By Steve Kelman

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Fun stories -- some involving tech -- from Sweden

For reasons I won’t bother to explain, I have had a longstanding interest in Sweden, including frequent visits and (if you can believe it) the ability to speak Swedish.

I was back again last week, and here are a few amusing stories from my visit. I share them here, not because, I suspect, many blog readers have much of an intrinsic interest in Sweden, but because most of these tales could have come from many countries outside the U.S., and they tell us something about our amazing internationalized world.

1. Huawei, the Chinese telecom and mobile phone manufacturer, is trying to break into the Swedish smartphone market. The company is already big in much of Asia and in a few countries in Europe. (In the U.S., Huawei products are generally not sold because of government worries about Chinese government access to private information gleaned from government agencies or other customers.)

While I was there, the leading daily newspaper ran several full-page ads for Huawai phones, and there was also a large ad stretched across a major subway stop in Stockholm. However, the Chinese didn’t get the subtleties of British and U.S. spelling and usage right. The parts of the subway ad in English referred to “colours” and used the world “whilst,” though Swedes pretty much universally follow American usage when they write English.

2. An article in Sweden’s equivalent to the Wall Street Journal discussed a lawsuit in front of the Swedish Internet Foundation, which regulates the Internet in Sweden, by the tiny Pacific island of Nieu, seeking $20 million in damages for illegal use of Nieu’s domain name, .nu. In Swedish, “nu” means “now,” and there are tens of thousands of Swedish sites with the .nu domain name.

3. Speaking of ads, I saw a full-page ad in one of the daily newspapers with the headline, “Tastes so good it should be legal.” It was for Griidy brand “whole roasted crickets.” Noting that “83% of cultivated land gives us today 18% of our calorie intake,” the ad proclaimed this was “crazy,” continuing that “our consumption habits as they are today are not sustainable, and therefore we need new solutions.” The ad did note that “consumption of crickets is currently illegal in Sweden, so these may be eaten only when the law allows it.’ For now, ”you can enjoy crickets best as food for the eyes.” This may be a harder sell than Huawei smartphones.

4. An old, much-loved walking street in downtown Stockholm features a famous movie theater that, I saw during this visit, has closed. The space is now occupied by an outlet of Eataly, the Italian gourmet food emporium found in New York and Boston. (One is apparently planned for D.C. as well, so keep your eyes out.) And the modernistic Sweden House, next to a downtown park, which long housed exhibits to publicize Sweden for visitors, has recently been replaced by a giant outlet for Uniqlo, the Japanese fashion chain. (The Sweden House sign on the façade remains.)

5. There was also an article the day I was leaving on the movie Crazy Rich Asians, which has not yet opened in Sweden. “Ever since I was a kid,” the article began, “I have fantasized about being a rich American. During my whole growing-up years, my brain has been marinated by everything coming from the US. And I’ve loved it. Music and films have come from there. Clothes. Hairstyles. Food. Cars. Sex symbols. Humor. Morals. Ideals. Prejudices.”

Now, however, these role models are moving to China, the author suggested, and concerns about disparaging that nation have increased accordingly. “In a remake of Red Dawn in 2012,” the article concluded, “it was China that attacked the U.S. But after demands from those financing the movie, the film studio MGM spent a million dollars retouching the planes and flags so they became North Korean. In the harmless cartoon Pixels there was a scene in the script where aliens blew holes in the Great Wall of China. When Sony realized that this could hurt the film in China, this was changed to instead blow up the Taj Mahal.”

6. The Swedish equivalent to Business Week had a long article on efforts by the Swedish timber industry, one of the country’s main natural resources, to develop new uses for cellulose and other constituents of trees to be a sustainable replacement for plastics and other materials that use more non-renewable energy to produce. Innovation everywhere….

Posted by Steve Kelman on Dec 04, 2018 at 11:47 AM


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