Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hippie Parties in Sweden

I struggle with spelling the word “hippy”. Or “hippie.” I like “hippie” better. It seems more distinguished, which is obviously what hippies are going for.

Just the other night I found myself at a hippie party. Somewhat unwittingly. Hippies and I don’t always get along. The party was meant to be a birthday party. And it was. It just so happened that when scheduling parties outdoors in public spaces, it’s hard to know what else is going on. And so there was a hippie party going on.

The party consisted of lots of hippie dancing. Lots of hemp clothing. Very few shoes. Lots and lots of alcohol. Which isn’t necessarily a sign of a hippie party but it was there.

What wasn’t there was weed. The lack of Swedish drug use amazed me. I didn’t smell any marijuana at all. Nearly three hours of hippie party with a DJ and hippies everywhere and no weed. It was incredible. That same party in the US would have been submerged by a hazy cloud of marijuana smoke. Not so in Sweden.

Going to school in Eugene, I became quite familiar with the drug. Not because I used it. I never have. But because plenty of other people did. It was everywhere. Not using sometimes seemed rarer than actually using it. Most parties had at least a couple of people who were stoned, looking to get stoned, or looking to get someone else stoned. Here in Sweden, marijuana seems to be treated with the same attitude as many people treat heroin in the US.

I remember being amazed by this while studying abroad in Uppsala. I did more partying there than anywhere else, which, considering it is me, still might not be that much, but I only smelled weed once. And the party damn near stopped as people became incredibly nervous. Apparently, even second hand weed can make people paranoid.

Only once more have I been around the drug while in Sweden. This time in more of an American setting. But still, a lot of precaution was taken.

Until the hippie party, I hadn’t really thought about those two episodes all that much. It was strange to realize that the absence of something could be felt so strongly. I suppose I have such a strong association between weed and hippies that the lack of it made me take notice.

It seems that the stigma of drug use in Sweden is much stronger than in the US. I see weed as one of those recreational drugs that people use in college. Kind of like binge drinking. Most people get out just fine. Some don’t. Collateral damage if you will. But it’s such a part of the college culture that I never really treated it with nearly as much disdain as the Swedes seem to.

I don’t even have the slightest clue as to why this is. I don’t see Swedish anti-drug commercials. I don’t see strung out people on the streets acting as an example. I don’t see extremely stringent laws against drug use. Maybe those are the very reasons weed isn’t nearly as ubiquitous.

Whatever the reason, I quite liked the lack of marijuana. Not having to deal with a bunch of stoned college kids looking for more weed and more chips made for an enjoyable evening. Now if we could only do something about all the damn cigarette smoke.

Welcome to Sweden. Where weed is relegated to untended fields. See what I did there?

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Orgasmic Advertisements in Stockholm, Sweden

I found another wonderful advertisement on the subways the other day. Another from our friends over at Teknikmagasinet. It was kind of pathetic just how excited I was. And how horribly disappointed I was to not have my camera ready. Which is obviously why I brought it along this morning on my way to work.

The poor ladies sitting right under the ad were nervous. A large man was visibly excited about taking several pictures of an advertisement on the subway. And they sat there quietly. Glancing up as I kept trying to take a non-burry picture while the subway was in motion. You would think that being on tracks would make a subway car easy to steer. It seems you would be wrong. After finally getting a couple of pictures that were halfway decent I put the camera away. At which point one of the ladies got up the courage to look up at whatever it was I was taking a picture of.

I always look up at the ads. In fact, I now make a conscious effort to always read the ads from Teknikmagasinet closely. Of course, I have yet to actually step inside one of their stores so the ads might not be working as they had hoped. But they bring me joy. As we all know, I am a self-centered person and I try to do things that make me happy. Like taking pictures of ridiculous products from Teknikmagasinet. I’m basically an egotistical ass.

This ad might not be quite as intriguing as a nose hair trimmer and an electric shocking gun to celebrate Easter. But I think it can definitely be described as orgasmic. A word that I do not use lightly. Mostly because my mom reads this.

