Category Archives: Sweden

Bless this blow torch

My husband was singing in a beautiful Advent concert that I attended this past weekend.  Everything was very tasteful, old-fashioned, Christmassy, etc., until the beautiful chandeliers were lowered and the altar boys lit the candles with….. a blow torch attached to a stick.

Hey, this may be a reverent celebration, but this concert is only an hour long and we’ve got to get these candles lit quick! Get the blow torch!

Side note: This church was originally built in the 1600s but has burned down twice. Um… maybe less blow torches duct-taped to sticks in the main chapel? Just an idea.

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Svart fredag?

For several years now, here in Sweden, I’ve been seeing stores advertise for “Black Friday.” It’s not the chaos of the U.S., but more regular type sales. As far as I know, nothing opens early.

The reason that I and other Americans find Swedish “Black Friday” sales ridiculous is that there is no point behind them. In the U.S., the entire country has the day off on Thursday, which leads many to also have Friday off as well.

In Sweden, we obviously don’t have Thanksgiving, so this is a normal Monday – Friday work week. They might put up lights in the city this weekend, since it’s so dark, and most things naturally kick off around the first of Advent, which makes sense.

On Thanksgiving Thursday in the U.S., almost every business is closed. There are basically no stores open either, so everyone is crowded in a house with no options but to visit with their family. When Friday comes, people are thrilled to have an excuse to leave the house.

No one here in Sweden has a day off to shop this Friday. Not to mention that Swedish “sales” aren’t all that great. Currently at the grocery store, you can get two bags of shredded cheese for 30 SEK. What’s the price for one bag? 14.50 SEK.

Can we adopt other cultural traditions from the U.S. instead? Barbecues and snow-cone stands maybe? Real nachos with actual melted cheese?

 

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Typical Swedish magazine

While waiting in line at the grocery store, I spotted the magazine rack, which is pretty much what one would expect in Sweden:

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Dress Code

In my old hometown newspaper from Texas, there is an article this week about a sophomore student in high school asking the School Board to remove the ban on boys wearing earrings in school.

I have tried to explain to my Swedish husband that when I went to school in Texas, you could not dye your hair, boys could not have hair past their shoulders, no facial hair and no earrings for boys. That was combined with the usual skirts past the fingertips for girls and no hats allowed for anyone.

Apparently the schools in the place I grew up finally took away the rule about long hair for boys (fairly recently). I know the earring and facial hair rule are still in effect, as well as the skirts and hats, and I’m not sure about hair dye but I think that is still banned as well.

When my husband went to high school here in Sweden, he went through purple hair, bright red hair and blue hair, among many other colors. He also had an earring. And no one cared. He was a smart and great student. No one in class was “distracted,” as some Texas schools like to say in these situations.

Imagine at your job if a man walked in with an earring (many men at your job probably already wear one or more), facial hair (shocking!) and purple hair. You might say, “Whoa Todd, cool hair!” and then do your job. I can’t imagine anyone saying, “There is just no way I can file insurance claims when I can’t take my eyes of Todd’s earring.” or “I would save this woman’s life, but I can’t perform surgery when the ambulance driver who brought this patient in has purple hair. It’s too distracting.”

My oldest son dyed his hair orange most of last year. All this week he has been wearing fake mustaches to school, nerd glasses and a hat that looks like Sonic the Hedgehog. Surprisingly, this does not affect his work or the work of his fellow students, some who have dyed hair, wear shorts or even a rabbit suit pullover (yes, I’ve seen this twice).

I live in the real world. I ride the subway. I’ve seen people dressed as zombies, people with face tattoos, people with piercings and chains. I don’t mind any of those people as long as they TAKE A SHOWER (and don’t eat my brains, of course).

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My oldest son has worn this to school every day this week (with a different mustache every day).

 

Just because I SOUND like a caveman…

This past weekend, I took a shortcut past a brand new tram stop that had not yet opened. A very confused looking woman asked me in Swedish when the next tram was coming. I explained to her, also in Swedish, that the stop would not open until the next day, as it was a new stop for the new line. 

From her confused look, I deduced that I had once again messed up my Swedish grammar in some way. However, I’m fairly certain I got all the key words correct. “New station” “Opens tomorrow” I’m not THAT terrible at Swedish. 

It seems the problem may have been that this woman was not familiar with Stockholm and it’s transportation system. She kept insisting that she arrived at this stop a few hours ago and was trying to go back. Figuring she most likely was not a time traveler from the future, I tried to tell her that there was a different train (not tram) stop about 400 meters up the road just behind a large building. Perhaps that was where she arrived?

But because of what I can only assume must have been bad grammar ( “Different train, you go other side of building, different station.”), she did not trust my local knowledge. In a move I’ve experienced a few times before, she stared at me for a beat, then proceeded to approach another person to ask the exact same question. 

It’s so frustrating to take time to help people when they totally ignore everything you say, even if it is in a caveman-like accent. Just because I’m missing a few adjectives doesn’t mean I can’t answer your question! 

I need to find out the Swedish equivalent of “But that’s what I said!” and “I told you so!”  Otherwise, I might just practice a standard phrase in perfect Swedish and use that for any question from now on. Example: “You only need to wait here 5 minutes. Have a lovely day.”

This will be my response for all future questions, whether they are “How long until the next train?” or “Where can I find something to eat?”. People will trust my confident, perfectly-spoken answer and wait for something that will never come unless they dare to trust information from someone with an accent. 

Cavemen have feelings too!

How to disappoint your kids

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.

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