Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cultural Differences in Reverse

Some of our culturally diverse Family
Represented are Mexicans, Swedes, Icelandic, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Irish, English and German Americans.
My apologies if I missed anyone.

There is much to get used to when one moves from one culture to another.  Somehow I did not think it would be as hard "in reverse" as it was going the "other way".  But it is and perhaps this time around it is even harder.  By this I mean that going to America when I was 17 was hard and a big adjustment.  But, now after 40 plus years going back to Sweden is a much bigger adjustment and more difficult. It is with much gratitude I look back at all those years away.  Grateful to have learned to be an independent self thinking individual totally responsible for my own life. Being back here, back to my roots, I am becoming increasingly aware that here you are NOT your own keeper......... for better or for worse and the jury is out on that one.  Pondering.  Am not so absolutely sure that I am pleased with that situation the way it seems.  So much is so good here.  I am grateful to have this opportunity, but I would also like to continue to be my own boss, to "God forbid" coin a phrase, I want to be the DECIDER!

The lines at the grocery store where everyone stares steadily at some inanimate object, never looking at the person next to them in line and close to NEVER striking up a conversation never mind a HELLO.

The NUMBER TAGS!  You come to a store and or a counter and if you are not Swedish you would never know to look for a "number dispenser".  These are little tags with numbers that give the person working on the other side of the counter a reason to "serve" you.  The dispensers are often very hard to find and do not think that anyone is going to guide you to it unless you actually are a foreigner and you ask for or act like you are in need of help.  Early on, when I was still not back in the KNOW I would go into a store, no one else is in there so I would think that I would be the next one to be waited on.  Absolutely NOT!  In comes another customer, he/she knows where that treasured number dispenser is and BINGO he gets to place his order before me and I will go and get that  stupid tag and start waiting all over again.  How did it ever come to be like that??  Can not but wonder??   How can it be that most of the rest of the world where I have been  can have order and civility in their shops and stores without this strange "system".  As I said, just wondering???

I have just suffered an allergic reaction to SOMETHING?  Had purchased a new shampoo and conditioner at a shop claiming no bad stuff no animal testing no this no that.  Actually I purchase a lot of my body and skin care products in these shops and did so in California as well.  Washed my hair a couple of times, no problem other than perhaps a strange "tingling" sensation.  Third time WHAM!  Scalp itch, skin crawl, swollen eyes, blistered skin, puffy face, a mess!  Never before.. ....  No, not true a long time ago I had colored my hair at a salon and I had a similar itchy situation.  Anyway, my messed up face this time around, rather severe has not been a nice thing to deal with, hard on ego and self confidence is one thing, uncomfortable to no end, no not fun at all.  Again dealing with culture differences can be unnerving.  Here I am looking like the "Hunchback of Notre Dame" a la Charles Laughton ok less the hunched back.  Swollen eyes, weird blistered forehead with something similar to horns forming, bad ugly face to say the least.  Well here in Sweden I think people try to be polite.  NO ONE in Sweden looks strange, no matter how strange they look.  It is something they teach and there is good in that I suppose.  So here I am looking rather grotesque and for me abnormal.  Everyone I meet act as if I am perfectly NORMAL, including friends and neighbors.  This makes me feel like they don't care.  Had I gone to Raileys in Oakhurst looking this way people I knew would have burst out OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU!?!?  Right or wrong it is just darned hard sometimes learning how different people think and act.  Not to misunderstand the "Swedish  Way" I full well realize that they are brought up as polite people and being polite means one avoids mentioning such things as someone looking weird.  Yet after forty some years in another mode it is hard to get used to the one I was born into, the culture I thought I knew so well.

The sad part, for what ever reasons or well intentions, this lack of human contact or acknowledgment of your existence is not a pleasant one.  It makes for people living in their own little bubbles.  I think that human interaction is essential to being human and feeling alive.  Human emotions, like happiness, sadness, crying, and talking about your inner feelings is a positive good thing.  I fear Swedes, in general,  think this is somehow a weakness in a person and is to be avoided.

David and I have each other which gives us strength.  And we need to try not to get upset with people here and know that they are well intentioned and we are culturally different.  We are considering opening up a small photo cafe shop in our storage room.  We will try and make it a happy gathering place for people to enjoy each others company.  I think that many other people here in Sweden are also longing for the human touch.  I know we need it.
Foreign born Swedes, foreigners, and local swedes looking for a different human experience.
We may become known as the place where the Crazy Swedish American woman and her Crazy Mexican American husband live.  Which is just fine by me.

