26 October, 2009

Hey wait, its DC bars that are known for inescapable political blathering

Its exam time in Swedish higher education. Not for Stu & I, with our bizarre module schedules, but we both did get our grades from the first course this week. Out of grades A-F (and yes, that includes the possibility of getting an E or an Fx grade) I got a B. Which was the highest in the class, apparently. And Stu also got a "pass," which meant he didn't fail (they won't get real letter grades for a while, as I understand it.)

Anyway, the end of exam time coincided with pay day here. Swedes get paid once per month, on or around the 25th. And people get *very* excited about pay day.  So we had a few friends over to our apartment for wine on Friday and then went out to a fancypants bar in Stureplan to meet up with more friends to celebrate the end of exams (but not for us), payday (again, not for us) and our friend RV's 30th birthday.

Stureplan is where lots of pretty people hang out, and spend too much on cover charges to get into clubs that are too loud to talk in. I prefer dive bars (I still miss the Raven and Wonderland...haven't yet found acceptable equivalents here, though Södermalm probably has a few close competitors.)  But it was RV's birthday, and he had a handful of American friends fly in to help him celebrate, so he wanted to show them a posh time, apparently. Not to mention these guys are lawyers or something with 6-figure salaries, so this was probably up to their normal standard.

So I sat down next to this bearded burly American and introduced myself. Turns out, they all live in DC, so it was easy to strike up conversation.  Stu immediately got bored with this guy, and I suppose thats not saying much, but I should have taken cue. We did the whole "why are you in Sweden" thing, and he talked about how much he likes Stockholm so far.

Then he asked me what I did in the US before moving to Sweden, and I had barely gotten the words "...worked at a nonprofit by the White House" out of my mouth before he started shaking his head, and saying "Oooooh, one of thooooose."  Turns out we have vastly different political views, and he was the kind of person who wants to push his politics on you if you don't agree in the first 5 minutes of meeting you. Obviously, he stereotyped me from my "nonprofit" comment right off the bat. He proceeded to drone about how he didn't want to pay for health care for the entire country and blah, blah, blah (bored me just re-typing what he said.) And I thought, YOU ARE IN SWEDEN, you moron...they live this way and it works for them! 

Anyway, not to get further into a political debate (turns out we did agree on a few points that our "party lines" might not normally allow) but it struck me as funny. DC is a political town, where the first question you are asked in a bar is "so what do you do?"
Stockholm is not that way, from my limited 2.5 month experience. I have rarely been asked what I did for work in the US...very few people actually know that I am a librarian. I have not been asked at all (or stereotyped, for that matter) about what my politics are.  But you throw two District of Columbians (what do we call ourselves, I have no idea!?!) together in a bar in Europe, and we still seem to find that question as important in the first 5 minutes, and one on which we judge each other!

We carried on a fairly civilized conversation afterward, as he managed to redeem himself by buying me a beer (I am easy to please) and describing how the birthday-celebrating group accidentally found themselves at a cougar bar the night before. They were so drunk that they stumbled into Golden Oldies, even got carded by the bouncer who point-blank said "Are you sure you want to come in here?" and promptly charged them each 180kr cover when they beligerently answered "yes, we're here to drink!" (thats about $25 per person, to walk in the door!) They were the youngest by 25 years.
I laughed. And I actually learned from him...avoid Golden Oldies.  We even managed to meet up with them on Saturday night, at a much less pretentious place with extremely good sangria. And there was no political engagement at all. We all played nice.

Until talking with this guy, I had forgotten this aspect of DC politics...that it is nearly inescapable in that city.  Even more interesting, now that I think about it, is that in Sweden of all places, I meet one of the 3% of district residents who did NOT vote for Obama.

Regardless, my thoughts on this: I am happy with my grades, I wish I got paid so that I could enjoy payday, I like meeting new people no matter what their politics, I miss and I don't miss DC, the weekend was a blast, Monday comes too soon, and Stu is usually right.

And happy birthday to my dad.

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