Shine On Sweden Pts. 1-6

Ah Sweden. A country so beautiful it’s almost a shame it gets as cold as it does here. I’m lucky to be here during the best part of the year, my favorite part of the year: the fall. 

Sweden, for those of you who don’t have Google, sits between Finland and Norway way up near the Arctic circle. It’s well-known for several things. None of them are Swedish fish. It’s funny, if you ask a Swede what they’re most proud of they have to think about it for a few minutes. Eventually they’ll come up with the following: ABBA, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marabou chocolate. 

If you were to ask an American what they’re most proud of, they would have quite a list. 

I like to learn about the cultures of the places I live. I try to find out who’s mom is the best cook on the team and invite myself to their house for a typical Swedish dinner. I ask a million questions about everything from the food to the music to the traditions. I just want to know everything. And once I get some answers I’ll say something really American like, “that’s so Swedish.” 

Since the last time I was in Sweden, in 2009, the Swedes have become a bit more how do you say…Americanized, therefore I’m funnier. Thankfully. 

I have taught some of them how to effectively use “that’s what she said” and so far it’s going well, they think it's funny. They try to teach me Swedish and I try to explain to them that people don’t use Swedish outside of Sweden. It’s a tough sell. But in my defense (I think) their English is great. They should keep using it. They’re fluent in two languages by the time they graduate high school and the US is over here like hola?! Hablo Spanish? I think we have some catching up to do.

So, fact one: I’m still funny in Sweden. 

Fact two: I do things here that I would never think to do at home. Why do I become a different person in a different country?

When I’m home in the US I would probably eat a hotdog twice a year. If I go to a baseball game or if my mom is eating a Duchess hotdog and I’m tempted to remember what one tastes like. 

Since I’ve been here I’ve already had more than 10 hotdogs. Convenience. Hot dogs are everywhere. Gas station hot dogs are normal to eat. I don’t know how many times I’ve been riding my bike (something else I never do at home yet do all day every day here) stopped at the gas station and rode home with a hot dog in my hand and a Coke in my basket. How 1950s of me. 

Speaking of riding my bike, I go to the grocery store every day to get the food I need for the day. I’m sure you can picture it. The loaf of French bread sticking out of my basket and all. It’s ridiculous. 

Fact three: Speaking of food. Swedes love desserts. And coke. And beer. And bread. And eating ice cream at 10 am. And yet. Despite all of this. They’re not obese. I’m not sure what we’re doing wrong America, but it’s wrong. Maybe we should all be biking more. That’s probably the difference maker. Or portion control. 

Fact four: fika forever. Fika means having a hang out and a coffee. They do this often here. Just take a break out of the day and have a coffee and hang out and talk. I told Swedes that where I’m from most people have a coffee to go in a drive-thru and drink it in the car on their way to work. They were also quite appalled when I said that it’s not uncommon for Americans to eat their meal in their car alone or standing up or while walking down the street. There’s no rush in Sweden. Fika til the cows come home you guys. 

Fact five: One of my teammates a powerlifting world champion for her age group. If you’ve never heard of Lee Winroth, that’s okay. She’s totally okay with that. She is incredibly modest for having the world record for the deadlift (418 lbs when she was 16 years old). She also plays professional soccer. And she’s only 18 years old. What an incredible human. Check out this article about her in The New Yorker. When she's not competing, she trains her favorite teammate to beat the deadlifting world record for the over 30 age bracket. JK. I'm bad at the gym. 

Fact six: Promotion and relegation. People talk about it at home all the time. “The US should have it.” I’m telling you, it’s a huge different maker. There is something incredibly motivating about playing for a chance to stay in the best league in your country. It’s more than just finishing out the season strong. It’s finishing out the season for a chance to be there next season. Desperation. It’s coming upon that time of the season when teams are desperate to stay and also desperate to make the top two spots for Champions League next year. It’s not do or die, it’s do or bye. 

Now the fun part. With our 3-1 win last weekend, we have clinched a spot in the Damallsvenskan for the 2017 season. Let me try to explain how huge that is.  

Last season and many seasons before that, the team was in the division below called the Elitettan. This was the first year Kvarnsveden IF played in the highest league in Sweden. With that said, it’s usually difficult for a team stay up in the first year. Before the season, many journalists said the team wouldn't stay up and even went as far as saying we wouldn’t get a single point. Right now we are tied for 7th place with 21 points (out of 12 teams), there are three games left and a chance to finish in the top 5. 

What a time to be alive.

(Editor's Note: Title inspiration should be obvious)