No matter where you live, there is always a long list of things that bothers you about your town. (Do not get me started on the things that I hate about my hometown of Cincinnati. But that is for another day.) Today I need to do one of my “things I hate about Sweden” posts.
Not long after I moved here, I was taking a bike ride. Up on the path ahead of me about 150 meters away, I saw an old man trip and fall down. Directly next to him, less than 5 meters away, were two construction workers talking. While the now bleeding old man struggled to get up, the other men went on talking and completely ignored the old man. I came riding up on my bike, threw it down and proceeded to go to the old man to help him. He desperately wanted to get up, but he was too big for me to help. Instead I checked out his head wound and give him some tissue to stop the flow. But he just wanted to get back up. Frustrated, I asked the two men to help me with the man. Nonchalantly, they helped the man up. I then asked them to help him over to a bench, which they did. Eventually, I left after making sure the man seemed OK on his own.
On my way home, I cried. I did not feel I could live in a place where an injured old man would be ignored.
Later that evening, I told some Swedish friends about the incident and expressed my anger and frustration about the lack of help. I felt strongly that the man would have been helped in the US. Ola explained that the younger men probably felt embarrassed for the old man and did not want to invade his privacy. I accepted his explanation, though I did not understand it.
Some years down the road, I do understand the Swede’s reluctance to get involved in others’ affairs a bit more. But I still don’t get it. To me, it is simple. If someone needs help, you give it. It is just one of the many ways that I know that I am hardwired to be an American.