We arrived home safely, I’m caught up on bills, emails and most importantly – sleep! I have just a few follow-up posts about our trip. If you’re fed up, feel free to unsubscribe.
This post is about the odd and quirky things that we discovered about Sweden during our stay. For the most part, traveling in Sweden was pretty easy. Language is not a barrier (everyone speaks English) and their customs are a lot like ours. Still, there are some things that are quite different from the USA. Here’s a rundown:
- Extra Headlights. Perhaps a fifth of all the cars on the road have extra headlights on the front grill; sometimes just one, sometimes as many as four. Apparently, with all the hours of darkness in the winter, extra high-beam lighting is needed, especially out in the country. I thought they were ugly, but they’re evidently trendy.
- Best Bathrooms in the World. A typical bathroom set-up, say in a mall or restaurant, is a hallway with several doors that open into individual rooms each with its own toilet, sink and mirror. The rooms are typically not designated for men/women. At Ales Stenarwe used portable toilets and even they had flush toilets and sinks with running water!
- No laundromats. Apparently, all Swedish apartments buildings are required to provide laundry facilities, so there is no need for laundromats. In all of Stockholm there is only one. The medium and small cities have none. I sure would have packed different had I known that. Fortunately, our host at Nobynäs was able to help us out.
- Hej.This is the Swedish word for “hello” and it’s pronounced “hey”. Sometimes they say “hej hej”. To our ears, these greetings sound very informal and friendly.
- Chip cards. All credit cards in Sweden have smart chips in them and some places (especially gas stations!) don’t even accept the American-style magnetic strip cards.
- Piles of Wood. Most country homes burn wood for heat and there are massive piles of firewood near almost every house. And stacking firewood is practically an art form. The stacks are usually decorative and tidy.
- Wind mills. The Swedes have gone into wind energy in a big way, and there are big arrays of wind generators all throughout the countryside.
- Bicycles. Everyone seems to use bikes for daily transportation. You see people of all ages biking around in their street clothes. Bikes have baskets on the front and racks on the back so you can take take your stuff with you. The bikes are traditional cruising bikes, not racing or mountain style. In Växjö, the city traffic system was developed to completely favor bike traffic. They had closed off their old town area to car traffic, but the streets were open to the bikes and the pedestrians still stayed on the sidewalks. They charged for all car parking, I suppose to further discourage vehicle use.
- Food weirdnesses. Breakfasts always include raw vegetables, typically cucumbers and red peppers. Another common breakfast item is caviar (an inexpensive variety) dispensed out of a toothpaste tube. They also serve various forms of herring (sill) at breakfast. Dad refused to even taste it (it wasn’t that bad!). You put pourable yogurt on your cereal. Coffee is very strong but not bitter – I loved it! There’s no such thing as decaf. Salads are served without salad dressing. Our B&B host Lena said they only servelutefisk at Christmastime.
- Store hours. Everything closes at around six, including most restaurants and cafes. You’d think with all they daylight hours, things would stay open but even Gothenberg was pretty much dead by 7:00 in the evening.