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.