July 5th, 2011
Good morning! I’m still off in a sort-of undisclosed location, so helping me out today is one of the funniest writers I know, Erin from I’m Gonna Kill Him. If you’re not reading her blog or following her on Twitter, I know you will be after you read this. Thanks, Erin!
Before I departed for a year abroad in Australia, my father sat me down for a paternalistic lecture about being a well-mannered American girl. Most of his speech went unregistered since I willed myself deaf in an act of self-preservation for fear he was going to delve into the American latex vs. overseas sheepskin condom debate. He concluded his address with an emphatic reminder of the many sectors I represented. “Young lady, you are representing your country. Your state. Your city. Your neighborhood. Your university. Your family.” By the end, I was an emissary for every special interest group in America, including the Native Americans due to the .016% Indian DNA all of us are thought to possess. I took his words to heart, striving to embody American virtues of triumph, honor, democracy, and ‘we have way better television’ in all of my pursuits. When I was challenged by backpackers to swim in crocodile-infested waters, I cemented my survival – on behalf of the USA – by ensuring my competition was severely handicapped by too many nips from the bottle I’d brought along since crocodiles surely prefer log-rolling Peach Schnapps-flavored humans. When the train fare from my university town to the center of Sydney became too costly for my meager student budget, I remained hidden in the train’s bathroom the entire route, ever vigilant not to bring any shame upon my family’s name.
Now that Wendi is embarking on her own summer adventure abroad, I feel I must pass the torch of American decorum that my father set ablaze years ago. It is essential that Wendi – on behalf of all of us left behind to complain about men in tank tops and how the fuck to cut watermelon – showcase our good will and good taste to the people of Sweden. I believe they’re called Swedeners. I’m not really sure. It’s not Swiss, though. That’s a totally different thing.
Wear Trendy Clothing
Europeans believe Americans wear football jerseys and pants with letters across the ass. Because we do. But when in Stockholm, do as the Stockholm-ian-ites do. Dress in black. Head to toe. Double points for black garb purchased from H&M, although good luck deciphering those size conversion labels or getting a sales attendant to stop texting her boo in order to help you select a dress that you will wear as a shirt.
Embrace the Nomenclature
The names are weird there. You’re going to meet a lot of men named Bjorn. You must override the urge to screech, “Did you invent the baby carrier because even though it gave me scoliosis it was worth it so that I could put on a pair of underwear!”
Do Your Best With the Local Cuisine
There’s a reason Sweden never makes it on to the Michelin-rated lists of International cuisine. That reason is herring. Followed by reindeer meat. The silver lining to their culinary quagmire is that vodka is more available than oxygen. After a few shots, you’ll be Absolut-ly downing anything pickled or doused in lingonberry.
As a person who was once maligned by Romans for referring to the Pantheon as the Parthenon (to suffer again for the reverse offense whilst in Greece), I understand that we American philistines can’t be expected to keep the history, customs, phrases, and all the goddamn ruins straight for each European country. Remember when Kristin Cavalleri stated on the final episode of The Hills that she was “moving to Europe.” Not a single country in Europe because, really, who can trifle with details like that? Just Europe. All of it. When confronted with a Swedish landmark or custom you probably should know but don’t, just start enumerating all the tidbits you can remember about other countries, like “Oh right, baklava is in Israel,” or “I called that mountain Interlaken because I was just there enjoying some après-ski.” You’re a well traveled American blonde; They’ll think you’re a Hilton.
Appear Politically Provocative
Europeans love to berate our Puritanical views, particularly vis-a-vis our politicians. To prove that you’re no prude, whip out your phone and tell them you were so unfazed by Representative Weiner’s genitals that you made them your screen saver!
Prove Your Fealty To Ikea
Sweden needs to know how deep our love runs for their economical furniture darling. You must freight every Ikea coffee table and storage center you’ve ever purchased to their most crowded city square where you will unpack it, flinging spare rubber screws at passersby, and beg a local to translate the assembly instructions.
Don’t Call Their Money ‘Play Money’
Europeans find it offensive when we dismissively regard their coins of various sizes and bills of vibrant pastels as fake. We only do this to delude ourselves into believing the inordinate sum spent on leather jackets and hand-blown vases isn’t actually coming out of our debit account. Avoid characterizing the Swedish currency as play, fake, pretend, or Monopoly. But ‘Pretty Magic Money” is completely acceptable.
Your Loaded Gun
If you’re having difficulty finding areas of affinity with the natives, just remember, every nationality hates the French. And George W. Bush.
Safe travels, Wendi. And remember: You are representing your country. Your state. Your city. Your neighborhood. Your blog. Your PTA. Your soccer teams. Your matinee movie enthusiasts. Your Somoan crossing guard.
And your cat.
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