It’s funny how the closer I get to coming home, the more I want to stay in Sweden (even though there were times during the last six months when I would have given anything to be back in California). It almost always works that way, though, doesn’t it?
There is a group on Facebook titled, “You know you’ve been in Sweden too long when…” and it points out some of the more interesting cultural quirks associated with Swedish culture. It turns out that I’ve adapted to quite a few of these norms, and I laughed out loud when I read some of them. A good reminder of how different things really are here.
Here are some of the best ones…
You know you’ve been in Sweden to long when…
…you rummage through your plastic bag collection to see which ones you should keep to take to the store and which can be sacrificed to garbage.
Here’s the deal: not only are Swedish grocery stores devoid of bagboys, but you are also required to pay for your shopping bags (about 15 cents each). They are made of much thicker plastic than the typical U.S. grocery bag and this leads to the stockpiling of bags, which you then reuse: either by bringing them with you on your next shopping trip, or using them to line your trash can.
…you associate Friday afternoon with a trip to System Bolaget and think nothing of paying $50 for a bottle of 'cheap' spirits.
The Swedish government has a monopoly on alcohol sales in Sweden. If you want any drink with stronger than 3.5 percent alcohol, you must go to the System Bolaget. They are only open Monday through Saturday, close by 5PM, and the prices are steep! All of this is an attempt to encourage Swedes to drink "responsibly." Procrastinators line up on Friday to buy booze for the weekend, and the more ambitious and price conscious head to Germany, Finland, or Denmark to buy it for cheap.
…your front door step is beginning to resemble a shoe shop.
Self explanatory. Everyone takes off their shoes when entering a home. Even the computer repairman who came by my dorm several weeks took his shoes off automatically, without any request. Primary reason? Long, snowy winters = wet, muddy shoes. And year-round cleanliness, I suppose.
…you associate pea soup with Thursday.
It's a Swedish tradition: pea soup and pancakes on Thursday. Even for the royal family.
…the first thing you do on entering a bank/post office/pharmacy/bakery etc. is look for the queue number machine.
Swedes don’t wait in lines, except at the grocery store. Almost everywhere, you take a number. Banks, bakeries, the doctors office, wherever. Take a number. Then sit. And wait.
…an outside temperature of 8 degrees Celsius (45 F) is mild.
Even a wimpy Californian like me is getting used to the cold!
...you think that an unripe wedge of tomato on a limp leaf of iceberg lettuce can be called a salad.
Swedish food is very good for the most part, but I haven’t had a really good salad since I left California. While in Sweden, I’ll take what I can get. But one of the first stops when I’m back? Café Intermezzo!
...you assume that anyone who apologizes after bumping into you is a tourist.
This is a bit of a generalization, but Swedes do treat their personal space a little differently.
...paying $5 for a cup of coffee seems reasonable.
Actually, $3.50 is a little more accurate, but a café latte doesn’t come cheap. Neither does a lot of other stuff (clothes, food). The dollar is weak and there are no Target stores here. Suck it up and pay.
...you get offended if, at a dinner party, someone fails to look you in the eyes after raising their glass for a toast.
When you toast, you say “skål!” but you don’t clink glasses. Instead, you look every person at the table in the eye. Always.
...seeing a young woman with lit candles stuck to her head no longer disturbs you.
Sankt Lucia day: December 13th. This is a tradition that my mom brought into our home when I was younger, so the candles-on-head thing has never actually been disturbing, but I suppose it's a bit strange to those who are unfamiliar with the Nordic Christmas! Read more.
..."candles" are a permanent fixture on your weekly shopping list.
When I got out of my class yesterday (at 4PM) it was already pitch black outside. Swedish winters are dark! And cold! Candles are an easy way to make everything warmer and brighter.
...you believe that when you finally win your Nobel Prize, it is best to be modest and say "Oh really, it was nothing!"
Ah, the Swedish concept of “jante.” It’s humility – the idea that no Swede is better than any other Swede. It’s a really refreshing perspective that affects the way one thinks and behaves. (And it is dramatically different from America’s individualistic ethos!)
So, when I come home in December and you discover that I’ve become a plastic-bag-collecting, winter sunbathing, Sankt Lucia girl who takes off my shoes while indoors and walks around saying “California is so warm!!”, don’t be surprised.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Sunday through Tuesday went something like this:
We shopped til we dropped. We ate ourselves silly at restaurants everyday for lunch, but cooked our own dinner (with salad!) almost every night. We laughed (at ourselves and at the Swedes). We braved the cold weather, bundled in our scarves and hats and gloves. We visited museums full of art and Swedish culture. We spent hours walking around town on skyltsöndag, marveling at the beautiful city of Lund.
