This is my last post about Sweden for a while I imagine, just you know, finishing some thoughts.


Culturally, the Swedes were an interesting change of pace. They were gloriously quiet, on the verge of uncomfortably so (especially in restaurants), but mostly it was wonderful. On the bus, in a restaurant, everywhere except a bar, there's a real awareness of how much noise you're emitting, and coming from Amsterdam, not known for its sedate restraint, this was ehhhh.....relaxing.

Also? People were generally superpersonable. I had zero non-friendly interactions with anyone, even in a bar late at night, and without exception everyone in the public/retail/restaurant sector seemed to understand that being friendly and quietly enthusiastic is not a terrible thing. I'm sure that this would change a little bit had I been in bigger cities, but as it was, it left me with the feeling that the Swedes are a placid, helpful, inquisitive, courteous bunch.


On the critical side: there is definitely something bizarre going on here with their relationship to alcohol. I had heard via a Norwegian friend of Mara's named Fred that shit was fucked up, but I just kind of assumed it was just him. It's not.

What Fred said was that, on the weekends, the goal there is to get falling-down drunk, like toppling into a snowbank and not being found til morning drunk. But if you have more than a beer or glass of wine with dinner on Monday, people become very concerned about you. And the idea of a lunch cocktail is nearly criminal. I saw this firsthand.

This all seemed many times more alien after going from Sweden to Berlin, where (as I've said before) everyone who's not at work drinks beer all day long, everywhere. If you go into a corner grocery store and bring a bottle of beer to the cashier, they assume you want it opened right then so you can begin drinking it. And this is not like homeless person behavior...at least in summertime, which is the only time I've ever been there. It's young parents with babies in strollers, old people holding hands, etc. It seemed like a very adult place compared to Sweden.

The strict Swedish drunk-driving laws were a bit discomfiting. I believe that they probably do save lives by intimidating people into not drinking and getting behind the wheel. But as an American (an American who loves beer), the concept of monitoring your drinking Saturday night because you're scared of a breathalyzer roadblock Sunday morning at 10am? File that under This Would Never Fly In America.

Not that I saw enough policemen for this to even matter. Being on the road for roughly 14 hours, I saw two police cars, both interested in something besides my BAC.

They might have been going to put an injured animal out of its misery: in Sweden, if you hit an animal on the road and it escapes into the woods or wherever it came from, you're supposed to pull over, go to the place where you last saw it, and tie a piece of fabric around a convenient fence or tree. Then you call the police and report it. It's illegal to not do this. Then the police come and try to find the animal and rescue it, or failing that, deliver a mercy killing.


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