Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Since moving to Gothenburg I've generally found the people here to be nice, even noticeably nicer than Skövde's citizens. Skövde people mostly keep to themselves and don't really try to interact or socialize with strangers whatsoever. I have, on several occasions experienced the opposite here in Gothenburg.

Just last week while at the local ICA I had some bottles to turn in to get some store credit (woohoo it's like the 50s in America where you get money for returning bottles/cans) I needed get past this this man with a cart and a small child, who were also returning some bottles. Like a good Swede usually does, I attempted waiting just a bit at first, but that kid was putting in those bottles ultra slowly. Not to mention they had an entire large paper sack full of them. Eventually I ventured to say "Ursäkta mig..." (Excuse me...) to be able to get by, and the man smiled and warmly said "Javisst!" and stepped immediately to the side to let me by. This action very pleasantly surprised me, since I'm still used to the silent/ignoring treatment I usually received during my time in Skövde. Recap of why I was so pleasantly surprised:

1. I was recognized for saying "Excuse me."
2. He was pleasant and smiling.
3. He stepped out of my way immediately!

In the US that interaction wouldn't have even registered in my daily life as something to think about and appreciate, but moving to another country does that to you. Now when I visit the US (all of 2 times since moving here), I always notice at the store and just in public how smiley and friendly people are. Of course there are the ones that are just doing their job and have robotocized it (is that a word?), but there are others who are genuinely friendly. In any case, I appreciated the friendly attitude.

Today, however, I ventured to ICA yet again to pick up some more chow. And, of course, I decided to go right around 5:30pm when everyone else is there just after work and running around like a chicken with its head cut off. )As a side note which is a bit important: at the stores here you can scan your own groceries with a little gun-like thing so that if you have a membership card, you can skip the real line and just check yourself out. Pretty sweet. Of course, they check you randomly to make sure you're not stealing, and then you can be on your merry way.) As I take my time (since I had two full bags and no J to help me with it) at the checkout place, and there are 4 self checkouts, I notice a person just slide in right next to me, clearly invading my personal bubble, to check themselves out. I thought, okay, I was being slow, I get it. But as I leave I see that there was another one completely open. I got pretty irritated that they couldn't wait just 10 seconds for me to gather my stuff and vamoose, especially since there was a different checkout completely open.

So I guess you have to just roll with the punches. One shopping experience is met with an open and friendly Swede (the type of which I'm not yet used to encountering), and the other kind of Swede that pushes and is silent and doesn't say excuse me or even acknowledge your personal existence. I guess I got my hopes up in the few good encounters I've had with friendly, mannerable (is that a word, either?) people here in town, and was brought to abrupt reality at my earlier ICA expedition today.


Meg@SomethingSwedish said...

Love your success, even if it comes hand in hand with an awkward moment or two :)

Jessica said...

Thanks Meg!

Zeta said...

I love hearing other people's ICA stories! Maybe because it's one of the biggest parts of my Swedish experience so far, haha!

Emma said...

I use to say that people are nicer tho more south you are in Sweden. I have lived just outside of Malmö all my life and here we 9 times of 10 says hello to the people you meet even if you doesn't know them. But fall 2010 I begun an education at Halmstad Högskola and here people are not as open. There are a person from Stockholm in my class and according top her the people in Halmstad are much nicer then in Stockholm. =)

Jessica said...

Zeta - glad to be of entertainment! ICA can definitely be an entertaining or irritating place! I read in the paper about how people are slipping and falling on the banana peels that the kids get to eat for free! Kinda funny.

Emma - that's an interesting story! Göteborg definitely is a bit farther south than Skövde. Maybe the closer Swedes get to the "continent" and closer to the rest of the world, the more friendly they are? Haha, maybe there is a new hypothesis!