Posted by: chiarraigrrl | July 8, 2010

Some days I’d love to learn Swedish…

This morning I had to pay a fee on the Swedish patents office website, and on loading their homepage (in Swedish, before clicking through to the English version of the site) I noticed that they appear to have started a blog, which I think is a lovely idea. What would they write about, though? Curious… Briefly, I thought again that I’d love to learn Swedish, and be able to read it in the original language, rather than a broken-English Google translation. Plus, my brother’s hella awesome girlfriend is Swedish, and I have no doubt I’ll be visiting Sweden again at some point – so I might be able to put the language to practical use, someday.

It brought me back in my mind to a visit my mother and I made to Stockholm when my brother was living there a couple of years ago. My mother isn’t a fan of the Swedish breakfasts, and wasn’t keen on what was on offer at the (otherwise lovely) hotel, so we went out to Gamla Stan (Old Town) to try to hunt down an Irish pub my brother had vaguely told us about, where they do proper Irish breakfasts. We did find the pub, but much to our dismay they had just run out of eggs. So we hit the pavement again, looking for somewhere that would sell us a nice greasy fry (or at least a couple of eggs and toast) for breakfast. Now. I have a relatively high metabolism (something that’s a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective- I view food mostly as a chore, because no matter what I have I’ll be hungry again in an hour or two), and am accustomed to having breakfast (at least a bowl of cereal) first thing in the morning. After quite a bit of further searching (and bearing in mind I hadn’t eaten yet), I was starving– I had reached that point where I feel like I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO EAT IMMEDIATELY OR I WILL DIE. So we settled on a lovely-looking little cafe that at least had toast on the menu.

On entering the cafe, we discovered one of those horrible ignorant-tourist scenarios that are embarrassing for all concerned. The proprietor of the fine establishment was attempting to communicate with an American tourist. The proprietor, like many Swedes over a certain age, had little English, and unfortunately the tourist was dealing with the situation by simply repeating what they had said LOUDER. Because that always works. Finally finished with the tourist, the proprietor turned her attention to me, and using a combination of gestures and broken English we managed to agree that she would be able to give us toast and coffee (and of course I thanked her profusely, feeling bad that she’d had to deal with the ignorant yank). Unfortunately, however, the toast was served dry… so I pulled out my Swedish phrasebook, and started searching for the word for “butter”. I thought I’d found it, but didn’t have a clue how to pronounce it, so I brought my phrasebook with me back over to the counter to ask the woman for butter, and pointed at the word with an apologetic smile. Well! It was amazing to see the change in service- prior to my dragging out the phrasebook, we had received good but perfunctory service. As soon as I tried to find the correct Swedish word in my phrasebook, though, there wasn’t anything they wouldn’t do for us- we suddenly had not only butter but a selection of jam, fresh coffee refills and extra milk, and big smiles from both the proprietor and a group of friends of hers who had come in while we were sitting down. When we finished and left we were fussed over and wished well by practically everyone in the cafe. It was wonderful, and they seemed quite pleased that I had at least made the effort of getting a phrasebook, since Swedish isn’t exactly a commonly-spoken language.

I’ll probably never get around to it, but Swedish is on the list of languages I’d love to learn someday…



  1. What do the Swedes have for breakfast anyway ?

    If you’re always hungry perhaps you’d be good at Hungarian 😉

    • We found lots of fish, and muesli/yogurt type things. No fry ups, anyway… 🙂 (and har har. Smartarse ;))

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