‘Ladies and Gentlemen good morning and welcome on board this SAS flight to Stockholm! We don’t want to stress you, but please take your seats as soon as possible as they are threatening to close the airport and we really want to get back to Sweden’.
There you have it. My first impact with Sweden was at London Heathrow. This was the announcement the stewardess kept repeating as passengers made their way onto the plane.
After months of miserable dull, grey, rainy days all of a sudden it started to snow heavily across the country, much to the joy of children and the British press (that once again narrowly avoided the chance of covering anything of actual importance).
The short announcement gives an idea of how negatively stress is perceived in the Swedish culture, much to the astonishment of many Americans and Europeans. Even with the imminent ‘snowstorm’, that threatened the closure of the airport, the stewardess still apologised for the inconvenience of having to rush. The note of urgency and almost desperation with which she ended the announcement ‘we really want to get back to Sweden’ is entirely understandable as the prospect of being stuck in England for days until the conditions improved was suicidal, especially for a Swede.
Next to speak was the captain that remarked how temperatures in Stockholm were even lower and the amount of snow and ice higher yet ‘in Sweden we don’t need to shut runways when it snows’. Heathrow is the busiest airport in the world, with over 59 million passengers that go through it every year one can’t help but thinking that if the provincial airport of Kiruna, in Swedish Lapland, works throughout the year why the hell can’t the best airport in the UK deal with a bit of snow.
In the end we managed to leave Heathrow (3 hours later than scheduled) after waiting for our slot on the only operative runway (as the one was shut). Flight was good, it lasted little over 2 hours, and they also gave me a free coffee and newspaper that is never to be sniffed at, although I was kind of regretting not choosing BA for the complementary sandwiches and open bar.
One further thing worth a mention: the cabin crew must have had an average age of 55, something unusual but interesting, as there appeared to be no pressure from the company to push them to wear loads of make-up and dress ‘provocatively’. Instead they wore a uniform that had a pattern and colours that echoed the marine tradition, a big part of Scandinavian heritage. This sea-loving tradition can also be found in the hats people wear during graduation ceremonies that look similar to a sea captain’s hat.
Easy part over, the biggest challenge was reaching Uppsala and finding were I was supposed to sign the contract and pick up the keys.