Culture shock – Northern Europe

Standard

So I’ve been in Stockholm for a week now, and everything’s fine. It’s time to write down the few quirks I encountered during the trip. I’ll probably do a few similar posts on life in Sweden a bit later. For now, this is what surprised me as a Frenchman, while going through Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. This will be more or less random, based on the photos I come across.


This is a good start, as it’s still actually biking. I’ve found that Germany provides good, specialized lanes for most of the major roads. It’s not at the level of Belgium or Holland, but definitely better than France or Sweden, and even Denmark.


I have to post that again, the pedestrian tunnel under the Escaut river, along with the wooden escalators, was really a delight 🙂


Back to Germany, there was quite a bit of speed limits for panzers, once above Hamburg. Maybe invasion of Denmark is in the works.


This was a fantastic playground right outside Helsinborg in Sweden.

Antwerp again, with a pigeon rap gang just by the bike shop.


And a bit further, the church of the holy praying mantis.


Special Trump editions of snickers, found in Gränna in Sweden.


Almost all hotel rooms in Sweden had a beer opener – in the bathroom. Again, this is in Sweden, not in Germany.


This was in Germany – local elections coming up. All posters were really clean, standardized, same logic. No fighting over getting elected here.


May have posted this during the trip : the Fehmarn train going into the ferry for Denmark – maybe with bikes inside the train inside the ferry. A steel turducken.


A cat ladder to enter directly at the second floor. This was at my first stop in Sweden.


This is a parking spot in Sweden – family spot ? Special stroller ?


A take on the US election, by Eindhoven in Holland.


Bike paths in Germany are nice, but when they’re over, you’re on your own.


A taste of Nordic mythology in Bremen.


An automatic sex shop in a public lavatory in Germany, with the most convenient “travel pussy”.


A local version of KFC, with the Swedish fried chicken.


Denmark, of course.


Quite a few hotels had this digital juice dispenser, which make me dream again of the Coke version found just a couple of times in California.


Old distance marker by the road in Sweden. Thanks France for the metric system !


Sweden again, wearing a cap is forbidden because ?!


Last pic before arriving in Stockholm. It’s all over town.

Home

Standard

20140625-203551-74151851.jpg

I’ve been on the road for almost two months now, and seen a lot of different places. Places people living here call home. Some of them were really isolated.

20140625-202802-73682675.jpg

Still, they were homes for them, and little by little I’m starting to understand that. Home is where the heart is, goes the saying. Another one says that home is where the wifi connects automatically 🙂 In any case, home is a choice, sometimes not a completely conscious one, if you live close to your parents, for instance.

20140625-202904-73744075.jpg

Being away from home for so long is quite difficult. That’s one of the tough part of my trip. When you go on vacation, it’s usually for a few weeks. You don’t have time to be homesick. But leaving for a month or more, and with no clear date of return, is something else entirely. In my case the date of return is even set by the physical effort I put into moving forward, which is both an appeal and a daunting situation. I even added to the challenge by selling my home before leaving 🙂 The operation will actually be completed within a few weeks. It’ll probably be a shock by itself.

20140625-202959-73799752.jpg

From my experience it takes about three months to settle into a new place. At least when moving from a place to another, in the same country. I’ve lived one year in England but never quite settled there and called the student room “home” 🙂

20140625-203054-73854032.jpg

During my trip I’m going from place to place, staying a couple days maximum, usually only for a night. Hardly enough to settle or call them home. This is physically swinging from liana to liana, or even grasping at straws. Some places I like, some I don’t. When they’re very far from civilization, empty and desolate, and when the climate is hot and dry, I feel even farther from home, and that is a logical source of stress 🙂 I speculate this is the source of my coughing (I had some asthma as a child). When it’s a more relaxing place and I feel at ease, it’s closer to home in some way. But never comfortable enough for me to be wanting to stay much longer though (and far enough to want to establish myself, apart from San Francisco 🙂 ).

20140625-203153-73913198.jpg

Yet in almost all of these places, small towns, larger cities, remote campgrounds, minuscule hamlets, people live there. Sometimes for just six months, like park rangers, some forever. This is their home. I can easily understand when the place is close to my own experience of home, but I find it more difficult when it’s very remote. In some villages, you need to ride a solid 100 miles to find a decent store where you can do all your shopping. There’s no theater for even farther away. That’s a real culture shock.

20140625-203252-73972399.jpg

But over the last few days I’m starting to accept that more easily. That’s been in my head as the thought appeared after Hite. Seeing places so different in such a short span is really striking. And everywhere (well almost everywhere), people live and have their homes ! We need different things and we can settle in different places. Probably as, after two months, my universe is limited to a large bag (and internet !), I’m needing less and less things to feel comfortable. Or it simply comes from seeing such varied places at once.

20140625-203356-74036954.jpg

When you live somewhere, as most people do :), you visit friends, perhaps take breaks in the same area, or the same country, or a neighboring one, you remain in the same cultural mold. In Europe we have very close cultures. The US is also very close to us. However, I feel there is a lot more variety here – at least in the states I’ve seen up to now. You get to see much more in a very short time. I’d probably have that thought much earlier in another part of the planet, like China.

20140625-203513-74113531.jpg

Well to conclude, I suppose home is where you are the most comfortable. It’s always difficult to change home, especially to go and live in another country. It’s just so much easier to remain in the same place 🙂