First impressions of Sweden: The instantly obvious to a British expat

I don't look Swedish first impressionsPeople know you’re foreign just by looking

The bald guitarist flings his head back to the last strike of his solo. The fan group by the wall screech adoring Swedish. We clap appreciatively.

One woman, who was just swaying her curls around like a sling, now punches the air and scuffs the concrete ground with an Irish jig. “Hugo … jaaaaa!! Du är min hjälte … ahhhh!!”

A few songs later, she’s calmed down and wavers towards the bar. She bumps into me. I look at her.

Her pupils focus. She curls her lips. “Excuse me.” She squeezes past. “Thanks.”

Ikea here is superior

“This sofa’s got black bevelled feet and comes with a storage footstool. It’s tweed I think.”

“Ooo … I like that one! Are you sure it’s Ikea?”

“Yep, definitely Ikea … I know, we’d never find that in England would we!? Now … tables …” Joe loads a new page.

My jaw drops. “Are you joking! That one actually looks designer. I am completely changing my mind about Ikea!”

Joe grins. “We are gunna look so—for less than half the price.”

Phlegm hacking and snot blowing is socially acceptable

“What the hell was that!?” It sounded like a monster breathing in my ear. I look around. Oh; Ten meters behind us someone just cleared their throat.

“Mm yeah Est,” says Joe. “Apparently, here, people understand that you need to clear bodily fluids—because the temperature’s so cold. You’ll fit right in!”

“Hey!” I scrunch my face up. Then I remembered the time a friend told me my nose-blowing made her feel sick. “OK. I guess that’s good then.”

As we turn a corner, another guy walks past. He hacks a load of phlegm, and then snorts.

Everyone loves pot plants and fantastic lampshades

I know staring through people’s windows is rude, but I really can’t help it. I feel like I’m in the Tate. This person’s lampshade looks like upside down ship’s sails—the Sydney Opera House, stark white and a piece of angular beauty. A lady appears on the balcony above. I snap my head away. She waters her plants. I’m pretending to be interested in sky, when another apartment block comes into view. I can’t help myself. My eyes widen. That lampshade has to be a repurposed wedding hat. In fact, I remember a celeb wearing it at the royal wedding.

Back home, I stare at our ceiling sockets. I’m not sure a giant origami shade will fit Joe’s minimalist taste. I settle for artsy plants: truly Swedish. Call it assimilation.

Swedes are extremely tall (Men’s average: 6ft”1, to be precise)

Swedish gig first impressions of SwedenThe crowd shifts as one. Heads, far above me, rock with the bass. How do music lovers manage to look so expert and chilled at gigs. If I start moving, I’ll reveal that I hadn’t heard of this band before tonight, and that I only usually dance to pop (when my bedroom door’s shut). But, looking around … I don’t think I need to worry. At 5ft 2”, nobody can see me. The giants lean back, rooted to the spot by their beanpole legs. They shout the lyrics. I can’t see the stage. Everyone lifts their hands now. Well, I may as well make the most of it; I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be invisible. I start with a nod and am soon a pro groover, perfecting my Egyptian head-jut in an electro vibing sea of leather jackets.

Est smiley

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