We spoke Swedish.... well, a little. My mom spoke a lot, to everyone from cashiers to my korridor mates. I stuck to English for the most part, and used my Swedish skills as usual: only when necessary. For example, I yelled at a taxi driver – at 4:45AM on Tuesday morning – who refused to believe that I had previous experience with fitting large cardboard bike boxes into not-so-large station wagons. (And I have to say, between the two of us, our Swedish is pretty darn good).
And, of course, we had a lot of fun.
Then my mom was back to the States. Vi ses snart, mamma!
Gotta go... I have some schoolwork to catch up on!
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Sally and Linnea's Mini-Blog
Sorry for the lack of new blogs! It’s a good sign that my mom and I are having fun. Here’s my effort to recap the last three days in as little space as possible…
Thursday: A Lund Thanksgiving
Our mission to go downtown to find a bowl of pea soup at Gloria’s was fruitless, but we ended up having a delicious dagens rätt (the daily special) at Café Finn anyway. Lunch was followed by some essential Thanksgiving day errands: we took a trip to the Systembolaget for some Swedish jul öl, wine, and other beverages, picked up some potatoes and whipped cream at ICA, and bought some some yummy turkey from Ingelsta Kalkon.
We also did some shopping and found some fun gifts and treats, including some “Super Tomten” themed items. And we couldn't forget to make an essential stop, at Mormors (my favorite bakery!), for a classic Swedish kanelsnäcka.
Our evening consisted of pie making, potato mashing, and StoveTop mixing, and we threw together a very tasty Thanksgiving meal. The Swedes didn’t know why exactly there were seasoned chunks of bread on our plates, but we filled them in on the significance of the American family holiday. To top it all off, I wore the adorable Thanksgiving socks that my dad sent me (thanks, Dad!).
Friday: A Malmö Shopping Expedition
We bundled up and headed for Malmö to visit a Swedish IKEA and doing a little shopping downtown. We spent a few hours marveling at the Swedishness of IKEA (where the people shopping there are Swedes and all the displays are in Swedish). We enjoyed some lax in the restaurant, purchased some candles (now essential given the 3:45PM sunsets) and then headed back into the center of Malmö to wander the shopping streets.
Malmö is really the big city. My mom and I were comparing the Lund-Malmö area to the Davis-Sacramento area (where the former are smaller university towns with a lot of character and the latter are the economic centers with good shopping, lots of people, and more things to do). In both Lund and Malmö right now they are setting up for Christmas, which means that there are trees, lights, and other decorations adorning every street lamp, intersection, and square in the cities. It is a beautiful sight. We also stopped at Gray’s American store just to take a peek (I’m not feeling quite as homesick with my mom here, and I realized how desperate I must have been last time to find this store so appealing).
Friday night was a repeat of Thanksgiving leftovers (mmmm) and some Swedish TV, followed by a good night’s sleep!
Saturday: The Thanksgiving Three-peat
Sun! Saturday morning was sunny! The skies were free of the usual gray, so my mom and I headed out for a quick walk to the nearby lookout (Klosterängshöjd). I often jog over to and up this hill because on clear days the view is fantastic: you can see all the way down to Malmö and the Öresund bridge, all the way up north to Landskrona (and beyond) and even across to Denmark, not to mention all of the rolling Skåne landscape in between.
You’d think that after two meals of Thanksgiving goodies we’d be all turkey-ed out. Not the case. At 11AM, we met up with a group of about 50 UC students (40 studying in Lund, the other 10 in Copenhagen, which is right across the water in Denmark). As per tradition, the two groups meet up on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, first for the Lund students to give the Copenhagen students a walking tour of Lund, and then to join together in a Thanksgiving feast catered by an American chef!
Some pictures of the walking tour through Lund:
The Thanksgiving lunch took place in Falsterbo, a little town just south of Malmö. A restaurant was set up and reserved just for us. We ate delicious salad, stuffing, mashed potatoes,
cranberry lingonberry sauce, sweet potatoes, turkey, bread, and later an enormous Swedish-style apple pie and pumpkin pies as well! We all ate A LOT. My mom got to meet all of my good UC friends and I was able to share Thanksgiving with my “other” Swedish family. After we got back (around 4:30), my mom and I walked back to my dorm, under a big full moon (yes, at 4:30!)