But there, right in front of me was something that no man should be without. And it could be had for only 99 SEK. The Orgasmatron Mini Deluxe. No. It is not a vibrator or dildo. They sell those at Apoteket. This is a head scratcher. Seriously. The Orgasmatron Mini Deluxe Huvudkliare.
For 99 SEK you can buy what looks to be a plastic handle attached to beaded tentacles. And use it to scratch your head. That’s money well spent. You know, if you don’t have fingers. Or the ability to grow fingernails. Maybe you are a nail biter with a dry itchy scalp and bad dandruff. This is the product for you.

Unfortunately for Teknikmagasinet, I do not bite my fingernails. Nor do I have dandruff. Instead, I have thin hair that was described as dead grass by my then five year old cousin. I say then because I off-ed her before her sixth birthday after her hurtful comment that still haunts me today.

That’s not true. I like little children and would never eliminate one for insulting my thinning hair. I think. Insult my facial hair… I can make no guarantees.

Welcome to Sweden. And the Orgasmatron.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Drunk Driving in Sweden

Nope. Not me. I was not driving drunk in Sweden. And neither was anyone I know actually. Instead, while I was wandering around one evening, I noticed something that made me think about the way drunk driving laws differ between the US and Sweden. And since I just wrote about Systembolaget and how they can help you get drunk on the cheap in Sweden, I thought this was a fitting follow-up.

The other day I was walking around Södermalm on my way to meet a buddy for a drink. And I passed a car parked on the side of the street. And glanced inside. Mostly because I am very nosy. Sitting in the cup holder extending from the dashboard, was a can of Sofiero. A classic Swedish beer. Not a very good one, but Swedish nonetheless. And it was open.

I did a bit of a double take. Because that just doesn’t fly in the US. No open alcoholic containers are allowed in cars. Hell, some places even make you put the alcohol in the trunk so it isn’t even within reach of the driver.

Drunk driving laws differ a bit between the US and Sweden. In the US, the drunk driving laws differ by state. But in Colorado it is a blood alcohol content level of .08%. I think most states are similar. Basically, that ends up being a couple of beers. Or a couple of glasses of wine. Or a couple of shots.

In Sweden though, the limit is .02%. Essentially, one or one and a half drink will put you over the limit. If you get really drunk and find yourself at .10% or above, you’ve graduated to an even higher level of punishment.

The punishments differ a bit as well. Sweden is pretty rough on drunk drivers. As they should be. This may be one of the few times when I actually think the Swedish justice system does a damn good job. From my understanding, drunk driving in Sweden can result in six months in prison and fines for the first level, and up to two years and fines for that magical level of .10%. There is also the possibility that your license will be suspended for up to five years. That’s a solid punishment.

In the US, the punishment, just like the laws, differs state by state. Your license might be pulled, but most likely you will just get restrictions. Fines are likely. Community service is possible as well as mandatory attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous is possible. Jail is possible. The ignition lock thing that checks to see if people have been drinking before the car will start is possible. But that’s the thing; there is no overriding punishment system. Some states don’t even pull your license after several drunk driving convictions. Others won’t put you in jail until your second conviction. It’s ridiculous.

Plenty of studies have been done which seem to show that this works. The punishment cuts down on drunk driving. It cuts down on the number of alcohol related accidents. So well done Sweden. And for those of you moving to Sweden. Pay attention. More than one drink will put you over the limit.

Welcome to Sweden. Where drunk driving laws make a difference.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

How to Get Drunk on the Cheap: Alcohol Percentages in Sweden

For some reason I have been spending too much time looking at receipts. A few days ago I noticed the ecological markings on my grocery receipt from Coop, and now I’ve been staring at my Systembolaget receipt.

It’s been a long time since I bought alcohol in the US. Or at least alcohol that didn’t come in drink form straight from the bar. It’s the downfall of having lived out of the country for nearly two years now. My memory fades. I’m getting old. Hell, I’m halfway to fifty now.

Anyway, I do know what it is like to buy alcohol here in Sweden. As a general rule, it is a pain in the ass. Expensive, restrictive, just not fun. But they do have an interesting way of pointing out exactly what you bought. Not just the name of the beer you bought. Not just the price. But the alcohol content as well.

You know, just in case you wanted to know what the cheapest way to get drunk by alcohol content was. You can do some quick math and bam, clearly your best choice is one of the Extra Stark beers. Usually brewed right here in Sweden.

