Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Legal Public Drinking in Stockholm

The weather in Stockholm has been sunny and warm. Some might even describe it as spring-like. Which would be an accurate description. It is spring.

During the spring and summer months, people throughout Stockholm can be found outside. Many of them drinking in the various restaurants and cafés that offer outdoor seating. But also in parks.

For some reason, a few people have asked me lately where you can and cannot drink in public. As if I am some sort of wealth of knowledge. Or an alcoholic. I’d like to think the former.

My standard answer, because I don’t know the different parks off the top of my head is this: Once the weather starts warming up, the newspapers, like Metro, tend to print a list of where you can and cannot drink.

True to form, proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am in fact a wealth of knowledge, Metro did print it. (Take a second to re-read that sentence. The clichés are amazing.) Anyway, this was printed quite a few days ago. But while fountain-y and knowledgeable, I am sometimes lazy. And I also couldn’t find the newspaper that I had specifically saved for this very purpose. But I found it.

Apparently, there are a few different options. Drinking legal all the time. Drinking legal some of the time. Drinking not legal. Since the aforementioned latter option might be possible, I have chosen to list only the parks where drinking is legal all of the time:

Djurgården (except Galärparken-Lejonparken)
Observatorielunden (except Dammen)

Keep in mind, that when I say drinking is legal all of the time in these areas, it is under the impression that you are not an idiot. Trashing the park is not ok. Drinking yourself beyond recognition is not ok. Legal means legal within reason.

I write this not because I actually am concerned about your drinking. But because I am selfish. I play under the "don’t ruin it for others" rules. And I figure if too many people are idiots then no parks will be legal. And that ruins it for me.

For a more complete link, check out the Metro from Friday the 24th of April (link broken Im afraid).

Welcome to Sweden. And drinking in parks.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Just Another Week in Stockholm

Another lovely spring week in Stockholm. A little warm. A little cold. Some green grass. Some flowers. Some sun. Some grey. It’s about par for the course in April here.

What is not par for the course is runner’s nipple. And I am suffering from it. It is real. And it hurts.

In a stunning turnaround I have been running on a regular basis. Of course, this whole running on a regular basis has really solidified my dislike for the chosen exercise of so many people. My legs hurt. But more importantly, my nipples hurt.

But it hasn’t been all pain this week. And not even all pain while running. I think I came upon a couple having a bit of an illicit affair. Or it was a drug deal. One or the other. I came running up from behind on a man and a woman. Stealthily of course. Not slobbering everywhere. Not clomping along dragging my hairy ass around. And of course, not panting as if I were climbing one of Colorado’s 14ers.

The two were holding hands. Until they heard me. At which point the woman quickly pulled her hand away and stuck it in her pocket. Either hiding her drugs or her hand holding. Obviously. The man was a bit sneakier. Leaving is hand in the hand holding position as if that’s just the way he walks. But I was on to him. And when they both snapped their heads around and gave the classic hand in the cookie jar look (the cookie jar being… well, you get it). They were up to no good. It did give me the opportunity to let my imagination run. Along with my poor legs.

And then there are the moments when I am remembered that I live on a city built on islands. Like today.

Sitting on the bus, the bus suddenly came to a stop. It was rush hour; it’s not all that unheard of. Of course, then the engine cut out. As a general rule, the engine cutting out on a bus isn’t really a good sign. But then I looked up. And saw what was once a bridge. Instead of being able to cross the bridge though, we were stuck in line as the bridge was raised so a very large sail boat could get through.

In actual news, the Pirate Bay case might have to be re-tried due to possible conflict of interest on the part of the ruling judge. Swedish unemployment rose to 8.3% in March. Two people were shot in the middle of Gamla Stan. And it’s supposed to be nearly 20 degrees (that’s Celsius) this weekend.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Broken Swedish Penis

A Swedish artist created a penis sculpture that was about 20 kilos. That’s about 44 American pounds. That’s a big penis. Clearly, the Swedes don’t really need a Swedish Made Penis Enlarger Pump. And yes, yes I did just make an Austin Powers reference. This is Swedish culture at its best. Carl Larsson can’t really compete with an artist who sculpts that big of a penis.

