Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Trusting Nation

This afternoon, I seated myself at a small table at my favorite local coffee shop and began settling in to read the new edition of an EU law textbook.  (Much has changed in EU law over the last year.  Every single textbook I bought last year during my master program is now outdated.  The part of my brain which works out the conspiracy theories wonders if the EU lawmakers are in cahoots with the EU law textbook publishers.  But I digress.)

The woman seated at the table next to me asked me in very polite Swedish if her infant's baby carriage was in my way.  "Of course not!" I said, smiling at the sleeping newborn.  "He sleeps like an angel" I told her.  "You should see him when he's awake" she quickly replied.  We laughed and then returned to our separate tasks.  A few minutes later she said "Excuse me, but do you mind keeping an eye on my son while I go to the restroom?"  I was sure that I misheard her so I asked her to repeat her question.  Nope.  I heard her correctly.  She asked me, a complete stranger, to keep watch over her child!  From my brief interaction with her, I judged her to be a reasonably sane and loving mother.  That made me wonder if this is a common occurrence in Sweden.  Is this country of nine million people so closely knit that they trust one another to look after each other's children?  If so, this may be my biggest "culture shock" moment yet.  

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