Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Harry Potter and Thanksgiving 2010

So we went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1, one of these weekends (that all seem to melt together into one big ball of sunshine). It was interesting, not so much because of the movie but because of the amazing audience. One third geeks, one third children and one third stoners? Anyway, the first sign of us being in for a fun night was when everyone broke out into applause after a ridiculous trailer. Not just any applause, mind you, but ironic applause. After that, all was lost. Movie actually started = clap clap clap. A decent joke = clap clap clap clap... CLAP. Harry half naked - huge cat whistle wave through the whole theater.

America, fuck yeah! (Corey: "did you know that whenever Americans think of America they automatically add 'fuck yeah' after?")

The other thing that happened recently was Thanksgiving. I obviously knew it was a big deal (I've watched TV), but I didn't expect it to be... like Christmas. Well, anyway, it was fun. I came, I saw, I ate. Except I had a hangover very nearly the whole day, so my eating was pretty pathetic for Thanksgiving. I didn't mean to be hungover, but Corey wanted to try Four Lokos the night before, so we did. I didn't expect to get drunk from one can. Usually I can drink quite a bit before I even get tipsy. Four lokos might get banned. I wouldn't grieve.

Anyhow, I loved the corn casserole, the turkey, the cranberries and the stuffing. Most everything was good, actually. We had pies from Village Inn - French Silk, Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie. I loved the apple one, the others were a bit much. We got a huge tray of leftovers to take home. We are such gluttons that we finished it last night already.

We also taught Corey's mom to play poker. She won. I failed at Guitar Hero. Me and Corey's mom watched half of SATC 2 while her boyfriend and Corey played a Star Wars game on the PS3. In the same room. Which meant we all kept raising the volume to hear SATC over Star Wars and vice versa.

One last thing: before dinner Corey's mom was called upon to say grace. She rushed through something generic, then said "let next year be good and please bring us lots of money." Amen to that!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cold fronts and Gizmo the Cat

Florida is weird. Apparently, it won't get cold and stay cold. Instead, cold fronts will appear from time to time, make it cold for a few days or so, and then go right back to 80 degrees. Fine by me, as long as the heat does come back.

This weekend however, there IS a cold front. The air is cool and crisp, as opposed to making you wonder if you accidentally walked into the shower instead of out the front door.

When I say cold, though, it's not exactly COLD. I'd say it feels like late August in Sweden. You don't need long sleeves in the middle of the day. It's 72 degrees, or 22 if you like it metric. Morning and night are way chillier. I'm really hoping it's true that the heat's going to return. Swedish I might be, but a Viking I ain't. I couldn't stand the cold, so I got out of the freezer Sweden :)


We were going to do a roadtrip to the Keys this weekend, but of course there just had to be a hurricane, so in Tampa we stayed. It turned out to be the perfect weekend, with drinks and laughs in great company, sweet potatoes with honey butter and cinnamon, horseback riding and best of all, my future mother in law gave us Gizmo the Persian cat! At the moment he seems quite disconcerted, hiding behind the TV, but he'll come round.


Sorry, did I say Gizmo the cat? Scratch that, I meant to say owl. Anyway, he's awesome, and he just came out from his TV corner. :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Freedom Fries

ETA: No, I'm not bashing America. I'm just disagreeing with the notion that Americans are so free and Swedes so constricted. That's why this post contains examples of restriction in the US and freedom in Sweden. I'm not being anti America. This post also contains the following things: sarcasm, a touch of satire and rhetorics.

When Americans bash Sweden it's usually about our horrible socialism, our nanny state and our inability to smile or speak without massive quantities of alcohol. Some Americans say they don't feel as free in Sweden as they do in the US.

Hang on. Free to do what, exactly? Free to not have health insurance so that you will be completely and utterly fucked the moment it turns out you're not Superman/Wonderwoman? Free to be completely dependent on your car (since you can't get anywhere without it)? Free to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on college?

My fiance's school tried to force him to live on campus for his freshman year. What the fuck! He's twenty years old and even by American standards considered an adult. Why would his fucking SCHOOL try to decide where he lives?! That's just such a fucking joke.

You're not allowed to drink alcohol outside. Takes the fun out of picnics, to be sure. A passenger in a car can't drink either. Said 20 year old fiance of mine can't legally drink AT ALL. He can get married and drive, but have a glass of wine or a beer? Nope.

The only really bad thing about Swedish socialism in my opinion is the alcohol monopoly. The state controls alcohol, and its stores close at 2 PM on Saturdays. This truly sucks. But nowadays it is easy, cheap and legal to order alcohol online from stores in Germany. Anyway, the monopoly will most probably be gone in a few years.

