have had plenty of car adventures. Once again with a Saab 9000. One that also only cost me about $1,000. Of course this one had a transmission. So clearly I’m getting better at this. You know, except for the whole running out of gas thing and the worthless battery thing.

But it is because of this relationship with Saab that I am a bit bummed about how their business is declining. And by declining I mean sinking like a damn cement laden Saab. I understand it. But I’m still bummed.

As it stands right now, GM is cutting Saab loose by 2010. Saab needs some help if it is to survive. There are a few options. The Swedish government bails their asses out. Which, to be perfectly honest, I’m kind of against, but plenty of people are hoping for. Granted, the Swedish government hasn’t exactly been singing Saabs praises. Something that many Saab employees aren’t too pleased about

Another option is for fans of Saab, like me, to donate money and purchase the company together. This is ridiculous. Seriously. I hate to be a wet blanket, but a bunch of Saab enthusiasts alone are not going to be able to purchase the company. It’s going to take someone with some deep pockets to do that.

Like another car company. There are all kinds of rumors out there. One being that BMW will swoop in and snag Saab. To be honest, this seems like one of the most likely scenarios. Not necessarily Saab, but that an already existing car company will buy them up. This is also probably one of the better options.

The final option is venture capitalists buying Saab. Who would really be buying a brand. While Saab has plenty of concrete assets, the thing that is worth the most is the Saab brand. Whether that is worth enough for someone to take the plunge is debatable.

When it comes down to it, I don’t think anyone really knows how this is going to turn out. But they need money. Or Saab will cease to exist. Of course, seeing as how I have never driven any car model that was younger than 1995, I still have plenty of years of Saabs to drive. I’d like to think that someday though I could make it into the 2000s and buy a Saab from a company that is still viable.

Welcome to Sweden. The birthplace of Saab.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Melodifestivalen in Sweden – 2009 Edition

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting longer. The weather is getting just a touch warmer. And horrible schlager music fills the radio waves. Because Eurovision is coming up. And that can mean only one thing in Sweden. Melodifestivalen. Which is a horrible misnomer. Melody festival. That would suggest there is something melodic to the music being played at this lovely festival. But that is a lie.

Last year I watched Melodifestivalen with morbid fascination. I couldn’t turn away. It was like a train wreck. But this year is different. I’ve learned my lesson. As of today I think I’ve watched a grand total of maybe five minutes. When my ears started to bleed I turned the channel. And I feel good about myself. There are better things to do on a Saturday night. Like re-lace all of my shoes. Maybe clean the grout between all of the tiles in the bathroom.

Last night was the third night of Melodifestivalen. This one was held in Leksand, a city quite a ways north of Stockholm that might be more known for having signed Ed Belfour to their hockey team last year. But last night, Ed Belfour was a distant memory as Melodifestivalen invaded. I didn’t watch. I missed out on seeing E.M.D. and Molly Sandén move on to the finals at Globen. What a shame.

I truly do not understand this cultural phenomenon. It is amazing. And frightening in so many different ways. The music is awful. There’s just no way around it. The performances are hilarious. Because they are so awful. Maybe that is part of the charm. I hope so at least.

I will say this for Melodifestivalen though; they do a good job of raising money. To vote costs a bit of money. That money is then passed on to a Swedish charity. Last night over one million crowns was raised.

Welcome to Sweden. Where horrible schlager music dominates the media in February.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Swedish Wrestlers in the News. Again.

I do not like Ara Abrahamian. Abrahamian is the Swedish wrestler who won bronze in the Olympics. He believed that he was robbed of a chance to wrestle for gold in his semifinal match. He stormed off after the match in question, but later returned to wrestle for bronze. He won.

It was his actions that followed his winning that disgusted me. Abrahamian went to the podium, momentarily accepted the medal, only to walk to the middle leave the medal in disgust and then leave the arena without so much as a word to any of his opponents. The epitome of class really.