Anyway, the penis is now broken. Busted into two different pieces while on display in a hotel. Maybe not the most illustrious place for an artist to display his sculpture, but come on. It’s a stone penis. There are just so many jokes to be made here. Hard ons and such.

Or maybe there is something to be said about the attitudes towards penises in Sweden. The penis being quite literally, a phallic object, probably signifying some sort of sexist nonsense. In a country where lions on military uniforms had to have their penises removed, Herr Gårman is seen as sexist, and advertising is constantly analyzed for sexism, maybe this isn’t a surprise.

Or maybe the 20 kilo stone penis statue just wasn’t very well constructed. The artist might have erectile problems. Some sort of impotence. A Freudian thing.

Or maybe this was just some glorious marketing plan by the artist. He is going to get an extra exhibition out of this by titling the two pieces “The Catastrophe in Kristianstad 2009.”

To be honest, I’m not all that interested in why. Really, I just wanted to bring joy to everyone by pointing to how ridiculous the Swedish news sometimes is.

Welcome to Sweden. Where even 20 kilo stone penises aren’t safe.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bar Fights in Stockholm

Swedes, as a general rule, are a peaceful bunch. They like puppy dogs. Butterflies. Sunshine. That’s what made last night so very interesting. But first, let me set the scene.

I found myself out at a bar with a few friends. We got a later start to the evening so didn’t even get to the bar until about midnight. I had never been there before. But when I saw that there was a large fish tank in the window, I knew it was obviously a classy establishment. My assumptions were proven correct by the walls lined with mirror and the stripper pole towards the back of the bar.

The four of us went and camped out next to the stripper pole. Because we are classy. And also because it was the only place left to stand.

The classiness did not stop there. Over the course of the next two hours, I was witness to everything that makes a night out in Stockholm so very exciting.

I saw a girl, who clearly came with a guy who’s company she was enjoying, dance on the stripper pole, exchange about five words with a random guy who walked by, make out and both walk in their separate directions.

I saw a creepy little man walking around with a camera taking pictures of pretty people. He approached a girl, who proceeded to channel her inner Madonna and vogue for the camera. By herself. At least four or five poses.

But, most exciting, I saw a fight. Apparently a fight that started over a girl. Usually, bar fights seem to follow a predictable pattern. Guy one says something stupid. Guy two pushes him. Guy one takes a swing. Guy two swings back. At this point, a slight hush has fallen over those in the immediate vicinity. A crowd forms, at which point the screaming and yelling picks up. This is the point at which a good Samaritan or the bouncer comes in to break up the fight.

But this was different. It was incredible, like no one saw anything. No one stepped in. No one screamed. No one yelled. No one tried to stop anything at all. A guy in a pony tail had taken a swing at some guy. Some Guy was bleeding profusely from his nose. Some Guy had taken quite a few steps back as the blood flowed. It seemed like a smart thing to do. Pony Tail on the other hand had gone back to talking to his buddy, sipping calmly from his beer.

Suddenly, Pony Tail went to attack. Again. Some Guy got a couple good punches in leaving Pony Tail bleeding from his nose and forehead. Some Guy was still bleeding from his nose, and now from his chin. Again, the other bar-goers did nothing. Finally, the bouncers realized something was going on and cleaned house. Some Guy was dragged outside. Pony Tail was slammed up against the cigarette machine. Order was restored.

Of course, since everyone had just chosen not to see anything, it wasn’t like all that much order needed to be restored. But still. I suppose if there had been more disorder, the bouncers would have realized something was going on and remove the two from the situation immediately.

Obviously, I have been reliving this in my head. Discussed it a bit with the others who were there. There’s plenty that can be culled from the incident. The desire of Swedes to live in their own world. A live and let live sort of attitude that people sometimes use to describe Swedes. The desire of Swedes to avoid conflict. There’s that whole neutrality thing. The effects of alcohol in that desire to avoid conflict. That’s not necessarily specific to Swedes, but interesting none the less.

Whatever conclusions that can be drawn, I was just amazed. Maybe in a sick sort of way. I’m not sure what it says about me that the highlights of my evening involved a bar with a stripper pole and a fight. Maybe Vegas is someplace I could learn to love after all.

