We seem to be having an early season for apples and other fruits here in the Stockholm area, and I’m lucky enough to live in a place that used to be a fruit orchard at some far point back in time. Or maybe it was a dump where lazy people threw out rotten apple cores and plum seeds. Whichever it is, it’s paying off now! Earlier this season the cherry trees were full of fruit, and now we’ve moved on to apples and plums. I’m also lucky to have young, eager climbers to get up and reach the good apples. The freezer is full of pies, breads and muffins.
And if I’m not in the mood to search around, people in my neighborhood who have an abundance of apples and plums from their trees often put out baskets for anyone to take extra. Just walking for ten minutes, I passed seven baskets of fruit (and came home with two bags full, while still leaving plenty for other people).
I was thinking how this wouldn’t work in the area of Texas where I grew up. People would probably just steal the basket.
However, people do have the neighborly, sharing spirit there, just in other ways. Instead of fruit, people put their old couches and televisions out on the curb. It’s understood that anything on the curb is free to take. Once or twice when one of my parents would put something like that out on our curb, I would hide near the window to see how long it would take until someone took it. I never had to wait more than five minutes.
Meanwhile in Sweden, I have this bike I bought for about five dollars that I hate and I can’t get anyone to steal it! There’s no lock on it and it’s out in front of the building. I know I need to take it to the dump, but that requires loading it into the car, which requires muscles and time. I have a limited amount of both.
Maybe if I put the bike in a giant basket and hang some apples from it, someone will get the idea. It’s worth a try.
One of the cultural differences I noticed when I moved to Sweden is that Swedes will never take the last of anything. If you attend a Swedish party, by the end of the night there will most likely be 1 chip left in the bowl and one tiny slice of cake. On Christmas there is only one candy left in the candy box by the end of the evening.
This week at my office, I brought a bowl of jelly beans from my recent trip to Texas. When I came to work the next morning, there were 2 small jellybeans left in the bowl. They stayed there all day until someone else brought in a bucket of candy and I tossed them in there. (Yes, by the end of the next day, the new bucket had one piece of candy left sitting in it.)
Later in the week I brought 4 leftover cookies from a batch I made at home with a note saying, “Please help yourself.” I wasn’t surprised when I came in the next morning to find one cookie left in the bag. However, by lunchtime the cookie was missing. I asked around and found out that a co-worker from Poland had taken the cookie. It’s good that we have such an international staff or we’d be left with one of everything.
The good thing about all of this is that when we have a family gathering, I can always take the last of everything. That last piece of candy at Christmas, the last piece of birthday cake – I just smile and say, “I’m American so I’ll just be taking this here.”