During the week of Succot, I was covering my head, mostly with a small, Israeli style "knitted kippah". Mostly Swedish people are too polite to react openly to unusual dress, but I had some interesting interactions with foreigners as a result:
1. I have a new colleague, who is Polish. She asked me why I wear that thing, she didn't know the English term. I said, there isn't really an English term, what do you call it in Polish? Yaremulke (no idea of the spelling, but she pronounced it with four syllables). So I grinned and explained that the most common English term is a bastardization of the word she'd just used. She said she had thought they were just for men, so I explained that this is a matter of debate, which she seemed to get (some people are really confused by the idea that not all Jews agree on everything). She then offered to teach me to crochet so that I can make some of my own! I think I shall take her up on it, partly because I want to learn to crochet, and partly because it will be a good way to get to know her better, and she seems really nice.
2. While I was waiting for a train, a Gypsy girl approached me. (Yes, I could tell, as the Gypsy community dress distinctively here, and apparently don't really appreciate the more PC terms I would normally use either. And yes, she was a girl, not a woman, I would guess 14 at the oldest. But I still feel really weird writing down that phrase.) She asked to borrow my mobile phone, speaking with quite strongly accented Swedish. I don't know whether that is because she is a Gypsy or because she is actually foreign. Now that I have replaced my old decrepit phone with a new shiny one (thanks, timeplease!) I'm a bit reluctant to lend it to strangers, in case they are trying to scam me and steal the phone. Then I thought, well, there's enough bad history of people assuming that Gypsies are thieves, just like they assumed that Jews were cheats.
So I lent her the phone (I don't think I hesitated long enough for her to notice.) Of course, she didn't steal it, she made her phonecalls, in a language I didn't recognize at all but which probably wasn't Romany, from what I understand. I was just thinking, here we are, we've both chosen to dress weirdly because of our culture and ethnic backgrounds, and we both speak Swedish as a second language, and we're able to connect over a minor favour as well as our outsiderness.
3. Also on a train, a guy noticed my headgear and tried to chat me up in Hebrew. He didn't sound Israeli, but he spoke considerably better Hebrew than I do. If I were to guess his origin, I would have said south India or Sri Lanka; he had very dark skin but not the typical facial features I would associate with Black people of recent African descent. I wouldn't have minded chatting to him, as he was friendly and not pushy, and besides I was kind of curious about him. He seemed to associate a kippah with Israeli, rather than Jewish, and didn't have any apparent interest in the whole political stuff around covering one's head. Sadly I was vastly late for an appointment, and I also have a really hard time switching between Swedish and Hebrew (not that my Hebrew is great even when I start in English mode), so I didn't stay to find out the backstory.