Monday, July 25, 2011

Really Sweden, Really?

I miss Europe. And I’m still here. But the other day was rough. I went to Sweden for the afternoon with a group of fellow Danish learners. I was mostly looking forward to being able to speak a language without having to think. And mumble.

I arrived to a street filled with European football fans dressed in the local colors surrounding at least 10 police vans. We were told that there was a derby match about to happen. And at one in the afternoon, the Swedes were apparently properly liquored up. Because suddenly, sirens erupted, riot police charged, gas canisters were detonated (whether they were tear gas or not, I don’t know), and a throng of football fans spread out into the streets in all directions at a drunken sprint. It was like nothing I had ever seen. I once saw the beginnings of a riot at the University of Oregon several years ago, I’ve seen several large-scale demonstrations, but I have never seen riot police in action. It was intense. Because I am a responsible young man, I walked away. It was not a good first impression for several of the people who had never been to Sweden before.

Next, we headed to the old town. Because every proper European city has one. Obviously. On the way down a large set of stairs, a lighter came flying through the air and whipped against my hand. I looked up to see a pudgy, middle-aged man in a white shirt with a drunken, albeit sheepish, look on his face. My arms flew into the air in the international what the hell was that gesture. My words then flew into the air in the Swedish vad fan var det gesture. His response was one of the most disgusting things I have heard in Sweden in quite some time. Ursäkta, det var inte meningen. Jag missade negern bakom dig. As if that somehow makes it ok. Some Swedes will argue that the word neger means negro and is acceptable. To be perfectly honest, that’s bullshit. It’s a word that should not be used. Ever. I just looked at the guy, shook my head, and walked away. I didn’t know what to do. It just kind of hurt to hear.

At this point, my brow is furrowed and I’m not exactly happy to be at the head of a gaggle of foreigners trying to show off a country that I quite like and a city that holds a whole lot of amazing memories. So off we went to a medieval church. Because if there’s one thing that can cheer me up it’s a medieval church. Instead I saw three men, penises in hand, urinating on the walls surrounding the church grounds. Awesome.

After three strikes, the skies opened above us and rain started pissing down. You know, just for good measure. Needless to say, it wasn’t the most successful day trip to Sweden.

Welcome to Sweden. And drunkenness, hooliganism, racism, and public urination.

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  1. I hate when that happens. You try to show of something that's nice, and everything turns into a big charlie foxtrot.

    I felt embarrassed as a swede reading what you experienced with these people.

  2. Quite the story! I never saw anything like that in my time in Stockholm,but I live in NYC so none of it is particularly shocking over here.

  3. I think it's interesting and commendable that such occurrences (public urination, racist comments) are rare enough in Sweden that one remarks on them whenever they occur. We here in the States are so used to such behavior that we would be shocked if those things only rarely happened. Still, you can't judge a place (or a person) by one experience, so I'm sure your friends understand that.

  4. I hope that your friends understand that those few people do not make up the most part of Sweden. I know that I have seen and heard several things here in Alaska that make me want to cry, but on the whole I love it here and know that most of the people here are not like the few. It was just a bad day and am sorry that you had to experience that with people you were introducing to your "world" there in Sweden. Hope things have gotten better!

  5. Were you in Malmo? I've been to a few games in Sweden -- Never had an experience like this...

  6. I think that you are describing city life generally, wherever you may be, although some cities are far worse than others. I know how you feel though - it's the same as when you have a small child that you want to show to your relatives. Then the child whines or shows off all day!

  7. I was there. Picking up the father of my children and his friend ( no huligans, just middle age men watching their favorite sport at a derby with their favorite team). This is, as you know, NOT Sweden, but what we get in a world of ignorance, intolerance. In Europe, the US, Middle East or Asia.

  8. Oh my gods, i havent laughed that hard in a long time.
    En olycka kommer sällan ensam :D

  9. I live in Stockholm, and I agree with this observer. Stockholm is getting more disgusting each day.

  10. I recently spent 10 days in Sweden, and thought, with some wonder, that I just might get through the trip without an instance of public urination; but no, on Day 7, a fellow in Umeå thoughtfully obliged. (What is with that?? Do Swedes on the whole find this to be unobjectionable behavior?) Overall, though, it sounds like my experience was better than yours. At least it wasn't a church grounds.

  11. Hahaha I love me some Sweden!
    Nah but srsly, I see fellow swedes as well as americans in the comments trying to protect Sweden and ensure every one that "this is not sweden". I find it a bit hard to accept the thought that we are as liberal and peaceful as we think we are. I find we get closer and closer to "the rest of the world", not least with the Sweden democrats holding 6% of voters confidence up here. It's a shame...

  12. I think we're kinda missing the point here. The bad thing about all this is not that it happened in Sweden or that it happens when you are trying to show something off and it turns out like this. The bad thing is that this kind of thing happens at all, anywhere. Humans can be disgusting creatures. We do not live in Utopia happily ever after, loving each other and never disagreeing, but we gotta shake some stupidities off.

  13. @senchaholic – luckily, I know its not always like that, but it was a rough day.

    @Stakenborg – yeah, it was definitely not the best day out in Sweden.

    @Samantha – I sure hope so…

    @Nicci – yeah, I think they do

    @Erik – Nope, Helsingborg.

    @janerowena – first impressions are important so its always tough when they don’t work out all that well.

    @louiseinskottorp – I definitely know that, but not fun to have to see it.

    @Euronyme – eller hur?

    @anonymous – I was actually in southern Sweden.

    @capax – public urination happens everywhere, I just think that it is sometimes a bit more public in some countries.

    @Lundin – this kind of thing happens everywhere, of course, this kind of thing happening all at once was a bit of an exception to what Sweden is usually like I think.

    @asazevedo – agreed.

  14. It's nice to re visit your blog after all this time again. I do too at times miss Stockholm and Sweden. However, I still don't regret the move to Toronto, Canada. It's just so much easier to be a foreginer/utlanning here compared to Sweden...despite having lived there for decades. I am so grateful for this 'second' chance to a meaningful and egalitarian life...Thanks Toronto!!!

  15. I'm a little disturbed that you apparently think it's ok to call people negro.. Neger is the equivalent of negro and it's not ok nonetheless.

  16. Youma, did you actually read the post: "Some Swedes will argue that the word neger means negro. To be perfectly honest, that’s bullshit. It’s a word that should not be used. Ever."

    Doesnt sound like he thinks its ok to call people that all. He even writes that when people argue that it means negro as if that is ok they are wrong and the word should not be used.

  17. Yeah, definitely not an ok word to use.