I am reminded of a cute story about my cousin Margaretha, the most adorable girl with soft curly bright red hair, she was around five and on a trolly or bus with her Mother.  Not far from them sat a woman with a very different look (large nose and a very strange hat if I recall correctly).  As all well brought up children even fifty years ago she knew not to point and gawk so she taps her Mother on the arm and says in a rather loud voice:  "Mother when we get home can we talk about the lady with the big nose and the weird hat!

By the way, my beautiful cousin Margaretha is the owner and proprietor of a delightful antique shop located in the old part of Stockholm called Gamla Stan. The name of it is Tillys Kuriosa if interested you can see it here.   And yes, she still has that incredible red hair!!!   The woman in the window is Margaretha.

For those of you who are Playing For Change enthusiasts I want to  say that I was thrilled to see that there was a concert in Skeppsholmskyrkan in Stockholm.  It was going to be televised on TV3.  Check out Playing for Change here.  Great music.

Marlena Ernman,  Måns Zelmerlöw, Rasmus Seebach and the choir One Voice under the direction of Gabriel Forss were some of the participants.  They are doing just that!  Playing For Change, I am so happy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Volkswagen Factory in Dresden

Image from
I have been getting some nice emails with interesting subjects lately.  Here is another one from my friend in Mariposa, CA.

It is a very interesting and fun factory.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Swedish Drivers

This is a touchy subject for Swedes.  And maybe I should limit it to Swedes in Skane, southern Sweden where we live since that is my experience.  A swedish man I was talking to once told me about Swedish men that "You can get away with saying something somewhat critical about his wife but beware of saying anything critical about his driving or you will have an enemy for life."

Sweden is about the size of California with a population of just over 9 million.  California has just over 37 million.  Skane has a population of 1.2 million.  Which is roughly the same size as the city proper of Los Angeles with a population of 4 million.  The population density of Los Angeles is 7,700 per sq. mile.  The population density of Skane is 290 per sq. mile.  The point is that there is "no traffic" here.  Of course when the weather is bad and it is rush hour traffic here can cause some delays.  But even those are minor in comparison to traffic in Los Angeles.  Now with all this information on with my observations.

Some basic assumptions on my part based on my experience.  Most drivers in California are good courteous drivers (85% good / 15% questionable).  Most Skane Swedish drivers are good courteous drivers (60% good / 40% very questionable).  Not scientific.

On most country roads the speed limit here is 70 km/h.  We live on a country road.

What I have observed:

  • There are two cars on the road going in the same direction with no other cars to be seen as far as the eye can see.  One car is tale gating the other.  Why?
  • The same situation as above, only it is snowing and the roads are slippery, the tail gating car now attempts to pass the other car in snow drifts.  Why?
  • There is one car on the road driving in one direction.  There is a bicycle rider in the distance in front of him.  There is a person walking his dog on the opposite side of the road in the distance.  There is an oncoming car in the opposite lane.  Both cars do not attempt to slow down.  Remember, there is no other traffic.  The cars do not give an inch.  Both cars squeeze together passing the person walking his dog and the bicycler on the road.  All four are in parallel to each other at the same point. Why?
  • One car is driving at what appears to be about 90 km/h on a 70 km/h road.  Another car passes him at what seems to be 110 km/h.  No other cars on the road.  All weather conditions apply.  Why?
  • 70% of drivers have an appendage stuck in their ear called a cell phone while smoking and trying to drive a car and shifting gears (most cars are not automatic).  Some of them are even texting.  When Neta and I are walking Ralle down a short stretch of the road we have to flag them away from us because they are too busy talking, speeding, and smoking.  Why?
  • Many people have horses here and you often see them riding on a country road to get to a trail.  Drivers slow down from 70 to 50 and slightly move over.  Others don't even slow down.  Why?
  •  On major highways (freeways) its customary to only use the left lane for passing or when you are speeding way over the speed limit.  If you happen to be passing a truck you will often find a car kissing your rear bumper indicating that he/she wants to pass.  Remember, there can often be a handful of cars on the road.  Why?
  • If you ever try to enter the flow of traffic in major cities, shopping centers, or change lanes you will not often ever come across a driver who will let you go first.  Fortunately this is never a real problem because there is so little traffic.  But why is there often no courtesy?
  • If you are a walking in a parking lot drivers will very often ignore you.  They will most always go first.  Why?
  • 44% of Swedes from Skane consider themselves far superior safe drivers as stated in the Helsingborg news paper yesterday.  Why?
My conclusion is that a high percentage of Swedish drivers are very aggressive, inconsiderate, and irresponsible.  Swedish drivers don't know how good they have it.  No traffic to contend with and no reason to drive as they do.  There are very few police on the roads.  You can very often go a full week without seeing one.  Perhaps they drive like this because they can.  The government tries to take care of its people.  And, maybe in doing so people often don't take responsibility for their own actions.  Maybe,  like a teenager with new found freedom from home, they go crazy behind the wheel.  I don't know.

