15 September 2011

Three Swedish fetishes

Moving from one country to another makes it easy to observe the differences and things which are unique to a particular place. It is much easier for a newcomer to spot them than for people who've lived in the country all their lives. I've noticed at least three things which seem to be uniquely Swedish, in the sense that they exist in abundance and are really loved by people in Sweden. I decided to call them Swedish fetishes because these things are useless, probably addictive, and serve no real purpose.

Fetish no. 1: Candy
If you've ever been to one of the American-style cinemas you cannot fail but notice rows upon rows of stinky, sticky, sickly candy. If your olfactory system works well, then, probably, you'll want to go past them quickly so that you don't have to vomit.
It's really a huge surprise to see that this kind of junk food exists in abundance in Sweden, not only in cinemas, but, really, everywhere: in petrol stations, in supermarkets, in convenience stores, at the university, in the hospital cantine, on the streets (whenever vendors go out), at train stations...
There is no end to the amount of candy that is available in Sweden, everywhere and at all points of time. Sweden is a country where everything closes early. However, candy you can find at almost all times. It is even served during official meetings. You may be out at night searching for milk, which may be hard to find. But candy, you will find, with little difficulty:

Police scooping candy in huge quantities, around 11 pm, on 10 September 2011:
It is rather suprising, but Swedes consume more candy than Americans per person. In fact, it seems that Sweden is the world leader in candy consumption per capita (excluding chocolate). To prove my point further (that Swedes have some kind of peculiar relationship with sweets), here is a recent TV advertisement. In it, we see children with three mouths (!?), evolved this way so that they can consume more candy. Yes, it is quite disturbing image. Enjoy:

Fetish no 2: Tatoo magazines.
"Why are there so many tatoo magazines in Sweden?", I asked a colleague a few months ago. He didn't know. In fact, he hadn't observed it. As I mentioned above, it is easier for a newcomer to spot the differences. To prove my point, I went to the local Pressbyrån and took a picture:
You can perhaps count 27 tatoo magazines in the middle shelf. This number should be compared with the boats magazines (12), the number of newsmagazines (11), etc. Not only is there an amazing large number of tatoo magazines in the shop, but that number is the largest of magazines of all kinds.

Truly peculiar.

Sometime later, I went to another shop in Gothenburg. Same story:
Here you can count about 24 tatoo magazines.
The question, then, is why? Why are there so many customers attracted to tatoo magazines? The obvious answer that people are attracted to the women on the covers and inside is not satisfying. There is something else, and this is something that has to do with Sweden. I don't know what it is.
There are definitely more tatoo magazines in a Swedish magazine shop than in an American shop. Even rednecks don't have the need to consult so many magazines for their body modification.

Fetish no. 3: Old (mostly junk) American cars.
Uppsala is a city with not so wide streets, and a huge number of bicyclists. Once in a while, however, the city is transformed by the peculiar site of platoons of old, mostly ugly, junk, American cars, occupied by a large number of passengers, all of which sit packed together on the front seat, drunk and loud and proudly driving their pile of metal, obviously feeling a sense of achievement, demonstrating their possession to pedestrians who do not have the chance of having a vehicle of this sort in their backyard.

The drivers want to be seen, to be noticed. The other day there was even an American car show in Uppsala. A huge number of cars, probably in the hundreds, had come to Uppsala, parked in a central area. Their owners were dressed like American rednecks and many of them had beer bellies as well! Why would anyone in the world try to behave like a redneck is totally incomprehensible. I hope, however, that the Swedish redneck-wannabes do not have the essential tool of the redneck trade: a gun-rack full of guns. But who knows?

One is inclined to conjecture that Sweden has the largest number of redneck-wannabed than any other country besides redneckland. But I lack statistics, so I will refrain from formulating this kind of conjecture.

1 comment:

  1. You are very accurate, but you forgot snus/snuff. Swedes are so addicted to that! And the spitting everywhere?



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It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

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