Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lost in Translation – Swedish Style

Sometimes everyone finds themselves in one of those surreal moments. Trying to figure out exactly what is going on. Trying to figure out if it is just something that is, in fact, lost in translation.

And so, I found myself having a beer after work with a buddy of mine. We had managed to put away one beer and were sitting around chatting about Sweden in general. The classic ex-pat conversation. What’s wrong with the country. What’s right. And why the hell we are there.

That’s when a voice came from off to the left. Are you English? My buddy is Australian. So no, not English. She threw herself into the conversation. The fact that she was Swedish made this really quite surprising. We continued on with our new found friend asking the standard questions. Where are you from? Do you like it? Why are you here? What do you do? She told us she was a social worker.

The basic interrogation of any foreigner living in Sweden really. We politely answered. At which point she asked us the same questions. Again. We politely answered. Again. At which point she asked us the same questions. Again. We politely answered. Again. I think you see where this is going.

Finally, we got out of this endless loop only to get stuck in another one. This time, she was telling us about herself. And her husband. He was English. And incredibly intelligent. Thirteen years of university. And her husband was English. And incredibly intelligent. Thirteen years of university. But he can’t learn Swedish. And did you know her husband was English? And was incredibly intelligent? And had 12 years of university (you’ll notice there was a slight hiccup in the loop, 13 to 12 years)? And can’t learn Swedish? Strangely enough, I did already know that. It’s almost like we had met before.

Finally, after we had gotten to know one and other, she introduced herself. And we introduced ourselves. Actually giving our actual names. Which was strange because at this point I was starting to concoct incredible tales to tell. Clearly she wouldn’t remember. I could live out my dream of being a world-class porcupine racer without her knowing the sad half-truth. That I only watch world-class porcupine racing.

Having established that we all had names, and quickly forgetting them, we were back to the liking Sweden loop. Followed by the introduction loop. Through it all, I was able to not make up any stories. Call it kindness. Or pity.

Having made it this far, my buddy and I were both casting sideways glances at each other trying to determine how in the hell we could get out of there without making the crazy lady sad. We are kind souls. That’s when she decided we needed another beer. Politely declined. Offered. Politely declined. Offered. Politely declined, and there was a beer in front of me. Fine.

Now that we had a new beer in front of us, we might as well start all over. So, where are you from? Why are you here? Do you work? What do you do? Do you like Sweden? What’s your name? Again. And again.

Then it just got kind of uncomfortable as the 40 year old woman (she told us she was 40 at least four times) began discussing how she was really struggling with being married at the moment. And how she would like to live in India. These two topics weren’t really all that connected aside from the fact that she decided to tell us.

Once again, because we are kind souls, we engaged the crazy lady. This, in and of itself, seems to be a bad idea. Do not engage crazy ladies. But we did. Where in India should a person travel? Her answer. “I don’t know. India will fucking blow your mind away.” In a span of max three minutes, that last sentence was uttered at least five times. India will fucking blow your mind away. So will crazy ladies.

Now it was really time to go. The second beer was disappearing, and dinner still needed to be eaten. Of course, our resident crazy lady decided that dinner may not be as important as the unmarked bottle of pills she pulled from her purse to swallow down with a swig of beer. I’m no doctor, but I feel fairly confident that most medicines should not be chased with beer.

We deftly maneuvered away out the door and walked the other way. Throwing furtive glances over our shoulder to make sure we wouldn’t be assaulted with the same questions over and over again.

That’s when it struck us. Clearly something was lost in translation. She wasn’t a social worker. She was under the supervision of a social worker. We hope.

Welcome to Sweden. And social work in Sweden.

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  1. Incredible! These stupid conversations offer good topics for bloggers. It's so crazy it must be true. Must say I have been there too sometimes. Thanks for this!

  2. Hej!

    I had to share this on Facebook (are you there too ?) - and with my non-computer Swedish social worker friend -- he got a major laugh. Wait until winter and then more crazies come out!!

    All the best from Halland!


  3. so, her husband had 13 years education and you are a porcupine racer(world-class ofcourse) and has won bunch of metals ,cool, but where were you from, again?
    damn right about those questions she even asked me if i wanna stay in Sweden! the different is i started to chat. a little bit of a different style! i bet you'd do if you had sat on a bus station for 10 min with a beauty next to you.

  4. how could you leave a adorable woman on her own! you're so brutal

  5. Wow, you have a lot of funny/uncomfortable/amusing things happen to you. I don't even know what I'd do in that situation. XD Does she have a goldfish memory?

  6. Wow! How come I never meet these weirdos, and I was born here? Maybe it has something to do with foreigners speaking English attracting attention, plus she getting a kick out of speaking English and hearing herself utter certain phrases in a foreign language, so she just had to repeat them. Just had to repeat them. Yea, had to. Repeat them, that is. Maybe she wasn't profient enough to have a normal conversation. Actually, the way you describe it, it seems more like she was suffering from some kind of mental disorder. Thanks for entertaining us again, Hairy!

  7. Two thoughts...

    a. Whole lotta crazy going on around here.

    b. Social work attracs them.

    Unrelated note--I picked up a new Johnny Cash CD today. That qualifies as country, right?

