Last year’s Breaking News Editor Suzanne Craig chronicles her adventures while studying abroad in Sweden.
The right clothes are essential not only for travel, but for meeting the right sorts of people. Blue jeans are simple and go with everything, comfortable walking shoes are sensible. The Hogwarts t-shirt, Jedi wristband and Avengers backpack attract those with common interests and English skills.
Most Europeans, most of the world, really, speak at least some English. Geeks who attend Comic-Con, obsess over the latest release in the Star Wars extended universe saga and can quote the Avengers backward and forward are completely fluent. Not many translations are available in that genre and even if they are, a lot of true fans still prefer to read the original text.
After meeting Andrea (a Loki fan who made a wonderful Comic-Con costume) I knew I was home. Dessyslava gushed over my Deathly Hallows bracelet while Devorra debated the finer points of Jedi ethics with me over coffee.
The laundry room debate between DC and Marvel with myself and a German against a Swede was a wonderful experience. Volume numbers and statistics were flying around more than the lint we were gathering up.
Geeks also have a roaring trade in merchandise which isn’t sold in the international market. I already have some orders for Darth Vader toasters and Iron Man pajamas that have a light up arc-reactor. Just make sure you get the money in advance before agreeing to things like that, or get an equivalent trade. My newly obtained German Comic-Con poster and a cool key-chain are definitely worth Iron Man pajamas.
Movie nights watching bootleg copies while munching on local snacks, or Turkish chili-pepper pancakes, make for a good time. Having these similar interests makes it easier to find other commonalities. With international students, you all go to the same welcoming events and want to explore. With local students, they want to know about America’s Comic-Con (amazing, enough said) as well as show off their own geek subculture.
Glassworks with Star Wars themed crystal pieces are apparently only an hour’s bus ride away. If only I could afford them.
Being fluent in geek is not the only way to make friends, though it does seem to make it a lot easier. Being willing to talk period puts you one-up on the competition. Quite a few people never strike up a conversation with someone unless they’re roommates. Not being willing to jump into a conversation with “Hey, I’m a math major too!” severely limits the chances of making local friends.
Yeah, it’s scary. So aim for the ones wearing a shirt for your favorite band, or talking about a subject you are comfortable with. Band t-shirts are always a good way to go though, especially if you’ve seen them in concert. The number of Eagles fans in Sweden is truly astounding.
Just be ready for the disappointment when they find out the song wasn’t based on an actual hotel.