I tend to stay away from those. Because they taste horrible. And I have limits. So when I looked at my receipt the other day, I was staring at a Primator Premium Lager (5%), a Bitburger Premium (4.8%), a Beck’s (5%), and a Zlat Bazant (5%). With this information I could determine just how much bang I was getting for my buck. Or crown as the case may be. I didn’t though. Because that would be weird.

On Systembolaget’s website, you can even search by alcohol content. It’s amazing. For example, if you’re interested you can buy 500 ml (that’s basically one can of beer) of the Norwegian “Dark Horizon” with 16% alcohol for only 149 SEK. That’s the low low price of $19.65. For one bottle of beer.

Or, if you’re feeling like you’d rather not spend that much money, you can buy a 500 ml can of Arboga 10.2, which, strangely enough has 10.2% alcohol. This will only set you back 18.9 SEK. That’s about $2.50. A little more reasonable. But still only one can.

From an institution that is often times defended because it supposedly helps to limit drunkenness, it seems strange to me that alcohol content should be marketed as much as it is. That being said, I am by no means an alcohol connoisseur. Maybe prominently displaying the alcohol content is useful to someone other than the drunk I saw sitting on the curb by the Finland boat vomiting at 11 in the morning.

Welcome to Sweden. Where anyone with a calculator and some patience can figure out the cheapest way to get drunk.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sweden vs. America – The Battle Continues

The US sucks. Sweden is better. Europe is better. It gets so very old after a while.

The other day I found myself in one of these conversations. Again. Once people figure out you are in the least bit connected to the US it opens the door for America bashing.

This time it was comparative bashing. The US just wasn’t as good as Europe apparently. Sweden more specifically. Swedes always claim that they hate nationalism. And patriotism. And any claim of superiority by one country. But many Swedes won’t hesitate to criticize other countries. America especially. You could argue that by constantly saying that other countries aren’t good, or at least not as good as, Sweden, Sweden becomes the default best country in the world. It’s all very Swedish really. But I digress.

Anyway, the conversation in question focused on America’s current foreign policy and international military presence. It is a strong presence. Some would argue too strong. And that’s fine. Debate and discussion is good.

Except, after moving to the more general discussion of Europe being better, the conversation turned to history. And how The US was still young and going through growing pains and that’s why they needed to flex their muscles and have a strong military presence. Like teenage boys on the bus showing off who is the strongest. America was those teenage boys on the bus from an historical perspective.

I like history. I like historical discussions. They entertain me, and I am a selfish person and like to be entertained by others. Really it’s a win-win.

So I jumped in. I focused on Europe though. Because it was being used as a comparison for their lack of military presence and so, obvious superiority on whatever objective scale these people were using. Because as much as people sometimes try to forget, Europe has a long history of war. And that long history stretches into the not so distant past. Obviously, the first two examples had to be the World Wars. But they were just kind of throw-ins. Then I worked my way up in the years. Closer to the present.

Next was the Berlin wall. Which got a mumbled response that it didn’t really count because it was Germany. I was unaware that Germany was no longer considered a part of Europe. I learn new things every day.

When that was dismissed I threw out eastern Europe. At which point, I was told that all Americans are defensive and it is a special attitude we have. Of course, I wasn’t necessarily defending America, just pointing out the somewhat hypocritical comments that Europe had somehow outgrown war. But that wasn’t the topic of discussion. Instead it was the defensive and ardent nationalism that all Americans have. Obviously.

Then today at lunch I realized why, to some extent, that stereotype is true. Because today at lunch, a girl told me that she didn’t like the US. Of course she had never been there. At which point she said she didn’t think she would like the US.

That’s when it hit me. That’s why many Americans are defensive of their country. It gets old hearing people say they don’t like your country without having any firsthand experience whatsoever. In the end, the longer I stay in the Sweden, the more isolationist I become as an American.

Welcome to Sweden. Clearly the best country in the world. By default.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Buying Ecological in Sweden

I don’t buy ecological food. Or really any sort of ecological products. It’s not that I club baby seals in my spare time. Or even cut down entire rain forests to make a box of toothpicks. It’s just that I don’t notice any difference in taste or quality. But what it really comes down to is that I’m cheap. And buying ecological is not cheap. Sweden loves the environment though. And so they love ecological food.

