Category Archives: Sweden

Sweden – your new beach destination!

It’s HOT! Really hot! And you know it must be bad coming from someone who grew up in Texas and just got back from a vacation there.

We’ve had a bit of a heatwave here in Sweden over the past 2 weeks. Of course, I’m all for it so I can wear my sandals and jump in the lakes, but when you don’t have any air conditioning, it does become a bit of a problem.

All windows and doors are open, all of our 3 floor fans are on, (in fact I carry one with me wherever I go) but it’s still really unbearable indoors. But I know better than to complain. For 5 months out of the year I’m dressed in 3 layers and still freezing.

So I gladly welcome this new global warming, summer weather. Now if someone could make me a piña colada, I’ll be good to go the rest of the day.

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Fake freckles

My kid does this once a month to his face and all he needs is an old Sharpie marker. I’m not paying for a special “freckle marker.” This is going too far.

 

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Did you think it was spring? SUCKERS!

Spent a lovely day on Sunday, here in Stockholm, taking a walk, going to a park and even petting farm animals. Spring was in the air. I even stopped at the flower display at the grocery store and considered buying something for the balcony.

Luckily, I’ve lived here long enough not to fall for it.

Sure enough, we woke up Monday morning to -2c and snow.

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The modern family

As I’m sitting here typing this in my nice comfy slippers from my iPad, my husband plays games on his RetroPie from the bed, my oldest son is using Skype to play Minecraft with his friend across town, and my youngest son is in a virtual reality world. Welcome to the future.

My current view as pictured above.

Can I Photoshop us into summer?

I thought maybe if I used Photoshop, I could make winter go away and feel better. I tried this picture with my son, but I still don’t feel very summery…

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Nordic gardens

There is an event taking place in March, here in Sweden, called “Nordic Gardens.” This is what I picture:

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Pay toilets

Someone today brought up how strange it is that many European countries have pay public toilets. This is something that’s always bothered me here in Sweden. I’ve been here 18 years and still think it should be a basic human right to use a toilet when you need it.

I get the reasons behind it… messy people, drug people, crazy people, etc., but when you gotta go, you gotta go!

Water is clean and free here, but not so public toilets.

When I was pregnant, I managed to make a list of all hidden and free bathrooms around Stockholm. Don’t ask me for it though. It’s of high and secret value and I can’t have all you people messing up my free bathrooms.

It’s melting!

The snow is melting today and it’s just a big slush of muddy roads and giant slabs of ice falling from roofs. I think most people here who claim they hate the snow don’t really hate the snow, they hate what’s going to happen because they know that eventually it will get melty and slushy, which I agree is no fun.

I think people would like it more if slush days were declared days off.  When it ices over in Texas, most people get the day off school or work because it’s dangerous to drive with no winter tires. Well, when melting snow is making ice fall from the roofs, we should all get the day off work here and stay inside as well.

It’s actually quite dangerous with the snow falling from roofs, and many sidewalks are blocked off so that people don’t get hurt. All the more reason to order people to stay inside today.  Can we just have this one thing? I mean, we don’t have sun for 5 months a year, so maybe a few days off on the nastiest days? I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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foto: DN

 

I’m a cabbage man…

My husband got a special pickling jar for Christmas. He is currently buying all the cabbage available in Sweden and filling our fridge and counters with sauerkraut and kimchi. Everything in the fridge smells of cabbage. The kitchen smells of cabbage. The apartment smells of cabbage. I’m afraid to go out and meet friends today because I know I smell like cabbage.

Cabbage cabbage cabbage

Cabbage

(help…)

Cabbage

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It’s like riding a bicycle

I was talking to another parent in my son’s class about the weather being so snowy and icy outside that it was hard to walk anywhere without falling. The other parent told me that she has been riding her bike in the ice and snow lately, but is a little nervous about crashing.

I said, “I can’t even ride my bike in the summer without crashing. That’s how I got this scar on my chin.”

She laughed and said, “I remember that happened to me too! I have a scar on my chin from falling off my bike when I was five years old!”

I said, “This happened in September. This year.”

She smiled and moved on to talk to someone more coordinated.

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Lucia madness

December 13th in Sweden is Lucia day. It’s basically a celebration of light in the darkness, based on an Italian saint who had her eyes gouged out (really gets kids in the Christmas spirit).

All over Sweden, choirs of children dress in white robes while one girl (the Lucia) has a crown of lit candles on her head. The other children carry their candles.

I volunteered to be the helping parent for one of my son’s classes on this celebration. All I knew was that I was required to stand on the side with a bucket of water in case someone caught on fire. Sounded kind of exciting.

It turns out that kids catching fire was the LEAST of my worries.

First of all, I had to help the teacher accompany the kids from the school to the church. This was like trying to herd goats that are constantly stopping to make and throw snowballs at each other. (Yes, goats totally do that.) I almost had 2 kids get run over because they didn’t stop at the crossing light and were way too cool to acknowledge my screaming “STOP!”, causing them to be stuck in the middle of the road with cars speeding past.

During rehearsal, no one caught on fire (good thing, since they didn’t give us our buckets for rehearsal), but 2 kids almost fainted and a few burned their hands on dripping wax.

I think that all parents should have to assist with a class activity or outing to understand what these teachers have to deal with every day. Not just observing the class, but actually having to herd them, instruct them and keep them alive.

To sum up:

  • Teachers should be paid more.
  • Kids are like goats.
  • I am never volunteering to help out with a school class again.

 

P.S. The actual Lucia concert went just fine. I think these kids behave a lot better when parents and cameras are watching. haha!

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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