Sweden. Day 34. I saw the sun.

Do you know that scene in the animated movie “Snow White”, when she goes into the forest and starts singing, and all the animals come out to listen to her?

Well, here in Björkö is the opposite. You go into the forest and all animals disappear. You only see their footprints. You may see, at night, a dark shape far away lurking in the shadows, but this could be anything: a deer, a lynx, or a neighbour burying a corpse.

But yesterday as we were walking to the bus station, we were lucky: we clearly saw a fox, crossing the road. Why did the fox cross the road? That’s another question, but it was unmistakably a fox. Of course, I could not take a picture, but at least I know they exist.

The day was sunny today, and I did take a long walk, but most of the day was spent in preparations for tomorrow’s presentation. But the sun helped with the mood.

It is interesting how the light of the sun changes everything. Yesterday perhaps it was less cold, and even less windy than today, but the dark, wet, grey atmosphere was more conducive to stay inside depressed, drinking “Johnny Walker”, than to take long walks. And yet today there’s the sun, and anything seems possible.

Speaking of “Johnny Walker”, you can’t get it in supermarkets or grocery stores here. In fact, you can’t get any alcohol, except very bad beers with a maximum content of 3,5% alcohol. All other alcoholic beverages must be purchased at the Systembolaget, or “The System”, which is basically a state company that has a monopoly on all alcoholic beverages and sells them at heavily taxed prices. In Norway, a similar company is directly called Vinmonopolet, or “The Wine Monopoly”. If you live in Quebec, it would be the SAQ. So it’s not just a Swedish thing, but it’s pretty strict here.

The issue appears to be that, without such limitations and high prices, many more people would get drunk and become alcoholics, especially during the dark winter months. Now, I am not sure if that is completely true, as in Germany they sell cheap beer and wine and vodka in most stores and supermarkets (beer is like water in Germany), and while there are probably more alcoholics and drunkards there than in Sweden, it did not seem to have stopped German society from functioning pretty well.

But we must also consider that, in Sweden, people tend to be a bit more introvert or less social than in most other countries, and alcohol helps with that, so it’s possible that if alcohol consumption was unrestricted, it would end up being abused.

What is allowed in Sweden, and is not allowed in most other European countries, is Snus. Snus is tobacco snuff, or more exactly, a variant of snuff that is not aspired or inhaled but simply placed in the mouth, between the upper lip and the gums (it already comes in convenient pre-packaged little pouches). This way the nicotine is absorbed bypassing the lungs, so many say that it is healthier than smoking — at least, healthier for the lungs, but some say it may still cause oral cancer, higher blood pressure and bad breath, but at any rate it appears to be much less damaging than smoking cigarettes. It is quite popular here — I kept seeing people with those tins and thinking what kind of candy that was, until someone explained it to me.

And what about drugs, such as weed, meth, heroin? They are all illegal in Sweden, including marihuana, which is now becoming legal in many countries, and the controls are very strict. The idea is to be a zero-drug country, although usage appears to be increasing.

One thing that Swedes could do, is to pop a pill of another drug — Vitamin D — as the lack of sun during winter may make them more deficient in it. Studies indicate that higher amounts of Vitamin D may improve our mood.

Otherwise, just wait for sunny days, even if they are cold, and go outside. When it’s sunny, it’s really beautiful out there in this country.