Since my arrival in the land of the Sweden I have done a lot of things: slept outside in below freezing temperatures, visited a hotel where people sleep in below freezing temperatures, personally fed some reindeer (to make them fat for eating), and adventured out onto a frozen lake.
Here is what I have learned about Sweden and the Swedes during my first two weeks in the country:
- All alcohol in Sweden is regulated and sold by the state. The government-owned liquor stores are called System Bolaget, and they are the only place you can go to buy some booze. But not really (I was told this but discovered otherwise), you can also buy beer (and only beer) in grocery stores, but none of the beer is above 3.5% alcohol.
- Everyone speaks English. Even the people who don’t speak English very well, still speak English better than some of the best speakers I have met elsewhere in the world. It doesn't matter if you are at a 7-11 or at the System Bolaget, you will have no problem communicating (assuming that you read this in English, and have no problem speaking).
- Swedes have difficulty identifying one single dish as being particularly Swedish, and so I have come to the conclusion that Swedish food consists primarily of kebab, falafel, and Thai food.
- Wi-fi has been incredibly easy to come by, and one of Sweden’s main convenience stores, Pressbyran, offers free wi-fi at all its locations.
- Swedes apparently love candy because every grocery store, large or small, has an entire aisle dedicated to fill-a-bag-of-candy dispensers. I feel taken advantage of.
- The hot vacation spot? Thailand. For reasons that have yet to be explained to me, Swedes love going to Thailand, and most people I discussed travel with had been there (at least) once.
- Sweden is expensive. It’s hard to put it in perspective using the Swedish Kroner since the conversion is something like 6.4:1, but to give you an idea: a six-pack of shit beer would cost the equivalent of $12 and a cheap lunch would cost somewhere between $10-12 (and cheap means like McDonald's cheap).
- Yes, there are more blonde people here than anywhere else in the world I have visited (and it’s noticeable should you choose to pay attention). And yes, people are taller here. I am 5'10” and don’t walk around thinking everyone is giant, but there have been more than a few times that I, the only non-Swede in a room, has been surrounded by people who all passed 6’ during puberty.
- Breakfast buffets are everywhere and they usually consist of bread, assorted meats and cheeses, tiny sausages and/or meatballs, fruit, and cereal (and confidently walking into a hotel early in the morning can score you a free buffet).
- Every single person I talk (Swedish person) has mentioned summer at one point or another during our conversation. Apparently summer in Sweden is superior to anywhere else in the world, and I must come back for summer (although my visa will not allow me to do so this year).