The part of Swedish culture that I had the hardest time getting used to was definitely the Swedish love for planning ahead, especially when it comes to social events.
Among my friends in the United States, if you want to make plans for the weekend, you can start discussing it on Wednesday. Any earlier than that and you’re kind of pushing it. It’s definitely not a problem to call around on Saturday morning to see what people feel like doing later that evening.
Not so much in Sweden.
Plans for the weekend (at least among my friends) are almost always made in advance, and if you want to throw a party, you need to give all your friends at least two weeks’ notice. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this, but they are far outnumbered by the people with their day calendars and a pencil within reach and ready for action.
Don’t believe me? Check out our condominium association’s laundry schedule.
Obviously all this planning can be good, because, well, everyone gets a fair chance at laundry times, and you know ahead of time when you have the laundry room all to yourself, and I haven’t lost a single pair of jeans or had to do that annoying up-and-down, up-and-down four flights of stairs to see if the bums with a month’s worth of clothing have finished yet.
All the same, the whole planning culture used to drive me crazy. For the first four months or so of living in Sweden, I resisted scheduling social events so far ahead of time because it felt unnatural. How can I know if I’m going to feel like going out or staying in more than a week in advance? After a few tearful Saturday nights where I stomped around the apartment and grouched and pouted and said that I hated Sweden because there was nothing to do here, though, I kind of got over it. I didn’t have any other choice.
Now I’m just as bad as the rest, checking my Google calendar every time I want to meet up with friends and scheduling coffee dates more than five days in advance. I’ve become… gasp… one of them.
And yet… sometimes strange things happen when spontaneity culture meets scheduling culture. And no, I’m not talking about showing up to events at the wrong time or missing them altogether, which happens with frightening regularity.
Nope! Excitingly enough, after three and a half years of being in a relationship that has often been dominated by long-term planning (That was a great visit. See you in four months! ), my boyfriend *ahem* fiancé and I are getting married! And we’re doing it in less than four weeks from now.
Would I have appreciated the more standard year of planning? Probably. But do I love that we’re going to fly by the seat of our pants with this one and just get married? Absolutely.
As the Swedes would say, Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!