Went to Gothenburg (Goteborg), Sweden (2nd largest city in Sweden) last week for business, and having never been to Sweden figured I'd file my list of observations:
1) The most obvious thing I noticed was that life didn't revolve around eating. There weren't many fast-food places, and there were no vending machines at the work site I was at, causing me to go through Diet Coke withdrawal.
2) Everywhere I went there were tons of old bikes, typically single speed, with one hand brake, 1950's style seat, rusted fenders and some sort of basket for carrying stuff - quite nerdy. They wouldn't sell for $10 on craigslist in the states, but people rode them everywhere, and strangely locked them up with locks that must have been worth as much as the bikes themselves.
The one below was actually spray-painted pink. Where I was working there were bikes for riding around the site - and I was told that lots of people ride 10K or further to work.
3) As a result of 1&2, the people were THIN! What a concept. I think I saw one obese person the entire time I was there. Hmmm....maybe they're onto something...
4) While out walking one night I came across what looked like a Swedish Rastafarian drummer hippie cult! There must have been ten of them - a couple with dreadlocks - all with different drums or percussion instruments. They must have drummed for an hour straight (we could hear them from where we were eating) and at one point some guy from out of the crowd joined them and started break dancing! Quite eclectic and interesting.
5) And what trip is complete without hundreds of Iranians protesting? In this case, the recent elections in Iran. I made sure there were no "Death to America" signs before taking my picture. Some of them actually had a banner that read, "Iranian Communist Party" (should have got a picture of that) - I didn't even know there was such a thing!
6) As for the cars - lots-o-Volvos, as you would guess. Also, VW, Pugeot, and Mercedes. Very few American cars, and the Swedish government must make it cost prohibitive to drive old cars, because I didn't see any clunkers at all. However, there in the hotel parking garage was this monstrosity:
7) Stores? Mostly I saw small, specialized shops. Most of them had Swedish names, but I saw one lingerie store called "Trailer Trash". And in lieu of Barnes & Noble...
8) Food? I didn't take pictures, but there were some strange items. On the first day at the company cafeteria they served spaghetti noodles covered with gravy and pieces of ham. And when I ordered Swedish meatballs at a restaurant they came with blackberries on top!
9) And as for how the Swedes looked .... well, they weren't all candidates for the Swedish bikini team. I'd say about 10% looked like the stereotypical Swede (tall, blonde) and the rest just looked like they could be from anywhere.
10) And each day when I talked to my younger daughter she asked if I'd learned any Swedish, so before leaving I learned one phrase....
"Har en bra dog" ... which means "have a nice day" (at least that's what they told me it meant)!
11) Also, no sign of where they make those "Swedish Fish" candies - must be a closely-guarded state secret!