Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Swedish social things

With foreign friends I sometimes find that what I think is completely ordinary they find really strange. There's the other way around too ofc. My latest argument has been queueing.

I've seen people wait for the bus in the UK a straight line starting right next to the bus stop sign. To me that looks ridiculous. In Sweden we go down to the bus stop and then stand around wherever we want until the bus shows up and people start heading for the sign and somehow automatically form a line. It doesn't matter if you were at the bus stop first you'll still get on the bus.

Apparantly ticket machines is very Swedish. I had no idea. We have ticket machines at the bank, at the service centres for public transport and also in some shops. Some British guy apparantly classified the ticket system as queuing, which I couldn't agree less with. You grab your ticket and then you have a looksie in the shop, or you go to stand a bit outside or just sit around playing with your phone while waiting your turn. I don't consider this queueing, basically cause there's no line anywhere to be seen.

I've never seen a "Queue starts here" sign in Sweden. Not even on airports. I don't understand the point of them. I guess it's supposed to show you where to form a line to the cashier? But don't you do that automatically? Say I have found the items I want in a shop and I go to the cashier point. Then I check which cashier seems to be the fastest one and I go to stand in the line for that one. There's no need for any sign to help me realise where I should go. I want to pay I go to the pay place.

Then I had the argument over queuing to venues for concerts or events. In Sweden you just go there and mill around outside. When the doors open or when the time gets close to when the doors open that's when people slowly starts to form a queue. It doesn't matter when you got there cause you will get inside anyway. And if it's a concert and you want to stand at the very front you don't have to arrive super early. Just get to the front when you get inside. Most people tend to hang around in the vestibule buying merch and drinks and using the toilet before going into the concert room. If you go to the concert room directly you'll get to be in the front. And if you want to hang around in the vestibule and still want to stand in the very front then all you have to do is make sure you get there. In Sweden you get your place at concerts by using your elbows. There's no "I was here first I should be in the front!" Just push your way to the place you want to have. It's that simple. Why turn everything into bureaucracy?

There's no queueing at the merch stands at those places. I've noticed that it actually works very similar to a bar. You go to the counter with a card or money in your hand. Then you try to get to stand at the counter until you get service. There's no line here either.

This guy complains that there are queues on the outside of shops and then again on the inside. The only place I've ever seen having a queue on the outside are street food places where you buy your food off the counter and then stand around on the street corner while eating your food out of a container. Those are the only places I've seen with queues on the outside.

Let's move on to dating. We don't date. Dating is a strange ritual foreign people use. How do we meet someone? How do we fall in love? How do we have children and get married? (Well, a lot of us don't even do the marrying part anymore.) This girl describes dating and relationships in Scandinavia way better than I could. So read her post! It's really good! And 100% true.

Then we can continue with the social stigma that you don't sit next to anyone you don't know on the bus/train unless all the other seats are taken and you have to if you want to sit. We sit alone or with people we know. It's that simple. And we don't have conversations with strangers unless we're drunk.

Then there's alcohol. Alcohol is a very social thing. Wednesdays and weekends and holidays. Especially holidays. There's alcohol involved in New Years, Easter, Walpurgis, Midsummer, Lucia and Christmas. And now we're not talking wine. We're talking spirits. Liquor. We don't celebrate Thanksgiving, but we do have a holiday connected to eating goose (or any big bird, turkey works too) and there's alcohol involved there too. Sure we have people who don't like drinking too, but in a lot of conexts they are considered the weird ones.

Most cars in Sweden are stick shift. Driving a stick shift isn't an accomplishment, it's ordinary. People who drive automatics are either considered lazy or not very good drivers. And we have roundabouts. Lots of roundabouts. Everywhere roundabouts.

At Christmas we watch Donald Duck. At 3 pm on Christmas Eve (we celebrate Christmas on the 24th) every year, the whole family is seated in front of the TV looking at a program that has been almost exactly the same since the 60's. No one calls you at 3pm on Christmas. And although the TV company broadcasting the show has talked about cancelling it for years they never do, cause the show is always one of the most watched programs of the year every year. It's Donald Duck along with Eurovision Song Contest that always make the list. Cancelling it would be like not having a Christmas tree. You can't do that.

We're big on equality. Actually you're not going to find more equal countries than those in Scandinavia. The man isn't expected to support the house. The woman isn't expected to be a housewife. Those roles are sometimes swapped completely and no one thinks less of anyone for it. The guy doesn't always pay everything and a girl can't ask her boyfriend to buy her something just cause she wants it. You want it, you buy it. Unless it's your birthday soon and he might take the hint.

That's all I could think of. None of these things are weird to me. That's just how it's done.

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