Monday, January 11, 2010

Tracking Swedes in the Wild (Or Europe)

I’ve been travelling. Essentially with no real time back in Stockholm. This includes trips to southern Sweden, as demonstrated by the SJ issues (which, by the way, was handled nicely by SJ with the money already being reimbursed for my ticket), skiing in southern France, and a trip to Ireland. And now I’m back. But all the while, I’ve been tracking Swedes. Inadvertently.

Turns out Swedes are everywhere. In Skåne, despite what some people might say, this is not strange. In France and Ireland I wasn’t quite prepared for their omnipresence.

The mountains of Chamonix were crawling with Swedes. Swedes in the gondolas. At the restaurants. In town. At the bar. Everywhere. One bar was manned (well one man was a woman) completely by Swedes. Turns out that the Swedes enjoy working the winters down in the Alps. Which is absolutely genius.

In Ireland, they were elusive, but still there. It was like tracking wild game in the mountains. Instead of stopping in the forest to pick up deer droppings and sniffing them for freshness, which is obviously what all hunters do, I would stop at urinals and pick up snus packets and sniff them for freshness, which is obviously disgusting.

I didn’t actually do this. But I couldn’t help but notice the number of snus packets lining the urinals in bars throughout Dublin. This could really only mean one thing. Swedes had been there. And relatively recently assuming that the urinals are cleaned out every day or two.

For those of you who don’t know, snus is tobacco shoved into a small pouch. It looks like a pillow specially made for a grasshopper, except instead of being filled with soft down feathers, it is filled with tobacco. The pouch is placed in the upper lip, commonly known as the upper lip dip (which is always pronounced with a twang. Always.). Swedes love the stuff.

I generalize a lot, especially about Sweden. I live in Stockholm which is far from a good representation of all of Sweden. I know. But in this case I say Swedes rather specifically. Mostly because, snus is illegal in the EU except for Sweden. Sweden managed to argue that snus was a part of their cultural heritage and that the prohibition of it would obviously lead to mass riots, snus-easies, and black market snus. Or something like that. Either way, they still use it. And take it with them wherever they go. Like skiing in Chamonix. Or drinking in Dublin.

Despite not being a snus-user myself, the snus packets made me feel at home. There was something comforting about standing at the urinal aiming at the little pouch of tobacco just like I would in Stockholm.

Welcome to Sweden. And signs of Swedes in the wild.

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  1. Snus is taking a spot over here as well in the US/Missouri, I've seen it in alcohol and tobacco stores all over the place. Of course, these aren't the good ol' Generalen or whatever other brands we used/still have over there in Snowland, these had a infameous camel on them.


    I'm going to a said to be swedish cafe tomorrow in Columbia, MO called Svens cafe.
    I skimmed through the menu and by looks of it, the only thing remotely swedish was the over use of lingonberry jam, but we'll see tomorrow.

  2. Yes, it seems Swedes like to leave little hints of their presence whatever they go. It happened to me too to find boxes of used snus. That time though, I thought it was great because I gave the box to my Swedish friend thinking it was a trully exotic gift. He didn't really agree on that but appreciated my kindness anyway...

  3. Urghhh...snus. The first time I encourted the little bags was over 10 years ago when I first started working with Swedes. They were visiting us at our Canadian headquarters and I wondered allowed what these little tea bags were in my trash bin. I seriously thought they were tea bags. They're not.

  4. Holy crappin typos. Let's try "encountered" and "aloud". I blame it on jet lag.

  5. @mamaya - I have heard that they are trying to make inroads in hipster cities throughout the US with the snus.

    @TNT - its the thought that counts right?

    @SwedishJenn - they are so much worse than old tea bags. and the spelling is forgiven. jetlag is a killer.

  6. Hmmm... yes I see commercials for "smokeless tobacco" here in California. Too bad it's not also "stinkless" and "yuckless". Well I think it leaves more girls for the non-snusing boys like myself.

  7. I like your idea. Its evolution at work really.

  8. Snus. Geez. I had never known it existed until I made a Swedish friend. Ohhhh but it smellsss!

    Also, I've been reading you for a couple of months now. Enjoying it a lot, thanks :)

  9. Ah, snus is better then cigarettes when it's cold. You get your daily dose of nicotine without having to freeze your fingers off. It's perfect for a cold country like Sweden.

  10. Swedes should come visit us in the southeast US, then. The wide variety of snus, dip, tobacco, etc. available and widely used will make them feel right at home.

  11. @ad astra - it does have a certain smell to it doesnt it?

    @Elp - I never thought of that but youre right. it seems like being a smoker in sweden would take a lot of work in the winter. or at least a warm jacket.

    @An American Girl - a smörgåsbord of tobacco if you will

  12. Heard a lot that Stockholm is way different than the rest, but don't know in what ways, would you mind?

  13. well Stockholm is much more of the big city feel, as much as you can in Sweden. Since I live in Stockholm, Im a little bit in the middle of things, but Stockholmers tend to be a bit fancier, a bit colder, a bit busier (or at least think they are), and they have a special accent.

  14. I'll leave one of those usuall comments :)


  15. well someone had to do it I suppose. Göteborg does seem to get a lot of love.