I wrote three different posts about this:
Car Trouble, a Bronze Medal to Ara Abrahamian, and Swedish Disgrace
Swedish Olympic Wrestler Ara Abrahamian
Ara Abrahamian - Swedish Olympic Wrestler Loses Bronze Medal

The first of which generated some lovely comments demonstrating that there were a lot of Swedes that didn’t agree with me. At all. They see his actions as some sort of political protest against the evils of the wrestling world. They were, and continue to be, vociferous in their support for the man. Maybe it was because he walked out of the arena with his fist raised a la Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. I don’t know. Because it’s nowhere near the same level. And to compare it to that is frankly somewhat insulting to issues that actually deserve some sort of protest.

However you look at it, Abrahamian had a slight change of heart. At least to some degree. Because he made an effort to get his medal back. You know, after he left it on the mat in disgust. He was just kidding apparently.

Turns out the Court of Arbitration for Sport didn’t think he was kidding. They are keeping the medal. Abrahamian will not have his bronze medal reinstated. And I’m glad. He made his decision when he left the medal on the ground. He made his decision when he walked out of the ceremony. He made his decision when he made no effort to apologize in any way. Now he gets to live with that decision.

Welcome to Sweden. Where Swedish wrestlers have a change of heart. Six months later.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Peter Forsberg’s Foot Hurts. Again. Still.

It looks like Peter Forsberg might be done. In what was to be his third game with his home team, MODO, Peter Forsberg did not play.

After a spectacular goal in his first game back, after showing glimpses of brilliance in his second game against Djurgården with two assists, after raising the hopes of Swedish hockey fans throughout the world, really hockey fans everywhere, Forsberg’s foot gave out. Again. Forsberg was out on the ice warming up last night. He was not out on the ice playing after warm ups though. This is incredible. Playing in one of Europe’s elite hockey leagues, one of the world’s elite hockey leagues, Peter Forsberg managed to put together three points in two games after not having played for months on end. After fighting what looks to be a career ending injury. Clearly, Forsberg is one of the best hockey players in the world. Still. If his foot holds up. Unfortunately, that “if” looms ever larger as the years go by.

Forsberg said that to play he needs to hold his balance out there. “Jag kan inte spela om jag inte kan hålla balansen där ute.” That he doesn’t know if he can do anything about it. “Jag vet inte om jag kan göra något åt det.” That he is going to try to fix it because he can’t just be limping around out there. “Jag får försöka fixa till det på något slags vis. Det går liksom inte att halta omkring där ute på isen”

Ever the optimist, kind of, Forsberg is not willing to rule out yet again another comeback this season. “Jag ska inte säga att det är helt kört. Får vi till det så kanske det blir bättre, men vad vet jag absolut inte.” That being said, it doesn’t look promising. There is only so much wear and tear a body can take. And his looks to have reached that quota and then some.

From MODO’s point of view, this could be disastrous. Obviously, a healthy Forsberg would have been useful in their push for the playoffs. From my stand point, it is disastrous. I had hoped to watch Forsberg live one last time.

Welcome to Sweden. Where Peter Forsberg’s foot put a damper on my day.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Running in Stockholm, the Color Orange, and Russian Tourists

I went for a run today. Which was stupid. I hate running. With a passion that lacks in all other aspects of my life. It’s rather impressive actually. I don’t get any runners high. That inner conversation so many runners go on and on about is more a conversation of self reproach and admonishment. Running and I just don’t really get along.

I do however get along with the color orange. I quite like the color orange. Bright orange. Obnoxious orange. Construction cone orange. I would argue that in the darkness that is the Swedish winter, the bright orange keeps me safe. Now it might seem that these two things are not at all related. But they are.

Because I am the proud owner of a bright orange hat. And bright orange gloves. And bright orange sweatpants. All of which I wore on my run today. To my surprise, I was actually not the only person running in bright orange. Which made me feel like I fit in.

Anyway, as I stumbled along on what some might describe a jog, I noticed a lot of Russian tourists. Spend enough time in Stockholm and the Russian tourists are easy to pick out. Usually I don’t pay much attention, but today was different. Because I was photographed as I ran by. They weren’t even sneaky about it. It was a point and a smile at me by the girlfriend and the camera was brought up and pointed right at me by the boyfriend. Clearly, they were not part of any sort of Russian spy network. Now, as we’ve already established, my boyish good looks and charm soften even the hardest hearts, but it’s not often that Russians are taking pictures of me as I run by.

