Bella's Blog

“But you’re Swedish, you must be used to the cold!”

bellasweden2014

On national stereotypes and being cold…

Mrs Moneypenny has written a column for the Financial Times about my oldest friend leaving her job as her assistant because of “arctic conditions” in the office. My friend, “EE” as Mrs Moneypenny calls her, is Swedish like me and so she “must be used to the cold”, she says.

This is something that I have heard time and time again during the eight years that I have spent living in the UK. “Why are you shivering inside? Why are you wearing so many clothes? Why are you bringing a coat when there isn’t a cloak room?”

Now, let me tell you Mrs Moneypenny, and every other Brit who ever said this to me or indeed any other person of Nordic origin; you’ve got it all wrong.

What we are used to isn’t being cold but wrapping up (don’t even get me started on the issue of house insulation). Layer upon layer upon waterproof layer is what makes a Swedish wardrobe work and yes, we have cloakrooms in bars because we’d rather look bulky than catch a cold. I know your reasoning is the opposite to this and I’ve never understood why. T-shirts in January is just stupid.

Countless are the times that I have been shocked and horrified at the lack of clothing displayed in the streets of the UK and although I’ve learnt that flip-flops and shorts aren’t unheard of in February, friends who visit are left with mouths gaping at the British inability to freeze.

I had to laugh out loud when I was translating a text for a fashion retailer wanting to sell ballerina shoes in Sweden in December. Matched with skinny jeans and a cardigan? You’ve got to be joking. Give us (ethically sourced) feathers, fleece lining and gore-tex and you’ve got our attention. Chuck in an extra pair of woolly long-johns and you’ve got yourself a deal.

Here in Britain the addition of a bit of fake fur to a jacket’s hood seems to make it classify as a winter garnment and I learnt to buy my winter wear elsewhere long ago.

In fact, if there’s one nation used to freezing it’s clearly the UK because you just seem to endure it. Beer jacket on or not you soldier on through snow and ice and your stubbornness even sees you driving on ice-coated roads without winter tyres. It’s madness in my eyes but then who am I to complain? It seems to work for you and as long as you’re not skidding off roads hurting people I’m going to keep quite about it. Ahem.

Now, Mrs Moneypenny and everyone else, being Swedish doesn’t mean I have thicker skin or that I suffer icy conditions any better than you do. It makes me put a coat on and glaze my windows and the fact that you choose not to do this probably makes you more of a Viking than “EE” or I ever were. Now someone turn that heating up!

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