11 January 2003
Greetings readers. You know, I had 2 instant messenging conversations yesterday in which both people commented that since I wasn't updating frequently in the journal, they weren't too sure how I was doing, because that was one of the ways that they knew how I was doing. I found that touching. It was such a "waiting to Exhale" moment, that I was inspired to write a new journal entry again today.
Today's topic is surprise...the Swedish and the process of making friends. Are you surprised at this? You shouldn't be.
Most Swedes spend their days at work, tending to the kids, living predictable lives. Most of the population of Stockholm has not lived here all of their lives...they consider it "moving to the big city." So they tend to have their friends back home and are very reserved when making new friends in the city, especially with foreigners. So as a foreigner in Stockholm who know almost no Swedish, can you imagine that the process of making friends is challenging at the best of times, difficult at the worst of time. There's a bunch of Swedish "rules" that just don't exist in the US. It makes them seems cold at times, but as I have come to learn, once you make a friend with a Swede, it is usually a pretty strong friendship that can stand the tests of time and distance. However warm and fuzzy this makes you feel, let's break it down to some more of those rules, understanding that for me, the context is trying to shag most of the adult population of hot Swedes I see everyday. Ok, not really. Or maybe I am serious. Things will seem to contradict, so ask me again when the Tylenol PM wears off:
1. Swedes tend to be reserved (it is often mistaken for shyness) when they are meeting someone for the first time. To counter-act this, they drink alcohol. Loads. Now my US friends will say "Rodney, just buy them a drink and use your witty charm to think of a conversation-starter". However, Swedes aren't used to people buying them drinks. It is often looked on with the expectation that I want to sleep with them. Sometimes true, but more often than not, I am just being friendly. To the Swedes who read, understand that in the US, most people going out defer to the "round"concept...I'll buy this round, you buy the next, etc, etc, etc.
2. Being a foreigner is sometimes bad. Sometimes you can feel isolated. However, being a foreigner is good. It starts conversations. And when you make a social mistake, it is easily dismissed as "oh, well he's not from around here, otherwise, he wouldn't have slept with your spouse because he would have know." While this might bother most, I take pride in being different than anyone they have probably ever met.
3. After-parties and dinner parties are a good thing. Having never been invited to an after-party, I don't really know what it is like to attend one. I have only hosted them. I guess I should be bitter at that, but in reality, I hosting them more. And the visitors like that the alcohol is free (because I pay for it). But in general, I am please to share my flat with others. Compared to the average Swedish flat for a single person, I live in a palace (my flat is over 100 square meters). I feel like it is small, at which point Swedes will tell me to shut my piehole. At this point, I am really just inviting a bunch of different people to my flat for after-parties, but towards the middle of the year, I will narrow that group down. Basically, there are already people who have come to one after-party, but will never be invited to the next one, especially when they see me on the street or at a club/bar and don't even say anything to me. The dinner parties haven't started yet, but they will...I can burn something for up to 12 people.
4. Swedes will admit to being cold towards others at first. Many of them accept that fact that they are viewed as cold people. Ask them then why not change, and you get a "hmmmmm....I dunno" as a response. But I suppose that it an unfair question.
5. Swedes are the Borg. In Sweden, conformity is key. Everyone is expected to have a volvo, a place to live, 2 kids, and generally be no more or less successful than their neighbors. If they are more successful, they are expected to almost hide it or be very modest about it. Different than the US, where the motto is "if you have it, flaunt it." Modesty here is essential. Despite the fact that comparatively speaking, I am very wealthy here in Sweden (I was "reminded" recently that the monthly rent for my flat is about what some Swedes take home in a month), I do try and keep a level head about things here. Back to the Borg concept, I tend to be immediately marked a being different, but for some reason, I am comfortable with that.
6. Stockholm is small. They think it's big because they've never been to New York. But Stockholm is small enough so that generally speaking, there is a sense that someone is always aware of what I am doing. This has been proven to me several times. So nothing is ever really "secret". Perhaps it's the social circles I operate in, perhaps it is just the way that it is, but I don't spend time thinking about it really. Except every moment of every day. I kidding...I think... =0)
Well, there are other rules as well, but I am not sure that this is the forum to express them in. After all, you need only to refer to my previous postings to understand that while I share virtually everything here, I don't share "everything everything".
Seeing that's it's saturday and the only thing I really have to show for food in my flat is a box of pasta, old cheese, and some yogurt, perhaps it is time to hit the supermarket.
Tune in next time for another edition of "The World According to Rodney". Love you journal.