I had no expectations of Sweden prior to arriving in November. My knowledge of the country’s culture and traditions consisted of whatever I picked up from working during college at the potato bar in Annapolis, Maryland that was a spin-off of Sweden’s popular Graffiti Café.
That and ABBA, Absolut vodka, IKEA, meatballs, Tiger Woods’ ex-wife, and Volvo.
And June’s Midsummer celebration. Also The Muppets’ Swedish Chef.
Pretty basic. Very American. Not something I admitted freely prior to arriving in country.
And yet, a little slice of all right, as I soon discovered. One thing I learned quickly is that the Swedes rarely produce or export anything that they’re not proud of or don’t stand behind (to clarify, they don’t claim The Swedish Chef…that gets an eye roll).
This alone makes Sverige so fucking awesome. This and fika, the daily coffee break(s).
Sweden has a religious institution and its name is fika. Don’t fuck with fika; missing coffee and snacks will bring out the inner Viking in an otherwise passive individual (witnessed, not fucking awesome). Held around 9:00a and/or 3:00p daily, fika is time to pause and chat with colleagues, family, and friends. It’s time to refresh. It’s time for me to replace the calories I’m not consuming from daily intake of alcohol with my newest addiction: sweets.
I haven’t met a sweet in Sweden that I haven’t loved. LOVED. Strange because I don’t really enjoy them otherwise, try as I might (except for Swedish Fish). I’m not sure why all things sugary taste better here; maybe it’s the insanely pure water that one can drink straight from the tap that’s used, or the fresh air, or including less processed ingredients (Sweden regulates that shit like crazy). Who knows, who cares, I eat.
And drink alcohol rarely. My mind is still blown by this. It’s me we’re talking about. But here’s the deal: the Swedes (or the folks I’ve met, at least) take personal responsibility very seriously, but most say that the booze they don’t consume during the week they make up for on the weekend. True-ish, but people are still pretty controlled in their behavior. Speaking of control…
Sweden regulates alcohol purchase through Systembolaget outlets, a government-owned chain of liquor stores that are the only retail store allowed to sell alcoholic beverages that contain more than 3.5% alcohol by volume. They are, not surprisingly, impeccably organized and low profile in their sales push. The commercials that run on television for the Systembolaget feature American marketing professionals trying to convince Swedish employees that they need bigger signs with stronger branding to increase sales, to which the Swedes reply “…but we don’t want to promote drinking.”
See, if I’d done a ton of research prior to arriving in Sweden, and discovered this fact, I’d most likely not have come. Kidding. (Kind of not kidding.)
Up next on I Love Sverige…
Why Swedish children are better behaved than American children (I’m going to lose friends over this post) and what the hell is this “lagom” thing anyway.