Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Malmo, Day Two + Lund

We slept in, after a long night, and I was one of the first awake and so I went with my friend's mother to the grocery store to help her carry the stuff she wanted to buy for breakfast and for dinner. I was more than happy to go, because it saved me from having to convince my friends it would be fun to walk through a grocery store. Which it is. Foreign grocery stores are neat, because you get to see all the different and strange stuff they have. Or at least I find it neat. Like a living museum. Okay, that may be pushing it.

Notes on Swedish supermarkets:

1. For the most part, any American could go into a Swedish supermarket and not be terribly shocked. The similarities are much greater than the differences -- much greater than what I recall in Prague or even Paris, for instance. There's not much they have that we don't.

2. What they do have that we don't are tube foods. Like toothpaste tubes, but filled with spreads. Bacon in a tube, mushroom paste in a tube, shrimp paste in a tube. We don't use the tube for much besides toothpaste and Krazy Glue, and maybe that means it ends up feeling unappetizing, but they had lots of things in tubes. Caviar in a tube. Mayonnaise in a tube.

3. Crispbread. Lots of varieties. Rye, Wheat, Whole Grain, "Sport" (not sure what that meant).

4. Frozen spices. Basil in the freezer aisle, in a package like spinach.

5. Flavored butters. Maybe we have them, but I've never seen them.

6. Their pork section was enormous. The number of sausages and salamis -- the varieties -- cooked, uncooked, spiced, sliced, etc -- was much, much bigger than we have. And the fish section was bigger too, and all looked very fresh. As fresh as any fish I've seen.

7. The produce section offered nothing unusual, which surprised me, since I figured there'd be something different, but I guess not.

We spent some time during breakfast listening to a Swedish language tape. It told us how to ask for directions, count to ten, and other relatively useless things like that. What's the difference if I can ask for directions in Swedish if I can't understand a word of the answer? Language books should give the translations for common signs and menu items. Beyond that, the only thing I need to do is hope someone speaks English. And most people do. Honestly, I'm okay with being confused. I'm okay not understanding the language. I don't expect people to be able to talk to me if I don't know their language, and I figure it's stupid for me to pretend I can speak theirs. I'll guess and point in a store or at a restaurant. If I end up with something I didn't want, I'll deal. It might be a fun surprise. It's okay. The only place I don't really want to be confused is the airport or train station, but most places are pretty good with signage and it's no big deal. Obviously if I was spending any significant time somewhere it would be polite and useful and more fun to learn the language. But for three days, I can be confused, it's okay.

So we went to Lund, which is a college town. There's a beautiful campus with lots of Ivy-covered buildings. One building had a spiral staircase made out of one big tree trunk. It was neat. There was some sort of convention under a tent that I stole a muffin and a cup of coffee from. No one seemed to notice. There was a sign on a bulletin board in one of the buildings posing a question, "Does Anyone Need An Education This Good?" Apparently Lund is one of Sweden's best schools. I thought the question was interesting. We tend to want education for education's sake. But maybe too much education is unnecessary? I don't really think so, but maybe there's a topic for thought in there somewhere, and someone else wants to think about it and send me some ideas to post and maybe reflect on. Or not. It's fine either way. I just thought the question was provoking.