Health post

Okay, I’m going to be honest – the other morning I woke up and freaked out about the Watson and my project. I had decided to start my day at this well-known café nearby, Röda Sten, and then they didn’t have wifi and there was no one there to talk to. My dinner plans for that night had fallen through, and I had already done my big walk of the city, so I was at a loss. Nothing to do, with 362 days left in the Watson? How was I supposed to move forward with no idea of what I was supposed to be doing, no plans, and completely no structure? I wasn’t sure how to ask strangers outright about their health and possible interactions with medical technology.

I’m still not so sure now, but I reached out to family and past Watson Fellows, and got some good advice. This will all take time. Perhaps I can start by simply observing. If I’m going to approach this project as a journalist, I need to be observant first. I need to get a big-picture idea of the Swedish lifestyle before I start asking specific questions. So, here are some things I’ve noticed so far.

green.jpg
Street between my apartment and the waterfront.

There is a ton of green everywhere. Swedes seem pretty outdoorsy, at least in this lovely weather, and are taking advantage of the parks.

green park.jpg

Every street, especially all along the water, is split for pedestrians and bikers. People walk, jog, run, and bike everywhere.

split lane.jpg
Here you can see that the right of the middle passageway is for pedestrians, while the left is for bikers. Cars and trams go on both sides of the passageway.

Bikes really are popular here.

bikes.jpg
On the left, you see a regular bike rack. On the right, just further down the same street, you have the Styr & Ställ bikes, Göteborg’s city-bike system. If you buy a 3-day pass (under $3) for Styr & Ställ, you can use any bike for free for under 30 minutes. There are stations all over the city.

Next, there are a lot of McDonald’s around. I’ve also seen a couple Burger Kings, Pizza Hut, and a ton of 7-Eleven stores. They all seem pretty popular.

soccer and burger king.jpg
I love this – a fit soccer team sits in front of a Burger King near Järntorget. A youth soccer tournament is currently happening in the city.

Despite the fast food, most Swedes look fit. I’ve seen very few overweight people here, and half of them have sounded American!

In fact, there are skinny, older guys all over the place. Every so often I’ll see a very thin man drinking a beer in the middle of a weekday. I think these men must be retired. Sometimes I’ll see a whole group of thin, older men smoking together somewhere. That’s another thing – smoking. There are definitely smokers here, more than in NYC but fewer than Paris, I would guess. I think there are a lot of nicotine patches, too. I’ve been seeing some people with fancy white disks taped to their upper arms, and I can’t imagine what that would be except for a nicotine patch.

Once I got into my investigative journalist mode, I decided to seek out the closest clinic to where I’m staying. When researching clinics, I found many results that weren’t actually health-related but cosmetics-related. Skin clinics, hair clinics, nail clinics, and even anti-aging clinics popped up in my search. I can’t possibly say (yet or at all) if Swedish people seem awfully concerned about their appearance. “Clinic” might just mean something similar to “spa,” and NYC certainly has skin spas and nail spas. I did find the closest health clinic, however, which looked like this:

clinic door.jpg
Front door. There is something different on each floor of this building. See the green cross to the right?

I walked inside and up a few floors to discover this lobby:

clinic inside.jpg
Lovely. What you can’t see here is the random fish tank to the left.

I gave my number to a nurse working there and went on my way. Well, that’s enough for now! Hopefully as I spend more time here I’ll have a better sense of more health rituals, like what a typical Swedish dinner looks like and how often people go to the gym or exercise.

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