Category Archives: Sweden

Air raid / get to know your neighbors

We’ve just arrived home after 3 weeks vacation to a city that is mostly empty, as Swedes generally take the month of July off. I was wondering how many people were left in our apartment building yesterday and happened to get my questioned answered about 10pm last night when the city’s air raid sirens suddenly went off.

Stockholm has air raid/emergency sirens that are tested every 3 months at 3pm on a Monday. My 43-year old husband has NEVER heard the air raid sirens at any other time than that during his entire life and I would think most Stockholmers have not either.

So imagine how completely freaked out the entire city was last night when the air raid sirens started to sound around 10pm. Every person at home in our building and the one across from us immediately came out from their balconies to look at the sky. Then everyone started shouting to each other from balcony to balcony and across the courtyard “What’s happening?” “Do you know what it is?” “Are they saying anything on the news?” etc.

And during this time of possible obliteration, I had 2 thoughts:

  1. Why didn’t we come back home from our trip a day later?
  2. I think this is the first time I’ve heard neighbors speak to one another in this building. It’s kind of nice!

Apparently it was some sort of technical fault, so luckily we can all continue to enjoy the summer if we made it through the panic attacks last night.

On a side note, our kids who were reading in bed never asked about or mentioned the blaring air raid siren. Glad to know it’s not just parent voices that they are able to completely tune out.

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Swedish ant bed

I know they say everything is bigger in Texas, but when it comes to ant beds, I think Sweden is in the lead.

These are what ant beds look like in Sweden. They are all over the forest. Mainly made with pine needles. If you go up close, you can hear all the ants moving around (as well as adjusting your eyes to realize that the entire pile is covered and moving with ants). It’s fascinating and replusive at the same time.

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Ducks climbing up a tree

These are 2 ducks climbing up a tree. It’s hard to see, but the tree goes pretty high. It goes at an angle, which is partly why they jumped on (not to mention little kids trying to chase them on the ground), but they also like some sort of berries they can only reach by climbing up.

I’m well aware that ducks can fly, but I’ve never seen them climb trees. Just seemed interesting so I thought I’d share the picture. You see something new every day.

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Hamburgers of Stockholm

I’m actually on vacation for a few weeks, so this is a scheduled post, as are any appearing the next few weeks. To keep up the blog and entertain while I’m offline, I present “Hamburgers of Stockholm.”

We’ve had a burger revolution here in Stockholm over the past 5 years and I think it’s going quite well. When I first moved here, hamburgers were sad, wilted abominations not worth moving my jaws for. But after the mighty burger uprising, where Stockholmers protested and said, “No more boring hamburgers!” while marching in the streets spraying mustard and ketchup along their path, we finally received the first of what would become many QUALITY, TASTY burgers!

Sure, they all cost the equivalent of $10 or more, but it’s still cheaper than a plane ticket to Texas.

 

 

If the war comes…

We inherited this book from the 1960s that was apparently given out to Swedish citizens. It’s called “If the war comes” and it’s an instruction book on what to do in the event of war. In my opinion, the best parts are the nicely dressed 1960s housewives with their pretty skirts and gas masks. They seem totally unconcerned. A close second is the men in suits. Gotta look sharp when the nuclear bomb drops. Here’s a few pictures from the book:

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If the war comes…

 

 

 

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The Ikea table can withstand an atomic bomb. Don’t forget to casually put on your gas mask! Watch that hair!

 

 

 

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Stop, drop and roll is universal.  I like the look on his face as his suit is on fire. It’s a look of mild discomfort.

 

 

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Honey, put on your coat, we’re late for dinner!

 

 

 

 

Decorate your balcony… by moving somewhere else

I’m looking up ideas to decorate our balcony for the summer. I came across this list of beautiful balconies. I like the balcony pictured here, but I have a feeling there’s just something about it that’s lacking in my own balcony.  Oh yes, I think I’ve got it now…. this balcony looks over the Italian coast and my balcony looks over another apartment building with a fat man who never wears a shirt. Might be hard to acheive the same look.

