Tomorrow, the 24th January, could arguably be the worst day of the year in Sweden. Dark, miserable, cold and poor.
The month of January is notoriously an impoverished month, following the financial excesses of December. Many people struggle through January with their evenings in front of the telly, their long walks at the weekends and their packed lunches at the office. And as the 24th arrives, this deprivation reaches its pinnacle.
You see, most Swedes are paid on the 25th of the month. New, fresh crowns rattle into bank accounts up and down the country. Pubs and restaurants fill up and Ikea is like rush hour in Piccadilly Circus as the consumerism treadmill grinds into action.
But not tomorrow. Tomorrow, the 24th January, sucks. And as we put our leftovers into the fridge to be eaten for lunch, we can be happy that this misery is soon over. On Thursday, we can drink a latte, buy an expensive lunchtime sour dough toast, and knock back a few gin and tonics after work. And maybe, just maybe, be a little less provoked by the sunny holiday pictures on social media.
Hold on, there is light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.
Stumbled across this graphic on ‘How to be Swedish – a guide for Southern Europeans’. I have to say that there are many things I don’t recognize from living among Swedes. ‘Eat eggs every day’? ‘Complain about the Danish’? ‘Drink alcohol until intoxicated every day’?
With tongue in cheek, one can have a giggle at images like this. As long as one remembers it’s all just stereotyping and not the truth, then it’s ok. In my work with cultural training, this is an issue that comes up time and time again. Just when we think our society has risen above stereotyping, our cognitive biases take hold and we start putting people in boxes again. This is the biggest barrier to intercultural exchange, as it effects how we communicate and how we trust. It is both a stumbling block and a danger.
It’s good to be aware of cultural tendencies, or potential stereotypes, but then we must never forget we are meeting an individual. We don’t meet a culture, we meet a person. If we can always keep that in mind, then we are closer to creating an interaction based on curiosity and openness rather than on prejudice.
Every year, the Swedish Language Institute announces which new words have made it into the Swedish dictionary.
Some of the words are totally new, some have been given a new meaning but all reflect the cultural and political influences of the year.
Here are 10 of the new words from 2017:
1) ‘alternativa fakta‘ – alternative facts. Coined by Trump minion Kellyanne Conway
2) ‘dabba‘ – to dab, a type of dance move
3) ‘döstäda‘ – to death clean. To clean out one’s possessions before death so that surviving family members don’t have to
4) ‘fejkade nyheter’ – fake news
5) ‘knäprotest‘ – to kneel in protest
7) ‘plogga‘ – to jog and pick up rubbish at the same time
8) ‘serieotrohet‘ – series cheating – to watch an episode of a series without your partner (when you are supposed to be watching it together)
9) ‘skogsbad‘ – a form of therapy where one emerses oneself in the forest to reduce stress. Called ‘shinrin-yoku’ in Japanese.
10) ‘veganisera‘ – to make a vegan version of food that normally contains animal products.
To see the whole list, go to http://www.sprakochfolkminnen.se
I heard on the radio today that somebody felt ‘helgtrött’ – suffering from ‘ weekend exhaustion’. Just as well then that today starts a long work period with no public holidays. After the extended Christmas, New Year and Epiphany break, there isn’t another break until Easter on 30 March 2018. That’s almost 12 weeks!
Many Swedes think that this is dreadful and have coined the phrase ‘oxveckorna’ which literally means oxe weeks. Now begins the period of working as hard as an oxe!