Robin Bell Books
How Swede It Is

Here are just one of the anecdotes from my book "How Swede It Is." There are thirty more in the book...

An Aussie in Sweden

Sure there are big differences between living in Australia and Sweden. Nobody would dispute that. Think of the climate and the language for starters. But it's the little things that get me every time. Like the way front doors open outwards in Sweden, rather than inwards as in Australia. That's probably why Sweden has such a good health system, to care for the sprained wrists of all the Aussies who push rather than pull to open a door.

In Australia, I lived on a remote property and posting a letter involved a round trip of around 70 kilometers (45 miles) over unsealed roads to the nearest post office. Once at the post office I could be guaranteed a cup of coffee and a half-hour chat with Pat the postie. Now I go into a post office in Sweden (if I can find one that hasn't been relocated inside a local supermarket) and the first thing to do is take a numbered ticket. Then wait for my number to come up over one of the counters. It's the same at the bank. At the labour exchange. In fact, any official or government establishment. All very efficient, I'm sure. But I do miss those chats and cups of coffee with Pat.

During those 70 kilometers of unsealed roads in Australia I would see warning signs to watch out for kangaroos or wombats. Now I have to be careful of a moose stepping out from the forest. A kangaroo can have a bad effect on a car, for sure, but running into a full size moose has been compared to hitting a small elephant. So I am particularly careful driving in Sweden.

I grew tired of watching programs on commercial television in Australia, because of the constant intrusions of advertising breaks. The government television stations in Sweden have succeeded in confusing me more. There are two non-commercial stations available here where I live. Midway through a program on SVT2 the screen will suddenly fade out. "This program will now continue on SVT1" says the caption. Perhaps a half-hour later, it's time to change back to SVT2 for the last segment...

Friends here in Sweden wondered why I was worried when they told me that there could be snakes in the forest. Until I explained that a snake back on the farm in Australia could be a six foot long red-bellied black snake, a brown snake or any one of several other potentially fatal species. Now those are snakes.

For breakfast in Australia I would maybe have porridge. With milk and maybe a little sugar. Here we eat porridge and ham. Or with lingonberry jam (which comes in a plastic tube, like a sausage).

So once I've got used to these little things, maybe I can remember to drive on the right side of the road, learn the language and acclimatize to the thirty degrees below zero Christmas weather

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