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Jan 28 2008

“Bringing in the sheets”

We spent a good chunk of the weekend entertaining my father-on-law, who came down from Falkenberg solo because his wife (a police dispatcher) was working.  He had initially invited us to go up there for a couple days, but ever since becoming Copenhagen’s 1st PhD postal carrier, Dr. Darling has (finally!) learned to be somewhat protective of our weekends and deftly turned his invitation around so that he came to us.

He’s a very easy guest in practically all respects except that he won’t allow us to treat him like one. He insists on bringing food and alcohol with him (or buying groceries after he gets here), which I suspect dates back to the days when Dr. Darling was a poor college student and didn’t really cook. Of course lack of funds and/or kitchen prowess has not been an issue at our place for a number of years now, and he’s been told multiple times that he doesn’t have to bring anything when he visits, but some old habits die hard, I guess.

What’s even more maddening to me is that he always brings his own sheets and towels. Not because he thinks ours are old and grungy (even though *some* of them are), but because it’s a fairly common expectation of overnight guests in Sweden. This practice appalled me the first time I experienced it after moving here.  In fact, I think my initial reaction to watching the Dr. Darling pack up a set of sheets and towels for us was something along the lines of, “Are you shitting me?!  I thought we we’re staying with your family, not at some self-serve youth hostel!

Dr. Darling justified this social custom by explaining that many Swedes live in apartment complexes where they share laundry facilities and don’t have the option to just toss in a load of sheets and towels whenever they wanted. I kind of bought that logic given the limited access we had to the laundry room in the building we were living in at the time.  But then I discovered that most of my Swedish in-laws had their own washers and dryers, and my attitude changed very quickly back into “Are you shitting me?!” mode.

I’ve since tried very hard to adopt a “When in Rome” position on the issue. I live in Sweden, and this is what Swedish houseguests do…though I suspect that some of my residual resentment of the practice stems from the fact that we don’t own a car, so whatever we have to pack for overnight trips gets hauled on our backs.  I’ve also made it clear to Dr. Darling that guests at The Penthouse-Nordic are NEVER expected to bring their own sheets and towels, and that I, the American half of the host team, will be mildly offended if they do.

Five years on, this message still hasn’t sunk in for my father-in-law.  In addition to bringing his own bed linen, he walked in the door on Saturday afternoon with two different kinds of rum and a 1.5 litre bottle of Coca-Cola.  But he didn’t have any food with him for a change, and we were both feeling quite smug because we’d made a point of buying groceries before he arrived, thus preventing him from whipping out his bankcard in the check-out line as is his usual M-O.

Then shortly after he left to head back up to Falkenberg, Dr. Darling discovered a 500 crown note (about 77.60 USD) in the guestroom.  Curses…foiled again!

It must be a “Dad thing”.

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Feed my ego!

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