Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Swedes are not "cold"
I read or heard somewhere that people have deemed Swede's personalities as "cold." After the day I had today, I would disagree with that assessment and I'm not even Swedish.
Swedes may not want to insult your ability to handle things on your own by holding the door open for you or helping you if you don't ask, but they have literally rushed to my aid
the moment I have asked for help. I once had 3 men searching the grocery store for me to help me find horseradish and the other day, a woman gave Calvin a plastic lizard from her purse. When I tried to return it to her once our train ride was over, she just pushed it back with a smile and said it was a gift. So unbelievably nice.
Today started out with beautiful weather and unfortunately Calvin napped through it all. By the time we got into the city for our playdate with friends, it was raining. Since we were early, I couldn't exactly hang out in the department store for an hour, so we looked for the children's library near our meet up spot. I saw the sign on the door and it said, "Svenska Barnbokinstitutet," to which my weary mind thought this was the right place for me and Calvin to duck out of the rain for a while. I walked in the door, was greeted by the librarian and I then proceeded to de-clothe Calvin of all of his wet rain gear. I figured we would wander back and find some small books for him to read until our friends arrived.
As we started heading back, the librarian rushed towards us and asked if she could help us, with a smile. Umm...I'm sensing there is something wrong here. She then proceeds to tell me that this is a library for adults who study how children learn. They have one copy of every children's book ever published in Sweden so they don't have a rental/return policy. You have to stay in the library to read any of their material. Wow, were we in the wrong place! I definitely didn't trust Calvin's hands to thumb over the source copy of these precious books and my face must have shown at least some distress over learning the purpose of this library.
"You are more than welcome to be here, I just wanted to let you know." She said earnestly. Oh my god! How do we get out of here quickly without offending her? Yet, she still trusted me to not let my kid run rampant? Very sweet and kind of her. She asks me to follow her to her desk and she pulls out a set of little books and tells us that we can take two. I let Calvin choose the ones he liked best and we went and sat down to read the less-precious books. She gave us two books.
Another woman heard what was going on and brought out two Lego books (complete with Lego pieces) and said that Calvin was welcome to read those as well.
Calvin loved the Lego books and I loved feeling welcome even though we were clearly in the wrong place. I would say that it isn't every day that something like this happens, but that wouldn't be true because something like this does happen every day. So, if someone ever publishes a travel article citing Swedes as "cold" or "slow to warm up to foreigners" just shake your head and know that it is far from the case. In my every day experiences, they are very kind, gracious, and considerate of your feelings. What more can you ask for?