Then we accomplished the impossible. It was bike box time… which meant disassembling my racing bike and fitting it into an impossibly small cardboard shipping box so that my mom can take it back to the states with her on Tuesday morning (it is too cold and icy to ride here anymore). I bubble wrapped the frame and all of the more fragile parts, and then tried getting the frame, the two wheels, and the handlebars into the box. We tried one arrangement. And then another. And another. After four international calls (to wonderful Max in California), oodles of packing tape, and lots of frustration, my bike was IN THE BOX. Thank goodness. Here is the before shot. And here is the after:
Today we have more planned, and hopefully I will get a blog up about it soon!
Linnea (and Sally).
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
And now, the details...
Our weekend, in sum, was quite a whirlwind. From Friday morning through Sunday night, we were on the move! We visited good friends, ate amazing food, and were treated to a fantastic weekend by our wonderful hosts.
My mom also demonstrated an unprecedented prowess for kicking some jet lag butt. (In order words, she was happy and alert, despite some travel fatigue… unlike me, last June, when I sank into a jet lag coma for five days.)
Friday: My mom’s plane was on time. I was not. My train was over 30 minutes getting to the Copenhagen airport (sorry!) but my mom took it in stride, and when I finally showed up at the arrivals gate we grabbed her bags and headed back to Lund.
After some post-transatlantic-recovery (shower, food, tour of my place), we headed downtown for lunch. We ate at my favorite Thai restaurant, browsed through a bookstore, bought about 200 kronor worth of imported and Swedish magazines at Pressbyrån, printed our tickets, and hopped on the train to Kungsbacka, a small town just south of Gothenburg (about 2 ½ hours north of Lund).
The Kungsbacka area is beautiful. Our hosts, Gunvor and Christer, live in an amazing, modern Swedish house that sits right next to the North Sea. We witnessed a stunning sunset and ate a delicious salmon dinner (Gunvor is a fantastic cook).
On Saturday morning, we were treated to some more breath-taking views of the sea.
Then it was into downtown Göteborg for some shopping and sightseeing. We bought some cold weather gear, including a new pair of boots for me, which Lina thought to immediately waterproof!
Afterwards we headed to a performance at the konserthus: the Göteborg Symphonic Band and Triple & Touch (famous Swedish performers). It was a blast. The repertoire ranged from John Williams and ABBA to Miriam Mabeka and the Beatles. We even sang Pomp and Circumstance at the end (while waving Swedish and British flags). As my mom said, “who knew there were actual words to that song?!”
After the concert, we walked to Liseberg, an amusement park in the middle of the city. It’s all decked out for Christmas, and filled with booths selling traditional Swedish crafts and food. We strolled around the park and I went on a few smaller rides (still open for the winter) with Maja, who, like me, is a roller coaster connoisseur. Maja also seems to have very good luck – last time she visited Liseberg she won a giant Toblerone bar. This time it was a giant Kex bar! 2 kilos of chocolate! Mmm…
For dinner, Magnus cooked an amazing spread which left us all feeling very satisfied. It was a fun, social, and late night, and my mom and I fell soundly asleep some time after midnight. The next day, of course, was just as busy. A tasty Swedish breakfast (cereal with filmjölk or muesli, eggs, cheese, bread, coffee, juice), was followed by a coffee break with Daniel and Viktoria, where we got to meet their kids and see their house.
Finally, it was back to Christer and Gunvor’s for lunch. I won’t bother explaining the family tree, but there were 14 of us! (Christer and Gunvor, Lina and Magnus, Daniel and Viktoria, Johan, Axel, Elin, Ida, Maja, Adam, my mom, and me!) To both me and my mom, these people are our Swedish “family” and it was such a treat to be around all of them at once!
That was the weekend! My mom is enjoying some time in Uppsala and Stockholm while I study and go to class for the first part of the week. I’m sure there will be more pictures and stories to tell soon!
We are SO ready for Thursday!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wear a hat.
And some gloves.
Some long underwear might be good, too.
I would not recommend wearing sandals or flip-flops of any sort outside of the house.
The weather in Northern California was around 65°F today.
The high today was 37°.
That was the low.
Yep. Winter just smacked Sweden in the face. Big time. And as magical as it is to wake up to snowflakes falling from the sky, I've discovered that I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to this cold, frosty, icy, snowy sort of weather.