After that interesting start to my run, I continued on. Sucking wind. Trying not to slip on the ice. Thanking Stockholm’s city workers for laying down a whole lot of sand on the majority of the paths. They did good work. I did not fall. A small victory really.

I managed to get myself stuck in a short, but effective, midday snow flurry. By the time I emerged from the flurry, my once black vest was white, but my bright orange sweatpants roared on. It was about this time that my iPod died. It’s getting old. It’s traveled the world. Turns out that my iPod can’t handle below freezing weather. Like 23 degree Fahrenheit weather. So my run ended in silence and I made it home looking like some sort of strange orange creamsicle.

Welcome to Sweden. And winter runs.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

English Lessons from Swedes

The other day I had a bad Swedish day. I just couldn’t do it. I was struggling. Couldn’t find the words I wanted. My Swedish was speckled with English words. I was making grammatical errors left and right. It was bad. I felt stupid. It happens. But everyone was patient, they helped me out, and I managed to get over whatever mental block I had.

Having experienced that during the day though is what made my evening so interesting. Because I have a habit of talking to myself when I am alone. Let’s say talking out loud to myself when I’m alone. Talking to one’s self sounds borderline crazy.

Anyway, suddenly, I was talking to myself in Swedish. Without even really noticing it. It frightened me. I didn’t know what to do. So I made a conscious decision to say a few things in English. Then I just shut up. Because, remember, I was alone.

Anyway, this little episode reminded me of a few conversations I had with another English speaker after having lived here in Sweden for a while. And it has to do with my knowledge of the English language.

I believe that I have a good grasp of the English language. Grammar has never really been my thing so I couldn’t sit down with you and discuss the intricacies of past tense, future perfect. But for the most part, I feel comfortable with English. Reading. Writing. Speaking. I can do it all. One might even describe me as a native speaker of English. Which would be an accurate description.

It is because of this self proclaimed description however, that I get a bit annoyed with some Swedes. In general, Swedes also have a good grasp of the English language. It’s been a long time since I’ve come across any Swede under the age of 40 who can’t hold a very lucid and educated conversation in English. It’s impressive.

But it is not their native language. And it shows sometimes. Just like I still find myself making horrible Swedish grammatical errors, especially with prepositions, Swedes do similar things. They translate word for word in their head and it comes out in English. So when you want to say “Jag ska lära dig…” it comes out as “I will learn you to...” It’s close. Everyone pretty much understands, but it’s not quite there. It happens. Trust me. I know. Because I do it every day I live here while speaking Swedish.

I think it is because I do it in Swedish that I sometimes get so frustrated with some Swedes. Or at least a special breed of Swedes. Usually the self-assured university type who rant about the imperialistic evil of America. If you’ve ever been to Europe, you know the type. They’re intelligent people, but exhausting.

Anyway, it tends to be these people that want to argue about English. On the whole, I don’t really go around correcting people in English. In fact, unless I just don’t understand what the person is trying to say, I keep the conversation going. Mostly because I believe the best way to learn a language is to just speak it as much as possible. While I might keep the conversation going, I have been argued with. I have had people argue with me about my choice of words in a given situation. I have heard stories of native English speakers taking classes here and writing group papers. As the only native English speaker they tend to be the ones who are at the keyboard typing away. And it seems that, inevitably, it devolves into some sort of discussion about syntax, grammar, punctuation use. It’s mind boggling to me that hours can be wasted away on this subject. At some point it is ok to defer to the person that has the most knowledge of a given subject. Or language in this case.

The interesting thing to me is that this is not at all a widespread phenomenon. Most Swedes are happy to try out their Swedish but often apologize for their lack of English skills. Of course, their English skills are amazing and their apologies tend to be of the humble Swedish sort. But once you find yourself in a university setting, a sort of academic pretentiousness seems to take over. Of course, that may not be unique to Sweden. It is frustrating though.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Drunken Norwegian Lessons

Turns out I don’t speak Norwegian. A drunken revelation.

