Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Typical Swede

What is a Swede?

As much as I hate to stereotype anyone, Swedes can often be some of the easiest people in the world to make generalizations about.

The text below was rumored to be discovered in a computer lab in Umeå, a city in northern Sweden.

Not everyone fits a single mold, and keep in mind that this is written to be funny, but a striking number of Swedes I encounter on a daily basis exhibit many of these traits...


A Typical Swede

A Swede is tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and wears a wooly hat in the winter. By nature he is shy, reserved, serious, industrous, and finds it hard to laugh at himself. He is also a creature of habit and every morning gets up at 5.30 to give himself enough time to read the morning newspaper before going to work. Since work does not usually start until 8 o’clock, this can only imply that a Swede is also a slow reader.

Apart from himself, his chief interests are money, his job, his home, ice-hockey, and his family (in that order). He also loves animals – especially dogs – and spends hours cycling through the town dragging a huge and ferocious German Shepherd behind him on a leash.

A Swede is usually punctual, honest, reliable, clean, has his own teeth, and is law-abiding. Evidence of the latter is particularly noticeable at pedestrian crossings. No matter what the weather is like, a Swede would rather get soaked to the skin than cross an empty street when a red light is showing. Similarly, he always wears a seat belt, never drinks and drives, always has a television licence, usually hands in his tax-return on time, invariably has a plastic bag in his pocket when he walks his dog, and never has a bath after 10 o’clock.

A Swede is also very cautious and rarely does anything on impulse (except perhaps sneeze). To him, all decisions are a matter of life and death. Take a simple matter like buying cheese, for example. A Swede may try at least ten different sorts of cheeses before finally deciding to buy twenty grammes of Brie. It is the same sense of caution that prevents him from plunging into marriage straight away. Instead, he lives with a woman first, has one or two children, then – if all seems well – asks her to marry him.

With reference to marriage, a Swede is quite unlike most European men. Anything a housewife can do, he can do better – from cooking to sewing on buttons. In fact, everything in the home (apart from breast-feeding) is shared.

A Swede also likes to think he is well informed and spends hours finding out all he can about such things as nuclear power, the Third World, pollution, South Africa, the sexual habits of the centipede, etc. while at the same time paying little attention to unimportant matters - such as the name of his neighbor or whether certain types of beer should be banned or not.

Most Swedes as fanatics when it comes to keeping fit and regularly spend their weekends running through the nearest forest or cycling for hours in the cellar on a bicycle fixed to the floor. With his health in mind, he has also given up smoking, sugar, drinking coffee in the evenings, going to bed after 10 o’clock, and mixing with strangers.

But perhaps the greatest thing about a Swede is his sense of equality – of everyone being the same as everyone else. To help this, most Swedes have the same surnames – Svensson, Nilsson, or Persson – earn the same amount of money after tax, have the same taste in furniture, dress alike, think alike, drive a Volvo, and go to Majorca or Kreta in the summer.

A Swede also refuses to admit that he is prejudiced in any way. To him, all foreigners are just the same as Swedes and, although he doesn’t actually have any Jugoslavian, Greek, Turkish, Polish, Italian, Finnish or Czechoslovakian friends, he is certain there is very little difference between them and Swedes – apart from their names, their customs, the way they grow vegetables in the kitchen, the fact that they carry knives, rob banks, live on social security, pinch their jobs, breed like rabbits, beat their wives, and speak Swedish like someone with a gobstopper in his mouth.

Finally, a Swede loves the sun, hates queuing, gets a kick out of being first on the bus, detests winter, enjoys sex, can’t stand gypsies, believes what the National Social Board of Health and Welfare tells him, doesn’t believe in God, worships Ingemar Stenmark, only gets drunk when he drinks, is patriotic (wears Swedish flag underwear), visits the off-licence twice a week, visits his parents at Christmas, goes to English classes, and, inevitably, is deeply offended by an article such as this.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reflecting on 2010

I rang in 2011 last night the same way I kicked off 2010: happy, healthy, employed and celebrating with friends in the bitter cold of a Swedish winter. As we said goodbye to one year and welcomed another, it really sank in how monumental 2010 was.

It was a year of firsts, from experiences (helicopter flights and bottle service) to travel (Scotland, Italy and Las Vegas twice).

Some firsts weren’t so positive. 2010 was the first year I didn’t even snowboard once in December. I was also forced to sell a car for the first time. Fortunately, I’ll see it around Arcata when I visit since I sold it to a friend. Unfortunately, it won’t be MRWINTR because I had to release the personalized plate and according to the DMV website it has already been registered to a new vehicle. It was the best car I’ve ever driven and I could really have used it over here in all this snow.

Early in 2010, I made the decision to leave my California life behind to spend the next few years in Europe. Much of the winter and early spring were spent filling out residence permit paperwork between a near-record number of snowboarding trips.

A couple months later I finally graduated from college. Cliché as it may sound, it really was a long road and sometimes it’s hard to imagine I had just finished my first semester in the dorms only five years ago.

Professionally, 2010 was quite an adventure, too.

One minute I was sharing a Sugar Bowl chairlift with US Olympian Daron Rahlves.

A few months later, I was unemployed for the first time since age 12. After three unforgettable years at the Auburn Journal it was time to move on. I’ll never take for granted the opportunities I had or the people I worked with in the foothill communities.

After five months of not knowing what to do with myself, I finally landed short-term employment as a consultant at JG Communication, writing internal and external articles primarily for Ericsson. There are only four weeks left on my contract and I’ll soon be unemployed again, but I’ve learned some pretty incredible stuff on the marketing side of journalism in a very short time.

2010 was a year of great concerts, including Wiz Khalifa (for the second year in a row), Three 6 Mafia, Jason Derulo and Chamillionaire.

I saw some pretty good baseball at Dodger Stadium, then lost a little faith in the sport when the Giants defied all odds to win the World Series.

I also ate two of the best meals I can remember. The first was a four-course menu at Capitol Garage with pairings from Lost Coast Brewery during Sacramento Beer Week. Looking at this menu again is making my mouth water.

Amanda and I also had a spectacular dinner in Las Vegas at Fleur de Lys in Mandalay Bay.

I made some strides in the kitchen myself this year, perfecting the ingredient ratios for my sun-dried tomato gorgonzola mashed potatoes.

By the time I moved to Sweden in August, I was also cooking healthier and more gourmet than ever before.

2011 is already looking like it’ll be another great year. I’ll check two new countries off my list in the first month alone. Hopefully I find some stability in my professional life while I continue to enjoy this beautiful country I call home.