The estimable Raymond Chen posted a funny story today about an experience he had in Sweden. (Make sure you read Raymond’s post so you can understand one of the greatest blog comments ever!) Anyway, I had to laugh out loud because I had something similar happen to me in Sweden as well. A number of years ago, I had some work in Stockholm Sweden, but as I had never been, I arrived a few days early so I could do a little sightseeing and enjoy the culture.

Having read up on Stockholm before arriving, the first place I wanted to see was Gamla stan, the old town. Right after throwing my bags into my hotel room, I made a beeline down there on the amazing Swedish public transportation. There was only one small problem, I didn’t get to pick the time for my business trip. It was December. It was also, as the hotel clerk informed me, one of the coldest days Stockholm had seen in 25 years.

No big deal. I grew up in Alaska so knew what cold was. I was also living in New England at the time so I made sure to pack nice warm clothes and was prepared. When I started walking around, I realized that it was not just cold it was seriously cold. Something like -15 F with a nice stiff wind blowing. I was doing OK, but my camera’s batteries were dying after one or two pictures so I had to keep the camera in my coat. The consolation was that there were no other people at all out so all my building pictures were unobstructed.

I’d been poking around for an hour or two and was standing in a decent size courtyard that was about the size of a football pitch (a soccer field to my American readers) and the light starting to get nice for pictures. As I was waiting for a little better light, I was looking at my map. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a bundled up woman walking vigorously in my direction.

The woman walked right up to me and said in English “Are you lost? Can I help you? Are you OK?” all in a big rush. I told her that I was fine but waiting for the sun to go down a little more so I could get a better picture of one of the buildings. She looked at me a little strange.

I then asked her “How do you know to speak English to me?”

Her response: “Only an American would be crazy enough to be out taking pictures on a day so cold even us Swedes are smart enough to stay inside!”

With that she turned on her heal and marched quickly away with my uncontrollable laughter in the background.