Tea or Coffee? – How to Host a Swede.
I can tell right away that this is just the beginning. It’s like opening Pandora’s box, or piercing a tin of Surströmming (Fermented Baltic Sea Herring); there’s no going back once the expat floodgates are opened.
– Bemused and Amused By Swedes
”Tea or coffee?”
It might sound like a simple question.
But you’re NEVER going to get a straight answer!
”What are you going to have?”
And now you’re supposed to read minds!
There’s a little chance, they really don’t mind. The likelyhood is however that they really do, and they just want you to say it …Because it would be putting you out too much to actually just say what they want to drink?!
Are they shifting their weight from one foot to the other?
Looking slightly on edge?
Had a long day? A hectic morning?
Do they have young children?
Do they look like their mind’s about to turn to mush?
Is it morning? 3pm? 7pm?
Are they looking calm?
Is it possible they’ve very recently indulged on copious amounts of caffeine?
Have you ever seen them drinking tea?
Do they appear to be scanning your kitchen counters for a glimpse of a kettle (- not every Swedish home has one) or a selection of tea bags?
Is it afternoon? 4:30pm? 8:30pm?
Hesitation? …Change your mind!
And is any of it a hassle really anyway?
It’s not the point!
Nobody even ’makes’ tea for anybody. You just boil the water!
Your supposed to pass over a mug of boiling water, or even the whole kettle, an empty mug, a selection of tea bags/ pots of flavored tea leaves and an individual tea strainer, a teaspoon, and a little plate or bowl to put the tea bag/ tea strainer on afterwards, as well as the milk, sugar and honey – just incase.
So begins the botanizing.
Every pot of tea leaves should be opened and sniffed …With some oohs and ahhs. And every tea bag label read.
If you’re a (terrible) expat host(-ess) and only have black tea – albeit ’real’, imported British tea bags. You might want to reconsider how you ask the original question:
”Black tea or coffee?”
This can be a delightful, enlightening moment when just asking the ’wrong’ question warrants a decision.
”I’ll just take some water thanks!”
If it’s ’even worse’ – and we’re talking instant coffee, a re-phrased question is definitely warranted:
”Black tea or instant coffee?”
The best follow on from this one is when your guest politely mentions later in the conversation that you could maybe meet somewhere else next time!
After 12 years in Sweden, I can tell you I’m as bemused and amused by Swedes as the day I arrived.
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