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Always be prepared

Sometimes I think I might have a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder, but then I remind myself that there’s nothing wrong with me except the fact that I keep certain commercials in my head. Let me explain:

There was a commercial running for a while here in Sweden for a coffee company reminding everyone that you should always have coffee on hand because you never know when someone might be dropping by. Example:

So now every time we’re out of hand soap, or there’s some food in the sink, or some crumbs left on the coffee table, all I can think of is, “What if the King stops by to visit?” “What if my favorite band happens to be staying in my apartment building and comes in to use the bathroom?” And then I have to make sure everything is clean.  (Having coffee is actually never a problem in any Swedish home. EVERYONE has coffee always. It’s the law.)

So it’s not my fault I’ve become obsessive about cleaning. It’s T.V.

 

 

Rules of Swedish advertising 

Here in Sweden, advertising rules are fairly strict. No advertising to children. No cigarette or alcoholic beverage ads on tv. And no false claims, such as “Dr.Pepper is the best drink in the world!” They also took L’Oreal to court for claiming one of their products removed wrinkles, since that’s not actually possible. 

I realize this is strict, but other things are more open than you would think. However, some people tend the stretch the definition of false advertising and I can only imagine how many complaints the agency maintaining these rules receives.

One such complaint was in the opinion section of the local “Metro” paper on Friday. A woman complained that a milk company had violated false advertising laws in their tv commercial because the woman in the commercial walks around a farm with the cows and says, “These are my co-workers.”

The complainer then went on to state that in no way could those cows be employees because they don’t get vacation time, pay or holidays off. Therefore the commercial should be removed from the air. 

I don’t think there are any plans for that but her letter certainly made my day. 

Employee benefits for cows!


(Pictured above, Anna with her co-worker Clementine. )

Adventures in public transportation

Otherwise known as “Yesterday: A true story”

Scene 1

Woman runs for bus. Bus drives off as she reaches stop.

Scene 2

After catching later bus, Woman arrives to pick up son at school, but school is dark. Sign on door says school closed early. Woman trudges to separate building where they store leftover kids of forgetful parents.

Scene 3

Woman and kid wait at bus stop in light rain. Five minutes pass.

Lady in yellow vest: Are you waiting for the bus?

Woman: Yes

Lady in yellow vest: It doesn’t go from here this week. You’ll have to walk to the next stop.

Scene 4

Wet and tired woman and kid walk 10 minutes to next bus stop to find group of 50 people waiting for bus.

Woman sighs.

Scene 5

Woman and kid fight their way off packed bus to discover driver stopped 200 meters from station. In the rain.

Scene 6 – Next day

Woman sits at bus stop for 15 minutes. When bus pulls up, woman realizes she has been waiting at the stop that goes the opposite direction. Crosses street to wait 10 minutes more for correct bus.

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It’s not spring yet

I saw a headline today that said:

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But not one of those signs was the overweight old man who lives across the way who constantly smokes on his balcony without a shirt on once the weather gets warm. Much like the groundhog, the man has not appeared, and therefore I say it is not yet spring.

 

Pay this if you want to live

I was reading our national newspaper (Dagens Nyheter) online last week and clicked on an article called “How to Change Your Lifestyle to Prevent a Stroke.” But when I clicked on the article, I got a message saying I had to pay to view the rest of the content.

I imagine hospitals around the country are now receiving stroke patients and saying, “There’s another one who didn’t want to pay the online newspaper fee. What a shame.”

I’m doomed.

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Neighborhood fox update

So now this shows up on the neighborhood forum:

“Idag på em var hela familjen och lekte i lekparken, sonen hade sin gula fotboll med sig och efter att ha lekt runt lite i parken ser vi plötsligt att bollen är borta, den försvann nästan mitt framför oss. Efter att ha letat en bra stund i parken och runtomkring gick vi alla hem, ledsna för att någon tagit min sons boll. Så om ni ser en gul fotboll någonstans kan ni väl säga till.”

Translated:

“This afternoon, our whole family played in the park, our son had his yellow soccer ball with him and after he played a while in the park, we suddenly realized that the ball was gone, it disappeared almost right in front of us. After looking for quite a while in the park and the surrounding area, we went home, sad because someone took my son’s ball. So if you see a yellow soccer ball somewhere, please let us know.”

Now you know what I am very tempted to post in response to the above.

MAYBE THE FOX ATE IT!

(Thank you, if I didn’t share that thought here, I might have actually had to post that and caused a neighborhood war.)

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Searching for jobs again

This one sounds exhausting. A whole country?!

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Commercials in another country

Even though I’ve lived in Sweden for almost 17 years now, I still see many commercials through the eyes of an American laughing hysterically at weird “foreign” ads. But honestly, how can I not when things like this are common?

