Just the other day at the gym one of my trainer friends, Yin, spotted me.
-You Na, You Na!!! (You Na =my Chinese name) He yelled and came running over. I have some great news for you! GREAT NEWS! I've found you a friend!!
-Ehhh... you've found me a friend?
-Yes, don't move. Stay here! I will get him!
Yin ran off and I watched with fear as he approached two guys in their 30ies that were busy at the bench press. Yin didn't care that they were in the middle of some manly work-out routine (I am something between scared and amazed of how ignorant some Chinese people can be to what is going on around them when they want to do their thing) but simply grabbed one of them (fortunately not the one lying with heavy weights on top of himself... pew!) by his arm, said something, and started dragging him towards me. The reluctance was mirrored in the guy's eyes as he tagged along, and eventually was pushed up in front of me, kind of like an animal being sold at a Farmer's Cattle Market ("Here you go. Our best cow. Milks five times a day. Barely makes a sound. She's reliable.").
-You Na, this is Juha! He is from Finland! And Juha, this is You Na, she's also from Finland!
-Eh... pleasure, said Juha, reaching out his hand hesitatingly and looking completely uncomfortable (this sort of introduction goes against all social rules in Finland. And in Sweden).
My turn to be uncomfortable:
-Actually, Yin, Juha... I am not from Finland, but from Sweden.
(New fear mirrored in Juha's eyes. There's a lot of complicated history between Sweden and Finland, not to mention some sensitive ice-hockey Olympic Game's results that I won't go into any further in case some Finnish person is reading this)
Yin looked completely oblivious to what I'd just told him. It became obvious to me that he thought Finland and Sweden were kind of the 'same place' even though we acted as if they weren't.
-Well yes, what does that matter? Juha finally said and tried a stiff, fake laugh. It was painful to watch.
-Yeah, well it is pretty much the same to the rest of the world isn't it? I (fake) laughed along and Yin was looking delighted.
-So you two can be friends! He said, before he walked away.
We smiled as if we didn't know what else to do. Truth to be said, we didn't.
Once Yin was gone we both excused ourselves and went back to what we were doing before being introduced to each other, and I saw Yin watching us with a rather confused look on his face. I bet he was wondering why we weren't bonding, why we weren't laughing out loud together or planning to go to some restaurant and eat Swedish meatballs.
Well, if this situation took place in Scandinavia and it was me introducing two Chinese guys (especially if they both came from the same city) to each other at the gym, they probably would have been over-thrilled and exchanged phone numbers at the spot. One of my Chinese friends once told me that meeting another Chinese person when you're in a foreign country can be like winning the first price in a lottery: it's such a total bliss. He then asked me if it was the same for me when I met fellow Swedes in foreign countries.
-Hm.. it depends, I said. If both of us are drunk, or, if it is midsummer we might bond. If not, we probably won't even talk to each other.
-Strange, he said.
And I agree. But that's just how it is.