Sweden does some things I think are just wrong. Like what? Surströmming! What is that you ask? Fermented herring. Yeah, it’s nasty (Google it for some videos if you want). Ask any Swede about it and you will get a “story”. What else? How about stuff like 25% sales tax or even charging for ice in drinks. Then there is the awful and oppressive depressing darkness of winter (not really their fault but still).
But one thing you don’t have to worry about when you visit that land of the midnight sun (in Summer, that is) and that is not being understood as an English only speaker. The recent results from “Education First” highlight that Sweden is just about the best place to visit outside of countries with English as their native language. The rest of Scandinavia takes 4 of the top 5 slots! (väldigt bra gjort – ie very well done).
I often joke about being fluent in Swedish as a tremendously wasted gift (that is, being bilingual) as most Swedes speak better English that we do and that really is true on a bunch of levels. Sweden does so much right to foster this in the culture. TV programs have subtitles so folks grow up hearing English all the time. When you use technology there is, most of the time, the option to have whatever you are reading instantly translated to English. Heck, if you walk up to anyone under 50 years old and start speaking English to them you will be not just understood but also answered in English.
To be fair, in the major cites in most of the world you can “get by” with English but it is when you go outside the capital cites that things can get “interesting”. Visiting Rome I have had no issues and Paris is, well, Paris, but you can make it work. I could go on and on but the thing about Scandinavia is it does not really matter where you go you will be fine with all English.
When I visit Norway I speak Swedish as the two languages are so similar that I am fine with either one (Swedes joke that Norwegian is just Swedish with a yo-yo stuck in your throat). However Danish is, to me, a horrible language (Swedes often call it a throat disease) and I speak English in Denmark. The smart half of Finland speaks Swedish so I am fine there :-)! But my point is that it is so nice to, without any stress, speak English and be understood.
I do try to learn a few phrases before I travel to non-English countries and have tinkered with language apps but have not found one I love (yet). I guess the point of today’s post is if you have not been to Sweden or the rest of Scandinavia please make plans to go next summer (there seems to be rather wide open availability of LEVEL 1 SkyMiles awards to be found btw). Enjoy the light, the amazing countryside and the kind people who are happy to have you ask for directions in English! – René
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