This week, I went on an investigative trip to the Swedish-speaking pub meeting. That is my very poor translation of an already flawed title for this get together in the only Swedish café in Düsseldorf, actually, as I got to know there, apparently the only Swedish café in 100 km radius. (In Hamburg, there are four Swedish café only in one city!)
The café is on the other side of the Rhine, thus out there. As I still keep up my resolution to bike (despite several near-murder attempts of car drivers), it takes a lot of determination to go there, especially on a chilly, windy night. You have to cross the Rhine bridge and I was surprised bikes are allow to go on that bridge when there is wind. Because chances are not that small that you might be blown away. At least that is what I felt like when I, freezing, with a dress flying up and earrings dangling violently (my clothing style is not ideal for windy bike rides), made my way over the water.
Because I am unfamiliar with the city, I was worried to miss the café and looked out for the street number. Well, I would not have had to – the giant Swedish flags were impossible to overlook. The café is a mekka for Sweden-lovers as it sells basically everything from Ekelund-textiles to Västerbottenost and – maybe most peculiar – candles with photos of the Swedish Royal Family. Unfortunately, I am sure there are people who buy those without the tiniest bit of ironic motive.
The place was much more populated than I thought because dozens of Swedish students had come. Students who are here to learn German came to a meeting where the purpose was Swedish. Well.
I was only there for a rather short time and the people were certainly friendly but it is always somewhat difficult when a lot of attendants suffer from Bullerbüsyndrome. I believe I diagnosed quite some with this disease that evening. My co-workers want to run away screaming when confronted with Bullerbü-people. I adopt a more diplomatic attitude.
What is Bullerbü-syndrome, you wonder?
The director of the German Cultural Goethe-Institute in Stockholm first came up with the Bullerbü-syndrome (deliberately spelling Bullerby [Noisy Village] the German way). The term describes Germans who have an extremely over-idealized image of Sweden, believing that all of Sweden was like in the children’s book “The Children of Noisy Village” by Astrid Lindgren.(I also like to call them Nordic Talkers.) People who suffer from Bullerbü-syndrome have rarely lived in Sweden but often like to spend their holidays in mostly Småland, Lindgren’s home region. The Bullerbü-syndrome-affected are convinced that everything is better in Sweden, especially the school system. They also tend to cultivate a special love for elks and “Warning! Elks!”-signs which they frequently steal from Swedish roads. A typical thing the Bullerbü-sufferer can say in Swedish is, “Jag älskar Sverige!” Also, s/he might utter statements like, “I don’t really need to know about everyday life in Sweden, I am interested in the pleasant parts.”
The Bullerbü-syndrome can probably only be cured by placing the concerned person for an extensive time (more than one year) in a Swedish city that experiences housing shortage, expose the patient frequently to the Swedish health care system, and send her/his children into a Swedish school.
If the person is still fond of Sweden after this time, s/he might have been transformed into a Dvensk who despite the crushing of the Swedish Dream still holds the country dear.
It should though be positively noted that several export industries and the Swedish tourism industry largely live on customers/visitors with Bullerbü-syndrome. Not everything is bad with idealization, I guess…!