In Sweden, the further north you go, the less people speak. This fact does not detract from the welcoming charm of Northerners – they’re just wise enough to save their energy for things that really matter, like working out where the roads end and the fields begin (snow problems) and layering wool jumpers (snow problems). There’s something comforting about knowing that you are unlikely to be accosted for a chat when you’re out and about, and can get on with your business in peace.

Therefore, imagine our alarm when, a while ago, my sister and I were greeted by the sight of a man coming out of his house as we passed and striding purposefully in our direction. Our shock grew when we realised that he was not even appropriately dressed! In reality, he was probably just a few wool jumpers short of the required number, but the sight was so jarring that he might as well have been trundling through the snow in bare feet.

By this point, the fact that his face was covered in blood only mildly added to the confusion. And then – sure enough – he addressed us. “You’re a vet,” he said to my sister, who is one. Then, pointing to his bleeding face, “Does this need stitches?”

It transpired that he’d been out with his huskies and got injured by a loose sled-strap, splitting his lip open. On seeing my sister, he likely hoped he could save himself a trip to the hospital, and all the bothersome social interaction *that* would entail.

“You need a people doctor,” my sister advised and he shrugged, uttered some single-word reply like “Hmm” or “Oj”, before turning back the way he had come. We too carried on walking, without comment. That was enough chit-chat for one day.

Maria Smedstad bio Scan Magazine Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine.

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