Pretend You Know All About Sweden

[the previous post in this ad hoc series was What I Learned About Norway Because the Game was So Boring]

Around the holidays, people frequently ask me if I'm going back to Minnesota. Sometimes, Wisconsin. I'm from Michigan, but it doesn't matter. I wouldn't try to explain the difference between New York Strip and Porterhouse to a vegan.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that a lot of Scandinavian people who emigrated to the U.S. ended up in those states so that they could be made fun of in Coen Brothers movies. When you're a Norwegian who moves to Minnesota do you get people asking you if you're going to Michigan this Christmas, or do you go back to Sweden?

Today is a relatively drab Olympic hockey day. So it's probably a good time for me to learn about another country I know nothing about, so that when people say stupid things that reveal their ignorance, I can lord my newly-acquired knowledge over them like I've known it my whole life.

Sweden. First, just let me purge from my brain everything I know about Sweden.

  • Someone in my family was Swedish, which makes me part Swedish. I can see Swedish names on my family tree.
  • Ikea.
  • Next to Norway and Finland./

I guess that's about it. Now for what I will soon pretend to have known all along:

[Everything below is paraphrased from Wikipedia, and quotes are direct from Wikipedia, unless otherwise indicated.]

  • Sweden and Denmark are connected by a bridge. What? Really? I thought this was a joke. It's actually a bridge/tunnel, the tunnel part being so as not to block shipping.
  • There are lots of customs stops entering Sweden from Denmark, but not for entering Denmark from Sweden. So it's sort of a US/Canada thing?
  • Sweden's flag bears the aforementioned (see Norway post) Scandinavian Cross, but in UCLA colors. (Actually, I knew this already!)
  • Sweden used to have Finland in its empire, but "lost it" to the Russians in 1809.
  • Upset at the loss of Finland, Sweden annexed Norway in 1814. This was Sweden's last war.
  • Norway and Sweden were joined in a "personal union" (seriously, that's what Wikipedia says) until 1905, when Norway regained its independence.
  • Sweden abolished slavery by decree in 1335.
  • Before the 17th century, Sweden was a "poor and economically backward" country, but by the end of the Thirty Years' War (1648), Sweden had become an empire, the third largest country in Europe, behind Spain and Russia.
  • in the 1880s, more than 1% of the Swedish population emigrated to America, annually.
  • "It is believed that between 1850 and 1910 more than one million Swedes moved to the United States. In the early 20th century, more Swedes lived in Chicago than in Gothenburg (Sweden's second largest city). Most Swedish immigrants moved to the Midwestern United States, with a large population in Minnesota. Some Swedes moved to Delaware. Some also moved to Canada and others in smaller numbers to Argentina."
  • During the Cold War, Sweden was officially neutral, but secretly liked America better. (by the way, that is basically what Wikipedia says, but if you plan on using any of this information in conversation with grown-ups, be sure to add, "It's true! I read it on a Kings blog!")
  • Sweden's population is 9.2 million, roughly the size of New York City.
  • "Sweden has proposed ban gasoline fossil fuel-driven vehicles by 2025."
  • "The official language of Sweden is Swedish."
  • "Swedish [is] very similar to Danish and Norwegian [...] Norwegians have little difficulty understanding Swedish, and Danes can also understand it, with slightly more difficulty than the Norwegians."
  • A majority of Swedes speak English. Swedish scientists have been required to speak English for the last 150 years. English became compulsory in all Swedish schools after WWII.
  • Swedes prefer subtitled foreign movies and television. They don't like shows dubbed in Swedish.
  • "Sweden was [...] an international leader in [...] the "sexual revolution", with gender equality having particularly been promoted."
  • "On May 1, 2009, Sweden repealed its "registered partnership" laws and fully replaced them with gender-neutral marriage."
  • "Sweden is the third largest music exporter in the world [...] surpassed only by the US and the UK."
  • ABBA was Swedish. So were/are the Cardigans, Hives and Shout Out Louds. "The renowned neoclassical power metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen is also from Sweden."
  • Carl Linnaeus (who figured out the best way to name every living thing), Anders Celsius (who invented the weather and named it after himself) and August Strindberg (Ibsen's arch enemy) were all Swedish. Ibsen had a mean-looking portrait of Strindberg hanging over his desk, just to keep him motivated. That last sentence is not from Wikipedia, but is still true.
  • "The Swedish writer to have made the most lasting impression on world literature is Astrid Lindgren, writer of Pippi Longstocking."
  • Greta Garbo, Dolph Lundgren and Ann-Margret are Swedish. This is Ann-Margret:
  • You want to play the above video again.
  • "Besides their character, Rangers pro scout Harry Howell sees another factor all of the NHL's Swedish players have in common. 'The first thing is their physical fitness,' says Howell. 'They're in great shape. If you ever have had a chance to see the bottom half of the Swedish torso, their legs are like tree trunk legs. That's why they're great skaters, powerful skaters with great balance. And their stick-handling, too. They're tremendously skilled. They must spend a lot of time in their youth handling the puck.'" (via Hockey Digest)
  • In 2008, there were 45 Swedish players in the NHL, out of 768, or 5.9%. (via From the Rink)
  • Ratio of Swedish people to Swedish NHL players: 204,444:1.

Next up, I have no idea. Maybe the Swiss?