My Swedish Valentine’s Day Experience2/14/2011
Happy Valentines Day!
The below story took place last year around Valentine’s Day in Stockholm, Sweden. I wrote this passage originally for my forthcoming 70 Vacations in 7 Months E-Book, but decided to use as a special Valentine’s Day post instead. Enjoy!
Arriving in Stockholm on a frigid, blistering cold late February afternoon, my heart and mind sets on exploring Scandinavian history and culture. I’m a sissy when it comes to cold weather; anything below 40°F back home and I get bent out of shape. The European winter this year represents one of the coldest seasons on record.
Suffice to say, nothing could prepare me for the sub-arctic temperatures of Sweden. I found myself managing to adapt, as I walked through blizzard- like conditions. Almost every piece of gear I own attaches firmly, somewhere on my body. The temperature outside reads -18 degrees Celsius, which translates to about -2 Fahrenheit for those back in the states.
Why would anyone want a vacation in Sweden to experience these frigid conditions? I begin to look around and notice the bright sun glaring down on the frozen harbor. Despite the cold, Stockholm is a tremdously beautiful city!
Smoke blows off the newly frozen seawater as ducks gather just outside a floating patch. The buildings and parked boats magnify the harbor’s splendor. Snow blanked the streets, and people just went on with their daily routine without a care.
And the native people of Sweden….umm wow!
I admit, I have a thing for tall blonde hair, blue eyed women. Walking into McDonalds, to cure a primal hunger, I am floored. The girls working behind the counter are absolutely stunning, marvelous looking specimens of the feminine form. A divine creation that triggered my attraction switches instantly! These are the type of girls that perform in fashion and beauty shows back in the states. However, here, they specialize in flipping burgers and taking requests off the dollar menu.
(Well actually that would be the “krona menu”.) Not only can you notably not order a quarter-pounder because of the metric system, but the currency system also disables the existence of dollar menus. What is one dollar here is certainly not one Krona there and visa versa. This combined with the language barrier creates plenty of confusion for American tourists abroad, and only serves to give all those charming cute Swedish girls another reason to laugh at us.
I pretended to pay as much attention to the food and menu as I could, and somehow managed to order. The sounds of the people all around me create a warm and merry atmosphere. As I sat there eating hot hamburgers and salty fries, that I might regret later but could ignore now because it tasted so damn good, I became fascinated with the idea of finding a Swedish girlfriend. This had become my temporary yet meaning purpose in life, my momentary destined quest.
“I’m here for a total of 5 days, what would have to happen for me to find a nice local?” I ask myself, feeling like I want to take a piece of the culture home with me, as well as leaving something of myself behind; a memory of myself to take root in this exotic Scandinavian land.
I’m not looking to marry the girl and bring her back through immigration, just someone to have a whatever-that-means relationship with while I travel. I imagine telling her travel stories about Europe and the other faraway lands that I’ve traveled while she talks Swedish-English to me during our Skype chats, planning our next getaway. The more I thought about it, the more the lines of fantasy blurred the strokes of reality. My conscious was the train crossing the landscape, speeding ever-faster into the snowy winter night.
My first attempt takes place inside a Friday’s restaurant in downtown Stockholm. The prices in Sweden burn gaping holes in many tourists’ pockets therefore I wanted to explore a dinner menu I already knew. Only a few steps inside the venue I found a woman that piqued my interest, the hostess. She was about 5’5 straight jet blonde hair, blue eyes, and a charming engaging smile. How fortunate I am! We chatted for a good 5 minutes about travel, Texas life, and things to do in Stockholm. I really enjoyed my conversation with her, but knew the demands of working inside a restaurant. My server appears, and I begin the process of ordering food.
I spent about 30 minutes eating dinner, at which point I come up with the brilliant idea of having my server pass a flirtatious note along to my hostess. I’m paying my waitress a tip anyway so this would be an extra opportunity for her to earn a higher token of gratitude from me. After drawing up a carefully crafted message, I ask my server to pass the note over to the hostess. My hopes and dreams crash when I hear the dreaded line, “She has a boyfriend. Do you still want me to pass the note??” I stammer something along the lines of, “Sure, go ahead, it’s nothing bad”.
The waitress hops to another table to cater to the needs of other guests and forgets about the note. My hostess never receives the message. I’m happy I did not have to deal with the boyfriend!
Slightly discouraged from my first attempt, I spend the next morning and afternoon exploring Stockholm’s numerous shops and apparel stores. I needed to load up on a few supplies anyway, as my travel gear needed upgrades. However, the prices discourage me from purchasing anything extravagant.
