Although my profession makes it necessary for me to spend much time abroad - or should I say that it allows me to travel? - Sweden is the place where I feel at home. Perhaps the Swedish culture will seem as odd to the Americans as the American often seems to Swedes. In all likelihood, it will seem even more so, since the Americans aren't fed Swedish soap operas, police serials etc several hours a day. Indeed, Americans are so well protected from European influences that when a European film makes especially high profits in Europe, it is often still not shown in the US; instead, an American version based on the same script is made. We Swedes, on the other hand, have seen thousands of American police cars fly through the air and land upside down, countless heroes and crooks die gracefully after being shot in the stomach, and the sillier among us often dress in sports shoes, baseball caps and ill-fitting trousers after American fashion.
It is therefore a bit difficult to decide what information on Sweden to present here. As things stand right now, I have not written any material of my own on the subject. I'm partial, anyway: I think that Sweden has a more pleasant climate than Florida, I don't think private persons should have the right to keep and bear firearms, and I prefer blood pudding with cowberry jam to peanut butter sandwiches. So instead of writing a presentation of Sweden, I think I'll just offer some links to sites that I believe have something to tell about the country.
I don't know if you usually believe what the CIA says, but here is their condensed description of Sweden. It seems to me that they got most of the facts right.
Read the news in Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's biggest daily paper.
Or choose any other Nordic paper to read.
If that isn't enough, hear the official news broadcast!
Or check Text-TV.
This dictionary helps you translate between Swedish and English.
You may also want to study the art of cursing in Swedish.
Projekt Runeberg, named after a controversial poet, has made admirable work in making classic Nordic texts available on the Net.
Go on a guided tour through Uppsala, the old Swedish capital. Highly recommended!
Here is another fine collection of Uppsala pictures.
See BMC, the research facility where I did my doctoral work.
If you have Apple's Quicktime VR, you can experience Virtual Eskilstuna. If not, you may download the necessary system components at the same site.
Read in Eskilstuna-Kuriren about kittens rescued from trees!
An alternative, smaller paper is Södermanlands Nyheter.
More of a technical experiment, actually... A minimal picture show with scenes from Sweden. All genuinely hand-made HTML, since the helper programs presently available to me here in America don't support frames. With time, I may add a whole lot of pictures, but for the time being, take a look at the Small Swedish Slide Show.
Life is tough, said the farmer. Oink! said the pig.
Tomas Winbladh, engineer.
Anders I. Eriksson, rocket scientist.
Janne Wallenius, nuclear physicist.
Johan Anglemark, word transmogrifier.
Daniel Sochor, hi-tech jack-of-all-trades.
These people have links to loads of very interesting pages. Unfortunately Mr. Winbladh's politico-philosophical links are under reconstruction, but I recommend Dr. Wallenius copy (in Swedish) of an ancient dissertation on the nature of the moon.
Before the advent of Christianity to Scandinavia, the Swedes honored
ancient gods that demanded from their worshippers neither the oriental
flattery, nor the ritual humiliation that is so characteristic of Christian
services. Religion is delusion, but this religion is a less harmful delusion
than the great monoteistic religions, such as the Christian, Moslem and
Jewish religions, which tend to take themselves far too seriously. The
Æsir religion, on the other hand, contains a good deal of humour.
If you, like so many people around the world seem to do, feel the need of a religious outlook at the world, do consider the Æsir religion as an alternative! Never mind if you don't really believe in the Æsir gods; it never was a requirement in this religion that you actually believed, only that you acted honourably. And you'll be less of a pain in the ass to your friends than if you go around taking the Bible seriously. Not to mention that you get to drink beer in Heaven! ;-)
To begin with, choose some introductory reading from the selection made by Yahoo, or an impressive private collection of viking-related links. Browse these for a few days and you will learn something. Then the best thing would be to learn a Scandinavian language really well (Icelandic would be the superior choice, but Swedish, Norwegian or Danish also help) and read the historical texts, some of which can be found at Projekt Runeberg. There are also English translations, but those excerpts that I have read seem to lack some of the depth of the Swedish translation, which in turn is inferior to the Icelandic. Especially if you read the texts in English, a commented edition would be recommended, since in particular the older Edda was intentionally made obscure; the use of elaborate metaphor was regarded as a necessary element in good poetry, and much cross-reference is made to other parts of the mythos, some of which are now lost.
Finally, I warmly recommend the Encyclopaedia Mythica section on Norse mythology to those who are confused by the number of and relations between gods, giants, dwarves, beasts and animated items in the mythos, not to mention their many names and guises. (Scholars are often also confused on these matters.) To know the names and genealogy will in itself take you nowhere, but it is a most useful site for quick reference.
So now I wrote a presentation after all, despite what I said above. Well, I contradict myself.
Finally, I'll let some Americans express their impressions of Sweden. Not American tourists, who probably don't stay long enough to get much of an opinion, but a group of people who meet lots of Swedes from all parts of society: The Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints to be formal. They seem to be expected to serve as door-to-door missionaries abroad in their youth. As such, they are, in my opinion, slightly more likable than the Jehova's Witnesses, but still not my favourite kind of visitor. A few of them have collected their impressions on a page called Things That Are Different in Sweden. I am surprised that, after having so many doors slammed shut in their faces, they still write rather kindly of us.
And I emphatically agree: Root beer does taste like toothpaste to us Swedes. That, at least, was the spontaneous, unanimous opinion of three of us who tasted it for the first time in Miami.
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