Welcome to Sweden. And bar fights in Stockholm.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day in Stockholm

Yesterday was not a good day. From a purely selfish standpoint.

First, I sliced open my finger on some cardboard at work. And by finger, I mean the flesh right under my finger nail. I still don’t know how I did it. Now it hurts to type. And I bled all over some boxes at work. Which is always nice for someone to stumble across. Let’s be perfectly honest, paper (or in this case cardboard) cuts are annoying. But they are not enough to make for a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And certainly not enough to make me want to move to Australia as Judith Viorst might have you believe. But come on now, it wasn’t just a cardboard cut.

I made it through the rest of my work day without injuring myself further. And then I came home. I wanted dinner. And began ravaging my cupboards looking for something quick to eat. When I do this, I have a tendency to leave food out on the counters. For hours on end. I have a tendency to not put my dishes away. For hours on end. I have a tendency to leave cupboard doors open. For hours on end.

And it was because of this that I managed to walk smack dab into a cupboard door. Leading with my head. In an anger reserved only for those embarrassing moments when you are pissed at yourself, I slammed the cupboard door shut. Only to realize I wanted more food from the cupboard. So I opened it again. And walked away.

When I wandered into the kitchen next time, well, you know exactly what happened. I slammed my head against the cupboard door again. I am an idiot. Now we are getting closer to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and a subsequent move to Australia.

But it got even worse.

I had been sporting a full beard for a while. Usually I just go with the goatee but I was feeling mountainous. And awesome. And the beard was awesome. I’m not going to lie to you.

However, to celebrate the spring I decided it was time to trim it up. And by trim I mean use my beard clippers on the shortest setting. This was the equivalent of shaving for me. A full beard and sun usually makes for a sweaty neck. And no one likes sweaty necks. So off it came.

Because of the strange set-up of electricity in my bathroom, I have to use an extra converter to make my beard trimmer work. So I am using a Swedish converter on an already Swedish plug. It works well. Except my converter is old. And sometimes gets stuck with only the metal part in the outlet.

As we have already established, I am an idiot. And reached up to pull it out. I know electricity is not good for me. I know. But I have not learned. Suddenly, I had electricity coursing through my body. I felt it in my brain. The sad thing, after letting out an involuntary scream, which was of course, very manly, my first thought was not to my safety. Instead, I wondered if I may have gained some sort of super power. As of yet, I have not.

But that was it. That was enough. I started looking for tickets to Australia. I hear people never have Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days down there.

Welcome to Sweden. And my Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Skiing in Sweden at Romme Alpin

I went skiing a couple of weekends ago. When it was still cold. The weather has since turned glorious. Like sunny and warm glorious. But while the weather was still cold and the snow was sticking around, I went skiing. It was the first time I’d been skiing here in Sweden since making the move. It was fun. Despite being more of a hill than a mountain.

The problem is I am horribly spoiled having grown up skiing in Colorado. Champagne powder, the Rocky Mountains, enough sunny days to make Californians jealous. It’s hard to beat.

So I went into my Swedish skiing adventure not expecting much. Sweden doesn’t have much for tall mountains. And tall mountains tend to be pretty important for good downhill skiing. But for only 675 SEK I could ride a bus out to Romme Alpin, get a lift ticket, and also get skis, poles, and boots. You can’t steal it for that price.

And if you happen to be skiing with a small child, you’re even better off. Because small children don’t even have to pay. They have a special entrance at each lift for the young ‘uns to ski right through.

Pointing again to how spoiled I have become, this was the first time I had rented ski equipment in probably 10 or 15 years. I was hesitant to say the least. But I was handed a pair of Salomon skis that did the trick. Aside from the incredibly low DIN setting which led to me twice popping out of my bindings mid-turn, I had absolutely no complaints.

It was a glorious day of skiing really. It was cold enough that for most of the morning the snow held up. The sun started trying to pop out in the afternoon which led to some slushy snow but that is to be expected. Spring conditions. One week later the mountain closed.

That being said, Romme Alpin is too small to want to ski it more than once in a weekend. The entire mountain can easily be skied in a day. Maybe even twice. But there are a few black runs that kept me entertained. Especially on the backside.