This is an ad for a glassses company.

And this is an ad for a mobile phone company.

Christmas tree plundering

 

Today is Knut’s Day, January 13, where many Swedes celebrate julgransplundring (‘Christmas tree plundering’), stripping the tree of its ornaments and throwing it out of the window. As that’s not very nice to the environment, most people take it to a recycling center these days.

We have gone to a few Christmas plundering events. Lots of food and songs and dancing around the tree.

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Also, I have to admit that when we lived by a forest, I threw the Christmas tree off the balcony ever year from the second story window. These days, we have a silver plastic tree, so no mess to clean and we just keep it in the storage room.

Suspicious article

I have a feeling my kids snuck this article into “The Local.”

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Christmas in Sweden – Santa

In Sweden, Santa delivers gifts personally.

Santa visits Swedish homes (after Donald Duck) to hand out gifts personally to the kids. Unfortunately, this usually happens after dad or another male member of the family has just stepped out to check for the newspaper and he misses Santa every year.

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When my husband (often the only adult male at our Christmas celebrations) found out that the American Santa Claus visits children while they sleep, he happily accepted that tradition instead and that’s how our family celebrates.

 

Christmas in Sweden – Rhyming

The Christmas gift poem is not as widely done these days, but some people still practice the tradition. The gift-giver writes a couple of rhyming couplets on their presents, hinting at what’s hidden inside, which is then read out before opening it.

Example (Perfume):

A lovely scent of mystery
in a bottle you’ll admire
a few drops at time
may set hearts on fire.

My husband used to do this on my gifts until we had kids and now we are too exhausted to come up with that many rhymes.

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Christmas goat

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A straw Christmas goat guards the presents under the tree. The tradition is very old and is thought to date back to Viking times during the harvest when the last grain was thought to be magical, or it’s something to do with Thor. Who knows?

Through the years, it has evolved from a prankster, to a scary creature demanding gifts, to bringing the Christmas gifts, to making sure the presents and decorations are correctly done, or for good luck. There are even more old traditions than those.

In the Swedish city of Gävle, the biggest straw goat is erected in the town square every year since 1966, with the idea of bringing in tourists. Well, the tourists certainly come now, but not to see the goat standing. It’s because the goat is famous for being illegally set on fire almost every year. They have tried fire-proofing it, hiring guards, setting up cameras, etc., but it rarely survives until Christmas. This year, it only survived one day before being set on fire.

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Some of the interesting destructions include:

1976 – Goat run over by a car

1988 – During a severe blizzard, volunteers guarding the goat retreat into a nearby café for a break and some coffee, assuming that no one could possibly start a fire in the raging storm. They were wrong, and the goat burned.

2001 – Swedes tricked an American tourist into burning it down by telling him it was an annual tradition.

2005 – Burnt by unknown vandals reportedly dressed as Santa and the gingerbread man, by shooting a flaming arrow at the goat.

2010 – (failed attempt) – Two men tried to bribe a guard to leave his post in an attempt to kidnap the goat by helicopter and fly it to Stockholm.

Christmas in Sweden – St. Lucia

December 13, St. Lucia day

Today begins early in the morning when it’s still dark. A girl dresses up as a dead Italian saint with fire on her head followed by “tärnor” (like Lucia maidens – no fire on head) and “stjärngossar (star boys who wear white pointy hats, I have no idea why) singing Christmas songs.

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 11.55.27.pngIt’s a celebration of light in the darkness of winter. Young children wear electric candles on their head, but above age 12, they wear real candles. Yes, the wax drips down as the ceremony usually lasts 30 minutes to an hour. They have a light covering on their hair, but most Lucias have long hair and it still falls into the bottom parts.

The outfit Lucia wears is for an Italian saint who brought food in secret tunnels to persecuted Christians. She wore candles on her head to see in the tunnel. The red sash represents blood, as she was sentenced to death and they tried to stab her (apparently didn’t work). They also tried to set her on fire, which is why everyone carries candles (also didn’t work). These days the candles mostly represent the light she brings.

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One of my sons had three Lucia performances over the weekend and has two more today. My husband had the job of being class parent for one of the concerts, which means he had to stand to the side during the performance with a bucket of water in case anyone caught fire.

So much more exciting than just being a chaperone at a school dance, I think.

 

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