Coop, a large grocery chain here in Sweden, plays up the ecological thing. They have a special ecological brand that they push. They have ad campaigns focusing on ecological goods. They even have special biodegradable bags (at least at some stores). There is a Coop near me and I’ve been shopping there lately because it is just so very close.

The other day I was in the store trying to feed myself for another week. I picked out the classic food stuff. Milk. Cereal. Bread. Meat. But I needed some fruits and veggies. And there they were. Black beans. I love black beans. They were cheap too. I love cheap. So I threw them in my basket without thinking too much.

I walked to the counter and paid. Because stealing is wrong. And obviously looked at my receipt as I walked out. I like to keep track of how much I spend every month. That’s when I noticed the little clover staring back at me.

Apparently, on every receipt, Coop prints a clover next to the ecological products you bought. Not only that, at the bottom they have a little summary. Again, the little clover shows up, this time right next to a total amount of money spent.

I managed to spend 26 SEK on my miljömärkta varor.

I’ll be honest, while I noticed the little clover picture, it didn’t exactly make me want to buy more ecological products. In fact, it just made me pay more attention to what percentage of my grocery trip was spent on ecological food. And when ecological food is as expensive as it is, that’s maybe not a good thing.

Welcome to Sweden. And ecological food.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Swedish-American Football in Stockholm

Last night I saw history. Swedish-American football history. And being a Swedish-American, I thought it appropriate to write about my experience.

I have no affinity towards any of the teams in Stockholm. I am not an ardent supporter of Djurgården or AIK or even Hammarby. I just can’t get into it. I really think that growing up with a sports team is what develops the sort of loyalty all good sports fans have. And I don’t have that. And am hesitant to try to mimic that for fear of being that guy. No one likes that guy.

So instead I go to games when I get the opportunity, hockey mostly, but basketball too of course. Although, in basketball I do have loyalties.

Anyway, last night, I watched Djurgården Amerikansk Fotboll make history. DIFAF (as they are so lovingly known) moved up to the highest series of American football in Sweden. Superserien. The Super Series. And they won. For the first time ever.

The team pulled off a 17-14 win in the closing minutes of the game in front of a lively crowd. Of course, that lively crowd was only made up of about 200 people, but it was lively none the less.

Swedish-American football is played by a bunch of guys who love the sport. As well as a couple of Americans who manage to get paid a little bit and needed an adventure and a place to play. Some of these guys played at a pretty high level in the US, others did not. But overall, the level of play seems to be Division III-ish. It’s not bad, but it is by no means USC-Oklahoma.

The crowd was something to see as well. Imagine a high school crowd. A small high school crowd. But not one of those small town schools where the only thing going on Friday night is the football game. This was a small town with a bad team. Friends and family filled the arena. And by filled I mean speckled the stands.

Being the observant fellow that I am, I couldn’t help but notice that a Swedish-American football game is not the place to be if you want to pick up girls. Sweden is known to have some good looking women. CBCC and I have decided that the real difference between Sweden and the US in terms of girls is not that there are more hot girls, just that the average girl is better looking. That was not the case here. Unfortunately.

What was the case, and seems to always be the case, is the late high school, early college, aged guys who managed to somehow, despite the ban on alcohol, get drunk. So much so that it was kind of entertaining. Especially the larger guy. I guess it’s not easy getting that drunk, carrying that much weight, and trying to navigate some pretty steep stadium steps.

But come on, I was there to watch football, not girls and fat drunk guys. And watch football I did. DIFAF struggled early on, down 14-3 at halftime. Slowly, but surely they started pulling it together. With just a couple of minutes left they were threatening. And they fumbled on the first play. Seemed like there was too much adrenaline and nerves. Or maybe the center was just really sweaty. Think about it…

But the defense held. DIFAF got the ball back and drove down within the red zone. The clock was running out and DIFAF went for the end zone. Back right corner. Placed perfectly over the receiver’s right shoulder. A pretty little fade right into the end zone.

It wasn’t Elway to Smith back in the day. But it was the best pass I had seen in a long time. Whether that means I really miss football, I’ve been in Sweden too long, or the level of play was better than expected, I don’t know. Probably all three.

