I want!

I’ve noticed that the woman at the reception desk at the swim hall always looks at me as if I’m an alien when I ask to swim.   I’ve thought about this and I think I have figured out the problem.  Even though I know the correct way to say a sentence in Swedish, I think I am lacking the basic social skills for the language and culture.  The problem is that when I want to do something new, I learn the most basic and direct way to say it.  I have no follow up.  I don’t know how to make my sentences polite.  When I go to the swim hall each week, I walk up to the desk and say, “I WANT TO SWIM!”   (Jag vill simma!)    When I get a haircut, I say, “I WANT A HAIRCUT!” (Jag vill klippa mig! – Yes, it sounds to me like I’m saying I want to cut myself, but other people assure me this means haircut.)

I have nothing to say after these sentences.  If I were speaking English, I would probably say, “I’d like to swim, please,” and then make some comment about the weather.  If I were asking for a haircut in English, I would say, “Yes, I’d like to get a haircut today.  Just a little off the ends.”

But in Swedish, I am forced to announce my needs in a caveman fashion and my only follow up may be occasional miming.  After I announce my desire for a haircut in Sweden and they ask me how much, I usually just make my hands into scissors and pretend to cut where I would like it.   This gets the message across but may also be why people occasionally treat me as if I am a crazy street person.

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