I have never been to Sweden. Yet I feel like I know the country intimately, beyond its predictable IKEAs and H&Ms. When I discovered David Sedaris' words: "It's from Scandinavia! This, we learned, was the name of a region, a cold and forsaken place where people stayed indoors and plotted the death of knobs.", I had to read them aloud to my husband. You need to be American like me in order to understand the "sweet" sarcasm of Sedaris when he refers to Scandinavian design, in this case furniture, and their ability to shed the most obstructive yet functional of objects, the knobs on drawers.
Scandinavians, and in this context, Swedes, are practical in their approach to things. I am basing this opinion on my close friendship with two Swedish women. These are the two Swedes I know well, who have shed some of their scandinavian personalities by marrying foreigners.
I also once briefly encoutered the Crown Princess of Sweden, who reaffirmed what I already knew: that the Swedes were unpretentious, low key and elegant people. I was standing in line for a pizza dinner at a very popular restaurant in Geneva and I realized that the future Queen of Sweden was standing ahead of me, like every one else, patiently waiting her turn with her fiance.
My mother also has a close and old friend from Sweden, whose children were at school with us in Sharjah. This lady, generously and devotedly had me over at her house every Monday (sports days), because she lived in Sharjah and I couldn't go back to Dubai during lunch and then come back for sports. She also had me and my siblings over several times when my parents went on trips. At those times, her house would balloon from three children to six!
I remember the Scandinavian touches to her house, especially the culinary ones. I discovered smoked salmon and large amounts of dill at her dinner table, as well as avocado. Her son played ice hockey, introducing my brother to this more Nordic sport. Then, twenty years later, I met another Swedish lady, the wife of my former classmate, and one of my very close friends.
I liked her the minute I met her at their Geneva home where they hosted my husband and I, when no one else invited for dinner in cold Switzerland. She was first to have a baby, and she recommended all her doctors to me, ones I still see to this day. She moved back to Dubai a few years before me, and when our family followed suit, she did her utmost to help me settle back down in the city I'd grown up in as a child. She always gave 1001 recommendations which I diligently followed. Just today, she accompanied me to the most posh Swedish Ski Boutique, Peak Performance, to help me update my family's wardrobe.
As all things Scandinavian, this friend is very practical. She always has simple solutions to intricate questions. She also happens to be the amazing mother of four boys, and she practices motherhood in the most logical way possible.
She is both elegant and unpretentious, like the future Queen of Sweden.