It’s funny how things come around in a full circle.
Earlier this year, I found myself taking a beer with a friend (let’s call him Matt) in a pub in Uppsala. We were both language rookies, cautious of the frightening possibility of any Swedish encounters.
A waitress approached and said something, holding out a piece of paper and a pen. It sounded like a question, so I said yes, which happened to be one of my new words at the time, and we found ourselves taking part in a pub quiz in Swedish.
Needless to say, nerry a question was answered correctly throughout the night – in fact, nerry a question was understood. We walked out of that bar with a zero on the scorecard, which was in fact the second zero for Matt that day after a particularly gruelling SFI test.
BUT, we felt good about trying. One day, Matt said, gazing wistfully into the wind. One day we’ll see what’s at the end of this road.
Flash forward ten months to last Friday night. Different bar, same friend. An international student bar. A waitress approaches.
Vill ni göra pub quizzen ikväll?
Ja, det kan vi göra… vad handlar quizzen om?
Uppsala och Sverige -inte så svårt för två (snygga) killar som er…
Det låter bra. Tack.
(I left that in Swedish so the non-Swedes reading can understand how I felt in the first pub).
She left. I turned my attention to my chili nuts (which I’d never come across before Sweden – and I mean that in two ways…). The waitress returned.
Sorry guys, she began (in Swedish still), I’ve discussed it with the management and we’re afraid it would be unfair to let you participate.
Why, we asked.
Well, she continued, the quiz is simply too easy for Swedish people. It’s not fair on the others.
Our jaws dropped. Swedes? Us? Impossible!
I guess I’ll never know if she was messing with us, encouraging us, building our confidence, but it was certainly built – and ten stories high!
We told her we’d each been in the country for less than a year, and she, surprised, relented, and we were allowed to take the quiz.
So, it only takes ten months to learn enough Swedish to pass as a Swede, if you do your homework.
I should mention that the girl was only half Swedish, and perhaps wasn’t the ideal judge of how good we were… but let’s not focus on that.
Oh, and by the way, we won the whole pub quiz. Two foreigners who didn’t know an älg from a varg 10 months ago took home the win in the quiz about Sweden.
Sure, it was just one of life’s little victories, but we felt like we’d just climbed Sweden’s highest mountain. And if you know what that’s called, then you probably would have nailed the quiz too!