marshtide: (Mårran)
[personal profile] marshtide
First, a question!

Does anyone have any suggestions for some kind of way of hanging crutches from a wheelchair so that they stick up and no-one has to keep hold of them or worry about them, I don't know, launching a sneak attack on the wheels?

Context: As mentioned, I got a wheelchair yesterday, which is basically the kind where someone else has to push it (driving myself would basically stress my back, and my purpose in getting hold of it was being able to go out and do stuff with Valborg anyway). Today we went on a wild and exciting adventure up to the local supermarket, which basically went great, but we realised: if we're getting shopping/have baggage with us generally and taking the wheelchair then we don't have anywhere to put my crutches, which means I actually walk less than I should.

Specifically, we're going to head to BLYG next month, which is being held south of Stockholm, and for maximum enjoyment I'm probably going to need to have both wheelchair and crutches with me (because it's not good for me to sit all the time, but I can't walk far in a single burst, and especially not without crutches). We're also going to need to take some stuff with us as we're giving a talk.

Next: [personal profile] pulchritude asked: Anything you want to say about things you find interesting about Swedish culture (particularly as a Brit), things you didn't expect, things that you find really different from ~Swedish stereotypes~ would be lovely :)

Which is one of those questions which is SO BIG that I kind of don't know where to start. But since I posted about my impressions as a new arrival last year, it's probably appropriate to take a shot at it! One Year On, etc.

So let's try...

Swedish stereotypes?

There are a whole bunch of stereotypes about Sweden, of which I probably only know a few, and they presumably vary wildly by context and country. Outside of Northern Europe I think a lot of the stereotypes are actually fairly pan-Nordic; inside Northern Europe it's really really confusing.

Re: the pan-Nordic thing, there seems to be a general confusion about which country up here is even which; various relatives find it basically impossible to remember if I've moved to Sweden, Norway or Finland, although they do know it's not Denmark. (I haven't the heart to bring up Åland.)

And sometimes Sweden also gets confused with Switzerland, which is just kind of bizarre. The first two letters of the name are the same. That's basically it.

Anyway, to get your Nordic stereotypes straight: Norway = fish, oil and a sickening fetish for finding new ways to throw themselves down mountains; Finland = alcohol and knives, plus is actually populated by elves; Denmark = really happy (possibly because they're drunk); and Sweden = stuck up their own arses. Way up there.

Unfortunately the last one on the list is, on a political level, probably completely fair. SWEDEN: the would-be guiding moral light of everyone ever. Naturally not hindered by the fact that arms manufacture is a mainstay of the national economy.

(Valborg also notes that according to Finnish stereotypes, Sweden is basically really gay. Or, as she puts it, "remarkably homosexual.")

Images of Sweden range from some kind of liberal utopia with rights for all to a degenerate and immoral socialist or possibly even seekritly communist hell-hole which will bring down civilisation as we know it. The former, in absolute fairness, has been fairly actively promoted as a national image. See: would-be guiding moral light. It's notable that while I know a lot of the problems in Central & Western Europe have received fairly wide discussion internationally a lot of people (this is anecdotal, of course) seem less aware of the tensions in the Nordic countries, particularly centered around a) widespread Islamophobia and b) everyone being arseholes to the Roma. OK, so people talked about that one Danish comic, but this is a bigger problem than a comic.

I don't think that, in relative terms, Sweden is a terrible country. I think Sweden is probably one of the best countries in the world I could be living in right now, on a personal level. I have considerable rights as someone in a lesbian relationship, am able to further shore those up by marrying exactly like a het couple if I want, etc etc. I have also had marvelous experiences so far with the healtcare system: people have listened to me, I haven't had to wait long for help, and there have been a lot of people, even those who didn't really get on with me, who were prepared to do a little extra to make my life easier.

But I'm also extremely aware that this is because I fit into an acceptable model: namely, I am white, I come from the UK, and I can already speak pretty passable Swedish (with an accent which is charming rather than provocative, because, hey, British). You still need a certain level of privilege before people are willing to actually use the laws which exist to your best advantage instead of not really listening to your problems. Laws exist to give rights to a great many groups, and there are a whole bunch of exceptional-circumstances provisions for people who fall outside the usual frame, but if the people sitting at a desk and doing the initial assessment of your case have already switched off then that's going to do you so much good.

Oh, and for the record: yeah, it's Sweden that wishes to speak with Julian Assange wrt sexual assault. No, there is no such crime as "sex by surprise" in Sweden. "Sex by surprise" is rape. Moving on!

To get back to stereotypes, Swedes are said to be, variously: repressed, sex maniacs, extremely shy, stuck up, very informal, obsessed with rules, horrible drunks (especially on holiday, especially in Denmark), suicidal, tall blonde blue-eyed beautiful elves, godless, and possibly ruled by a feminist hive mind. But also crazy rapists. And speakers of an impossible language.

Re language: Swedish is not a difficult language to learn if you are an English speaker. They're fairly closely related and also have a bunch of common influences. If you've heard that it's impossibly difficult you may be confusing it with Finnish, which I assume is not actually impossible either but is probably at least trickier than Swedish, as it's not a member of the language group to which both Swedish and English belong.

Re sex: it probably is easier to talk about sex in Sweden than in the UK, for example. That does not mean that people are actually having more of it. It just means that the UK is more conservative.

Similarly, how much more rape actually goes on in Sweden than in the rest of the world is something I think is pretty questionable, since you can't really get a comparative measure of the percentage of victims who report their rape across different countries. I'M JUST SAYING. I am all angry goddamn feminist over a lot of aspects of the treatment of rape victims in this country. But I'm also sceptical of the idea that this is some kind of specific Swedish or Nordic problem.

Re alcohol: OK, OK, Northern Europe has, collectively speaking, something of a booze problem. And alcohol is more expensive/restricted here than in Denmark. Fill in the blanks. ("Norwegians go to Denmark to get drunk too!" Valborg protests. "Danes just like them more. Because they're so... Norwegian...")

Also, I was kind of surprised when I came to Sweden how un-blonde people are, since a lot of other people have commented specifically on it following visits. I mean, there are blonde people. But at no point did I find myself walking around going, wow, everyone sure is blonde here! It's possibly more noticeable if you come from a place where very few people are blonde, I guess, but from the UK to here? Not that big a leap.

Right, that's long enough already. I'm going to stop now! If I try to tackle the rest of the question right now then everyone will fall asleep. Got any other Swedish stereotypes that you've heard around?
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