Here’s a sampling of what’s on the national news websites in Sweden tonight, as voting is underway in the United States.
From Dagens Nyheter (“The Daily News”)
Headline: Obama or Romney? – now the question is decided
“Polling is in high gear, campaign workers are sprinting and the presidential candidates are making lightning-fast visits to as many states as possible … it’s Election Day. Some people say Obama will safely remain, while many others say that the outcome is quite uncertain. DN.se has continuous reporting.”
From Svenska Dagbladet a.k.a. SvD (“Swedish Daily Paper”)
Headline: Follow SvD’s election coverage – all day
“The score between the candidates, the final sprint and unexpected happenings – Svenska Dagbladet’s reporters report all day.”
On the righthand side there is a box where you can “ask a question” of one of the reporters they have covering the election in Washington, Chicago and here in Stockholm.
The latest report says that voters are now at the polls in Arlington, Virginia. It mentions that Arlington neighbors Washington, DC, and is home to Arlington National Cemetery where many soldiers are buried, “the brothers John F. and Robert Kennedy and boxer Joe Louis.”
From Dagens Nyheter
Headline: How the US election is determined
“How many Electoral votes each state has.”
I really enjoy this graphical representation of the Electoral Map. The geography of the country doesn’t matter as much to Swedes, so it is graphically less important than the number of Electoral votes.
You can probably figure out the rest… “Safe win for Obama” is solid blue, “Leaning toward Obama” is shaded blue, et cetera. In grey are the “scale master states,” that is, the states that can tip the scale in either direction.
From SVT (Swedish Television, state-run public television network)
Headline: Right now: Romney has landed in Ohio
“SVT.se is reporting minute by minute: Voting is underway in the US. Mitt Romney and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan are continuing their campaign.”
The smaller headlines under the photos at the bottom are, left to right:
Follow the election on SVT! (Reporter Claes Elfsberg is pictured; “Ask the experts about the election!”)
“The Boss is important” (Bruce Springsteen is pictured with Obama; “Economists say vote for Obama”)
How the election is decided (“The important states; All swing states; If the election ends undecided…?”)
TV: The world on the election (SVT’s correspondents are reporting opinions from around the world; “Obama perfume in Kenya”) Yep, that what it says!
It’s beginning to get cold in Sweden. The first snow of the season, however fleeting, already happened a couple weeks ago.
Earlier this month, daylight hours in Stockholm passed below the 50/50 point. We are now at 10 hours of daylight and 14 hours of darkness.
I’m actually being very generous by using the term “daylight hours.” We haven’t truly seen rays of direct sunshine in a number of days. I don’t even know what that number is. A week, two weeks? Who knows? If the sun isn’t shining where I am then it feels like it’s not shining anywhere.
I’ve been told by reliable sources that such a change in the weather happens every year around this time. What seems like the retreating of the sun is nothing to be alarmed about.
Scientists say the sun is actually just fine and shining as brightly as ever, we just can’t see it directly from here. Experts say it’s not just the weather, but a further problem which lies in how our planet rotates and tilts.
While places closer to the Equator are drenched in year-round sunshine and suffer no real differences in the length of their days, place like Sweden which are much farther away from this center line get a real variety depending on the season.
The converging events of cold and darkness have brought me back to an important resolution I make every year when it starts getting cold. This year will be one more in a series of winters I have embarked into with this simple pledge: “This winter I refuse to be cold.”
If this resolution means I don’t leave the house wearing less than three shirts, two sweaters, long underwear, two pairs of socks, a coat, a scarf, a hat and special gloves, so be it.
Freezing in the cold is fully preventable and I see no reason to suffer through the chilling discomfort. It is simply not worth the pain if it can be avoided.
So if it’s snowing in October and there are already 14 hours of darkness every day, that presents a relevant question: Just how far north is Stockholm?
I’ve often wondered exactly how far north a lot of places in Europe are compared to places in the United States. For instance, is Berlin farther north than New York?
To answer these terribly important, pressing questions, I have prepared the chart on the right side of this page.
Each degree of latitude on the globe is a space of 60 nautical miles or 69 statue miles. That equates to about 111 kilometers.
In the chart, I’ve highlighted where I am now in Stockholm, my hometown of Louisville and other cities of interest around the world.
It turns out that Stockholm is nearly 1,400 miles (2,250 km) north of Louisville. If Stockholm were in North America, it’s position would be very far north into Canada or Alaska. It is farther north than the Aleutian Islands, but not quite up where Anchorage is.
If Louisville were in Europe, it would be in Spain, south of Madrid.
Though some people in America consider Louisville to be a Southern city, most would never say Washington, DC, is a part of The South. The space between DC’s latitude at 38.8° and Louisville’s at 38.25°, is a difference of only about 38 miles.
It’s true that both cities are, in fact, south of the Mason-Dixon line which places them in the area that has traditionally been considered The South, but again, both cities are barely south of that line.
St. Louis, Missouri, another city not typically considered southern, is on a line between Louisville and Washington at 38.6° latitude. St. Louis lies only about 24 miles (39 km) north of Louisville.
I recently ran into a girl in Stockholm who was from Mississippi. Hard to believe, right? I felt like she had me beat on the surprise factor. Being from Mississippi and stomping around Sweden made being from Kentucky seem a little less surprising.
