Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Archive for April, 2009

Burn baby burn. Walpurgis Night

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

So where are you going to be lighting for this spring rite of winter passage formally known in Swedish as Valborgsmässoafton?

We’re heading to a small town, Laxnewhere probably every stick and worn out piece of furniture gets piled up in a massive mound. The noticeably non-Stockholmish lack of sophistication is in fact a breath of fresh air.

Kids run around in no-name jeans and rubber boots, babies are pushed around in last decade’s prams (not a Bugaboo or Phil and Ted’s buggy in sight), a mom and daughter run the fishing pond/fiskdamm (where children fish for candy) and the most ramshackle family band (our friends) entertains the smattering of townsfolk.

I think we’re invited year in and year out because the hubby is forced, eheh I mean, recruited to play the drums. Well, more accurately, the drum. He’s not a drummer. That should give you an indication of the musical talent gathered.

The motley crew (not in the same league as their namesake, Mötley Crüe) can boast a smidgen of talent; three of its members played in their student orchestra, Osquar Muttar at the Royal Institute of Technology. The hubby played the banjo. You can just imagine writing home about that fine catch of a man I made. And yes, he can play duelling banjos.

Truthfully, I treasure these most authentic of Svensson experiences. They demonstrate a authentic celebration of collective cultural heritage through the simplicity of the neighborly carnival.

And as long as you’re not a music snob, you’d probably get a kick out of the band. Rumor has it they’re hot (well, being so close to the bonfire and all.) So if you have nothing else to do and no where else to be, c’mon down.

Don’t forget to tip the drummer.

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Reverse Culture Shock

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I’ve been out of Sweden for 10 days back in the embrace of my hometown, family, childhood friends (you know the ones who have the dirt on you from when you were a kid–and literally have photo evidence that when you were 6 you picked your nose) and native culture.

After two decades of living abroad (and across a big ole pond) each trip takes longer and longer to revive old habits and customs. This time the re-transformation is only kicking in now that I’m packing up for my return flight. And I’m melancholic to try to hang on to some of me that I’ll be packing away once I arrive at Arlanda and Moder Svea.

I’ve got more attitude in my native land (and most Swedes would find me pretty brazen in my adapted mode) and with age I’m even more no-nonsense. Actually, I think the Swedish pragmatism helps in that category. I don’t have the patience to be all wordy in my pleasantries like I should be.

At the playground today I witnessed the budding of this sassy personality when three 5-year olds ganged up on an almost 5-year old (a half-Swedish offspring–yes, mine.) He partially deserved it since he had lashed out first due to his own perceived injustice of usurped ball. Instead of the girl victim passively tattling to a parent and pointing at my guilty son, her two girl-friends *snap* came up brazenly and demanded:

–Why did you hit my friend?

This gave the victim courage to reiterate the demand on her own part:

–Why did you hit me?

The poor boy was cornered and outnumbered and I could only feel sorry for his shock and insecurity.

I reflected on the cultural differences in growing up between the US and Sweden. While this was an extreme case of girl-power, I can’t imagine this ever happening on a Swedish playground.

Some of that which gave those young girls strength is instilled in me and I’m glad I got it. It has resurfaced in the past day or two. Check back in a few days and see if I have it left in me, or if I put in in storage with the luggage.

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Sweden’s got naked talent

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Move over EMD, sorry Susan Boyle…but there are some naked crisp bread boys of boy band hopefuls taking YouTube by storm. See clip

Nudity and liberal attitudes towards the body (including sex and sexuality) are hallmark attributes of all things Swedish, well, internationally that is. Of course the same gang of stereotypers would ask about the cheese, alpine skiing and watchmakers of Sweden but that’s another matter for another blog entry.

So once again these classic stereotypes are traveling the world, this time slightly more than gluten-free thanks to some enthusiastic participants in Sweden’s version of American Idol/Britain’s Got Talent.

Personally, I find the Swedish attitude to this slapstick humor invigorating . The fully Monty, albeit somewhat obscured by a circular piece of crispbread (or knäckebröd, as it’s known in Switzerland,) can always stimulate the funny bone in an audience.

The popularity of the clip is likely to give rise to a following of Swedish knäckebröd supporters after a “coming out” of sorts on tabloid blogger, PerezHilton’s website.

The timing could make or break the boy’s global exposure. PerezHilton is currently on the tip of the keyboard tongue of many internet users after the fierce tounge lashing the celeb-bloggista gave to Miss California in response to an un-PC and highly non-pagent response to a gay marriage question in this week’s Miss USA pageant.  Miss Californicaiton-but-not-same-sex-marriage came second in the pagent.

But now back to the nude knäckebröd boys…I’m a little let down that the hole in the classic form was left unpenetrated.  I’ll presume they earned three yes’s and we shall be seeing more of them.

I can only hope that some day Sweden’s world contribution to the demise of prudish puritanical practices shall overcome.

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“You know. Immigrants”

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Swedes mean well. And then they also fear and flee conflict.

Add those up and  you’ll get the occasional effective tactic. However, under the right circumstances you may very well expose an easily abused Achilles heel for the average Svensson..

It’s sad to say but you can nearly always trip up a Swede by pulling the prejudice card. All it takes is a mere suggestion that their intentions are less than noble and you can frazzle the unsuspecting Swede. In that state of self-defense and confusion the poor Swede is vulnerable. That’s when the opportunist stikes.

A real life event occurred when confronting a prowler in an apartment building. The uninvited trespasser confronts me attempting to scare me off and says:

-Hey,  do you have a problem with me because I’m an immigrant?

Oooh, it felt so good to pull at my nearly black hair and inform them that I was also an immigrant. So hah. Of course it didn’t prevent the prowlers from casing and ultimately attempting to burgle our building. But boy were they expecting that this mean bull-dog would lose his bite. Sorry folks, wrong random “guard.”

Recently at Erikdahlsbadet in central Stockholm some unruly young adults harmlessly disrespected the safety rules for the water slide. Without any critical looks aimed from my diretion they decided to depoly a pre-emptive strike to neutralize any passibe rage boiling under the 08-surface.

They tried achieve this by turn to me shaking their head in disgust of their own poor non-Swedish behavior and aim to garner sympathy with:

-You know. Immigrants.

It was so obvious that in both cases they chose  the statements to be used to diffuse passive aggression from the stoic, kind-hearted, conflict avoiding TK.

If they intend it to work they need to remember that next time they should offer it to a non-black-headed, non-Swede.

Come to think of it, I ought to learn from these tactics. After all, I’m a black-haired immigrant like the best of them.

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