Monday, September 27, 2010

Getting Used to America

Sometimes it really hits me that I’m in the US now. Certain things are obvious, like all the English being spoken around me (you’ll be happy to know that I no longer feel schizophrenic and am able to shut out all of the English conversations not involving me). Certain things are still taking some getting used to. Certain things took absolutely no getting used to and resulted in me quietly muttering U-S-A! U-S-A! to myself.

First, what resulted in me chanting to myself? Beer prices. Low, low beer prices. I bought a Guinness the other night during happy hour at a local bar. I paid two dollars and fifty cents. $2.50. 2.50 USD. With the current exchange rate that is about 17 SEK. When happy hour ended, with me still there, I paid five dollars. $5.00. 5.00 USD. With the exchange rate that is about 34 SEK. I was excited every time I found a beer for less than 45 SEK in Stockholm. And that was just your classic storstark. God forbid I go out on a limb and order something worth drinking. And so, beer for two dollars and fifty cents results in a U-S-A! U-S-A! chant. Obviously.

And the still getting used to. Marriage. Everyone is married. I am surrounded by married people. And they are my age. Colleagues are married. Friends are married. Cousins are married. Ex-girlfriends are dropping like flies.

I kind of forgot about that in Sweden. It seemed like people weren’t getting married until after the 30 mark. They might have been going together (as my mother would say. Going where you might ask? No one knows.) for years and years. They might have been living together for years and years. They might have had children together for years and years, but they weren’t married. They were sambo. There’s a difference. Not here. Here they are married.

Welcome to Swedish-America. And still adjusting.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Swenglish Pronunciation

I was constantly amazed at English in Sweden. The Swedes have it down to an art. They are damn good at it. They speak it well and they speak it fluently. But regardless of their level of fluency, it is not their native language. And sometimes I couldn’t help but notice.

Let me preface this by saying that I am well aware that my Swedish is by no means perfect. It’s good, but I made plenty of mistakes. And continue to do so. My pronunciation is good, but by no means perfect. I say things and occasionally realize that had I should have shortened the vowel. It happens. Doesn’t mean that it isn’t funny though.

And so, long after having left the country (and safe from the reach of the Swedes), a short list of words that made me laugh:

Unique became eunuch. Which are two very different things. One means well, one of a kind. The other means, well, none of a kind. See what I did there? None, because the man has been castrated. I am hilarious.

Cheap became sheep. At first, I found this cute and endearing. Mostly because I like sheep. Then Tele2 came out with an entire marketing campaign focusing on the play on words. And I learned to hate it.

Three became tree. It’s a tricky sound. The ‘th’ sounds. Kind of like the ‘sk’ or ‘sj’ sound in Swedish twists the tongues of Americans everywhere. I suppose it is only fair.

Skeptic became septic. When I think of septic I think of septic tanks. And poop. Of course I have the mindset of a five year old boy. When I think of skeptic I think of conspiracy theorists. Of course, they also have the mindset of a five year old boy so maybe these two aren’t that far off after all.

And, maybe my favorite, bear in mind became beer in mind. Bear in mind that if you make it to happy hour you may end up with a beer in mind. Which is a hell of a lot better than a bear. Although, both could result in a few dead brain cells.

What did I miss?

Welcome to Swedish-America. And Swenglish pronunciation.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bad Clothing in Swedish-America

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. You’ll hear it from the day you land in Sweden until the day you take off. Especially if you come during the winter. It has been branded into my cattle-like brain and has followed me here to Swedish-America. And the other day I had bad clothing.

It was raining. Like really raining. Animals were pairing up and looking for boats to board. I on the other hand, decided that this was the perfect time for a walk. I thought to myself, it has been raining all day, it’ll let up. But, just as with the stock market, past results do not guarantee future returns. So out I went. And despite having a glorious Bamse umbrella, I chose to walk over five miles without it.

Channeling my ever-optimistic father, I assumed the rain would stop. So I trudged on. Channeling my ever-optimistic father, I stopped under a tree, assuming the rain would stop. Channeling my ever-pessimistic mother, I began cursing and just kept walking. By the time I arrived at my destination, my jacket was soaked through. My shirt was soaked through. My undershirt was soaked through. My chest hair was soaked through. Even my boxers were wet.

Luckily, there’s nothing a couple of friends and some beer won’t solve. And by that I mean that the best thing about being wet is getting dry. Unfortunately, walking five miles one way means you need to walk five miles the other way. And so I did. At this point, I realized that not only was my chest hair soaked, but my shoes had turned wet, then dry, then hard. And during that time I had developed severe blisters on my heels and the bottom of my feet. But my heels were worse. So, instead of calling for a taxi like any normal person would do, I took my shoes off. At least that way my heels might stop bleeding.

