First Impressions of Sweden
After my very scientific explorations of a very confined region of Sweden for only two weeks, I am now thoroughly qualified in making the following broad generalizations about my findings. Here goes:

1. I love their free government health care.*
Q: Why would a non-tax paying family love a government health system that they don't technically qualify for?
A: Because when I went in for my appointment with my mid-wife here, they did not know what to do with a paying customer. I asked the receptionist about payment, and she said "it's free". I responded that I wasn't part of their government plan and I was pretty sure I was supposed to pay. She said "no, you don't have to pay". I said, "but my husband is a diplomat and we don't pay your taxes". She shrugged - she didn't know what to do, and cheerfully urged me on my way out the door with a free medical visit, complements of Sweden.
*I am NOT advocating such a system for the U.S. government until we can at least figure out how to operate the DMV.

2. Swedescouldwriteanentirebookinasinglecompoundword.

3. Bikes are considered a viable mode of transportation here. The network of bike "roads" here are about as extensive as the car roads, and even have their own signs posted. It seems like everyone bikes or walks places, and that is probably why when they do drive, they actually yeild to pedestrians and cyclists.

4. They are very law-abiding; they like things fair and just. One example I've noticed, to add to #3, is that people go out of their way to use crosswalks and (even cyclists) wait at lights even if the coast is clear. So it's kinda a two-way street; peds, cyclists, and motorists all respect each other. Cool! (I think DC is one of the worst places when it comes to that.)

5. Everyone goes on vacation at the exact same time during summer (generally for about 6 - 8 weeks). If you've ever lived on a college campus during the summer and experienced the shift when all of a sudden everyone shows up again for the fall semester, that's a good idea of what happens in Stockholm. School starts mid-August so all of a sudden the city has a lot more buzz than my initial impression.
It can cause some obvious difficulties during the summer when everyone is gone. When I went to my midwife last week, there was a computer problem but no staff to help her with it, so she had to write everything down by hand and I'm still not into their network. She told me that out of thirty people on the staff, they had three there that day. I've read in the paper about some obvious major problems this leads to in the hospitals. (I'm sooooooooo glad our baby isn't due until September!)

6. teeny-tiny small packaged goods. In the U.S. we give McDonald's a bad rap for "super-sizing", but if you compare us to Sweden, we actually super-size pretty much everything - super-size roads to accomodate our super-size automobiles, super-size milk and juice sold by the gallon (and every other packaged food which dwarfs the size you can get just about anything here), super-size stores, super-size houses to accomodate our super-size appliances. I'm realizing quickly how very convenient everything is in the states, and I must admit to missing that. But on the flip side, I love how much more environmentally friendly and less wasteful the lifestyle is here. And you really do eat smaller portions when it's given that way.

7. Everything sounds more profound and poetic in a foreign language.
case A] I found myself pondering and repeating the "deep" message in a Special K advertisement on a bus stop and it wasn't until I was about to share this profound message with Rob in english that I realized how stupid it actually was.
case B] The hymns we sing at church suddenly make me weepy with how beautiful they are. Singing in Swedish the words to "Love One Another" had me weeping like a baby our first Sunday at church here. It was embarrassing really - the kind of cry that isn't just coming out your eyes but out your nose. I'll leave the self analyzation of how pregnancy and the emotional vulnerability of moving to a foreign country may have played into that for my personal journal, and just say that simple expressions seem to take on new meaning, especially those spiritual, when said in a foreign tongue.

8. Stockholm is the world's cleanest city.
I know I read that claim somewhere before, and now my personal scientific studies have confirmed it true.

9. Loooooong hours of summer daylight. It's nice to have a bit of sun when I wake up for my routine 4:30am pregnancy snack - I feel a little less crazy.

10. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: the Swedes seriously believe in this!
You get one small garbage bag per week per household. Everything else you sort into like 80 different categories and then take to certain bins around the town on your own. I'm already a big believer in this system, because I've already noticed that if I were to have a compost pile for my few scraps of food waste, then Rob's i-phone that I broke (sorry dear!) would probably be the only real waste we've produced in two weeks (and of course they have bins all over for hazardous waste like that as well). The system is certainly less convenient, but I'm sold on it being worth the effort (which really isn't that great, really. Just less convenient is all.) After reading a pamphlet about their goals (no "general" trash at all by 2020) and ways they use the recycled material, I am distressed we aren't advocating such a system world-wide. What I loved is how it is not just an environmental issue for them, but an issue about the trash-workers' conditions as well. More on that and some of their cultural ideals on another day.

11. On the same note (conservation, sorting waste): every toilet here has two buttons - fairly small flush, or really, really small flush.

12. Google know everything.
They know I am here and I just noticed that half the little sidebar ads I get on American websites are Swedish ads, half American. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! They're in my brain, get 'em out!

13. They use the metric system.
You knew that already. I knew that already. But did I remember on the day when I was having a hard time with all my new appliances, the climax of which was a near melt-down over our "STUPID OVEN THAT ONLY GOES TO 250 DEGREES!!!" No. I was too frustrated with our foreign appliances to think something rational like "250 degrees Celcius, bonehead."

AJ Candrian  – (9:53 AM)  

Please include pictures in these posts. :)

Mrs. Anderson  – (10:41 AM)  

1- I now love it there
2- I agree with AJ
3- Special K... HILARIOUS!

Amy  – (11:04 AM)  

Oh, the joy of adjusting to a new it!

Pictures please!

Joy Candrian  – (11:37 AM)  

So good to hear more details of your adventure! I honestly never thought about the appliances being in a foreign language...maybe all appliances should have international symbols!

Rob  – (12:51 PM)  

We will include pictures once we get the connection cord to the camera with our stuff. Or maybe we won't and then you will just have to come visit to see for yourself!

Brittany  – (1:23 PM)  

Lorena, I echo your sentiments on #7. I've been a cry baby for the last few months. I can't even remember what it was that got me going earlier this week, but something really stupid made me tear up (Ok, so maybe I do know what it was and I just don't want to share)!

What exactly is a mid-wife supposed to do opposed to a doctor?

Sara  – (2:58 PM)  

That sounds like an amazing place we are definitely coming for a visit!!

Dana Broderick  – (8:23 PM)  

That was a bodacious post. It reminds me EXACTLY of how I felt about England...seriously, I think everything you wrote could apply to England!!! We really want to come and visit! Have any room in your small apartment and small beds?

Rachelle  – (11:19 PM)  

AWESOME blog post! Very interesting and enlightening. Make more like this! I know I didn't see you much before, but I miss you more now knowing you are sooooo far away.

Lisa  – (12:05 AM)  

Sounds like your getting the just of it all..

d  – (6:37 AM)  

Wow, it sounds just like Japan, except for the long days. Maybe everyone, other than Americans, has the walking/biking, recycling effectively, clean city thing down. I want to come see you soon. Can I come, please??!!!

Melissa  – (2:21 PM)  

LOVEd this post! You are hilarious, Lo! It's fun to learn about a different place vicariously. Keep the writing and pictures coming. I can totally relate to you crying about the hymns...pregnancy is a funny thing! And that is so smart and funny about the toilet flushes. Glad you are there safe. This will be an adventure you'll probably talk about the rest of your lives! :)

Drew Turk  – (2:13 AM)  

I am envious what a great adventure, and a place like sweden of all places. where it is clean and functional. So glad it is so bike friendly, much safer. Utah has got to be the worst. Drivers will intentional run cyclists off the road. I loved your list. I would love to see it for myself.

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