It’s the little things that mean the most

“So, how is Stockholm? Tell us everything. Like, seriously, EVERYTHING. Spare no details”

You probably know what it feels like to travel to a country none of your friends have visited before. You come back, and you’re suddenly the center of attention. They surround you, their eyes shining with excitement and an insatiable thirst for vicarious adventure. Car fanatics want to hear stories about the Ferraris and the Porsches roaming the streets of the cities you visited. Nature lovers gasp as you describe the beautiful landscape and the icy mountain-tops. Some will be particularly interested in the architecture of the cities you visited, while many will grow impatient with all of this, and they will ask you – with a mischievous smirk- to tell the kind of stories one cannot post in this blog 

And, believe me, when you live in Stockholm, there’s a thousand stories to tell.

“Where to start?” I thought, feeling a bit puzzled. I had more jaw-dropping encounters in Stockholm than I remember. I tried to think of a good story to tell, but all my stories seemed to vanish in a haze.
A minute passed, and I said nothing.

“What was the first thing that positively impressed you in Stockholm?” said one of my friends, trying to ease me into the conversation.

Oh, I remember. It wasn’t the kind of thing you’ll find in a travel guide. Many people won’t even pay attention to it, but I did. Taking the escalator on my first day in Stockholm, I noticed that people who want to walk up or down on escalators take their left, while standers take the right, which means that if you’re in a hurry you can walk up or down the moving steps as fast you want without being blocked by a stander. That’s not a written rule, and there’s no police to enforce it. And yet, everybody adheres to it, it’s just good manners.

Telling that mundane story caused me to have a minor epiphany. You don’t need a grand story to convey how nice a city is or how wonderful it is to live there. Sometimes even the most trivial, overlooked or underrated of things can so eloquently capture the true spirit of a city and its people. The little things can indeed mean the most.

“You guys won’t believe how clean the air is in Stockholm” My friends and I come from a heavily polluted city; I knew there’s nothing they’ll value more than being able to breathe deeply without the inevitable cough.

I was on a roll, and I wasn’t going to stop. “You want to hear something amazing? Everybody in Stockholm speaks English fluently; whether it’s your professor in college, the cashier in your local grocery store, your landlord, the maintenance guy who fixes the busted heating system in your apartment or just a random person in the subway. In fact, I have never come across a Swede who can’t speak English!”

I went on and on about those little things I love about Stockholm. My initial ambivalence turned into an unstoppable torrent of stories about all the things I’ve seen or experienced since I moved here. Some drew praise, and some drew ire, but all in all I never felt more like a captivating storyteller; whether it’s a story about how the Swedes embrace sports and athleticism, or a story about the scary-looking 6 foot 5, sleeveless man with skull tattoos all over his arm and neck and a Mohawk, pushing a stroller with an adorable triplet in it, while his partner carries an umbrella to protect the five of them from the rain.

Stockholm, a city of a thousand tales.


Written by Ayman

02 Jan 2015