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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Welcome to Sweden: Episode 4

This episode opens in a café where Bruce is putting his "American" on by chatting up the clerk. You would think he would know by now that Sweden is not the Cheer's Bar: Everybody does not know your name nor do they care! But to be fair to the lovely pub across the street from our house: The Man in the Moon, the wait staff does know us and it is pleasant to chat a bit when we stop by, which we don't much anymore because a pint of beer there is $10.00. And even though they know us, we do not run up a tab. But clearly, the most egregious part of this whole scene is the fact that he is buying a semla in the summer. WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE. Semla is a cardamom bun cut in half, with almond paste on the bun and then filled with cream.  Semla is a treat for Lent, only. An indulgence that traditionally was eaten on Mardi Gras as a way to prepare for the disciplines of Lent, admittedly, bakeries are now putting them on the shelves shortly after the new year, but once Easter arrives, you won't see them again until the following winter.  Also, it is impossible to eat one with your hands.
OK, now that I have that off my chest we can move on to the rest of the content. This episode mainly focused on Bruce trying to find a job. He visits Arbetsförmedlingen: The Swedish Public Employment agency. Sweden does work hard at helping people find work but it's not like you just walk in and they hand out jobs! We have some folks at church who work there and it's hard and taxing work because of the expectation that people have that you can simply pull a job out of your magic hat and make people happy! And it is also true that many of the jobs on offer are the low-level cleaning or taxi jobs that so many immigrants end up with. And while many people in Sweden do speak English, most work places function in Swedish. The fact that Bruce does not speak the language nor wants to work in his area of expertise makes finding the perfect job a little tough! It's also totally silly. Again, would never happen in real life. Jobs are really hard to come by for foreigners and as Bruce noted, "It's really expensive not to work." He would likely be interested in anything that could put some kroner into his pocket.
Probably the most frustrating hinder for me here in Sweden are the strict and parochial laws regarding obtaining a driver's license. Sweden is not the most open place for reciprocal agreements. They want you to be trained in their system under their rules for just about everything so usually, even in one's profession, you have to get some kind of training here in order to practice your craft. With the driver's license, even though you may have been driving for say 35+ years, you still have to return to Driver's Education, both written and practical. And it's true. It's incredibly expensive. What really grates on my nerves regarding this practice is that people from Great Britain are exempt from this because if you have a license within the European Union you don't have to get a Swedish license. Great Britain has far less in common with the Swedish driving situation than the US does...They drive on the left for goodness sakes. But they are exempt. Grrrr. This topic gets my ire up.
And ya know what else gets my ire up? People who come to Europe expecting to drive a rental car but do not know how to drive a stick shift. Listen people: Learn to drive a stick before you come to Europe. The vast majority of cars here are stick shift. Don't get angry about this. Learn that this is the custom. And while I am at it, if you plan to go on the Amazing Race, learn to drive a stick. You will have to do so. DUH.
True to form, when Bruce encounters the Farthinder sign, he giggles. All Americans, no matter their age, turn into 12 year boys when they see the "fart" signs around town. Fart hinder is speed bump and one of my favorite words.

Infart is entrance with a vehicle. Utfart is exit with a vehicle. Full Fart is high speed. You get the picture. Farting is all over this society.
I must admit that the no turn on red rule still gets me sometimes. When I'm back in the US, it takes me awhile to remember that I can do so. After enough cars have honked at me, my memory is usually jolted back into place. And then when we return to Sweden, I have to be very disciplined to remember to stay put until the light turns green. Luckily I don't drive very much here.
My last impression this week was when Emma and Bruce were in the bar having a drink and they encounter Gene Simmons. Most remarkable to me about that scene was that Bruce orders a Gin and Tonic. Probably cost him $20.00. Drinking out costs a lot of money. Getting a driver's license costs a lot of money. Being unemployed costs a lot of money. If Bruce wants to keep up this lifestyle, he better find a job and soon! Full Fart Framåt Bruce! (Full Speed Ahead Bruce!)