They did. Of course, if you were reading carefully you will remember that I had already developed blisters on the bottom of my feet as well. By the time I made it home, at a much slower pace than my usual gait, my feet were bleeding, my clothes were wet, and I was angry.

Welcome to Swedish-America. And no bad weather. But lots of bad clothing.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Swedish Elections in the US

Well that was disappointing. Twenty seats disappointing. Five point seven percent disappointing. Sverigedemokraterna disappointing. Because suddenly, an extreme rightwing party will be sitting in Stockholm.

Because I am a nerd, and have a strange affinity for watching election results from foreign countries, I turned on my computer, got myself a projector, surrounded myself with a few other Swedophiles, and watched the election results live. From the US.

I did a lot of head shaking. I shook my head at the fact that an anti-immigration party could gain so much support. I shook my head at the awkward position that all the other parties find themselves in with no clear majority. I even shook my head at the reaction of Lars Ohly trying to blame Sverigedemokraternas support on a social infection carried from mainland Europe.

It came as no surprise that SD grabbed some seats. It came as a surprise though that they grabbed so many. The results suggest some serious underlying issues in Swedish society. Fearing the other. Whatever the other may be. Clearly, immigration is an issue that must be dealt with in Sweden. It probably should have been dealt with long ago, but wasn’t. At least not satisfactorily if you judge by the election results. Now there is no excuse.

Unfortunately, I fear that comments like Ohly’s will do nothing to resolve the issue. Instead of confronting the problem as something Swedish, because it is. It is Swedish when Swedish people are voting in a Swedish election for a Swedish party that wants to preserve Swedishness at the expense of non-Swedes. Ohly wants to blame Europe. He wants to blame the others. He wants to blame the non-Swedes. It’s time to step up and realize that blaming the other only sows more distrust. More stereotypes. More hatred.

I’ve written about immigration in Sweden a lot. I think it is a broken system that must be fixed. I do not think this is fixing anything. I think this is a sad referendum on the state of Swedish politics. Even if I am only in Swedish-America.

Welcome to Swedish-America. And Swedish election results.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Public Transportation in Swedish-America

This past week I was on the bus here in good old Swedish-America. I knew I was in Swedish-America and not Sweden for a couple of reasons. One, there were two kids in the back of the bus rapping. Loudly. And two, the bus driver was yelling at said kids. Loudly.

As I sat there, in the crossfire, listening to my the B.S. Report, I realized how some things are just so very different than what I grew used to (yet still complained about) in Sweden.

Public transportation is miserable everywhere I have decided. It is less miserable in some places, but as a general rule, where public transportation goes, misery follows. I do not like it.

In Sweden, I rode in silence. People seldom spoke. People barely looked at each other. People most definitely did not rap loudly. To be honest, I could care less if you rap loudly. I think it’s rude, but I’ve got my iPod in and have grown quite adept at ignoring noise. And who are we kidding, rap is just noise.

So there I sat, hearing just a bit of background noise when the bark came from the front of the bus. Shut up back there. Watch your mouth back there. Stop swearing back there. It was a furious few second of vitriol directed towards our budding Tupac. It seemed that the real problem was not so much the noise, but the language. These kids dared to swear. Shit.

As I have written before, I’m not a huge proponent of swearing. I think it is in poor taste when done in very public places. Public transportation, by definition, is public. But, I’ve been known to drop the occasional damn it. Fuck. Shit. Bitch. It happens, so I tend to get over it.

The bus driver did not. Because she followed with a classic line that made me hate her just a little bit. If you don’t stop, I will call the cops. I actually laughed out loud at this point. So now I’m the weird guy that laughs out loud while listening to an iPod. Oh well.

First, I had no idea that swearing was illegal. Second, I can’t imagine the police wanting to take the time and energy to respond to a call about two kids swearing on a bus. And third, really? Really? You’re going to stop the bus, with other passengers on it, call the police because of some foul language, and make us wait for the police to respond? Because of foul language?

I assume the Wu Tang Clan (I’m really running out of rapping references here…) in the back was thinking the same thing. Because they did not stop rapping. Although, instead of rapping about bitches and hoes, they switched to ice cream. Vanilla and chocolate. A deeper social commentary really.

As I finally stepped off the bus, I realized that in three years of riding public transportation in Sweden, nothing along those lines had ever happened. After one month riding public transportation in the US, there it was.

Welcome to Swedish-America. And rapping at the back of the bus.

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