Monday, January 26, 2015

No Cutsies in Sweden

Standing in line in Sweden is an important aspect of daily life. That’s because you don’t always need to stand in line. I’ve written about the glory of the kölapp before. It’s that little piece of paper you grab when you walk into the bakery, bank, or bibliotek. That little piece of paper means you’re in line. Grab a seat in one of the chairs provided. Take a load off. There’s no need to actually stand in line. You’ve got your place-holder secured in the palm of your hands. Don’t lose it.

Actually standing and waiting in line makes you susceptible to cuts. Many tears have been shed because that one kid in fifth grade always used to cut. No one likes cutters. You know who you are, Ryan. You know who you are. But the kölapp isn’t found everywhere. It’s just not feasible at the bus stop for example.

The bus stop is the Wild West of waiting in line. There’s usually only one door available to enter through. There’s usually only one shelter with one bench that will fit a handful of people. It’s ripe for the Ryans of the world to sneak in and steal your spot. But the Swedes, trained by the kölapp that ensures first come-first served, wait patiently in line in the order in which they arrived. The line forms, stretching well past the shelter, as everyone takes their place. There are no signs explaining that you must take your place in line. People just do it. So like any good folklorist, I took a picture. Like any good creeper, I did so by pretending to take a picture of the library lit up in the evening:

Seriously. I am a terrible photographer. You get the idea though. 
As a friend pointed out, notice the spacing. Or, as she actually wrote “…look at all that S P A C E between them.” See what she did there? I love typing. She’s right though. Look at that space. Perhaps it is a remnant of the kölapp. With a piece of paper in hand, there’s no need to sit anywhere near someone, let alone wait in line beside them. Ew. Physical contact, or even the threat of physical presence, can be uncomfortable. Except for the awkward hug when you visit someone. Those are ok.

Just as the unspoken rules of the Stockholm escalator ensures that the left is free for people to walk on, the unspoken rules of the bus stop ensures that Ryan does not cut.

Welcome to Sweden. And no cutsies.


  1. I've never seen Swedes waiting in line for public transport, not in the strict way they do in the UK. Perhaps its because of the spacing I've been cutting lines all this time!?

  2. Arriving here from Japan I was really kind of disappointed in the way Swedes didn't line up for the bus. They "kind of" do but my experience is that there's always a few that come late and rush the door. But that's nothing compared to the children. Wow! I finally figured out exactly where the bus would stop at Nybroplan so I waited there so I could be first and get a seat on the crowded bus 69. I was the first there but just as the bus pulled up a crowd of children and teenagers appeared out of nowhere and literally pushed me and some seniors behind me aside - swarming into the bus in front of all us and grabbing all the seats. Some of the children's parents were there to witness this and said nothing about such atrocious behavior. Two more days of this and I started walking to work as it was much better for my blood pressure! Is there some kind of code of behavior in Sweden that says children get to go to the front of the line even if it means cutting?

    1. @Kevcham: Nope, kids and teenagers are just bastards. Plus, we don't really like confrontation so most of us just let them get away with it.

    2. Linn nailed it. Teenagers especially. Assholes. Each and every one of them. Kids these days. Back in my day, we were all respectful and kindhearted.