A Slip-Up in Stockholm

photo by Julia Domenicucci

My eyes quickly scanned the menu of Max Burgers, a Swedish fast food chain similar to McDonald’s. In fact, there was a giant McDonald’s just across the street that boasted 250 seats, but (in the interest of trying more “authentic” Swedish food during our weekend trip to Stockholm) my two friends and I opted for what our tour guide had assured us was a national favorite.

As was expected, the menu was in Swedish. For some people this would only be a slight inconvenience, and they could order what sounded most interesting or what looked most familiar. For people who don’t eat meat, such as myself, ordering food in another country is always a bit of a struggle. Add language barriers to the general stresses of a new country and the line of hungry Swedes growing fast behind me, and you get the bundle of nerves that I was feeling at the time.

But there, on the lower right-hand side of the menu, I saw it: the Max Greenburgare. Even in Swedish, there was no mistaking the meaning. This would be food I could eat, meat free and hopefully as cheap and delicious as American fast food. I placed my order for one Greenburgare and one small vanilla milkshake, and kept an eye on the tray that the boy behind the counter set out for me. When he had placed a vanilla milkshake and a wrapped burger on it, I took it with a “tack så mycket” (thank you very much) and found my friends.

Famished from a breakfast-less early morning and a walking tour that had lasted over an hour, I barely looked at the wrappings or the burger before taking the first bite. It was very different from what I expected, but who am I to judge how they make veggie burgers in Sweden? After a few more bites, the edge of my hunger was gone and I could focus on conversation and the delicious familiarity of a vanilla shake.

Out of nowhere it seemed, the boy who had taken my order appeared by our table, wrapped burger clutched in one hand. “I am so sorry,” he said in Swedish accented English. “I gave you the wrong burger.”

I looked down in mild shock at my nearly half-eaten sandwich. It slowly dawned on me that I had eaten meat, and a fairly substantial amount of it. Still trying to figure out exactly what that meant for me, my own feelings were a bit of a jumble – part confusion, part mild panic, part annoyance at my own stupidity – but I registered that I needed to do something about the boy. He was still standing there apologizing repeatedly.

“It’s fine, really,” I said, taking the correct burger from him and putting on a slightly stronger front than I probably felt. “Thanks for bringing me the right one.” Looking relieved, he returned to his job and I started in on the actual Greenburgare. My still-hungry-stomach wouldn’t let me feel too guilty about an error caused by an unfamiliarity with Swedish fast food.  Still, I was happy to taste something far more like the veggie burgers from home!

My friends gave me concerned, apologetic looks, worried my lapse into meat eating might have some adverse effect. Becoming sick wasn’t a concern of mine, since fish has remained in my diet, and I feel that honest mistakes are no cause for upset. Although a bit disappointed in myself, it was much more logical to laugh it off and focus on the rest of the day. I gave the rest of the offending burger to my friends and finished my own, armed with yet another experience to take home from Stockholm.

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2 thoughts on “A Slip-Up in Stockholm

  1. When I read your piece It reminded of the time I spent in Italy when I was your age. I remember how confusing it could be. Thank goodness I was an omnivore. Mike D.

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