Don’t be Swede-like

Working with a couple of Spanish people today, I heard an interesting comment about Swedes.

Apparently in Spanish, they have a common saying – ‘Don’t be Swede-like’ or ‘Don’t do the Swedish thing’. I asked the two Spaniards what this saying means.

In Spain, they use this expression when somebody is pretending to listen but doesn’t really care about what you have to say. They are going to do their own thing anyway, regardliess of what you think.

Interesting perspective, wouldn’t you say?

A die hard Swedish stereotype

The problem with stereotypes is that they are often out of date and frozen in time. The British stereotype of a polite, thin, uptight man with a bowler hat and brolly still prevails,even though most British men stopped dressing that generations ago.

When I googled ‘Sweden pictures’ today, the picture above came up first. It seems like the stereotype of Swedish women as blonde, promiscuous bimbos is still alive and kicking. This stereotype has rooted itself firmly in the international psyche thanks to fleshy films of the 1960’s.

That was 50 years ago and says a lot about other cultures’ prudish attitudes to sex and nudity.

It saddens me that we haven’t moved on since then.

The case of the battling tools

Sometimes foreign language speaking can be just so wrong.

I was running a workshop in communication the other day, and one of the participants described a problem that he had experienced. He had a template that he wanted to introduce at work, but a colleague had a different template that he also wanted them to use.

The problem was that both had competing templates that served the same purpose. So I aked the participant how he solved the problem.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘it was very easy. I just asked him to show me his tool. Then I showed him my tool and we agreed the one with the best tool would win.’

As I said, sometimes foreign language speaking can be just so wrong.

Hoovering the streets

My dog nearly died today.

In fact, he almost dies quite often. Not by doing anything reckless or crazy. Not by attacking other, bigger, scarier, dogs. Not by disobeying my commands when he’s off his leash. No, just by walking the streets of Stockholm. On an ordinary day, just walking the streets.

Even though he is given ample food, he sometimes behaves hungrily when we’re outside. All dogs sniff, my dog hoovers. And today, like many other days, he hoovered up a small pouch of ‘snus’, which disappeared straight down his gullet.

‘Snus’ is a Swedish derivative of snuff – a kind of moist tobacco product packaged in what looks like miniature teabags. Users put these teabags under their lip and let the tobacco absorb through their gums and into their bloodstream. The tobacco gives a kick since it’s packed with nicotine. Regular usage of ‘snus’ can result in rotted gums, black teeth and gaping holes in the lip. The jury is out on its carcenogenic qualities. Illegal in the EU, Sweden is however uniquely exempt and still produces, sells and consumes the product.

What most people react to when they visit Stockholm is how clean and tidy the streets are.

But have a closer inspection. Dotted around the pavement, it’s not unusual to find small used teabags of snus. The users have simply sucked the life out of them and spat them onto the pavements in a brown mess.

These offcasts are frankly unhygenic and a little disgusting. It’s easy to tramp on them, and get them stuck to the sole of your shoe.

So, message to all snusers, please spit it out into a waste bin. And not in the path of a little canine hoover out for a weekend walk.