The little differences
Being away from home is not a big deal for me. We moved all over while I was growing up and now my entire immediate family is living outside of the state I spent most of my childhood in (Florida). "Home" to me is a trip to my uncle Moonk's house. That's pretty much the last place with many childhood memories. So moving here isn't difficult from that aspect. But the little differences do make me miss home. One difference is the disposition. I'm not going to say that people in Miami skip along the sidewalk with a goofy smile and give every passing person a thumbs up. But if someone is walking around with a frown, they are probably having a bad day. Here? The frown is the default facial expression. It's uninviting. I look around on the train and everybody looks like they're on their way to a fight. I normally have a smile/smurk on my face due to my penchant for constantly remembering and re-living embarrassing moments in my life (I'll cover that in another entry). Where I'm from it is customary to make eye contact with a passerby and give a head nod or say some sort of greeting. Try that shit here and you will get your feelings hurt. The first part (eye contact) is almost impossible. Just today I tried an experiment. I walked around like I was in Miami and tried to make eye contact in order to greet passersby. NOT ONE PERSON would make eye contact. It was hilarious to me how uncomfortable people got. All I was going to do was shoot a quick head nod and say, "Hej". Not Hej! Anything but Hej! I either got the "straight-ahead-horse-blinder-until-I-pass-this-crazy-mofo" mode or the "man-my-phone-just-got-extra-interesting" mode. If I hadn't absorbed some of the culture by now I think my feelings would have been hurt. Now it's just a fun game for me to see how uncomfortable I can make people. The panic is amazing. I made a new game up on the train today. I call it "Eye Contact From Hell". You purposely look across the train (not too close to you, that's creepy) at someone and create eye contact. You have to find someone that's looking around. Maybe at the sights or the stop map. When you get the eye contact, watch the panic flush across their body as they quickly shoot their glance away. Like it burns! One point! Then it's on to the next passenger. Time will fly by. Next thing you know you're at your stop and some lucky passengers have a story to tell at dinner about how they almost made a full second of eye contact with a weirdo on the train. "I think he was going to... say 'hej'".
The thing about it is; people here are generally nice and warm once you actually converse with them. If you need directions or something and they can help, then they will. But it's like they have reached the limit for the amount of people that they can be friends with. And you saying hello means you obviously want to be their friend. I talked to some friends about it and they said it may be because of the lack of "chit chat" phrases in Swedish. We in America ask how you're doing but we really don't give a fuck. It's just customary. We actually would prefer if you said, "fine" than for you to talk about your bad day. Keep that shit to yourself and nod your head before you mess the next five minutes of my life up! I'm actually cool with a, "How's it going?" back. Neither one of us has to answer. We just ask the question and then keep it moving. Or just give a head nod and keep it moving. It establishes that neither one of us is a psycho. But here I'M the freaking psycho. You know, saying hello and whatnot. But as I told a friend of mine, I'm not going to adapt on this one. I'm going to continue to walk around with that regular embarrassed smile on my face as I walk through Stockholm and make eye contact with the panicked public. Me showing that I'm not dangerous. In turn making them more sure that I just might be.