Here were 11 things we were surprised by about Sweden:
- In Swedish, the letter ‘k’ is pronounced ‘sh.’ So, the word for chicken, ‘kyckling’ is actually said ‘sh-ick-ling.’
- The Swedish and Danish languages are quite similar, but Swedes like to joke that Danish people talk with a potato in their throats.
- Most Swedes speak English too, just like Danes.
- All of their chocolate truffles taste as if the filling has alcohol. Not sure if it’s really alcoholic, or just a form of sugar I am not used to, but it’s weird to me.
- You have to pay to use the restroom. Now, I’m used to paying for the restroom: you buy dinner or a drink or a happy meal, and then you can avail yourself of the McDonald’s or Starbucks facilities. I get that. But, to pay for food and drink and then still not get bathroom access is strange to me. I know that bathrooms have to be maintained, but if that’s not what I’m paying for (along with the value-added tax that covers various welfare programs in the country), then why is my hot tea $5? Is it magical tea?
- Speaking of bathrooms, their auto hand dryers project blue light along with heat, freaking me out that they are irradiating my hands or carbon dating me or something. (For the record, I do know that things younger than 500 years are too young to carbon date, but why let reality get in the way of my imaginings?)
- Grocery store check-out is fairly technical in smaller stores. Larger ones operate like many US ones: some self-check out lanes, separate customer service window for unusual requests. However, we were staying in a small, suburban town, and their two-lane store featured a few cool things. For once, it had a screen on which you can select things like lottery tickets, cigarettes, and the like. I presume this is to prevent people from spending 5 minutes describing exactly which low-nicotine, purple-package light cigs they want, but I’m not sure. Second, they have a coin slot that auto-counts the change you provide, saving time, and likely increasing accuracy. And third, in this town, the grocery also served as the post office, obviating concerns about open hours and wasted staff hours.
- There’s a decent amount of biking here too, though not as much as in Denmark.
- The Swedish apartment system is too complicated for me. However, I do know that you sign up, and then wait for it to be your turn to receive a place. The wait varies based on the neighborhood/island you want, but the shortest seems to be about 7 years and the longest about 19. Forget college: this is the list you want to put your kid on at birth.
- Swedish fruit is terrible, and their vegetables
aren’t much better. I am realizing how spoiled I am with good-tasting fruit. I am also remembering certain family members claiming fresh ingredients taste infinitely better in Europe. All I can say is, don’t go to Sweden for their strawberries – even from the farmer’s market. On the other hand, their (jam-ified) lingonberries are fabulous, though you don’t need to go as far as Stockholm for those.
- There seemed to be a decent number of self-tan places, called ‘Solariums.’ Do I just not notice them in the US, or are there a million in Stockholm? B pointed out that this could be to get Vitamin D (like indoor sun lamps we use).