Sweden lessons 3: crossing the road

herr garman

In Sweden, crossing the road can be a risky affair.  Consider yourself warned.

The first thing is that you look to the left to cross the road. You do this preferably at a crossing, indicated by the white and blue sign of the crossing gentleman known as ‘Herr Gårman’. Crossings with traffic lights are a little easier, as the green figure chirps a high-pitched signal to indicate it is safe to cross.

However,  pelican crossings are treacherous. Approach them with great caution.  Cars and bikes are legally supposed to stop to let pedestrians across, but not all do. So the way to do it like this:

  1. Approach the crossing with assertiveness, maybe a little spring in your step
  2. Pause casually on the pavement at the crossing, looking to the left
  3. Lift a leg, either will do, and dangle it out over the crossing. This signals your willingness to cross
  4. Try to make eye contact with the approaching driver
  5. Step gingerly out into the road as you notice the driver slows down
  6. Avoid the bloody cyclists who bomb along the road and who don’t think that normal traffic rules apply to them and who think that they own the road and that you as a pedestrian have to get out of their way and not the other way around and if you don’t pay attention they will literally mow you down as you stand on the pelican crossing.
  7. Success! You reached the other side!


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Sweden Lesson 2: getting off a bus


You’re on a bus and you wish to disembark. You are however blocked by somebody sitting next to you, or standing. How do you get off the bus?

Two stops ahead of your preferred stop, start indicating with your body that you might want to soon make a move. Move your knees towards the other person, shift your weight to one buttock. As you approach your required stop, make a demonstrative move to press the stop button and hope that they see this. If they do not start to move, turn your body directly towards them. Look at the side of their heads. Under no circumstances speak to the person. Just look at them. If they still do not move, start to rise slightly in your seat. As they move out of the way, push quickly past them. Avoid eye contact. Do not say thank you. If they do not move, as an absolute last resort, say ‘ursäkta’. The person will then move. Do not make eye contact. Do not say thank you.