Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jag lärde mig engelska från TV

The Swedes speak excellent English. Occasionally you might run into someone who has a really limited ability but they are few and far between. I had always assumed they learned it in school. But that still left me wondering how they got so fluent.

The answer I always get is - television. Swedish TV, like most other foreign countries, is many times bought from the American market. However, what is different, unlike other countries, they do not overdub the voices in Swedish. They leave the original audio and have Swedish subtitles.

That, mixed with the English they do learn in their studies, makes them have incredible fluency with the language. Typically they can move in and out of languages with ease. Signs and advertisements are commonly in English to the point where there has been some talk at the legislative level of limiting the amount of English used in that capacity.

I have also learned a few things about the Swedish dialects. Some Swedes, when you speak with them, will do a sort of, unnerving at first, "sharp intake of air" (as it is described). Almost the noise you might make when you see someone get hurt or watch something unpleasant. Typically, it is a gesture of agreement. A strange sort of "yes, aha, I see".

Some Swedes tell me this is a red neck trait. Which is funny because many of the people I hear do it are not anywhere in the realm of red-neckdom. I have noticed, though, someone may not do it when you initially speak to them but as they grow more comfortable with you it will begin to assert itself into the conversation.

I have also noticed it is habit forming. Sometimes, I must admit, my kids and I imitate it and it takes us a while to stop.

Additionally, I have learned that the more desirable accent to have is what has been described to me as a more southernly accent. I should preface this by saying I find Swedish to be a nice sounding language for the most part. Except for this accent. It is a throaty, maybe Pee Wee Herman sounding...oh, I'd go so far as to say Julia Child's sounding kind of thing. It is really not attractive. I am told it is some remnant of Danish which travelled northward and into the Swedish language.

I am still learning Swedish, at a snails pace because the urgency is not there. When I lived in Bremen, you either asked for it in German or you did not get it. Sink or swim language training, more efficient than Rosetta Stone.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Sun Always Shines on TV, When it's Working.

My cable is out. It went out last Tuesday, the fourth. Initially, it was the internet and the TV but now it appears to only be the TV. Let me preface this by saying it was just a short time ago brought to my attention that the cable company recently went into private ownership and was previously a state run entity. With that knowledge, I went into this with low expectations. I was not disappointed.

First call to the cable company on Wednesday where I explained that my cable was out for both TV and the internet. I went through the obligatory restarting and re-plugging to no avail. The technician scheduled a maintenance call for sometime in the next few days.

I wait until Monday, I call back and ask if my maintenance call is still scheduled after receiving a vague email that they had tried to call me and, no worries, they could see everything was working fine. The guy on the phone could not find a technician scheduled for me. I guess because it had been cancelled by whomever emailed me to tell me, "no worries, everything is good".

This time the technician tells me he will schedule a time to come out and that they will call first to get my door codes. Why suddenly a time has to be scheduled, I have not a clue. Yet, another phantom phone call. The date they can come is not until the 22nd. That was ten days away. For real? I tried to explain it was unreasonable to wait what would amount to three weeks to have my stuff fixed. It fell on deaf ears. It was the way it was. Ten days.

I asked to speak to a supervisor. There was none, you had to email. I sent an email. Crickets. Ah, state run enterpises -- the gift that keeps giving. Sort of like Jason, you think it's been killed dead but the mentality lives on.

Miraculously, the internet is back up. The TV, not so much. I don't really watch TV so it's not much of a big deal other than the principle. Except those 6 hours of The Hills I caught on the local channels last Sunday. Ugh, that Spencer...he is so diabolical.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Deadly Swedish Roof Tops

Seek and you shall find. Answers to your queries, that is. Icy Swedish rooftops could be deadly

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snowy Cultural Nuances

Interesting that they do not shovel snow off the sidewalks in Stockholm when it snows. It has been snowing here for weeks I presume. It was snowing before I left for the states and the snow was still going strong upon my return. Sure, with lapses in between but the temperature has been below freezing the whole time which has allowed for the accumulation a of fair amount of snow. Not shoveling the sidewalks has left mini-icebergs of varying heights all over the sidewalks, some five or six inches high.

I guess the lack of ambulance chasers will leave the business owners a little more ambivalent about the idea of someone breaking their necks outside of their establishments but even and still, just shovel the 10 foot by 6 foot area outside of your store, already. I contrast that with my German neighbors whom I would routinely catch with buckets full of bleach water and scrub brushes scrubbing off their front steps. So, yeah, I couldn't picture them allowing ice, sand, snow and cigarettes accumulating at their stoops. Sometimes living in a litigious society has it's benefits.

Even stranger, I keep seeing people shoveling snow off the roof tops. I was walking along yesterday as an avalanche of powdery white snow came flying off the roof ahead of me. Later that day I saw the same scene coming from the roof of a different building. A middle aged Swedish dad had stopped with his two toddlers to witness the spectacle. I stopped and asked just why they were shoveling snow off the roof tops. I thought it unusual that they'd go to all the trouble to shove it from the roof tops as it accumulates on the streets below. His response was that it clogged the drain pipes. Further proof that you do indeed learn something new everyday.

Knowing a little more about the snowy weather than I would ever care to have to recollect, I do know salt is by far the best antidote for road or walkway slipperiness after a snowfall. The dirt thing, not so much. I gather it is some environmental concern why they do not use salt though I can not really say for sure. Why use what works seems to be the mantra of policy makers in modern times.

Although, the oddest thing I have seen relating to the snowy weather was walking into the entrance of the grocery store yesterday. It's a rather large store with a large brick face opening to an industrial sort of building. I believe it used to be an old train station. As I walked up the ramp to the entrance I noticed, strangely, no snow or ice but water and hot steam simmering up from the ground. I looked up to see boiling hot water streaming down from above the entrance way. I don't mean misters or some organized method of dispersing water I mean water haphazardly flying out of some sort of hose and lots of it.

I looked around thinking clearly something was wrong. A pipe had burst...something. I peeked in; the store appeared open. I carefully maneuvered my way in through the about seven inches of clear area through the hot shower coming from above. Pools of hot water lay in the walkway. About an hour later, I came out through the same small dry space, water still raging from above. I guess you just have to file this one under "shit you just can not make up". I will also file it under reasons why it's a good thing we'll never be as cultured and civilized as the Europeans. (;