I belong to that generation when the Internet became readily accessible as I entered the second half of my teen years, but it had not been around so long that my parents were wary about the people I talked to online, thus I was able to make a lot of friends online. And many of them are Americans. Having friends from different countries and cultures usually means some clashing, even if it’s another western nation like the US, from the sort of sitcoms we grew up with, to brands of sugary fuel we consumed and the way we were brought up. One of those areas where I just didn’t seem to “get it” was the general attitude I noticed about the seasons and summers.
Often I heard them complain about summers, how awful they were, how they rejoiced as soon as the first cold winds of autumn blew down from the north and I could never understand that attitude. After all, in Sweden, my homeland, our seasons don’t work quite the same way, where summer was a blessing after many dark, cold months.
I discovered that most of North America has what is referred to as “continental climate”, which is much warmer in the summer as hot air currents can just roll over the entire continent with no obstacles. I only needed to gaze down at the other side of the Baltic, down at continental Europe to see a clear difference to Sweden’s coastal climate, which means more precipitation and winds from the many bodies of water that surround us and lower temperatures in the summer as warm air currents have trouble reaching us.
And then there is the fact that Sweden is really so far north that without the help of those warm ocean currents out in the Atlantic, this would be a far, far colder place than it is, but still resulting in a huge difference in day length between winter and summer.
So, combining those two things, the sharp differences in daylight in winter and summer, then the different climate you get a people who savor summer like nothing else. We can joke about how Sweden is like nine months of winter, two months of spring and one lone month of summer, but to be honest, it wouldn’t be too far from the truth many years. Just watch how people in Stockholm, all defiant despite a chilly and drizzly June sky put on shorts and dresses, then huddle under blankets outside popular cafes, just because. Just because it is summer dangnabbit!
We drag all we can out of every shred, every day of sunlight, some sunbathers even bringing out their blankets and deck chairs as early as April if we get a freak heatwave that coax temperatures up in the 20s Celsius in the sun. As long as the calendar tells us it is summer, that is how we will try to act, come hell or high water. We might begin to whine and complain if bad weather drags on, then light up like Christmas trees when the weather changes and we go full on, dragging out swimsuits and picnic baskets to seize the day, every day of warmth and sunlight we get.
Thus, you might see how I was provoked at my American friends and their complaints of summer. How they whined about warm weather lasting for more than a week at a time, while I pulled my hair and mumbled about how I would give my left kidney for such reliable summer weather, might almost, almost even sacrifice the bright summer evenings that are one of those things Scandinavia are famous for internationally (but Jon Stewart, you should know that not all of Sweden is inside the pole circle and thus have those eternal daylight in summer days).
And that is really it. Every place is characterized by its surroundings, its place in the world and that includes both the climate and the turning of the seasons. North America and the US might have long, muggy hot summers, but when I went there I was always rather shocked at how dark it got fairly early in the evenings, even in the middle of summer. Hot, muggy, dark nights, filled with the chirping of cicadas. Would I truly want to trade that for my bright, but cooler summer nights, where blackbirds fill the air with their serenading?
Perhaps for a week or two, standard vacation length but I suspect that if I stayed there for longer I might turn into one of those cynical summer hating people that many Americans seem to be, something I have come to admit might not be completely unmotivated. And I don’t really want that. Better to have something wonderful to look forward to every year, even if I have to endure the long, cold dark Swedish winter to get there.