Apart from that, I've never really felt restricted by the Swedish state. I've been pretty much left on my own since I turned 18. I've never heard of advisors at Swedish universities. Not that there's anything wrong with advisors, hell I wish I'd had one. I'm just saying, we've got as much individual freedom as you guys do, or more. Really. We're not being treated like babies. Yes, there is a safety net enabling us to get sick or hurt without ruining our lives forever, but guess what, the safety net is below us for IF we fall, not over our heads trapping us.

As for the economy and the Swedish shyness, I'll adress that in another post because right now I crave breakfast.

Disclaimer: I don't necessarily think Sweden is "better". My point, for now, is only this: the concept of "freedom fries" is bullshit.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Things American People Like

Having been in this country for over a month now I have been able to study its population in its natural habitat. Without further ado, these are Things American People Like.

  • Doggy bags. Because wasting food is wasting money, and if you have leftovers in your fridge you don't need to cook. Combining frugality with laziness, the REAL American dream!
  • Driving. Americans like their cars. Even if they're just going to the convenience store around the corner. This is a big one.
  • Air freshener. Americans have a thing against... nature. Everything has to be clean and perfect at all times. But they're lazy as well, so why attack the root of the problem when they can just spray some of those nice chemicals all over their home?
  • Ridiculously strong toothpaste. Many brands of toothpaste here contain hydrogen peroxide. The whole nation is pretty obsessed with unnaturally white teeth.
  • Wheelchairs for the ablebodied. At places like Walmart and the mall you will find wheelchairs to borrow. Walking through such a big place is just too damn tiresome. 
  • Meals with a side of boobs. Hooters, Jugs 'n Mugs, and many other restaurant chains tempt customers with their scantily clad waitresses. Waitresses who have boobs.
  • HUGE fucking pizzas. Pizzas that are 17 inches large. Pizzas that need their own little table in restaurants. Pizzas that will turn into leftovers in your fridge and feed you for days on end. 
  • Spending money on weird fitness schemes that are advertised on TV. Does anyone actually buy those? The commercials continue, so someone must. They are probably the same people you see driving around in wheelchairs at Walmart.
  • Mouthwash. Because floss and tooth paste with peroxide simply aren't killing enough germs.
  • Carpet. Stone or wood floors are simply too uncomfortable for Americans' delicate feet, since they never use them for anything else than the gas pedal.
  • Bug spray. So they can fill their houses with even more harmful chemicals. 
  • Hand disinfectant. Americans like their hands to be sterile at all times.
  • Malls. Stores in the streets, are you kidding me!? There's no such thing as pedestrians, so nobody would ever notice a shop in a street. For a store to succeed it needs to have a parking place.
  • Pitchers. Why order a single beer or margarita when you can get a whole pitcher at once? Cheper AND easier. Obviously, you're aiming to get completely hammered. 
  • Decorating. On Halloween, suburban homes more or less turn into haunted houses. It's true, I've seen it. What, jack-o'-lanterns you say? Psssht. REAL Americans have mechanical hissing cats and skeletons hanging from spider webs in their garden.
  • Turning the air conditioner up too much. If you're in the subtropics and you have a restaurant, why not provide your guests with relief from the sweltering heat? While you're at it, make sure to set it to 60 degrees (15 C). That way people won't linger.
  • Overkill packaging. Everything such as gum and candy needs to be individually wrapped. Egg cartons are generally plastic and sometimes they'll have TWO "lids". 
  • Drive through fast food places. Nobody ever goes INTO a McDonald's or a Taco Bell.
  • Service. Unlike us Swedish people who don't want to bother people by demanding they do what they're paid for, Americans have put great customer service down to an art. In a restaurant, someone will bring you refills of water or ice tea before you've even finished your first glass. When an employee passes you in a grocery store, he or she will invariably ask how you're doing and if you need help finding something.
  • Small talk. They're expert at it and they do it everywhere, all the time. Sometimes I wonder if they all secretly already know each other. That's the way it seems when alleged strangers effortlessly strike up a conversation. Maybe it's obligatory to know everyone in your county. I strongly suspect they have secret gatherings where they get to know one another. 
  • Fitted sheets! Sheets that wrap around the mattress and actually stay on until you decide to remove them. Swedish sheets suck. They generally stay in place for about a minute and a half. IKEA may be from Sweden, but we've got nothing on you guys. 
What did I miss?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Interior design shock

At some point in history, US and Sweden went their separate ways in at least one field. That is the field of interior design.