All of the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, have very similar languages. Very Germanic. The Norwegian language is very similar to the Swedish language. Pretty easy to read if you speak Swedish, less easy to understand. Danish is the same. Although Danish sounds like someone speaking Swedish with marbles in their mouth. It’s not attractive. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. I’m not.

All of the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, have very similar languages. Very Germanic.

In a sober state, I can usually understand Norwegian well enough to have a conversation with them. I miss words here and there but get the gist and am able to respond in a halfway intelligent manner. Which tends to be what I strive for in everyday life. Halfway intelligent.

In Danish I can pretend. Nod and smile. Concentrate real hard and hope that I guess right with my response. It’s frustrating, and I completely blame not being a real native speaker of Swedish for this.

But the other night I was heading home from a party with a few other party goers. When one of them turned to me and began to speak Norwegian. I knew it was Norwegian because, despite it being 3 in the morning, and having had a beer, or two maybe, I could recognize the language. This, however, did not help me in distinguishing individual words and making sense of them. So, in Swedish, I apologized and explained that I was in fact an American and had a hell of a time understanding Norwegian. At which point the girl switched immediately to Swedish. Which first made me jealous, and then confused me. I suppose enough Swedes actually understand Norwegian, but it just seemed strange that a person, despite knowing the language, wouldn’t speak it.

Anyway, after my jealousy and confusion passed, her boyfriend joined the conversation. In Norwegian. At which point he was admonished for not even trying to speak Swedish by his loving girlfriend. In Norwegian. Somehow, I was able to understand that. Or maybe she was really speaking Swedish and in those early morning hours I just couldn’t figure out what language was being spoken; I just knew I understood it.

Either way, I learned a valuable lesson. While some people gain confidence and language skills with a little booze. Or at least they claim to. I don’t. In fact, I just end up a bumbling mess of confused languages.

Welcome to Sweden. Where an understanding of Norwegian is not required, but preferred.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Signs from a Swedish Recession

Sweden is in a recession. Along with plenty of other countries. People are getting laid off. Struggling with debt. Being evicted. Some people made poor choices. Some people are victims of the situation. Either way it’s not the prettiest financial situation I’ve ever seen. In Sweden the headlines have focused on the big companies laying off workers. Sweden being a welfare state, this puts a sizable burden on the government.

Luckily though, the market economy lives on in Sweden to some extent. And those who need to make an extra crown here and there can do just that. By selling their crowns. Because jewelry stores are buying metals. Like silver. And gold. From your teeth.

I was walking along in the middle of Stockholm today near Östermalmstorg, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in all of Stockholm, when I came upon this lovely sign in a jewelry store window. Tandguld köpes. Basically, tooth gold is purchased here. The fact that it was near Östermalmstorg made it so much better for some reason. Now, I don’t know if this sign is always up. It very well may be. It looked somewhat temporary but I’m no sign expert. But considering the economic climate, seeing a sign advertising the purchase of gold from your teeth was noteworthy. Of course, you’ll notice the old lady peering in through the window is wearing a fur coat. Maybe even admiring a nice pair of earrings made from the finest Swedish tooth gold.

Buying tooth gold just kind of creeped me out. Harvesting your body for money. I know you can sell sperm and eggs and all of that good stuff, but for some reason that seems less greedy because other people benefit in a profound way. Like with a baby. Tooth gold? Someone might end up with a nice new ring. It’s just not quite the same thing.

Welcome to Sweden. Where little old ladies buy recycled tooth gold during the recession.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

That Guy on Public Transportation

More public transportation stories. Because I am that guy. Or at least the last week or so has seen me be that guy. Not the drunk guy. Or the guy who goes and sits on the floor. But that guy. The guy that everyone looks at with a mix of pity and amusement.

I was dead tired a few days ago. Done fer if you will. And on the way home I stuck my iPod in and leaned my head against the window. Because I got a coveted window seat. And fought to keep my eyes open. Because I absolutely hate sleeping in any sort of public place. Even on planes. Mostly because, it turns out, I make a lot of noise while sleeping. Talking, grunting, yelling, mumbling, hell I might even yodel. So I’m a bit self-conscious about it. And try to avoid putting myself in a situation where I start yodeling in my sleep while bemused passersby watch on.

