After a long time in Argentina, I notice that in Sweden …
… the air passes unhindered into your body.
… there is a lot of nature in the cities, and people sit in it.
… it’s very quiet.
… you hear birds singing in the city.
… people seem to lack colour.
… you go everywhere by bike.
… there’s few people outside.
… people get all tense when many are boarding the train at the same time, even if anybody can see that all will get in.
… there’s no garbage, cars, dog poo or general litter on the pavements. There are no cracks or holes. The pavements are like floors.
… the cars come one at a time, not like a mass.
… the cars drive slowly.
… the cars stop and let you cross, without planning to run over you.
… you order at a counter and carry out your own cuttlery in a 40 dollar restaurant.
… many women wear a headscarf.
… you don’t need a key to get out of appartment buildings.
… the tap water tastes good and gets both really cold and really warm.
… kids are transported in trolleys, single or double. Nobody carries their children except short distances.
… toddlers ignore you or turn away crying when you flirt with them, instead of flirting back.
… guards outside normal bars stare at you in a deterring way.
… the dusk is white-blue-black, not yellow-orange-black.
… the buses have time tables which list the exact minute the bus leaves the stop.
… you don’t say ”hi” or ”how are you” before asking a stranger something. They’d probably think they should recognise you but have forgotten you.
… falafel is fast food, not restaurant food.
… you run into everybody you know during your first 48 hours in your homecity.
… everybody, including yourself, gets drunk in parties and when going out.
I have also become confused when greeting people. My reflexes say to stick out my face on the left side of their face and make an air kiss. My brain knows that is not the way to greet people here, but that second of hesitation is enough to make the other person confused too.
This gets more complicated because I normally try to avoid greeting hugs, at least those that have to do with social convention more than inspiration, because I don’t like them. So I often try with a handshake, but that gets weird with people you know.
Anyway, the best thing is that when you decide to leave a group of people you can shout ”bye” from the door and leave immediately, without kissing twenty people on the cheek.