Doors


While door handles are more common in Sweden, here in the States knobs are widely favored. They work just as well, and the generic American door knobs look nicer than their Swedish counterparts. Maybe if we had the really nice, old fashioned swirly kinds of handles.

Vacuum cleaners


Maybe not technically interior design, but close enough. Remember what the vacuums always look like in American movies? They actually are like that in real life too! Unlike the Swedish one, where it's the mouthpiece doing the vacuuming, the American variety's "mouth" is actually located underneath the main body itself. It's hard to reach corners and any surface smaller than the vacuum, but you can always use the hose. It works quite well, apart from being complex enough to fall apart now and then (the big glass thingy in the middle likes to fall out).


Typical American vacuum on the left; ditto Swedish on the right.











Toilets

The American toilet is a completely different animal. To flush a Swedish toilet you push a button (or in some cases pull it upwards) located on the top of the toilet, smack in the middle. American toilets have a lever instead. Now, I don't mind the lever. What I do mind is the water level. It is just too high. Assumably it's high in order to avoid ugly marks, but what about the risk of accidental touching? Maybe that's why Americans are so fond of hand sanitizers.

Also when you flush, the water just swirls. There's no big crazy splash like on Swedish toilets. This is annoying, because that splash helps clean the bowl, and the toilet brush.

Carpet vs tile 


I think this varies a lot between different parts of this country, but here in Florida carpet is pretty popular. That is, a fitted carpet, wall to wall carpeting. Most people I know in Sweden consider that both impractical and ugly. Carpet tends to be light here though, and it actually looks good. It's really comfortable, too, kind of like having a huge bed all over your apartment. It doesn't matter if you don't have a big enough couch when you have people over, they might as well sit on the cozy carpet.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My #1 favorite thing about the U.S.A.

Guess what's the very best thing about this country? It is not the wonderful randomness of the Dollar General store (catering to all of your dry eraser board and harvest decoration needs, for one dollar per item), nor is it the possibility of bagging your leftovers at restaurants and bringing them home. It isn't the good service you get pretty much everywhere, either. Or even the endless stream of fairly amusing television.

We had dinner at T.G.I. Friday's the other night, and I had a cocktail. A really nice one. It was a strawberry daiquiri, served frozen in a big glass. So what, you ask? So it cost me five bucks. With the current low value of the dollar, that equals round about 33.42 SEK.

Still wondering what the big deal is? Well, in Sweden a cocktail tends to run you at least 95 SEK, aka $14.21. If I ever had a cocktail out and about back home (and as we all know, one tends to lead to more) my hangover the next morning would be nothing compared to that of my VISA card.

A bottle of Captain Morgan's rum in Sweden - 239 SEK, or 36.57 USD. Here I can get the same bottle for... wait for it..... *drumroll* ..... $15. That's less than half the price.

A bottle of Beefeater gin in Sweden will cost you 249 kronor - 38.10 dollars. Here? 20 bucks. Of course, you can opt to get a bottle of crappy gin for $10 or less. But I'm not (yet) tacky enough to get liquor that comes in a plastic bottle.

America – where the booze is cheap and the rules on it are strict.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Coffee

Yup, time has come for every Swede's all time favorite complaint about the US. THE COFFEE IS ALL WRONG.


Just look at it. Pebbles. Like it hasn't been through a grinder yet. Coffee is supposed to be really fine. Like cacao powder. I haven't yet encountered cacao here though. That might be screwed up too, in which case the comparison wouldn't make any sense to Americans. How can I describe it instead? 

Coffee is supposed to be ground fine enough to be almost impossible to clean up. If you spill coffee powder and clean it up with a dish cloth, said cloth should not become encumbered by pebbles. It should simply turn black. 

I was prepared to overlook the weird texture, but the flavor... it tastes thin. I don't know any better way to describe it. I'd say it tastes weak, but that doesn't really hit the spot. It's watery. No matter how much coffee powder pebbles I use, it still is. Adding a huge amount of coffee isn't something I'd recommend, by the way. The coffee might be watery, but the caffeine content is still perfectly normal.

I have however succeeded in finding a coffee that's almost completely okay. It's 100 % Arabica, dark roast. And I don't remember the name of it.  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Freak

Today I walked to the grocery store by myself for the first time. I'm starting to feel a little acclimatized, apart from the fact that I still actually remember how to walk, unlike everyone else who seems to be attached by super glue to their car seat. Anyway, off I went to the shop, just like anybody who lives here might.

Now, I long since discovered that going grocery shopping hung over is a bad idea. But I really wanted pancakes for breakfast, so I had to go get pancake mix. Normally I'm way too amazing to use pancake mix, but this morning I wanted to make American pancakes. I haven't yet acquired that skill (Swedish pancakes are basically what Americans would call crêpes). Dollar General didn't have eggs either way.