I've stopped riding my bike... both of them, actually. If it is snowing outside, my commuter bike stays locked up, and I take a trip on the public bus. And I've replaced training rides on my road bike with jogging sessions on the outskirts of Lund.
Meanwhile, Swedes just bundle up and continue to ride their bikes over cold, salted cobbles and through frozen puddles and frost. Hardcore.
Hmmm. Maybe it's a good thing that I'll be back in California in January, after all...
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Snow (really!) and the post-party report
I woke up this morning around 11AM and heard what sounded like raindrops hitting my window... except different. I got up, opened the blinds, and saw huge white flakes spiraling down from the clouds.
I ran outside in my sweats and caught this video. Can you tell I'm excited? When I went into the kitchen to grab breakfast, I asked my Swedish korridor-mates, "Did you see the snow???" and they just laughed, nodded, and went back to watching TV. (I'm a silly Californian, I know.)
Last night, a UC friend hosted a "Date Dinner Party Potluck" in her korridor. According to the Facebook invite, there were a few rules:
1. You MUST bring a date (girls can ask guys- no biggy there)
2. You MUST bring a dish to share
3. You must treat the occasion like a DATE dinner, even if it is strictly platonic.
4. Must wear something nice
5. Must bring your own booze
6. You MUST come with a smiling face :)
I asked my awesome friend Steve from UCLA if he would be my date -- no problem! We decided to bring homemade pizza -- yummy. I was armed and ready with a black, the-price-was-right dress from H&M. And since I really wanted to get some studying done the next day, I brought a Kivik's apple cider and called it good.
And, per number 6, of course I was smiling! Most of my good UC friends were there. Here I am with my "date" Steve:
Our four, homemade pizzas were devoured almost instantly:
Lots of wonderful people were there...
Time to write my paper (before my mom arrives next week!)
Have a wonderful weekend,
Friday, November 09, 2007
The Best of Both Worlds
Last night was girls' night. I met up with five of my closest UC friends and we spent hours and hours laughing, talking, and eating delicious treats.
Drawing on the best of Swedish and American culture, we...
...munched on pepparkakor, äppelkaka with vaniljsås, chokladkaka with hallonsås, and some grapes and chocolate chip cookies, too.
...read Swedish Cosmopolitan, British Glamour, and American mags Jane and Oprah (best articles: "is your handbag killing you?" and "kärlek på distans").
...talked in Swenglish about our lives. (“usch!” “vad sa du?” “toppen!”)
...we watched the Little Mermaid in Swedish!! (Hilarious.)
And we tried not to mention the fact that we will all be going home in just 7 weeks. I’m going to miss Sweden -- the culture and the people -- a lot.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Maybe. Tomorrow's forecast calls for some of the white stuff across all of Sweden... except Skåne, of course. See that southern tip of Sweden? Yep. Rain.
Not that I would be prepared for the snow if it did come. I have flip-flops, rain boots, and some grubby tennis shoes for footwear, and I'd have to scrounge up change for the bus -- I don't think I am brave enough to ride my bike to class in the snow!
Still, I can't wait for the excitement of our first snowy day, though it's difficult to anticipate given the wonderful weather we've had over the last few weeks. Swedes have warned me that this is not typical. Between the wet and rainy summer and the warmer-than-average fall, the weather has been very unusual. So I will just wait and see.
This, by the way, is what my the area near my dorm looks like when it does snow (so pretty!):
Snow or no snow, the Swedes are already combatting the cold and the darkness. Since late October, stores have had Christmas ornaments, dishes, decorations, and Santa (tomten?) hats up in their window displays. Same goes for the groceries stores -- I spotted Christmas items in the checkout lane over a week ago. And my Swedish friend told me that her mom has already baked her first batch of gingerbread cookies. Lights... candles... Christmas is coming. I love it.
In the meantime, I am snuggling up in my blankets inside my cozy little room. I turned on the overhead light in my room today and *POP* -- there went the bulb. So, at around 4:50PM, I plugged in the lights on my Golden Gate bridge... homemade decorations left over from a korridor party we had in September.
I've been thinking about how wonderful and warm the weather in California must be right now. And imagine... Americans still have Thanksgiving to think about before they dive into boxes and start untangling strands of lights.
I've got a wintry playlist going on iTunes, and now if I can just motivate myself to get some reading done, it will be a pretty good evening.