Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rustle – Fidget – Rustle AKA I am getting off at the next bus stop

Earlier I blogged a little about Every Man's Right – the right everyone in Sweden has to enjoy the Swedish landscape and its trappings. But I often believe that another 'Right' that Every Man has in Sweden is the right to never actually speak or be spoken to by another human being unless they choose to do so.

This right to silence is practiced religiously on the main mode of transportation in many cities – the city bus. Buses are, in most countries, bound by their own style of communication. I know Grayhound is a world unto itself. Swedish buses are no exception.

Let's say you are on a city bus. It's a packed bus and you are seated closest to the window. Sitting next to you is a stranger with whom you do not wish to speak. You want to get off at the next stop, but someone has already pushed to STOP button. How do you indicate to your fellow passenger that you need them to move?

The easiest situation is if you have just been shopping. Then you take your bags and you rustle them loudly. Or you pick up your bags and place them on your lap – ideally rustling them a bit. At this point your neighbor will probably shift their legs towards the aisle to indicate that they are aware you would like to get off at the next stop. When the bus pulls in, they will stand up and let you out. All without saying a word.

If you don't have any shopping bags – this trick works equally well with a backpack, purse or briefcase. If you don't have any of the above, but you have a sweater, gloves or anything else that can be fiddled with – do this instead.

Only as a last resort might you say 'excuse me' or 'urshekta may.' Often times you will find that this person is also a foreigner.

So, if someone next to you on the bus starts fidgeting madly with a bag, but not accomplishing something, now you know why.

Also, please note that you might confuse passengers on the occasion that you actually rifle through your bag for another reason – like finding something. I have actually had to say a few times 'Oh, sorry, no I'm not getting off here,” because I can never manage to find my damn phone in my bag.


  1. Very true. I am Swedish, but I also wonder why people can't just say ursäkta, too hard to pronounce?
    There is one more trick, if the rustling doesn't catch your neighbor's attention, just (try to) stand up where you are at your inner seat...

  2. Oh, I know. Heaven forbid you should have to talk to or make eye contact with people you do not already know.

    I haven't ever taken public transportation in Sweden but it sure sounds fun! I have, though, in Spain, France, and Belgium, and people were more talky there.

  3. I actually don't think people are too bad here on the train and bus. I don't mind the not talking. But if you ever greet someone you don't know while you're out walking in the forest or something. The stony faces that greet you. It's awful. I don't bother anymore. I don't think I'll ever get used to it.

  4. You are so right and it is so funny to read. I found that people in the south (where I grew up) are more talkative than in the north, or Stockholm (where my parents live now).

  5. Interesting. I live in the north (Luleå) and everyone I meet is very friendly and chatty. I have had loads of strangers saying hello to me!