Like I said there is very little traffic here so this is not an intolerable situation.  It is just curious and sometimes annoying.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to All

On this positively balmy morning it is only - 6 degrees C.  We have had our first slice of Griljerad Skinka, the traditional ham coated with a mixture of egg, mustard, and sprinkled with bread crumbs then roasted in a hot oven to get crispy.  In addition to the ham we had a slice of Gingerbread, baked from a recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook.  "Had I but one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it for Gingerbread" -- Love's Labor's Lost, William Shakespeare.  Actually we had our first slice of ham last night when I took it out of the oven, that is the way it is supposed to be, said my sister Elisabeth, did I not remember?  No, I did not.  She also advised  as to how to prepare it.  Then the plan was, I must admit, to make a Christmas Ham a la Jamie Oliver.  A ham coated with Jerk Seasoning, including loads of Scotch Bonnet peppers and basted with marmalade, something especially tasty for the more south of the border taste buds, but darn it all, the food processor did not want to cooperate !!

So, this will be a day of feasting and otherwise slow and easy.  No, No Kalle Anka (Donald Duck) at three o'clock. Strange to think how that came to be a big deal and now a tradition here, some cartoon starved children must have been the beginning........

With that we think of all our dear ones in California who are surviving deluges of rain with the Los Angeles area under severe weather warnings, Mariposa doused with more than five inches of rain, Wawona ten!! Our loved ones in Seattle are not as bad off thank goodness and we are just a bit cold nosed when we go out, but warm both on the inside and while we are inside, cause it is toasty in here.  Merry Christmas to all of you who make our life special, you know who you are.  Thank You!

Oh' here comes LUTFISK !!!! Linnea where are you when I need you the most ?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

-20 Degrees Celsius This Morning

Some pictures from this mornings walk.

Now that's a little nippy.  Good thing the wind wasn't blowing.  It is 8:30 in the morning.  The sun was coming up and the moon was still up.

The hairs in my nose were freezing and I would twitch my nose and could actually hear them crackling.
Strange sensation. 

Ralle loves it for about an hour.  He too wants to come back into the house.  Twenty below zero Celsius is the temperature most freezers are set to.  In Fahrenheit it's -4 degrees.  That doesn't sound so bad.  In Kelvin that's 253 degrees.  Boy we would vaporize at that temperature.

This is unusual for Southern Sweden.  The winter snow has come early and colder this year.
And, they said last year was the worst and coldest winter in mans memory.  If this is a trend, what will next year be like?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Space Shuttle A Tribute to Joe in my eyes.

My High School long time friend Joe Yasuhara sent me this space shuttle clip.  It is long, about 45 minutes long.  But well worth watching.  Joe has been with the Space Shuttle program for 25 to 30 years.  Almost from its inception.  The space shuttle program is now coming to an end.

I don't have a picture of Joe at the ready.  I admire Joe for his attitude towards life, like the quote from a Clint Eastwood movie "get busy living or get busy dying".  Joe is Japanese who lived in Mexico from a young age and who speaks great Spanish.  He developed polio before the vaccine was available.  He has been on crutches since then.  I became friends with Joe in high school.  We went rabbit hunting in Palmdale.  He hiked up and down those dry hot hills without a whimper.  He went motorcycle riding with me and my other friends.  We strapped his legs to the motorcycle so that they wouldn't flap in the wind.  Joe was determined to live life.  I admire Joe.  And think, Joe is part of the Space Shuttle family.  He has broken the gravity of the earth and gone into space.