Frequently, in between shopping and eating, I like to check out local coffee shops. A warm cup of coffee invigorates the body and mind on days with record cold temperatures. In addition, one of my favorite pastimes of traveling is people watching. I enjoy catching a glimpse of local lifestyle by taking time to watch their movements throughout the day. I learn more about the overall health of the city by watching the locals facial expressions and body language than asking questions. I decide to take a small break, enjoy a cup of hot coffee, and people-watch for a couple of hours.
Walking into the coffee house, I notice a few opportunities to talk to local Swedish women. What better place to strike up a conversation than over an espresso extravaganza. By this time, I have a really strong desire to find myself a Swedish girlfriend. Rejection is one thing, but knowing I have limited opportunities, I feel empowered to keep plowing through.
I set my sights on a young girl sitting near the entrance, studying for something school related. At first I couldn’t make out all of her features, but she did fit my description of my ideal Swedish girl: blonde hair, sky blue eyes, great sense of fashion, and a youthful appearance. Usually I mind my own business at coffee shops, but today I was different. After ordering my coffee, I decide to make my way over to her table to engage in conversation. I’m as nervous as a sinner in church, and have no idea if she will understand a word of English.
I approach and fire off sentence after sentence fully expecting her to leave the table. I’m ecstatic to find she understands my English, perfectly! Scandinavians in general are excellent English speakers. Their culture demands students learn the language at a very young age. Thus, English-only speaking travelers like me, rarely ever have to worry about communication barriers. Yet, another great reason why I love the people of Sweden!
As I’m talking about where I’m from, what I do, why I’m in Stockholm, I fully expect her to leave the table at a moment’s notice. I mean this lovely girl has exams to study for and I’m interrupting. To my surprise, she listens and provides feedback. She’s actually very happy I approached her! I calm down and spend the next 30 minutes talking to an amazing, local Swedish woman named Sarah* (Not actual name). She’s very interested in me as a person. This girl is beautiful, intelligent, and a great conversationalist. Could this be the one? Now all I need to do is convince Sarah to be my girlfriend in the next 3 days.
I leave the table to attend an event I planned later in the day. We exchange Facebook addresses with the hope of meeting up sometime before I leave the city. My attitude experiences a complete 180° change! Through persistence, I’ve managed to keep my dreams alive. The rest of the day I feel like I’m on cloud 9. You know that perpetual state of happiness you feel when accomplishing an important task? That’s how I felt. You couldn’t wipe the mile wide smile off my face no matter how hard you tried!
The next day I contact Sarah to gauge her interest in a second meeting. The process is slow and methodical, but I believe necessary to establish trust. Instead of waiting around for Sarah to respond to my messages all day, I decide to attempt a social network approach of finding a Swedish girlfriend. Why didn’t I think of this before?! Instead of freezing my buns off all day in the cold, I can message numerous girls that fit my criteria, without leaving the comforts of my warm, cozy hostel.
I decide this strategy represents the best and my last attempt to find a Swedish girlfriend. I message about 20 girls in the Stockholm area. I explain who I am, what I am doing in the city, and find one great characteristic about each of them. I personalize each message to show sincere interest. I quickly realize chatting online to complete strangers requires much more time to build relationships than any physical interaction. I talk to a few Swedish girls through instant message, but my actions prove fruitless.
The whole process of finding a Swedish girlfriend in such limited time took me on one wild goose chase. I spent copious amounts of time scheming, planning, and chatting to find my perfect woman. Although Sarah and I never did meet for a 2nd time, I now realize how ridiculous my wacky attempts were in the first place. I mean, even if I did find my dream girl in Stockholm, I’d miss great traveling opportunities obsessing over her every day.
When I arrived in Stockholm, I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend, and I left the city in the same state. However, during those 5 days in Sweden, I gave it my best shot and came up empty-handed. Stockholm is such a beautiful city filled with the most gorgeous people. Although my actions may have seemed a bit desperate, when I left the city I had forgotten entirely about my quest for a girlfriend and found myself focusing on the beauty countryside instead.
On the other hand, I did manage to get a great understanding of Swedish culture and lifestyle. The sights and activities in Stockholm were outstanding. I did, however, spend a good portion of my time chasing a dream, but when I came up short I began to realize that like anything worthwhile in life, great things take great time. I do plan on visiting Sweden again. And when I return I will be better armed with knowledge of the local language and culture. I know one day my dreams of finding a Swedish girlfriend will come true!