Swedish November silence


One of the stereotypes of Swedes is that they are a silent, uncommunicative tribe. I find this to be untrue in my experience but on the bus today heading into work, I experienced a beautiful traquil moment. The bus was full of people but it was so, so wonderfully silent. It was beautiful, almost meditative.

You know the kind of Monday morning commuter silence. The silence before the storm. The aftermath of the weekend silence. The medititave, insular, reflective silence that occurs at the beginning of a new work week. We all sat there, basking in this quietness, watching the winter Stockholm flow past the windows. The driver didn’t need to stop at any of the bus stops as nobody wanted on, and we, for a moment, glided along in our shared introverted tranquility.

Outside the bus, the crisp wintry Stockholm citiscape whooshed past. The sun hovering over the calm waters of the harbour, reflected a soft yellow off the tall pinacles in the closed-for-the season fairground.  Stockholmers walked briskly along the pavements to generate some heat, or stood still wrapped in layers of winter clothing drinking steaming hot coffee from paper mugs. We rolled along past the burnt orange buildings of the Old Town, the Royal Palace shimmering in the distance, and continued silently over the bridge next to to the Parliament building and the offices of Power. There’s no snow yet, but the brightness of the morning and the coldness of the air seemed like a minor miracle.

And then the driver stopped to let on a passenger. A young woman wearing a wolly hat with a fur bobble on the top. She was talking on the phone. Loudly.

‘…and he said why do you have to spend so much money on clothes, like, who cares!? All I bought was a new pair of high heels and he gets all annoyed, like, you know what I mean, it’s nothing to do with him how I spend my money, you know, but he still gets pissed off anyway, like, I mean, whatever…..’

And just like that, the spell was broken. The shared Swedish November silence was gone and was replaced by the invasive tyrrany of the city.

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