I also learned that the Green, Blue, Black system that is ubiquitous in the US isn’t necessarily the standard in Sweden. Or at least not at Romme Alpin. They have four different levels. Green, being the easiest, followed by blue, followed by red, followed by black. It’s the red that threw me off.

This being Sweden, there was an incredibly Swedish moment. Because at the base of the mountain (hill) was an outdoor area for everyone to leave their lunches. No lockers. No locks. Just out in the middle of everything was a bunch of lunch packs. It was so very Swedish. And wonderful.
All in all, I enjoyed skiing in Sweden. Next time though, I’m going to try to get a bit farther north to one of the bigger ski areas. After just one day at Romme Alpin, I already feel like I knew the mountain like a local.

Welcome to Sweden. And Swedish skiing.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Swedish Candy. And Easter.

It’s almost Easter. I didn’t have to go work on Friday. I won’t have to go to work on Monday. Sweden might turn me into a religious man. Or at least someone that appreciates all of the religious holidays. But until then, I’ll be focusing on candy.

Because, in a stroke of genius that only parents can pull off, just a day after writing my post about Easter Advertisements in Stockholm, Sweden and my hint to have gummy bunnies sent to me, I received a package from home. With gummy bunnies. The best candy in the world. This is not debatable. Ever.

Sweden does have delicious candies though. Although, they deliver the candy in a bit of a different form during Easter. Instead of tiny little plastic eggs filled with candy, or candy hidden throughout the backyard, or candy in an Easter basket, the Swedes have cardboard Easter eggs filled with goodies. It works quite well, and seems to fit in with the Swedish approach to godis really. Just a big receptacle of different Swedish candy to choose from.

Since moving here I have developed a horrible sweet tooth. I blame the lösgodis completely. Lösgodis is something that I consider to be a Swedish phenomenon. Bins full of candy that you scoop out into a special bag. You get to create your own amazing mix of deliciousness. Especially on Saturdays. Lördagsgodis.

The same thing exists in the US. Not Saturday candy, but bins full of candy. But it’s just not the same. When I’m in the US, I don’t really eat that much candy. Mostly because I don’t ever think of the candy bins. I think of Snickers. And Twix. And all those chocolaty candy bars. I think that’s what the difference really is. Rather than having various candies to pick at, you have to finish off the whole candy bar. And that takes some sort of commitment.

Of course, Sweden has candy bars, but the country also offers all of those afraid of commitment an alternative. The candy bins. You can’t walk into a grocery store in Sweden without finding a wall full of candy bins. You can’t even walk into a convenience store without finding a wall full of candy bins.

The candy is sold by weight. Usually around the holidays you can get the goodies for a sales price. Sometimes as low as 49 SEK per kilo. That’s about five dollars for over two pounds of candy. The fact that there aren’t more fat people, or at least toothless people, in Sweden never ceases to amaze me.

At the wall you will have dozens of candy choices. A small bag will be provided. They’ll even provide a scoop to use. And that’s when it will hit you. The overwhelming choices that lie ahead. Luckily, there are a few important rules when buying candy in Sweden.

  • Stay away from the licorice. Seriously. Often times it is salty. And that’s not good for anyone.
  • Fill your bag with gummy candies. They are amazing. You can’t really go wrong with gummy candies.
  • Try to avoid buying candy late on a Saturday. The bins have been picked over by hundreds of little kids. What are left are the dregs of the candy wall.
  • In fact, try to avoid buying candy in the middle of the day on a Saturday. You’ll need to sharpen your elbows and fight off sugar-starved little kids. Unless you have no shame, it’s just not worth the crocodile tears of small Swedish children.
  • Buy your candy at a grocery store. Pressbyrån and 7-11 are expensive.

Now you know.

Welcome to Sweden. And Swedish candy.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Adventures with Swedish Filmjölk

I love filmjölk. I struggle to describe it to people who have never experienced it. Basically it is thick sour milk. Kind of the same consistency as yogurt. I try to compare it to buttermilk in the US, except that buttermilk is disgusting and filmjölk is not.

