Saturday, June 01, 2002

It's time for another in-depth Swedish lesson - this one in the form of a test.

7. Swedish attitudes about Americans. Although it seems unfair to generalize about the attitudes of all Swedes, I don't care. I work with them, live side-by-side with them, hell, I'm married to one, so I like to think I know a bit or two about what Swedes think about Americans. (For the sake of brevity, I'm using the term "American" to refer to citizens of the United States. My apologies to all those Canadians, Mexicans, Brazilians and other residents of North and South America out there.)

Leave your answers in the comments so everyone can see. Oh, and this is an open book test.

a. Swedes themselves are humble people and while they do have opinions about Americans, they assume that Americans don't give a damn about the opinion of the people of a sparsely populated country with an obscure language. Swedes agree that Americans are notorious for being a bit isolationist and not caring what anyone thinks of them. But in fact, we Americans have a terrible inferiority complex when it comes to Europe. We have no royalty, we have no roots, we have no class. We do care what Europe thinks, and it hurts our feelings.

Do Americans feel lacking somehow when it comes to Europe, true or false? (Yeah I know, this question is about American attitudes. Gotcha!)

b. Swedes are completely confused by Americans' attitudes toward guns. "I read that a governor was trying to pass a law that allowed people to buy one semi-automatic weapon a month!" a friend said to me once. I regretted to inform her that the law in question was in fact a gun control measure trying to lower the current limit.

Do Swedes believe that everyone owns a gun in America, true or false?

c. Swedes are horrified that America still has capital punishment. "No country in Europe has capital punishment anymore. Isn't that against the Geneva Convention or something?" they ask.

Do Swedes believe that Americans are barbaric on account of their support for the death penalty, true or false?

d. Swedes believe in a concept called lagom, which is usually translated as the middle way. It basically means everything in moderation or doing things just enough, but not too much. Swedes also travel extensively, and almost everyone I know has been to America, and they always comment about how Americans do everything in excess. For instance, they think the portions of food served in restaurants is definitely not lagom, but way over the top. "No wonder people are overweight," they say.

Do Swedes believe that almost everyone in America is fat, true or false?

e. Despite their criticisms of America, Swedes are somewhat unique in Europe in that they don't have love-hate feelings toward America. It takes no scratching below the surface to determine if they like the place, they are in fact quite open and unambivalent about it. "It's a great country," they say.

Do Swedes devour American culture with avidity, albeit not without some picking and choosing, true or false?

- brought to you by Francis S.

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