I’ve been exploring some parts of the city lately that I don’t usually visit. There’s no real reason I haven’t visited, it’s just that I haven’t had business there. I was hoping to find some fun shops or new restaurants, but I should have guessed that what I would find here in Stockholm would be several cafes on every block. Not that I’m complaining. I like cafes. But how do I tell which ones are good and which ones aren’t worth my time? I could try looking at how many people are eating and drinking inside, but I don’t know if these people have good taste. Maybe they don’t care about coffee or cinammon bun quality. Maybe it’s located next to their workplace and they don’t have time to go somewhere better.
Once when I was sitting in a window of a cafe with food that was too expensive for the taste, I considered giving a sharp shake of the head to people standing outside the door. “From one person to another – don’t waste your time. Let me save you from wasting your money on stale buns and cheap coffee. Keep going! It’s too late for me, but you can still be saved! I think I saw a better place up the street!”
I know I would appreciate this help. Maybe we could all agree on a secret signal. A simple thumbs down or thumbs up in the window. Join me, people.
I tried to sign up for a new doctor today. The receptionist said that she would have to check with the doctor first to see if she could take new patients. I WANTED to say in Swedish that I understood she might be full. Unfortunately, “full” is the word for drunk in Swedish. So I think what may have come out was, “I understand that she might be drunk.” I got a quick glance but I guess I looked enough like a foreigner for the receptionist to let it go. Or maybe she thought, “Wow, how did she know that doctor is drunk all the time?”
At our first-grader’s beginning of school celebration last week, we noticed that one of the kids from his kindergarten class had been kept behind to repeat another year. My husband and I whispered to each other, “Why do you think he got left behind?” and then my 7 year old leaned over and said, “Oh, I know why. It’s because he has an arch enemy in first grade.”
Of course. I should have guessed.
Most of the time when I meet a Swedish man, I feel introducing myself and then saying, “So are you Johan or Anders?”
I’m not kidding when I say these names constantly show up. I can’t keep up with who my husband is talking about. We know so many.
“So I was talking to Johan….”
“Which Johan? Work Johan? Friend Johan? Boss Johan? Neighbor Johan?
Currently we know at least 5 Anders that often come up in conversations.
For the women, a lucky guess for age 35 and up is Maria or Anna. When I can’t remember one of my kids’ teachers names, I just try one of these 4. Half the time, I’m right.
Did I mention I wrote a book? Yes, now you can have all my thoughts and nonsense in one book! And I promise it’s not the same stories as on the blog! It’s short essays and thoughts about life in Sweden, childhood in Texas (there are Goat Men involved and nachos), and important life lessons (Nah, just kidding.)
I hear this book makes everyone who reads it happy and may also be able to give you super powers ( though that hasn’t been confirmed yet.)
It’s on Kindle, Amazon.com and Amazon.UK. I hope you all enjoy it!
(Psstt… Kindle’s the cheapest. ;) )
Amazon.com for U.S. readers (or Kindle)
Amazon.uk for European readers.
It’s also available at all other Amazons around the world from what I understand.
My 9 year old asked me some questions about the upcoming Swedish vote, so I decided to take him on a tour of Parliament. Sometimes it pays off to live in a capital city.
Tours of Parliament are free in both Swedish and English. It’s a nice building with great views and interesting to see how things differ. I will now share the two most interesting things I learned on the tour:
1. Until the 1970s, people with epilepsy were not allowed to vote.
2. These days, Sweden does it’s best to make sure every citizen can vote, including people in hospitals and prisons.
I already knew that Sweden makes it very easy for everyone to vote. You can practically vote everywhere a few weeks before the official elections (plus, the official election is always on a weekend).
In Texas, you vote on a Tuesday when you have to work. So for many people, it’s not easy to go vote because you may commute 30 minutes or more to work and don’t have time to drive back to your neighborhood voting station and back with the short lunch time allowed. Technically I believe you are supposed to be allowed to leave work to vote, but in lots of jobs, your employer gets angry about it anyway. At least that was my experience when I lived there.
I look forward to voting next month. I’m looking for the party that issues mandatory 2 month vacations for everyone in the winter, more water parks in the summer, and brings IBC Root Beer to Sweden. Strangely, I haven’t found that party yet.
Pictures represent the South Korean, Spanish and U.S. Embassies in Stockholm. Guess which one is the U.S.?
Last week we went to the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm to renew our son’s passports. Besides the building being the ugliest one on Embassy row, it’s also the most boring place to spend a weekday morning.
After waiting outside for quite a while (we were lucky it was a sunny day – must be awful in rain or winter), they take away all electronics in the guard booth, so when our appointment for a passport took over an hour, my husband couldn’t call his work to let them know he wasn’t coming to his scheduled meeting.
You are also subjected to this awful video on re-run with about 100 people saying “I am America” over and over and OVER AND OVER! I’m sure it was a cute idea to the person who made it, but the two places I have to watch this video are waiting an hour for my passport at the embassy and while waiting to go through customs when entering the U.S. (also at least an hour while standing). Their cutsey “I am America” 5 minute long video gets pretty old after the sixth viewing, not to mention the 20th and 30th viewings. You look around at your fellow waiting room or line sufferers and think “Why didn’t they film this instead? It’s way more realistic.”
My husband suggested we pick up some reading material on the shelf while we waited. I walked over to the shelf and said, “Which would you like? The Swedish phone book or the Redbook from 2005?
Remember what it was like to sit in a waiting room for over an hour WITH NO PHONE?! I tell my kids we’re time-traveling to the past when we have to go to the embassy.
C’mon embassy! At least put on some American T.V. “Good Times” or “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Serve Dr. Pepper and chips with salsa. Leave out Enquirer magazines and beef jerkey. THIS is what we need to represent.
It’s the time of year again when some Swedes eat rotten fish. Yes, rotten.
It’s called Surströmming. It’s fish in a can that has been allowed to ferment at least 6 months. It has been described as “of the most putrid food smells in the world”. You are not allowed to eat it inside your apartment building. It must be eaten outside because of the awful smell. Then people try to cover it up with bread and potatoes and drink schnapps to get rid of the horrible taste.
This has gone on since the 1600s when this was provided as army rations during the 30 years war. If you gave those soldiers from the 1600s the choice of their canned rotted fish or a decent burger, I don’t think they would ever touch fish again. I fail to see why this is a “tradition.”
I try my best to fit in my new culture, but this is the main place where I have to draw the line. It’s not happening. Rotted fish was not on the immigration form. I’ll eat your salmon, your meatballs and your cloudberries, but surströmming will never happen.