Pinar, from Turkey, joins us on this week’s episode where we talk about superstitions, air raid sirens and chain restaurants that might or might not be Turkish.
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On the podcast about expats in Sweden today, we talk to a couple of Italians, mainly about food of course, but also about language and some great summer tips in Stockholm!
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On the podcast this week I talk to Ola, from Poland, about dubbing shows in other languages, the difference in Polish names and how to avoid ending up on crutches during the winter. Also, when practicing Swedish, a good tip is to talk to 2 year olds. They don’t judge.
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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?
One of the cultural differences I noticed when I moved to Sweden is that Swedes will never take the last of anything. If you attend a Swedish party, by the end of the night there will most likely be 1 chip left in the bowl and one tiny slice of cake. On Christmas there is only one candy left in the candy box by the end of the evening.
This week at my office, I brought a bowl of jelly beans from my recent trip to Texas. When I came to work the next morning, there were 2 small jellybeans left in the bowl. They stayed there all day until someone else brought in a bucket of candy and I tossed them in there. (Yes, by the end of the next day, the new bucket had one piece of candy left sitting in it.)
Later in the week I brought 4 leftover cookies from a batch I made at home with a note saying, “Please help yourself.” I wasn’t surprised when I came in the next morning to find one cookie left in the bag. However, by lunchtime the cookie was missing. I asked around and found out that a co-worker from Poland had taken the cookie. It’s good that we have such an international staff or we’d be left with one of everything.
The good thing about all of this is that when we have a family gathering, I can always take the last of everything. That last piece of candy at Christmas, the last piece of birthday cake – I just smile and say, “I’m American so I’ll just be taking this here.”
I am usually very careful about the expressions I use around people who don’t have English as a first language, but I slipped up earlier this week. A woman was asking me about our new apartment building and I told her it was nice, but it’s so new that they haven’t worked out all the bugs.
“Bugs??!! Oh no, it’s a terrible problem with insects. I can’t believe a new building like that has bugs!”
I tried to explain that I meant to say problems, but she seems set on the idea that our apartment is crawling with insects. I guess she won’t be interested in coming over for tea.
I’ve noticed that the woman at the reception desk at the swim hall always looks at me as if I’m an alien when I ask to swim. I’ve thought about this and I think I have figured out the problem. Even though I know the correct way to say a sentence in Swedish, I think I am lacking the basic social skills for the language and culture. The problem is that when I want to do something new, I learn the most basic and direct way to say it. I have no follow up. I don’t know how to make my sentences polite. When I go to the swim hall each week, I walk up to the desk and say, “I WANT TO SWIM!” (Jag vill simma!) When I get a haircut, I say, “I WANT A HAIRCUT!” (Jag vill klippa mig! – Yes, it sounds to me like I’m saying I want to cut myself, but other people assure me this means haircut.)
I have nothing to say after these sentences. If I were speaking English, I would probably say, “I’d like to swim, please,” and then make some comment about the weather. If I were asking for a haircut in English, I would say, “Yes, I’d like to get a haircut today. Just a little off the ends.”
But in Swedish, I am forced to announce my needs in a caveman fashion and my only follow up may be occasional miming. After I announce my desire for a haircut in Sweden and they ask me how much, I usually just make my hands into scissors and pretend to cut where I would like it. This gets the message across but may also be why people occasionally treat me as if I am a crazy street person.