Six years ago, I boarded an airplane and embarked on a journey of madness.
It all started when I fell in love, got married and had a baby! Yay! Then the reality of life as a parent in a capitalistic society kicked in. Twelve weeks after birth, I was expected to return to the newspaper. My Swedish husband had a few convulsions. When he could breathe again, we began packing.
Looking back I can’t believe I left behind the world of flavored coffee, bagels and seventy-four types of cereal for a land of snow and ice. Now I live in a country where moms (and more often than not, dads) pull sleds to school instead of driving mini-vans. Light bulbs are purchased at a light store, or IKEA. They are not purchased at the same store where you can buy curtain rods, cat food, a new computer, a little black dress for that after-hours party coming up on Friday, get your tires changed and grab a copy of the Frozen DVD on your way out. It’s a place where people walk. I know, that last one shocked me. It took weeks to get used to the idea. Walk to the store? Why on earth would I do that?
It’s been a learning experience to say the least. Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy walking. I love taking the kids to hunt for blueberries. After it rains, we’re scouring the forest for kantareller mushrooms (okay, not always, but we could if we wanted to and that’s what matters).
I’ve accepted that everyone disappears during the months of July and August. Gardening is a good thing, whether you’re 22 or 72 (I swear, they’re like hobbits, but tall!). Bread is crispy (can’t we negotiate on this?). Swedes are fascinated with bare feet and thin pancakes. Pizza is . . . well, pizza is different and it will almost always have misleading names. I’ve also learned to be wary of any food that proclaims ‘American!’ in big red letters on the bag, container, or within a restaurant name. They are lying. Chances are they have never even been to America. They might have seen a movie that took place there. Once. Maybe. Candy is eaten only on Saturdays and does not come individually wrapped. The word for poison and marriage are the same word. Fermented fish is an acceptable dinner entrée, especially in late August (no thanks!).
And coffee, coffee is . . . sacred. Don’t even think about defiling it with hazelnut, pumpkin spice, or mint.
I’ve also found Swedes are fanatical about a sport. You know the one: two teams take turns kicking a black and white ball into a goal net. Wait, sometimes the ball is completely white. Sometimes it’s blue. Or yellow. You know what? Let’s call it a round ball and leave color out of it.
When Swedes find out I’m American, they inevitably get around to asking two questions: (1) What’s up with your measurement system? and (2) You do know everyone else in the world calls it football, right?
There are no accolades tossed about for great Americans who’ve changed the world. No kudos thrown our way for fluffy pancakes, or good running shoes. You’d think they could ask something unique like, ‘Do you really have the world’s largest frying pan?’ Or how about, ‘Are there fires burning underneath some of your cities?’ Nope. Instead everyone wants to point out what a football is, as if we’ve somehow missed the fact that we’re different from everyone else.
Most of the time, this doesn’t bother me. Sometimes, it does. It’s frustrating to remind everyone that I had nothing to do with the naming of sports. Thanks for thinking I have that much clout, but I was completely out of the loop when ‘soccer’ became an everyday word. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Uri Friedman who says you’ve got to blame the Brits.