But for only 50 SEK, it was a hell of a deal. Next game is May 30th against the Arlanda Jets. Yup. Arlanda is the name of the airport. And they are called the Jets. It’s cute really.

Welcome to Sweden. And Swedish-American football.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bus Drivers in Stockholm

Bus drivers suck. I never really rode the bus in the US. A few times while at university, but otherwise I drove myself around. I’m American after all. But bus drivers suck. At least the ones I have been riding with recently in Stockholm.

I try to avoid the bus. I much prefer the subway if I need to use public transportation. Sometimes it can’t be avoided though.

That’s why I took note when the bus driver started huffing and puffing. And honking. In Stockholm, the bus drivers only stop at a bus stop if you tell them to stop, or if there is someone waiting at the bus stop. It’s handy and speeds things along.

Of course, this policy, if it is an official policy of SL, came to mind when I noticed the bus driver pulling over to stop when no one had pushed the button and no one was waiting outside. Then the honking started. Angry, aggressive honking. Un-Swedish honking really. There was a car in the way. Pulled over in the bus stop lane.

The honking continued. The bus driver just kept pulling up closer and closer, all the while honking. At this point, nearly everyone in the bus had taken notice. One lady even got out of her sea to look out the front window.

Finally, the car started moving, getting out of the bus stop lane and pulling over in a non bus stop lane. It seemed like the poor guy was lost. And now confused. And maybe partially deaf.

The bus driver never actually stopped to open the doors. He just kept driving. And while driving away he was mumbling under his breath and shaking his head. Almost like he just needed an excuse to blow off some steam.

A slight case of road rage it seemed. Except from a bus driver. With quite a few people on board. Awesome. Road raging bus drivers with me on the bus make me nervous.

Of course, it got better a few days later. Different bus driver this time. Don’t ask me why I know this; it’s just one of those things that I notice. I’m a very strange person. I know.

Anyway, different bus driver. Different day. Different experience. Same nervous reaction.

I was seated just a couple seats behind the bus driver so had a good look at the front of the bus. And everyone climbing onto the bus. A woman and her small child stepped onto the bus. Got their little bus ticket stamped and moved to the back.

If you aren’t the proud owner of a 690 SEK monthly SL card (as I am) you can buy a strip of trips for 160 SEK (I lied, it's 180 SEK, thanks to Kit for that). Then you get them time stamped which allows you a certain amount of time from that time stamp. I think it is about 90 minutes (I lied again, it's an hour. Thanks again to Kit). So it is important to have the stamp on the ticket if you plan on continuing your journey with a different form of transportation.

So when the lady came back to the bus driver and said “You need to fix your stamp because I can’t read the time on my ticket,” except she said it in Swedish of course, it wasn’t a huge surprise. What was a surprise was that she did it while we were driving. What was even more of a surprise was that the bus driver decided to have a conversation with her. As we were driving. And not just have a conversation, but actually re-stamp her ticket. As we were driving.

The frightening thing was that this interaction led a noticeable devolution of the bus drivers driving skills. The bus slowed noticeably. We drifted just a tad to the left. Cars behind us started lining up. And I got a bit nervous. Finally, the lady walked away, sufficiently appeased by the new stamp. And seemingly unaware of my rising blood pressure, dilated pupils, and increased heart beat.

Please tell me this was just a coincidence. Two isolated incidents that weren’t all that isolated. Please tell me that other people don’t have similar experiences. Please.

As a general rule, I like my bus drivers to focus on driving. Not getting angry at cars. Not taking the time to stop and stamp a ladies ticket as we were driving. I like my bus driver to get me to my destination without wondering whether I should get off at the next stop and just wait for another bus. Or walk. Walking seems safe.

On a completely unrelated note, I saw a guy walking around Slussen the other day with a medical face mask on. He’s been paying way too much attention to the Swedish cases of swine flu.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Half Marathons in Stockholm

I’ve been writing this blog for about a year and a half now. Anyone reading will have realized after about a week and a half that sometimes, I am an idiot. And in fact, you should probably never listen to anything I say. Or write I suppose. But listen to me now.

Never think it is a good idea to try to run a half marathon after having not run for years and training for one month. You will hurt. As I do.

I do not run fast. At all. I take after my mother in that regard. The difference being that my mother is good at running what with her marathons and half marathons at incredibly high elevations. I run slow at sea level.