Being hung over though I didn't only get pancake mix. Among other things I got a big bottle of 100 % lemon juice, a shoe rack and a pretty harvest decoration plant thing. Best of all though, I got this:



A dry eraser board! I was planning on using it for teaching my fiancé Swedish, but it's an absolutely awesome decoration piece. Man, I wish this weren't a rental so we could paint all over the walls. I might end up covering the place in dry eraser boards now. The most awesome invention ever. 

Anyway... what I really wanted to post about was the freak I ran into in the parking lot. Tall half black fellow wearing sunglasses and some kind of hat, and what might have been a suit. Or delirium tremens. 

Guy: How ya doing? 
Me: Good. I wasn't feeling too good carrying my groceries in the sweltering heat, but my autopilot didn't care about getting into that.
Guy: You are a beautiful lady.
Me: Heh, thanks. I'm wearing sunglasses, a ponytail, jeans, the Doors T-shirt I slept in and yesterday's makeup. Plus I'm crouching under the weight of my grocery bags. This guy must be on good drugs.
Guy: Would you like to spend an enjoyable day with an enjoyable man?

The things I would have been capable of telling this dude equal a shorter novel. Like point out all the errors in his style and approach and whole existence, at least on that particular parking lot. Like the foolishness of hitting on anyone before noon. 

 But I just told him I was sorry, but I'd already got one at home. An enjoyable man, that is. I repeated it when he asked "what?", but he still didn't seem to understand what the hell I was talking about. Maybe he'd already forgotten his last sentence.

Characters like that one make my day. And I seem to be like fly paper to them. Is that because I'm a freak, too? Oh well, I don't mind.



Recycling

Or should I say, not recycling. Because that's what everybody seems to be doing here. In the parking lot of our apartment complex, there are two big bins. And you're supposed to put everything in there. Metal, clear glass, colored glass, hard and soft plastic, cardboard, paper.

To my politically correct, uptight Swedish mind, this concept is 1) hard to grasp and 2) shite. I doubt there's a single street in Sweden that doesn't have a little recycling area, or maybe I've just happened to live in particularly self righteous neighborhoods. Anyway – in my life there's always been a place to separate all your trash. One bin for your colored and one for your clear glass; one for your hard and one for your soft plastic; one for cardboard, one for metal and one for paper.

I'm trying to imagine how incredibly inconvenient this would sound to someone who's never had to do it. It must seem like the worst nuisance ever. But really, it's not that bad. At least not when you've done it for as long as you can remember. It's just a matter of having more than one trash can in your house.

I feel so bad - and not in the good way - throwing everything into the same bin. I'm not THAT into the whole green thing - I like to recycle and buy green products, but I'll go on plane rides, I love our car and I'm craving a motorbike, big time. But not recycling? It's like when you catch yourself pressing the toothpaste can against your armpit. Putting your cell into the freezer. Pouring yogurt into your coffee. It's just off. Wrong. Does not compute.

Luckily, the edge of my shameful earth abuser misery was recently taken off by the discovery of recycling facilities at Publix. They consist of three tiny bins. Glass and plastic bottles go into the same one. WTF! Do Americans have a way of making plastic out of glass? Or vice versa? Perhaps it's all for show – perhaps, at the end of the day, these bins just get emptied into the huge anything goes motherf*cker  anyway. Or is that a conspiracy theory?

Friday, October 8, 2010

People talk

Striking up a conversation with a stranger in Sweden is like an urban myth. Widely considered plausible, theoretically it might even be said to be entirely normal, but it never actually happens. Things might be different in the (allegedly existent) extremely remote rural areas, where there's no such thing as a stranger anyway. But if you're in any kind of semblance of a town in Sweden, chances are people do their best to stay in their own nice bubble.

Here, though... it's completely different, even in a decent sized city like this one, of more than 300, 000 inhabitants. Ever seen a movie where characters just randomly meet somewhere like a gas station, start chatting and somehow become friends? Ridiculously unrealistic, right? Well that's what people are like here. You're trapped in an elevator with someone, they go on and on about how they went to the wrong floor. If you go to Walmart, the cashier thanks you for not being on your phone and complains about the rudeness of her last customer. The nice lady sitting next to you at a Bob Dylan concert will inform you that Dylan is a legend (like you didn't know!) and lend you her binoculars.

It's like people here automatically switch on whenever they're in the close proximity of someone else. It's so normal to make small talk to any and everyone.

I am somewhat quiet even by Swedish standards. Here I am basically mute.