Either way, it is best eaten with some fruity yogurt thrown in as well as Kalas Puffar (Kalaspuffar? I'm going with two words because the box shows it on two lines), which are basically like Smacks. I usually alternate my breakfasts eating cereal with milk or cereal with filmjölk.

There are so very many different kinds of filmjölk though. Some with added flavor, some that are ecological, and some that are from different regions of Sweden.

I almost always know what I’m buying when I go shopping. I’ve been here long enough that grocery stores aren’t a big deal. But sometimes I find things that I have never tried before. Like filmjölk from different regions of Sweden.

In a wave of adventurousness (which must be a word because my spell check accepted it) I decided to break free from my standard liter of fil and go for something different. Something called långfil. Described as filmjölk from Norrland. Way the hell up there in the north.

I got the last liter in the store. Which I thought might mean it was popular. Until I got it home and looked closely at the expiration date. It expires tomorrow. I bought it two days ago. This might suggest that there isn’t exactly a high turnover of långfil. That didn’t really bode well for me.

So yesterday I ate just milk and cereal for breakfast. I had to psyche myself up a little bit. And today was the day. So I shook up the liter package. Always shake fil and yogurt products I have learned unless you want a thin layer of disgusting looking dairy juice mixed in with your cereal.

After shaking, I popped up the top panels so that I could rip the packaging open. Because it seems that just about all liter packages of milk are sold in cardboard packaging.

And I started pouring the långfil into my bowl. Pouring would suggest a certain lack of viscosity. A sense of fluidness really. Instead I was forced to squeeze the cardboard packaging causing white blobs of långfil to plop into my bowl. Notice the blob on the counter in the picture. Awesome.

I soldiered on though. Because as a general rule, I eat anything put in front of me. Except for tomatoes. I added my cereal and yogurt and took a bite. The långfil had managed to absorb the yogurt into it creating a stringy creation of dairy products with chunks of fruit speckled with Kalas Puffar. Awesome.

I took a few more bites. To be honest, it tasted fine. Or, it didn’t really taste I suppose. The fil seemed to have neutralized any fruity flavor that the yogurt might have offered. Basically I was eating white flavorless dairy goop. Awesome.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. The consistency was just too much for me. So I dumped in even more yogurt. Only to watch as the långfil overpowered it, again absorbing it into an even thicker goop. This time I just gave in and ate. Spoonful after spoonful. I just kept shoveling it into me, finishing with no small sense of pride.

I still have about three quarters of a liter of långfil left. I’m not really sure what I’m going to do. I can’t really throw it out. It just goes against everything I stand for to throw out food. Before I realized what I had purchased, my plan was to try eating some alone. Just to test it out. Now I’m nervous. Intimidated by a liter of dairy. We’ll see.

Welcome to Sweden. And adventures in Swedish dairy products.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Easter Advertisements in Stockholm, Sweden

Easter is coming up. Half-day of work tomorrow, no work on Friday, then I’ve got the weekend and no work on Monday. The Swedes sure know how to celebrate these religious holidays. And being the religious person that I am, I’ll bow my head and revel in the miracle that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ rising from the dead.

That’s not true. I’m not religious at all. Easter means gummy bunnies (hint, hint to the parents back home), eggs, and ham. Always ham.

The Swedes don’t seem all that concerned with the whole religious aspect of Easter either. And nothing demonstrated this better than an advertisement I saw on the subway yesterday on my way to work. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera. But the ad was so incredible that I brought my camera along this morning. I walked along the subway cars peering in at all the ads before getting on. I nearly missed my chance and snuck in just as the doors were closing. But I got the car with the most glorious Easter ad ever.

I’ve taken one picture that shows the entire ad. The text reads: “Passa på att ha kul i Påsk!” Basically, “Make sure to have fun this Easter!” Keep this in mind as you look closely.

To your left is a Rubik’s Cube, some people might find this fun. I find it frustrating. And it’s just not good for my self-esteem. The ad claims that the ‘80s are back making the Rubik’s Cube an exciting way to spend your Easter apparently. Fine. It can be considered a toy and might bring someone hours of entertainment and joy.