And I learned something about running slow. The mantra of slow and steady winning the race is very simply, false. Slow and steady may finish the race, but fast and steady wins the race.

I managed to finish though. In less than two hours and 15 minutes which was quite enough for me. The first few kilometers were rough. Mostly because I had to pee. I thought maybe it was nervous pee so I ignored it. It was not. But after a few kilometers I managed to ignore my bladder. Which I’ve heard is always a good idea.

Having ignored my urine, I just kept running. I was still in the early stages so I knew that I could make it without too much trouble. So the kilometers kept adding up.

I passed the water stations and didn’t drink anything. I had hydrated well in the day and morning prior to the race. But by the third water station around kilometer eight I decided I needed some fluid. So I grabbed some PowerAde. And promptly managed to choke on the drink. Turns out that running up a hill while trying to drink is not easy.

Just before kilometer 10 I ran into my cheering section. (I say my, but really they were also cheering for my two cousins. But my cousins don’t write this blog. I do.) Which turned out to be very good timing considering what I was about to experience. Because by kilometer 10.1, I was pretty lonely. There was a choice of running 10K or the half marathon. Apparently plenty of people picked the 10K. Seeing as how I was so very slow, I was all alone. But I felt good.

Kilometer 13 saw me get a little cocky. I thought that maybe I could speed up my pace. Maybe get a better time. Maybe get myself some bragging rights. It was short-lived.

Kilometer 14 made me realize that I just needed to finish. So I put my head down and kept running. Of course, when running long distances you should never put your head down. Which the kind volunteer at kilometer 15 said to me as I passed by.

So head up, I kept running. And running. Kilometers 16, 17, an 18 passed without incident. And then kilometer 19 came up and punched me in the face. I was so close, but at this point I was breaking own mentally. Luckily, Americans are friendly people. The American volunteer at the race who was standing at kilometer 19 saved me. Her encouraging words and friendliness pushed me on.

Had I not been running, I would have dropped to one knee and proposed to her. But I had things to do. Races to run. Plus, I had to be able to call my mom and tell her I ran the whole thing.

At kilometer 20 I ran into my cheering section, which couldn’t have come at a better time. Signs, cheering, loud Swenglish words of encouragement. It was a thing of beauty. So I soldiered on.

One kilometer to go. I was so close. And then the bastards put a slight hill near the end. Shit. This time, good advice be damned, I put my head down and chugged along. Suddenly, I was 30 meters from the finish line. The announcers said my name over the loud speakers and promptly began discussing how nice the weather was for a picnic. Which was fitting, because I enjoy nice weather and picnics. It’s like they knew. I crossed the finish line to chants of USA! USA! from a surprise cheering section that had emerged out of nowhere.

Tears streamed down my face as I accepted the adulation of throngs of well-wishers. Ok, that’s not true, but salty sweat did stream down my face. Which is almost the same. I did a quick check of my nipples, no blood, and a quick check of my inner thighs, no chafage.

In the end though, I finished the race. I ran the whole thing. I never stopped. I finished.

Welcome to Sweden. And half marathons in Stockholm.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thoughts While Running in Stockholm

I went for a run last night. I was quite proud of myself because I managed to stumble through 14 km. That’s damn near nine miles. Nine miles gives a person a chance to think. And think I did.

Like when I ran past the woman with misshapen legs who was using two crutches to get around. I felt bad. Like I was taunting her. Like by running by her I was pointing out the fact that she couldn’t run. Luckily I was running so I could get away. Plus she was on crutches, she couldn’t catch me.

Then, later in the run, I was reminded of my own misfortunes. That of being very, very slow. Because suddenly I was staring at the very large ass of a very large man in very large bright blue tights passing me. I was passed by a fatty. Running. It hurt my pride a bit. Mostly because I was only about four kilometers into the run. It also left me concerned that maybe the lady on crutches would have been able to catch me. Good think I was only thinking.

I put my head down and kept chugging away though. Still hoping for the ever elusive runner’s high. It never came. Finally, I made it home, at which point I immediately checked my nipples. They were not bleeding. I had avoided the dreaded runner’s nipple.

