Have you ever finished something but had no idea why you started it in the first place?
I’ve never had long hair before. Well that’s not technically true, when I was 18 I grew a disastrous set of ‘curtains’ which I maintain were popular at the time but would probably be best described generously as comically bad (for those not family with this crime against hair, it basically involved growing one’s hair and then parting it down the middle). Thankfully only one photograph remains and much like Dorian Grey I keep that locked up in a purpose built vault in an undisclosed location. Not in an effort to retain the poisoned chalice of eternal youth you understand, but rather to remind myself that some fashion trends, if indeed that is what it was, are best left to spotty faced, mid-90s boybands.
I digress. Basically I now have very long hair but am struggling to remember why, an inherent problem of completing a task which takes the best part of 2 years and requires zero effort other than not going for a haircut… have that marathon runners/Everest climbers/English channel swimmers!
Despite the lack of specifics, I do know it was all part of a vague plan to fully integrate into Swedish culture where a beard, long hair and inevitable top knot are a rite of passage for the average male Swede and not quite the novelty/preserve of hipsters it is elsewhere in the World. But having now completed the task I’m not entirely sure what to do next.
Well there is one, rather unexpected, next natural step. You see I didn’t entirely think through this ‘social experiment’ and have encountered an unforeseen challenge which in hindsight I should have realised would at some point present itself. In conclusion, my efforts to fully integrate by mirroring the appearance of the average male Swede and thus conduct what we call in my job some ethnographic research (i.e. undetected monitoring), has been too successful. There is no way round this, I simply now look too Swedish.
Nothing wrong with that dear reader, I’m a big fan of the Swedes, but it does create something of ongoing communication issues when you live, you know, in Sweden. Whereas when I first moved here conversations would inevitably open in English – which as you know by now every Swede speaks fluently – instead now the locals just launch straight into Swedish (crazy I know!), which as regular readers will be aware I’ve disgracefully made zero efforts to learn. Cue constant embarrassment as I repeat the same line over and over again: ‘I’m sorry, I don’t speak Swedish’ – which is then always met with the same following wordless exchange:
Every Swede Ever: Raised eyebrow
Meaning: ‘Are you sure, because you look really Swedish’?
Me to Every Swede Ever: Avoiding eye contact and lowering head
Meaning: ‘I know. It’s a disgrace. Despite spending almost two years in your beautiful country I have made no efforts to learn even the basics of the language beyond being able to say hello and thank you. The hair, which has lead you to your conclusion that I am infact Swedish, was grown as part of a ‘social experiment’ for a blog I write about living in Sweden, and even then I’m not entirely sure why I did it. And yes at this exact moment in time I too would agree that my time might have been better spent learning the language seeing as, you know, I live here and all that.’
Which trust me, is a lot to communicate with a head lowering!
Getting the ‘Swedish look’ has led to both favourable comparisons, see Kurt Russel in seminal horror The Thing … to the not so favourable, see Crispin Glover (aka George McFly from Back to the future) as he is now. Still it did at least provide endless hours of entertainment for our friends’ children during a recent family holiday to Gotland.
Few things in life are as capable of giving you a heart attack as quickly or as regularly as a child. They live for it. Indeed if you were an alien from another planet you may well come to the conclusion that the Governments of the world encourage their citizens to have children as a way of keeping the size of the adult population in check. I reckon that Rosalyn has already taken a good 6 months off the end of my life via her love of placing herself in consistent heart-stopping moments, the most common of which result directly from her new found ability to walk.
Ah yes walking, which most of us are fortunate enough to take for granted is, I’m assured, an extremely complex mechanical process requiring a combination of joints and muscles moving in perfect sync. Unfortunately to achieve this children have to pass through a never ending series of both near misses and flat out face plants. It is the greatest of all the, ‘I can’t wait till they can do that’ moments, which are instantly followed by, ‘what the hell was I thinking? She is literally going to kill herself. Just sit on the carpet for 5 minutes!’
What’s most surprising though is how quickly kids go from crawling, to standing, to couch surfing, to their first steps and eventually dancing to the TV.
Is it wrong that a one year old has better moves than her dad?
I get asked a lot what aside from writing this blog and more recently living the ‘latte papa’ lifestyle, I’ve actually been doing in Sweden since I moved over here. Well whilst I don’t want to go into too much detail – not in a I’d have to kill you type way rather because you’d find it excruciatingly dull – I’ve just come off a quite intense 10 month freelance project working out of the Swedish office of the London company I worked for before moving to Sweden.
Regular readers will note this coincided with a dramatic fall in the number of blog posts over the summer. Well the two things were indeed related but at the risk of going back on my promise not to bore you (‘oh don’t worry Fraser, you are brilliant at that already!’) I won’t go into much detail other than to say it was quite an intense time … and lets just leave it at that.
Anyway, working out of a Swedish office has given me the opportunity to make some interesting observations about working in Swedish compared to the UK. The first thing I’d probably say is that compared to some offices I’ve worked in, you tend to get treated more like an adult in Sweden – Have an errand you need to go run? No problem. Need to pick up the kids from nursery? Go for it. Make more sense for you to work from home this week? Cool. Generally there is an attitude of doing what works best for you to get the job done. Obviously that concept is nominally starting to be introduced in the UK, but it feels a long way behind Sweden in this regard.
The team in Sweden actually won a project with Haribo at the start of the summer, who to celebrate sent a ‘few boxes’ to the office. As a self-confessed sugar addict this this was somewhat of a mixed blessing as this random shot of my desk in January shows,
I’d even taken to eating with a fork to cut down consumption.
One further bonus of working was that occasionally Alex would pick me up from the office during the summer. Now because of where we live, the quickest way home means going via The Kings Palace. And when I say ‘via’ I mean literally driving up the road leading to the palace and past the front door… which is the equivalent of driving up The Mall and swinging past Buckingham Palace every night. The random Swedish experience continues.
They have these little trollies in the supermarket near our flat. What started out as quite cute has evolved into us no longer going to the supermarket as she obviously now only wants to push the trolley round which can add a good hour to the simple act of picking up a pint of milk and loaf of bread.
Pic of the Week
Left on the road outside my office. Initially I found this rather concerning and had I been in the UK would have been checking the local news for stories of armed bank robberies in the local area. But then I remembered where I was and thought, ‘oh man someone’s going to regret losing their balaclava when the weather turns’. Sweden will do that to you.
Track of the Month
Haircut 100 – Love Plus One,