But it wasn’t really the Rubik’s Cube that caught my eye. It was the nose hair trimmer. And the Shocking Gun. I zoomed in just a bit and focused on those two for your viewing pleasure.

Because I can think of no better way to spend my Easter than trimming my nose hair. As a hairy man, I find it necessary to get on in there and trim the nose hairs every now and again. Back in the US of A, as I drove to work, I would often pull my nose hairs by hand. Anyone driving beside me may have thought I was picking my nose. They would have been wrong. Had they looked more closely they would have noticed the tears in my eyes. The building sneeze. All the result of pulling nose hairs.

It wasn’t exactly the safest thing to be doing while driving. Luckily, my dear mother, in her infinite wisdom, or disgust at my behavior, bought me an electric nose hair trimmer. I haven’t looked back.

Now for 100 SEK you too can free your nose from those rogue hairs that have managed to finagle their way out into the open. And just in time for Easter. Because Jesus, being the well kept man that he surely was, would appreciate nostrils free from ungainly nose hairs.

As if trimming my nose hair wasn’t enough fun on Easter, the advertisement offers me an even more exciting option. I can be electrocuted. Or be the one doing the electrocuting. Just look at how happy he is. The one doing the shocking that is. Seldom will you see such unbridled joy on a young man’s face. Give him the opportunity to electrocute another man though? That’s the spirit of the season. As long as you’re the on the right side of that Shocking Gun.

Welcome to Sweden. Where Rubik’s Cube, a nose hair trimmer, and a Shocking Gun are all you need for a happy Easter.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

More Signs from a Swedish Recession

Sweden is struggling economically. The country is officially in a recession. People are selling their tooth gold. Saab could go under leaving thousands without work. So the government is sending out the debt collectors. Breaking knee caps throughout the world. You know, if Swedes approved of gratuitous violence. Which they don’t. They are neutral.

Sweden prides itself on subsidizing education. State run higher education is offered tuition free. They complement this with money for students from Centrala studiestödsnämnden. The Central Board of Study Support. In my own amazing translation. Really they are known as CSN.

Whatever you want to call them, CSN is the agency, in conjunction with the government, that hands out money for education. The money isn’t going to provide for a luxurious lifestyle, but it’s enough to live on. You can get money for 12 semesters worth of study up until you turn 54 years old. There are all kinds of different options for people with kids and people who are older and didn’t finish high school, but for a fulltime student, it ends up being about 8,000 SEK every month combining the grant and loans. At today’s exchange rate that’s about 1,000 USD. It’s not a huge amount, but it adds up.

In fact, according to CSN’s own website it added up to 14.2 billion SEK (1.8 billion USD) in grants and 10.4 billion SEK (1.3 billion USD) in loans in 2008. That’s where some of that 47% tax burden here in Sweden goes to.

Currently, you are expected to pay back your loan six months after you receive your last payment. The interest rate is set by the governnet every year but tends to be quite low. In 2008, the interest rate was 2.1%. If you have yet to find a job, you are still expected to pay. But Sweden is an understanding place and you can apply to pay less than is expected. It’s not quite a deferral but it helps. You have 25 years to pay off the loan. Or until you turn 60. Whichever comes first.

Turns out though, that a lot of people that received an education in Sweden, or at least received CSN money from Sweden and have since left the country, are hoping to avoid paying that money back. Ever. Around 25% of people living abroad have managed to miss a payment. Or more. And a lot of them have been sliding by unnoticed. Or maybe not unnoticed, but unmolested by the Swedish debt collectors because no one has their address. Various media sources (Sydsvenskan, SVD, DN, and of course, TheLocal) have put the number at about 20,000 debtors for a total of 2.7 billion SEK (about 340 million USD).

Sweden is already hunting down people who have moved to the UK and the Nordic countries. In 2009 they will expand that list to an extra 10 countries: Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland, Italy, and Iceland (which I already consider to be part of the Nordic countries but I digress.). They are also turning to help from detectives in France, as well as Greece and Australia.

Fifteen people are going to be sitting up in Umeå, just a stone’s throw away from the Arctic Circle, and scouring the internet. Everything from your classic Google search to sifting through social networking sites like Facebook. If that’s not reason enough to never stick your address on Facebook, I don’t know what is.