When she asked where I was from and I said, “Kentucky,” she quipped, “Oh, the Fake South?” Ha! “Thank you very much,” I said.
We congratulated each other apparently in the same way a lot of people have congratulated us individually throughout our lives, “You don’t sound like you’re from Mississippi.” “Well, you don’t sound like you’re from Kentucky.” Of course, we are both from cities which made it easier, but for both of us, avoiding a southern accent was a conscious choice and we opted for the non-regional American dialect.
The “Fake South?” What a nice thing to say about Kentucky!
My friend Johanna is writing an article about my decision to move – and the accompanying adventure – for Sweden’s biggest printing and graphics magazine. That’s pretty exciting. It will be published in May in Aktuell Grafisk Information.
Over the past week or so she gave me the third-degree through an interview and getting my pictures taken for it. I’m used to being on the other side of the interview.
While trying to come up with some illustrations to go along with the article, I made some charts and lists. I don’t know if any of them will actually be in the article, so I thought I’d post them here so if they don’t get used they won’t go to waste.
I made Top Five lists of my observations about what I love and don’t love about Sweden, as well as what I miss and don’t miss about America. The charts that go with them are kind of the same ideas.
I added the parts in italics to explain a little bit here, so the italicized parts are just for you.
For example: Djungelvrål is very salty licorice candy that Swedish people are crazy about. It’s impossible to eat without making a face, but wholly different than Sour Patch Kids, if you can imagine. Knäckebröd is very thin, hard bread that would be like a cracker, except it’s not salty and it is bread size or bigger. Before I moved here, one of the Swedish language instructional recordings I listened to had the phrase “Alla svenskar älskar knäckebröd” which means “All Swedes love knäckebröd.” It’s true. They do.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT SWEDEN
1. Clean, safe, quiet, beautiful. The culture has a respect for nature, even in the urban environment. The society seems to have an awareness of our impact on the environment that is accepted and not treated as activism.
2. Public transit can take you pretty much anywhere in the city. The trains and buses are always on time and public clocks are accurate.
3. People are incredibly well educated. This makes a big difference for everything.
4. There is an attractive, simple design aesthetic to almost everything. Of course this includes architecture, signs, furniture, and appliances, but I also see it a lot in clothes.
5. Everyone I’ve met is incredibly friendly and curious about things around them and interested in my story.
6. Okay, I said I was doing Top Fives, but I have to add a Number Six on this list: I love the ideas of lagom and the fika. It’s like they were invented for me. These two words could really replace our entire conversation about why I moved here!
“Lagom” is a Swedish concept that basically means “just enough.” It’s prevalent in everything from the design of furniture to how hard people work. It is kind of like the idea that there’s no need to go too far or to do too much. Less is more. – “Fika” is the afternoon coffee break, which for some Swedes lasts a few hours. It’s usually accompanied by some sort of baked treat, bun, or similar snack.
WHAT I MISS ABOUT AMERICA
1. The extensive variety of food available, especially Mexican food and other spicy foods. Maybe the fact that there is so much food everywhere in America is part of the country’s problem with obesity, but I miss it nonetheless.
2. Stores being open late and America’s 24-hour culture. If I want to buy a book, eat some food, get a drink with friends, or call to change my cell phone service, I can usually do any of these things pretty late in the evening and some in the middle of the night.
3. The availability and variety of alcohol: hours, locations, prices, choices, character of independent shops. All the beer and alcohol over 3.5% is sold by the state-run chain of stores called Systembolaget. They are open only until 7:00 or earlier and closed on Sunday.
4. Being able to understand everything anybody says.
5. Of course, my friends and family.
WHAT I DON’T LOVE ABOUT SWEDEN
1. So much of the television programming is in English and from America and everyone in Sweden speaks perfect English. The prevalence of English makes it so much more difficult to learn Swedish and to use what little Swedish I know.
2. Surprisingly high number of people who smoke and use smokeless tobacco. This surprises me because Swedes seem so health-conscious otherwise and have a reputation for being healthy.
3. I feel pressured to wear black. Everyone is wearing black all the time. Sure, it looks smart and goes with everything, but a little color here and there doesn’t hurt. Sometimes I feel like I stand out because my coat is dark brown!
4. The weather – for now – is cold and I miss seeing the sun as often.
5. Some people here seem to intentionally ruin their natural beauty with fake tans, too much makeup, facial piercing, or inconsiderate behavior. This is rare, but notable.
WHAT I DON’T MISS ABOUT AMERICA
1. General noise: motorcycles, “high-performance” exhaust, car stereos, sirens.
2. Telephone poles, power lines, and unreliable utilities that come with them.
3. Corporate prepared food, fast food, and the sloppy lifestyles of the people who are duped by it.
4. Important decisions about society being made and defended by people who are uneducated about the issues, or those with a sense of entitlement.
5. Calculating sales tax when making purchases and tips (gratuity) when eating or drinking. Although the sales tax here is a steep 25%, it’s not so noticeable or painful because it is included in the prices. If you don’t study your receipts, you’ll rarely see the amount of tax. It seems that tipping is basically rounding up if you feel like being nice. I almost never see extra money left on the table or handed to a server. Maybe because everyone is paid enough to survive.