Ten things about Gothenburg at first glance
I say ten things without any adjective because I can’t think of ten weird things or ten amazing things or ten stupid things, but I can definitely think of ten things.
I’ve only been here three days, so there might be some inaccuracies here. I’ll try to avoid outright lying if possible.
- Heaps of stuff comes in tubes. One of these things is something called kaviar. It isn’t actually really kaviar. About 53% is actual fish eggs and the rest is a combination of potato flakes, salt, sugar, oil and other crazy stuff. Felix kindly (he had great intentions) made me a breakfast yesterday of boiled egg on hard bread with kaviar on top. I didn’t actually have a problem with the flavour; I think I just found it hard to stomach as a breakfast food.
- There are ticket machines everywhere. Not like parking metres or tram ticket machines, but those number taking ones you see at the deli back in Australia. But they’re in department stores and camera shops and probably even some people’s houses. I guess it says something about the ideal of orderliness that seems to be a high priority in Sweden.
- The water tastes amazing! I’m just talking about the tap water, I haven’t had a bottle here, but it’s really, really good. It actually tastes delicious. Like I imagine a waterfall in the South Pole to taste. Not as cold, but you get the picture. After having been in Italy and Germany where the water is hard with minerals and some sort of chalky substance, it’s a welcome change to be able to fill a glass at the sink and not have to hold my nose to drink it.
- It is as expensive or perhaps even moreso than Australia. I don’t think that would surprise many people but, in his bid to convince me to move halfway round the world to a country I’ve never been to, he may have accidentally forgotten how much stuff costs. Then again, the shitty exchange rate for Australians right now isn’t helping one iota. A beer in a pub is roughly the same, at about $5AUD, groceries are pretty much the same, coffee is almost $4AUD in most places and petrol is about 25cAUD more expensive. It’s not a big deal but, after Eastern Europe, it’s a little sad.
- Everything is beautiful. I’m sure you’ve heard about the whole Scandinavian interior design thing. Less is more and if your home is lovely you’ll feel better in yourself and it’s so cold you have to have pretty things everywhere or you’ll go mad, and all those other cliches. It’s really a thing. A disclaimer for a moment here: I haven’t been in terribly many homes or offices but, those I have seen have just blown me away. Flowers on every surface, fuzzy rugs, interesting light fittings, colour coordination, actual design-y wallpaper, wooden coathangers, indoor plants, herb collections, candles everywhere, you name it.
- People are pretty honest and straightforward. I am well aware that the only people I’ve met are either related to Felix or are very good friends with him. I therefore have no real basis on which to make this statement but it strikes me that everyone I’ve met has been excellent at expressing their feelings. If Felix is anything to go by – and perhaps he’s not, considering everyone keeps telling me he is one of a kind and the most amazing person in the world, of course – then it explains how Sweden managed to get the label of “best most pure and functional country ever”.
- There are lots of people begging here. Unlike beggars in other big (or, in this case, biggish) cities, they all stay in the same place to beg each day and seem to also sleep there. I don’t know why they’re there, because Sweden’s welfare system seems to be amazing. Another disclaimer: I’m not in the least bit trying to say they’re there because they want to be, merely that I legitimately don’t understand the system very well at this point. People seem to look at them and smile, but few donate. Although there doesn’t seem to be the same aggression or indifference shown to the homeless of Gothenburg that there is to those of Berlin or Sydney, it’s clearly a big problem. Felix says it’s gotten far worse since he left.
- In spite of just having mentioned the large numbers of visible homeless people, I’ve noticed most others seem to have a decent standard of living. There are suburbs outside the city that I haven’t seen at all and that I couldn’t possibly comment on, except to say that Felix has told me they’re not really that nice and that most people live there, but those who live in or near the city centre seem to have beautiful apartments with balconies and bright windows and lifts and all sorts of stuff. People smile at each other in the streets and do a lot of yelling “hej! hur mår du?” across the road to acquaintances.
- The English speaking here is incredible. Considering it’s everyone’s second (or third) language, the English here is amazing. I could literally live here for the rest of my life without learning to speak Swedish. Sure, it’s not on any packaging or many signs, but everyone speaks enough to get by. Of course, I will learn Swedish because I am dedicated and on a mission, but it will be hard.
- On the same topic, everyone here is familiar with and in love with the part in Crocodile Dundee (which I’ll admit right now I haven’t seen) where Sue Charlton is scared of someone because they have a knife. Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee then chuckles and says the super famous and apparently exhilarating line: “That’s not a knife,” pulls out a huge bowie knife and continues, “THAT’S a knife!” It seems the reason for the Swedes’ love of this phrase is its ability to show off the Australian accent quickly and efficiently.
I’m absolutely loving it.