I had not, however, avoided the dreaded runner’s inner thigh chafage. I haven’t suffered from inner thigh chafage since high school playing football. To solve that problem, I wore sliding short. Basically tights in boxer form. They were amazing. Especially after not having washed them all season. I was free from inner thigh chafage.

Now I find myself in a foreign country with absolutely no sliding shorts and chafage on my inner thigh.

Welcome to Sweden. And running.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Going Metro in Stockholm

In one of those moments where you just kind of have to shake your head and say “no shit…” an opinion survey has shown that many think that Swedish men are less masculine than they used to be. No shit… reported a few days ago in an article titled “Swedish men 'not as masculine as they used to be': study” that a survey of both sexes in Sweden found that Swedish males have become less masculine. Or maybe not become, but are viewed as being, less masculine.

Of course, if you’ve ever been in Stockholm, you would know that a survey wasn’t necessary. Just walk around Stockholm and take in the sights.

Pants so tight that men everywhere are suffering from moose knuckle (think about it…). Enough pastel colors to think that Easter vomited all over Sweden’s supply of shirts. And the hair. Styled. Styled. Masculinity does not include styling hair. Come on now.

Men in Sweden have gone metro, so much so that 58% of men actually think they are less masculine than they once were with only 13% thinking men are more masculine now than before. I’m not sure what that means. That Swedes are very self-aware. Or maybe that they have just resigned themselves to being metro.

What’s even worse is that the last time I went home I was accused of dressing… European. While maybe not quite metro, it did make me pause. Luckily, my pants aren’t so tight that I suffer from moose knuckle. My shirts are dominated by dark blues. And I haven’t put anything foreign in my hair since an attempt to please a girlfriend way back in 10th grade. Hell, last time I was home my little brother cut my hair for me.

But is that enough? I’m not convinced. I’m afraid that I’ll go back to the US and be unable to adapt. I’ll have a strange fascination with hair gel and a desire to slick back my hair despite my ever expanding cul-de-sacs. I’ll moisturize. I’ll own a loofah. (In an attempt to re-affirm my manliness I didn’t look up how to spell that word even after Microsoft red squigglied it).

Instead, I plan on wearing a baseball cap this weekend. Run a half marathon. Maybe partake in the gallon challenge even. That should put some (more) hair on my chest.

Welcome to Sweden. And my quest to never go metro.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Signs I’ve Been in Sweden too Long

I ordered a few books from Amazon UK the other day. And by the other day I mean like four weeks ago. They finally made their way to Sweden. So after work I headed to the grocery store/post office station to pick them up.

And that’s when I realized I had been in Sweden too long. Because of something that surprised me, something that didn’t, and something that I now do.

First, the thing that didn’t surprise me.

The fact that I was going to a grocery store which doubled as a post office didn’t seem strange to me at all. But it is. At least from an American perspective. Because in the US, when you need to go to the post office, you go to a building that is dedicated to the post. An office of sorts. Granted, there are places to take care of your mailing needs outside of the post office, some stores seem to have a partnership with the post office on which you can send packages, buy stamps, take care of your basic postal needs. But in general, you don’t go to the grocery store when you need to pick up a package.

Sweden though has managed to meld the grocery store and the post office. Something I quite like. I was able to get my books as well as pick up some milk and cereal for breakfast tomorrow. It was a win-win really.

On the way back I was struck by something that did surprise me.

I walked past Systembolaget. At 18:50. (That’s Sweden time for 6:50 pm). It was still open. I was amazed. Obviously, I checked the opening times. The place was open for another 10 minutes. Until seven in the evening. Every single weekday.

This is one of those things that shouldn’t have surprised me in the US. Here it did. Still. In a place where the liquor system is run by the state and usually closes by three in the afternoon on a Saturday, being open until seven in the evening is akin to seeing a unicorn. I can’t get over it. No matter how long I’m in this country.

Finally, because of my surprise, I realized I had been in Sweden way too long.

I buy my alcohol out of the country. I’ve been traveling a bit lately and managed to pick up a few bottles at cheap European prices before coming back into the country. The last three countries I’ve been in have resulted in me coming back with five bottles of liquor. None of which I’ve actually opened, but I’m developing quite the collection. Now, when the liquor store closes at three in the afternoon on a Saturday, I’ll be ready.

Welcome to Sweden.

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