The Black Side of the Snow

Excuses for Not Going to WDC VII

by Larry Peery

Sure, anybody can come up with excuses, rationalizations, justifications, reasons, or just plain "cop-outs" for not going to WDC VII. Let's consider some of them.

"It's Too Far."
From where? In terms of mileage it isn't much further from the east coast of the States to Gothenburg than it is to any other continental city. In terms of travel time, it doesn't take much longer to fly to Gothenburg than it does to any other European non-gateway airport. From the west coast of the States it shouldn't take much more real travel time to get to Gothenburg than it did to get to Paris, Birmingham, Toronto, or Chapel Hill. And once you get there, everything is within walking distance. If you want to travel around within the Three Kingdoms Triangle, Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm are all within 300 or so miles with good air, rail, and bus links between them.

"It's Too Expensive."
By whose standards? Scandinavians usually make more than Americans for the same work, but their taxes are far higher. One tax that will hurt Americans is the VAT -- around 20% -- which is included in the price of everything. Another surprise is the automatic inclusion of service in hotel and restaurant charges, so that will raise your basic bill another 15%. However, both of these items are already included in the quoted price, so the price marked is the price you pay. There are no "hidden extras."

Basically, you will have two choices. First, if you want to maintain your current standard of living in Scandinavia you will have to pay more than you would in the States, probably on the order of 35-50%. Second, if you want to lower your standard of living (e.g., staying in a hostel instead of a hotel, eating a big lunch instead of a big dinner, avoiding expensive alcohol -- it's called "going native") a bit, you'll find prices more in line with your current standards. These lower standards do not, however, imply any lowering of either health or safety standards. Those will remain high at any price level.

Do keep in mind, however, as a low season traveller you'll find lower costs on many things, a better selection, and discounts not available during high season. Be sure to look into discounts before you leave home, however, because many are not offered in Scandinavia.

"The Weather Will be Rotten."
Not necessarily; but it will be changing, from Winter to Spring to be exact. So, some days will be wintry and some may be nicer. I wouldn't expect a lot of snow, but I expect lots of clouds and perhaps fog. It may also get cold, but it will be a dry cold. It definitely won't be "southern California" beachwear weather, but if you are from the American midwest or upper east coast you shouldn't be uncomfortable.

Still, to avoid major weather related disappointments be sure you have indoor activities planned as a back-up for your outside ones.

"I Don't Know the Language."
This is a non-issue; since almost all Scandinavians speak English quite well. In some cases better than Americans. How is that? Because they actually study it in school, assimilate it from their television and movies, and use it in their travels a lot. However, before you go make at least a bit of an effort to learn a few simple useful phrases of Swedish such as "Danes s are rotten soccer players, don't you think?" or "Give him the bill!"

"Scandinavians Aren't Friendly."
Wrong. The Danes are very friendly, and with the the amount of beer they consume they ought to be. The Norwegians are friendly, especially in winter, as long as you don't bring up the subject of whales. The Swedes have a saying, "We are like a bottle of catsup. First there is nothing. Second there is nothing. And then there is everything."

Also keep in mind that WDC VII is being held during Easter week; which is a major holiday for Scandinavia. So many of them will be off work and travelling. The big cities should be relatively empty of the locals. The people le of Gothenburg are considered the friendliest in Sweden so that, combined with a mostly empty Stockholm (if you go there), should make for a nice trip.

"I Don't Know Anybody There."
No? And if you don't go, you probably never will. Actually, you probably have met a couple of Scandinavians: Mrs. Olsen, of coffee ad fame; Lawrence Welk, the Champagne Music King; and Walter Cronkite, of "That's The Way It Was." You will find that the Scandinavian Dippers are a diverse and varied lot, like every other national Diplomacy hobby. Once you have met them you'll realize that there are very real differences between the Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, and Danish Dippers. And, with Diplomacy as your starting point, you'll have no problem getting to know them better.

"Everything Will Be Shut Down Because It's the Off-Season."
It's true. Many major attractions of interest to foreign visitors do shut down in the wintertime. However, winter attractions open up. The dividing line between opening and closing seems to be mid-April. In a lose-lose situation you'll find that the winter attractions have already closed and the e summer attractions have not yet opened! However, in late March don't expect to see Tivoli Garden in Copenhagen open, the Gota Canal boats running, or some of the more scenic natural wonders in all their glory. On the other hand, the indoor cultural stuff will be going full blast, so take advantage of that. There are some truly world class cultural and artistic institutions in the Three Kingdoms Triangle, so take advantage of them. In many cases the prices for tickets will be less than you would pay at home for inferior attractions. And, based on my experiences in other parts of Europe during the off-season, if you show up at some place you really want to see, even if its closed, someone might just let you in for a sneak peek!

One nice part of travelling during the low season is that there will be far fewer tourists and crowds than there would be during the summer.

"The Days Will Be Too Short!"
Other than the Con itself, which will probably be pretty much non-stop from Friday morning until Sunday evening, most things of interest to a tourist in Scandinavia during late March seem to run from 0900 until about 1500; which pretty much matches the daylight hours. That won't matter much in the cities, but if you plan to do any cross-country driving, it is something to keep in mind.

"But What About the Black Snow, Reindeer, Moose, and Polar Bears?"
You'll find them at the nearest IKEA store, in aisle 12, right between the American Indians and rappers display.

"I Don't Know How to Get More Information."
Yes you do. Just send e-mail to me, or to Per Westling or Roland Isakkson. It's that easy. Naturally, as a member of the U.S. contingent, I hope you do it soon, because March is just around the corner.

Larry Peery

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