Actually, we’ve only been to Stockholm, so these might be a little slanted, but here are some of our observations.
1. Wearing shorts on sunny days, even when it’s chilly and breezy.
2. Sitting, standing, walking or running in the sun. We get lots of sun at home, so we treat sunshine like it’s an alien death ray, but Swedes get out into the sunshine at all possible opportunities.
3. Lingonberries! You can get lingonberry jam, lingonberry juice, lingonberries as a side dish – any way you like ‘em. I had never heard of them before – they’re kind of like cranberries. We’re definitely converts.
4. Strawberries – the strawberries are small, but there’s as much flavor in one of them as there is in a box of Whole Foods strawberries.
5. Not driving cars: at rush hour the buses are packed and the bicycle lanes are crowded, but there are almost no cars on the road. I keep looking around for Rod Serling.
6. Fatherhood – there are dads everywhere: pushing strollers in the park, getting an ice cream with the kids, patiently explaining museum exhibits.Part of this is due to the Swedish law that fathers have to share in parental leave, but they clearly carry their obligations above and beyond the legal minimum, and do so enthusiastically.
7. LGBT people. The whole city turned out for Pride Week: the city buses flew rainbow flags, tens of thousands of people attended the parade, it was amazing. Local gays say that there really isn’t a gay scene, because they are so integrated with the community there’s no need for one.
8. Americans – if you see somebody with the Stars and Stripes on their t-shirt, hat or pants, chances are that they’re Swedish. Most people we’ve met speak a little English, and it’s usually with an American, not a British accent. Maggie and I feel very welcome here, like few other places we’ve been.