Thank you Joe Yasuhara, my good friend.  Here is the clip for you to enjoy.  Set aside some time and check it out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday to a Good Friend

Lars on top of Helsingborg
It is Lars Sonessons birthday today.  I would like to dedicate this blog to him.  His father started the family "Sonessons Kyl" AB business (refrigeration, heat pumps, cooling for ventilation systems) over 40 years ago in Helsingborg.  Lars, his brother, and mother all worked there.  Over the years they had up to 15 employees.

Lars' father was very innovative and self taught in the early years when he worked on ocean freighters as a member of the maintenance crew.  They built cooling machines to suit the customers needs.  They worked on small to large cooling systems.  They developed a reputation of the "go to" kyl company if you wanted it done right no matter what the system.

After Lars father and older brother died Lars's mom retired and Lars took over the family business together with his wife.  Lars continues the family tradition of hard, honest work.  To this day when no one else can fix a problem with a cooling system he is the "go to guy".  I am privileged to know him, work with him, and have him as a friend.

How did I come to know Lars?  When my wife and I moved to Sweden and bought our home Lars was our neighbor.  We were fortunate and so lucky to have him and his family living close to us.  Lars and his family helped and welcomed us to this new land of Sweden.  When he found out that I had knowledge of electronics and maintenance of electronic equipment he offered me a job in his business.  I am forever grateful to him for this.  He has taken me under his wing and taught me and continues to teach me the refrigeration business.  I have such a great teacher and friend in Lars.

It has sometimes been hard adjusting here in Sweden.  My wife and I are so grateful to the Sonessons for their support.

So please join me in Congratulating Lars on his birthday.

Grattis to Lars a hard working Blue Collar Worker with a great heart.

With Love

David and Agneta

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brrrrrrr, it got COLD !

Our last update had been in the "incubator" for a while prior to our pushing the "send" button and we had no more done that and the temperature here dropped pretty drastically.  Had a night or two with - 10 C . Presently it is warmer, just slightly above freezing and it is snowing fat, plump and juicy snowflakes,  it is very pretty out there.  Ralle loves it!  He, just as Una and Rontu used to,  goes out there to lay in the snow then lays there still until he gets covered by snow and we can hardly find him!  It is and looks very Christmasy.

On that note we had the pleasure to attend a traditional JULBORD this week end at Örenäs Castle!
Photo: Christmas.Skane.Com webb page
Invited by our fabulous neighbors and friends next door.  Talk about a treat!  Christmas Dinner In the Castle!  A brand new experience  for me.  The setting was awesome.  Snowy scenery, with fires in fire pits and outdoor candles lining the walkways.  Warm Glögg served, before we entered through those big castle doors, and gingerbread hearts to nibble on while we waited for the rest of the guests to arrive.  Aaahh it was a splendid start of an evening filled with literally endless food!  Three enormous tables loaded with delicacies!  Table number one herring in absolutely every possible form from the old fashioned pickled and brined versions and the new varieties like lime, wasabi and many other  newfangled concoctions!  Guess, just a guess, ten or fifteen different kinds of herring alone.  Add breads, cheeses, eggs, potatoes, chopped onions .......

Table two Salmon gravad, smoked, poached, cured, in pate' form on and on.  In addition to that various kinds of meat pate', head cheese, jellied veal, ham.  We have just started!!!   Table three, now here comes the hot food, the main course so to speak.  Ribs, meatballs, sausages along with traditional cabbage dishes, red, green and brown versions, not to forget the potato dishes like Johnsson's Temptation.  Am starting to feel "stuffed" just thinking about it.  Perhaps in between here we should mention all the good stuff to drink!

Or tell you we had so much fun, have not laughed so hard in a while.  One of the guests a really neat guy who hales from London was telling us stories about language problems when he first struggled with Swedish, priceless stories that had us all in stitches!!

Oh man......   I could continue by talking about dessert, Irish Coffee, candies, chocolate, almond cookies with whipped cream and jam, Rice a la Malta.

No, I have to stop.

Before I go into a "food coma" I will take both Ralle and David for a walk around the field in the falling snow.  Ah, that felt good.

Now there is a chicken roasting in the oven, stuffed with lemon, thyme (had to unearth it from a layer of snow) and garlic.  Will have mashed potatoes and green beans tossed with toasted garlic slivers and crushed red pepper on the side along with a little salad......... who was talking about "food coma" ?