Which is why I fought so hard to stay awake. To no avail. One stop before getting off my eyes closed. My head began to tilt forward. And then I jerked it up, grunting in the process. Awesome. The guy across from me stifled a laugh while staring right at me. I stared back with a look of fatigue and confusion on my face. And then got up to walk towards the door. Turns out I was wrong. In my sleepy gruntyness I had managed to make it all the way to my stop and grunt myself awake just when I needed.

A few days later I found myself on a bus. With a lot of bags. Well only three. But they were bulky. And I have somewhat broad shoulders for the skinny little bus aisles. So as I fought the crowds to the back of the bus, I probably left bag shaped bruises on everyone I passed. So it goes. I found two empty seats next to each other, one for me and one for my mass of baggage. Because, while I hate it when people take an extra seat with their purse, I think I earned an extra seat with three bags. But as I sat down, I became that guy. Because I banged my bag against the guy sitting across the aisle. At which point I hit my head squarely on the overhang above my seat. Luckily, I have a hard head. Literally and figuratively, so I sat down with no ill effects. And I entertained the two fourteen year old girls behind me who started snickering at me.

It’s not easy sometimes. Next time I’m driving.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

The Swedish Healthcare System in Action

I went to Apoteket the other day. Had to pick up a dildo, it’s not everywhere you can get one of those at the pharmacy. I kid, I kid. Come on now. I had to pick up a prescription.

The interesting thing about this is that I had found myself in two different conversation about the Swedish healthcare system prior to my trip to Apoteket. One group of three other Americans, and one group of four Swedes. Both conversations had a whole lot of negative things to say about the healthcare system. The Americans tended to complain about the waiting times. The Swedes however, really railed against the system. Going so far as to say that one should never go to a Swedish doctor. That the system was marred by shoddy care, incompetence, and long lines. To steal a line from Bill Simmons, ladies and gentlemen, your 2008 tax kronor at work. Obviously this all made me feel wonderful about heading off to Apoteket to pick up a prescription.

But it was an exciting experience. I had never been to Apoteket in Sweden to actually get any sort of medicine. To use that social health care system that is raved about the world over, but that had just been taken down a notch by two separate conversations here in Sweden.

I was met by a sea of people. The place was packed. Luckily, no one was waiting in line. Because everyone had grabbed a number and quietly sat themselves on the provided benches. It was all so very Swedish. And I reveled in it.

So I grabbed a number as well. I sat down and waited patiently. I was the patient after all. The lovely pharmacist called my name. I handed over my prescription and she said she’d take care of it. Well actually, she looked at the clock and then corrected herself. A colleague would take care of it. Apparently her shift was coming to an end.

So I went and sat down. Patiently waiting. Apparently my boyish charm and good lucks convinced the pharmacist to work overtime. I know this has worked on my local pharmacist back home. She called me back and asked for my ID. Shit. All I had with me was my American driver’s license. I hastily explained what the deal was, recited my personnummer, which was also listed on my prescription, pointed out my date of birth on my driver’s license. She was convinced. I’m telling you – boyish charm.

Anyway, at this point it had been established that I was much more American than Swedish. And for the first time in Sweden I really felt like I was being treated differently for being American. And strangely enough, I was quite pleased about it. Despite the pharmacist suddenly speaking in that special tone of voice reserved for people we just aren’t sure understand. You know the one, a little bit slower, a little bit louder, just a little bit demeaning. And still I appreciated it.

The pharmacist began explaining, in great detail, very simply, with lots of pointing to labels and papers, about how I was to administer the medicine. It was good. I appreciated the thoroughness of it all. Medicine isn’t one of those things that should be handled lightly. So after being well versed in how to cure myself with the help of big pharma, I went on my merry way.

A better man for having experienced the Swedish healthcare system. But a poorer man. Because healthcare in Sweden isn’t really free. I paid, with the exchange rate at the time, about 80 American dollars for my prescription. I checked with my friendly local pharmacist from back home, (there he is again, he does good work) and was told that the same prescription in the US would have cost me $146.99 for the name brand or $51.99 for the generic brand.

Welcome to Sweden. And the Swedish healthcare system.

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