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Friday, November 15, 2013

Observing Sweden - Americans Part 1


Americans are popular on Swedish television. We are fun to watch. There’s a group of us on one of the most popular reality shows, Allt För Sverige. The contestants have come to Sweden to discover their roots. One of them is eliminated each week. The one left standing will get to spend some days with whatever relatives the program’s researchers can dig up . . . often literally. There are no lies or plots, like on Survivors. They weep and shed tears of grief over the sufferings of discovered ancestors. 

           “Your great grandfather, Gustav Johansson, had only a scrawny pet moose, and a turnip patch. Then the Russians came and  things got worse . . .”

            Contestants are friendly, and polite . . . when on camera. There have been rumors they don’t get along that well between shows. Each week the players are guided though a bit of Swedish history and scenery, a picturesque travelogue in ninety percent English, designed for a Swedish audience. I doubt it will get much play elsewhere, but who knows. The Americans are fascinated by anything over a hundred years old. They have wooden sheds here older than a hundred years, still good as new . . . rock solid, hewn logs, painted Red. Americans would have torn ‘em down years ago, built something better, newer, with less emphasis on permanence.


            Last week’s episode took the contestants to a Swedish Independence day celebration, June 6th. The end of Danish rule . . . a national holiday. Some Swedes say it should not be one, but they probably compromised, thinking a day off, is a day off. They are a practicable people. The Independence Day they televised was modest. A parade with maybe thirty in the band. The band was the parade. A small town, small crowd watching, some in costume. Followers may remember a previous blog, a centennial celebration at Säter.

            They seem to like us here. You see American flags on backs of jackets, purses, sweat shirts, pillows, shoes and key chains. The second most popular show here is, “Swedish Hollywood Wives,” totally worthless, weekly, TV trash that somehow to addicts people. Victims agree it’s trash, and are embarrassed to admit they watch, but can’t stop watching. I kicked the habit after four episodes. 

           The show uses ninety percent Swedish dialog, with a typical sprinkling of English. There are a multitude of much used English words, and phrases invariably threaded though any conversation here. Words like: okay, sure, toast, tree huggers, mail, and spam, whatever, just to name a few.  I’ve been lucky having English as my native tongue, but Swedish kids learn English in grade school, and maybe a little German. A world class advantage.

            Mass media has made easy for Swedes to learn English, almost a necessity. The best movies, and half the TV shows here are in English . . . most of the good stuff. If you don’t understand English you’re going to miss a lot. I desperately want to learn Swedish. I can’t read magazines, browse through bookstores, or read labels. Is this Viagra or a sleeping pill?  I'm trying to learn; it is not going well. After nine months I have a twenty word vocabulary, and still have trouble with some of the sounds.

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