There is a good chance that this is just a coincidence. That the search for 2.7 billion SEK isn’t based on a struggling economy. Of course, calling in the debts could be a sign that Sweden is battening down the hatches and trying to weather the economic storm through whatever means necessary. Unpaid loans in times of economic crises are not good for business. Or government. For years, Swedes abroad have known that there would be little consequence for not paying back their CSN debt. Since moving here, I have had people tell me that I should just milk the system for the CSN money, and not worry about the loans when I move. So this decision raised my eyebrows. I even shook my head a bit.

Collecting on the debts of tens of thousands of Swedes defaulting on their loans while living out of the country will help the country coffers. It might seem that this goes against the idea of Sweden being a welfare state. A country that tries to avoid exposing its citizens to any unnecessary hardship. But these are times of hardship for everyone. First and foremost for Sweden come Swedes. In Sweden. Even if it means chasing down Swedes just because they don’t happen to live in Sweden. A sort of protectionist attitude to the extreme. Damned the consequences.

Nathan Hegedus writing for the blog on The Huffington Post does an excellent job of commenting on his firsthand experience with the protectionist attitudes of Europe. Maybe not exactly what he experienced, but parallels can be drawn.

Whatever the reason, I think this needs to happen. Granted, 2.7 billion SEK is just a small percentage of the money loaned out. But it adds up. A penny saved is a penny earned. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Den som spar, han har. All that good stuff. So in times of economic recession, Sweden is collecting.

Luckily, for those of you Swedes in the US, you seem to be safe. For now. But beware, if Sweden continues to slide further into a recession it may be just a matter of time.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Swedish Death. And Poop.

I feel like death. My head feels like it might explode. My throat is swollen shut. My nose is plugged up so I can’t breathe, which seems like a sure sign of death to me. The sad thing is that all of this might be to my advantage considering earlier this evening.

Despite me being a walking zombie, I chose to go out for dinner. Which I’m sure all my fellow restaurant-goers appreciated. A lot. Either way, I wanted some delicious food. Which worked out well because it ended up being reindeer with pepper sauce. I love reindeer. And pepper.

Anyway, in my advanced state of decay I decided to run to the bathroom in hopes of hoarding a large amount of toilet paper or tissues. There were no tissues. No worries, my nose knows no (see what I did there?) pain. Rough toiler paper it was. So into the stall I went to blow my nose and collect toilet paper.

After years of having disgusting dogs that enjoy eating snotty tissues out of the trash, I have a habit of throwing anything snotty into the toilet. So I lifted the lid with my foot because I’m kind of strange like that and don’t really want to touch foreign toilet seats. And it was because of toilets like this one.

Let me preface all of this by saying that I enjoy scatological humor. It makes me chuckle. I’m 25. I know. But it’s still funny. Even I have limits though.

The first thing that I noticed were the skid marks. Everywhere. I mean even the upper reaches of the bowl had taken a beating. And then, the smell. Remember, I can’t breathe. I am dying. But that smell penetrated the dam of snot in my nostrils. I took a step back. Literally.

But it got worse. After recovering and being determined to throw my snotty toilet paper into the bowl my eyes were assaulted by more poop. All over the seat. Not on the inside of the bowl. Not on the inside of the seat from splatter. On the damn seat. On it. Right there in the back. It looked like someone had taken a can of snus and rubbed it all over the back of the toilet seat. That’s explosive.

That was it. I quickly kicked the seat down with my shoes. Which I have since burned. That’s not true. They’re nice shoes. I apologize for lying. But I did kick the seat down. Kicked the flusher. Washed my hands. And in a panic tried to leave the bathroom. I could have sworn that when I walked into the bathroom the door was a push door. So I pulled trying to leave. Nothing. I was stuck. So I pulled again. I looked for a lock. I looked for a button to push. Nothing.

Then, in a stroke of genius that can only come to dying man, I pushed. And was let out into the sweet air of freedom. Freedom from the oppression of dirty bathrooms. Freedom from the assault of the smell of poop. FREEDOM!

Welcome to Sweden. Kind of.

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