A couple of months ago, one of my friends told me that she had a girl from Sweden in one of her math classes.
"Really??" I thought maybe she had confused Sweden with Switzerland, as most people do. As soon as someone mentions cheese, the Alps, or watches, I quickly correct them. "No, you're thinking about Switzerland. I was born in Sweden." Sadly, this usually brings the conversation to a halt. However, this time, my friend really did mean Sweden. She progressed to tell me that this student of hers was recruited for the swim team here and had just arrived a few short weeks ago. So, the next time the student was in the math lab, I quickly introduced myself to a wonderful girl named Lisa. Ever since, we've become great friends and I so enjoy her company. As an added bonus, I get to practice my Swedish at least once a week with someone who is very forgiving of my American-isms.
This past weekend, we took Lisa to Sioux Falls with us. She was a real trooper--she let us show her what church can be like in America, she had lunch with our family, and then she walked around downtown with us in the freezing cold weather.
One of the things I so enjoy about spending time with Lisa is that she makes me think about things I've never thought about. Her comparisons on American v. Swedish culture are always right on and infused with humor. Let me give you a few examples.
"What's the point of bagel sandwiches? Why is there a hole in the middle of your bread? Are you supposed to arrange your meat in a nice disk so as to avoid the middle part?"
To this, I had no intelligent response.
"What do people here really mean when they say, 'What's up?' I thought it meant 'How are you doing?' but I'm starting to realize it more just means 'Hey,' because I start to answer the question and the next thing I know the person is halfway across the building."
Once again, no intelligent response on my part.
"Americans smile all the time. It's great. Swedes just keep to themselves. If you smile at someone, they think you're crazy."
"I liked your church. Back home, the priest would never say, 'Jesus is the man!'"
"There's America and then there's USA. When I think of USA I think of New York, California, and Vegas. When I think of America, I think of everyone else, like South Dakotans."
I wish I could remember all the wise comparisons she's made that have made me stop and say, "Huh, yeah, I guess I've never thought of that..." But this is all I remember now. I hope it brings a smile to your face and makes you think about other strange things we do without thinking about them.