Expats, pancakes, and pea soup

Today I had my first truly Swedish lunch experience: pea soup and pancakes. Bear with me; I’ll explain. Apparently it’s a tradition to eat pea soup and Swedish pancakes on Thursdays. This supposedly originated in the days when Sweden was more Catholic, where such a filling meal would help hold you over through your meatless Friday. I hear that this tradition is still upheld in the Swedish army’s mess halls and in school cafeterias around the country.

When I first heard of this custom, I assumed the pancakes would be given a savory treatment, like crepes. But no such luck; the typical toppings are whipped cream and jam. I was relieved to learn that the pancakes are usually eaten as a course after the pea soup. I had feared my native Swedish lunch companion would nonchalantly start dipping his pancakes in the soup, and I would have no choice but to politely follow suit. Luckily it didn’t come to that.

In other news today, I went to an expat gathering at a bar in Södermalm this evening. I figured it’s never too early to get out and start meeting people, especially since it will probably be harder once it gets cold and dark in a month or so. There were about 25 people there from all around the world, mostly in their 20s and 30s. It was really interesting hearing how everyone wound up in Stockholm. Among my fellow foreigners were: a self-employed web designer from London; a Belgian girl who happened to get a job at an NGO in Sweden (apparently it’s not that big of a deal to apply for jobs within the EU if you’re a citizen there); a flamboyant Ohioan who works as a researcher at a medical school getting rats drunk in order to study alcoholism treatments; an Indian software tester who invited me to what he claims is the best Indian restaurant in Stockholm; and a Lebanese guy named Remi who owns an English pub in Uganda, DJs around Africa, and comes to Sweden to help his family run their restaurant… either that or he’s a pathological liar, but regardless he was quite entertaining to talk to.

There were surprisingly few Americans at the meetup, but I was asked several times about U.S. politics and yesterday’s presidential debate. Most of the debate coverage I’ve read so far has come from my Facebook news feed, so I don’t think I was really able to give them the informed American perspective they were looking for. Although I probably did confirm all their preconceptions about political interest in the U.S.