I AM a representative of the former British Empire and the current Commonwealth of Nations; I am the descendant of Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and the son of an RAF pilot. I did
not graduate with First Class honours from Cambridge University and since then have not entered the Foreign Office’s prestigious diplomatic corps.
‘The Northern Plights’ documents my assessment of Sweden for the possibility of any future conquests which the British Government’s War Cabinet is
Even a stiff upper lip is prone to the occasional quiver. I am made of strong stuff – the Bestish of British, if I may be so bold to declare – I therefore never get homesick. I never tire of being the stranger in a strange land, the problem arises when you realise that YOU are not the stranger, everyone else is a strangerer.
A momentary lapse of resolve found me standing in Malmö’s central railway station, a hub for Scandinavian and international travel. I needed to escape to…anywhere, anywhere which had the words ‘Great’ and ‘Britain’ in its cartographical description.
As I anxiously waited to embark my escape train I took a moment to gaze upon the nine to fiver proles as they herded themselves on and alighted themselves off the trains. Something unexpected dawned on me – it sent a cold shiver down my spine – were these natives actually not that different from us?
A ludicrous notion of course, but on appearance alone Sweden does to the
casual formal British observer seem relatively normal; they dress like Us and they walk like Us and they do things, like Us.
But don’t be fooled, they are NOT Us.
It is now, with hind-monocled-sight that I would like to introduce to you my Very Own Theory, which I refer to as ‘Reverse Cultural Shock‘ – little peculiarities which arise over time and make you hoik up an eyebrow and mutter with a modicum of disdain ‘how awfully queer’.
There are more of these than you can shake your walking cane at, but the one which makes me drop my pipe and recoil in aghast horror is that of snus.
Just imagine Sir Walter Raleigh returning from The Americas with his cargo of fine Virginia tobacco; he never held a competition to find the dumbest way of ingesting the toxin, but if he did, snus would have won – nicotine-stained-free hands down. The Swedes, pretty much exclusively, shove this snuff-like tobacco up their lip, and leave it…for hours, they look like they have been punched in the mouth – repeatedly.
As the tobacco seeps into their gums The Average Swede goes about their everyday business. You won’t notice it at first, but once your fleeting glance lands on a bulging top lip it is hard to distract yourself – long term users are grossly evident.
People may follow my blazed trail and it is only fair to warn them, snus does have a somewhat detrimental effect on the gums – the blackened rot does not sit well with the average Swedes pale skin and blond(e) hair.
They fought manky-gummed tooth and claw to keep the right to shove tobacco up their lips in the light of stringent EU smoking regulations. Go to any workplace and you won’t see people ‘nipping out for a crafty fag’ but what you will see is men and women with a large lump of black gunk peeping out over their teeth resembling a chunk of charred reindeer steak.
In all honesty, there is not much ‘cool’ left in tobacco consumption, but what has not gone up in smoke is probably lodged, fermenting in a Swede’s mouth.
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