  8. Oops, I guess you were born here too. I mean, I grew up here, and spent most of my life here.

  9. At least she was giving Copenhagen a rest - that's where drunk and crazy Swedish women of a certain age tend to congregate. Or does Sweden have a supply that's greater than I ever imagined?

  10. @kmbr. Johnny Cash recorded an new album? That will definately beat the crazy lady. Recording an album after you're dead is unusual.

    It usually qualifies as country, while it's not Toby Kieth... To me it is more rock and ballads than country, but it has it's roots in country. It'll be a great album if you want JK, less so if you want to get in to country. Which album was it?

  11. @anonymous LOL. New to me I meant.

    It is: The man Comes Around

  12. so you're huge hairy man with bamsy umbrella in Stockholm looking like a psycho
    oops lost in translation looking like a psychologist ;)
    loving your post

  13. @smek – they really do make for good stories. And if not a good story, at least a good memory.

    @Andree – share away, it was just so glorious. And made even better by her telling us she was a social worker.

    @anonymous – lets just say this woman wasn’t exactly a beauty…

    @anonymous – cold as ice.

    @anonymous – apparently I attract the crazies. Not sure what that says about me. She kind of did have the goldfish memory. But at least goldfish can be conditioned so that they know when it is time to eat.

    @anonymous – I think it does have something to do with the English. Had I been speaking Swedish with my buddy, I don’t think we would have been approached. Swedish isn’t nearly as interesting as English for a crazy lady.

    I think it does have something to do with the English. Had I been speaking Swedish with my buddy, I don’t think we would have been approached. Swedish isn’t nearly as interesting as English for a crazy lady.

    I think it does have something to do with the English. Had I been speaking Swedish with my buddy, I don’t think we would have been approached. Swedish isn’t nearly as interesting as English for a crazy lady.

    I think it does have something to do with the English. Had I been speaking Swedish with my buddy, I don’t think we would have been approached. Swedish isn’t nearly as interesting as English for a crazy lady.

    Wait… shit. Sorry.

    @kmbr – seriously. Way too much sometimes. Why does social work attract them. That seems so very counter productive.

    And yes, Johnny Cash definitely counts as country. You are well on your way.

    @anonymous – No worries, I knew what you meant.

    @barsandtrains – Im starting to think that Sweden might have a greater supply. Unfortunately, the laws of supply and demand seem to be failing me here. Because I cant imagine the demand being all that high. Eventually the supply should dwindle. Or maybe that’s exactly what is happening and that’s why they are migrating to Copenhagen.

    @anonymous – I actually think that Mr. Cash acts as a good bridge for those who want to get into country. There is so much country influence and the stories told are what I love about country but it still has that rock feel going on.

    @kmbr – I really have nothing to add just don’t want to leave anyone out of my commenting here.

    @anonymous – that sounds about right. But clearly me walking around with a bamse umbrella is more of a sign that I am awesome than that I am crazy.

  14. Hairy Swede, I know you meant this to be a sort of funny, sort of sad commentary on the crazy lady. But, my takeaway from your story was what a genuinely good person you are for keeping that conversation up as long as you did.

  15. Thanks! You've made my (11 hrs of work) day. That's saying something, because I was exhausted and ready to go to bed really irritated and annoyed that I have to work again tomorrow. Please make my day tomorrow too! :)

  16. it's amazing how extraordinary things happen to me everytime i hear an unbelievable account.
    like the other night in a night club when i almost got my ass kicked by some swede girls for accusing some other girls of being gay. thx god a bouncer was close!

  17. Speaking in English really does attract the crazies. My friend was grocery shopping while talking on her cell phone (in English) the other day and as soon as she hung up was chased around the store by a very elderly lady begging my friend to take her to America!

  18. @Laura – well thanks, I think a lot of credit has to go to my friend on this one. He was also very engaging and nice to the lady. It helps to be surrounded by good people.

    @Sophia – 11 hours of work sounds way too exhausting, hell, I’m tired after my 8 hours. But I’m glad I could make your day. I’ll see what I can do about the others. But no guarantees.

    @anonymous – oh wow… I didn’t know Swedish girls fought.

    @Janet – that is a glorious story. I don’t even know how I would handle a situation like that. Obviously a no for an answer but wow…

  19. I love reading your blogs, but i've been very silent on the comments so far.
    This had to be one of the most hilarious posts i've read! Your narration had me laughing my head off in the office at 1.30 and livened up my day so far (90% of the office is empty now due to the holiday season, therefore very less work for me which makes for a boring day)

  20. glad you commented then, and glad that you enjoyed it!

    and at least if you're sitting at your computer laughing, no one is there to think you're crazy since everyone is on vacation.

  21. india, gosh. i know an elderly she has the same idea

  22. well rumor has it that India will blow your fucking mind so clearly the older lady has the right idea.

  23. hey my blog is called " lost in translation.. literally"

    i know that feeling. i learned the Dont engage crazy people the hard way... multiple times.

  24. unless when they end up trying to follow you home.. that just ends up with a 911 phone call. or in sweden 211... or 112...

    oh god.. im gonna die trying to call the police here one day...

  25. Im so glad you mentioned that, not that you are going to die (that would be unfortunate), but about the 112 or 211. for some reason it took me a really long time to commit the swedish equivalent of 911 to memory.