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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Welcome to Sweden: Episode 2

OK, so now we're two weeks into our Swedish/American cultural exchange via TV and here are my thoughts on Episode 2. It is
 H-A-R-D to learn a new language at any time but especially difficult the older you are. When we first moved here, Doug and I would try to speak Swedish with one another when we walked our dog. But Doug would just start making up words and I would throw Spanish in once in awhile so it wasn't a very fruitful learning experience! It did make for some good laughs however! Errors are inevitable and when you try to translate expressions, it gets rather hopeless rather fast! There are small nuances to words that are very hard for a foreigner to hear so it's easy to make a lot of mistakes, even some embarrassing ones along the way! As my friend Liz mentioned in her comments last week, one of the frustrating aspects of seeking to learn Swedish is that because the Swedes are so well-versed in English, they will often hear your broken Swedish and immediately switch to English, thus giving you no opportunity to practice. One experience stands out for me. I had to go to a music store to buy drum sticks and well, that wasn't exactly included in the vocabulary lessons so I walked in and asked, "Prata du engelska?" the phrase I have perfected in Swedish! He said, "Of course" as many Swedes reply in this way. So we transacted our business and then he asked how long I had lived in Stockholm. I said, "6 years." And of course, he proceeded to scold me for not speaking Swedish after all those years. So I switched to Swedish and said, "I do speak Swedish. But if I try to speak Swedish with Swedes, you switch to English so I just thought I'd skip that step!" grrrr. But then, after about 7 years something amazing happened...the Swedes quit switching to English! All of the sudden something in my pronunciation and vocabulary and sentence structure created enough confidence in my language skills that the native speakers of Swedish were willing to speak Swedish with an American! It is frustrating however to feel like you want to learn the language but those around you don't really want to help you. They'd rather practice their English. Fine. But don't criticize English speakers when they don't speak such great Swedish!
On being embarrassed to admit you are American...I have felt this at times, especially when the political situation was very hot regarding the war in Iraq. It's a funny thing to be from many stereotypes and pre-conceived notions emerge. Some good, some not so good. Words to live by: Do not judge a person by their country.
I will say this about the show: The brother character is totally atypical and I don't like his role in the show. He comes across so stupid and clueless and I find it terribly distracting and unfair. Not sure why the writers felt they needed to write the brother in such a dumb manner.
Of course, Bruce and Emma's desire to get some alone time dominated this episode in an overbearing manner. Wondering how the American audience received this.
The scenes at the summer house bring a big smile to my face, especially the exchange between Bruce and Emma's father! The notion that a summer house is to work and build is really very funny. While Swedes do love to relax, it is also true that most spend the entire summer working on the summer house. And yes, most summer places that are out in the archipelago have only an outhouse...strict plumbing rules prevent flush systems although now there is a new and dazzling toilet called the Cinderella that turns human waste into ash. It is truly awesome. Our friends with the gorgeous summer place have one and it has transformed toilet life in the archipelago! You put a large coffee filter type thing in the toilet, do your business, then flush. Instant incineration. Truly genius. Although I will add that the outhouses I've used here are the cleanest and nicest I've ever had to use.
Will Farrell's cameo was of course hilarious. Just the condescending way he chides Bruce was very funny. The fact that he's actually married to a Swede adds to the humor. I thought the woman playing his wife in the show was his real wife, but apparently that is not the case. Have never seen what she actually looks like but someone said she is a brunette.
On the Dala Horse: There are more American homes with Dala horse decorations than any Swedish homes. In fact, I'm not sure I have seen any Dala horses on display in a Swedish home. That said, they are a national treasure. Yes, I have a few in our home here.
Finally, the small detail of Bruce not liking cinnamon is only appreciated if you understand the importance of Fika: the hallowed tradition of coffee and a little something, usually a cinnamon bun! Not liking cinnamon is almost heretical. A hard cultural nuance to catch if you have not experienced this.
All in all, some clever bits in this episode but still...I wonder if sustains attention with the humor being even more and more subtle.
Those are my thoughts: How about yours?