Which Swede Do You Want Him to Be?

Which Swede Do You Want Him to Be?

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Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt, renowned for playing strong, silent types.

A few weeks ago, I overheard some newly arrived English speakers lamenting the state of Swedish manners. One of the women had only been here six months and was dealing with not only a new culture and a new language but also a newborn baby and a new husband. She swore her husband was no longer the social, happy-go-lucky Swede she’d met and fell in love with in Los Angeles. Now that they were in Sweden, he didn’t laugh nearly as much as he did before. He was too quiet now. Her friends all bobbed their heads up and down, agreeing that their husbands/boyfriends/guys of the moment were also suffering from this weird affliction. Said one young woman, “It’s like he fell asleep as sweet, funny Calle and woke up as a pod person from Invasion of the Body Snatchers!” Again, all of them nodded and wondered something had changed in their relationships, what were they doing wrong? Or if it was something in the air or the water that had changed their guys. I wanted to reassure them that they’d done nothing wrong. That the moment they went on vacation and left Sweden again, the old version of their boyfriends/hubbies/hot guys would return.

It’s what happens.

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Many Swedes become like Jekyll and Hyde–minus the murderous tendencies. 😉

It’s the Swedish version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde–minus any murderous tendencies. It seems to happen to them all–their personalities change when they leave Sweden and go back to “normal” once they are back in the structured order of everyday Swedish life. Take the Swede out of Sweden and his mood lightens, he’s uninhibited and suddenly does not feel like he must do everything just so, he can be spontaneous, he can be messy, he can be like everyone else.

I confess. I went through it. I moved here in 1995 thinking that my gorgeous Swede would be as social and talkative and up for anything as the version of him I knew in the US or when I came to Sweden for quick visits. There were still traces of that devil-may-care guy–he still liked having sex at the drop of a hat, he still liked doing goofy things (as long as too many people weren’t watching), but he didn’t like going out as much and suddenly deciding we could go to the movies was out of the question since Swedish movie theatres insist that tickets be booked in advance (and Swedish movie tickets were and still are rather expensive). Inviting friends over? Why did we have to do that? I spent the first year of living here trying to figure out what had happened to my social butterfly of a hottie. I asked him, he shrugged. I asked other people, they seemed clueless too. Of course, they were all Swedes. They didn’t realise they were going through the change too.

Swedish-American actor, Joel Kinnaman--does he suffer from the same malady or does his American side cancel it out?

Swedish-American actor, Joel Kinnaman–does he suffer from the same malady or does his American side cancel it out?

And then one of my colleagues explained it to me–how her Swedish husband had transformed and how she felt as though she was now married to two men–the fun out-of-Sweden Swede and the Stockholm version of her hubby. She advised me to embrace this duality. “You get two husbands in one,” she said with a laugh. “Just roll with it.”

So, I followed her advice. It made things easier in the long run, but I also tried to figure out just why it was this way. Some people say it has to do with how isolated we are in Sweden–we are not really part of the  European continent, separated as we are by the Baltic Sea and Öresunds Strait from the rest of northern Europe. We don’t have the same joie de vivre that they say southern Europeans have. Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight during the winter? Or maybe it’s because Sweden was a pretty poor country until some time after World War II? Or maybe Swedes are naturally quieter than everyone else (until alcohol is involved)?

I still don’t have the answers, but I kind of like having two husbands in one. And he’s pretty good-looking to boot, so that is always a nice bonus. I like both sides of him–his silent side that can be so serious you wonder if you are in a Bergman film–and his more laid-back side that comes out whenever we’re on vacation or at home on our own at the weekend. So if you ever meet a gorgeous Swede while you’re on vacation and he charms you enough to make you consider moving back to Sweden with him, just remember that you are getting two husbands in one…and make the most of it. 😉
Alexander Skarsgård in Zoolander

 

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