Looking for sheets today and I just realized that the Swedish word for sheets/bedding is “sängkläder” or “ clothes for beds”, so that’s what I’m calling my sheets from now on.
“I need to wash the clothes for my bed.”
“I need to buy some clothes for my bed.”
For the first time ever, I read about an expat to Sweden who thinks Swedes are “too friendly!”
In our local paper’s letter section, a person identifying themselves as having a foreign background states:
Staff at stores, I am not your friend! Quit saying hello to me when I come up to the cash register. I am not obliged to speak to you and I don’t appreciate it. Just scan my groceries and don’t speak to me!
For the record, that’s really all they say to you at the store in Sweden. They aren’t like Americans who try to upsale or feel a need to comment on your purchases. Here in Sweden, they just acknowledge you with a hello and then tell you the total. That’s all.
Generally, all fellow foreigners I talk to complain about how cold and unfriendly Swedes can often seem. So my question is, what country is this person from where they think that a cashier saying “hello” is crossing the friendship line?
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?
I was exhausted Monday and decided to make my grocery list for the next day right before bed. Here is the list I made, which I did not look at until I was in the grocery store this morning:
Milk & stuff
“Milk & Stuff?” I stood there quite a long time in the aisle trying to figure out what I meant. Milk & Stuff. What kind of stuff? Milky stuff? What would that be?
I’m going to Ikea today, as every good Swede is required to do at least 4 times a year. I need to buy a bedside table, but I also need napkins and ziploc bags. Yep, I take the car out to giant Ikea to stock up on napkins and ziploc bags.
Why not buy them at the grocery store, you say? Well, if I can find ziploc bags at the grocery store, they cost around $8, whereas at Ikea they cost around $3. Same goes for napkins. So yes, we stock up every season on napkins and ziplocs at Ikea.
The Ikea I’m going to tomorrow is the largest Ikea in the world (I looked it up on Wikipedia). The store is designed with about 4 floors in circles. It’s the most confusing place I’ve ever been. I say it’s 4 floors, but I’m honestly not sure. I’m so dizzy by the time I get to the bottom that I have no idea how big it is. Who designed this place? It’s like being in a video game where you can’t get off your level unless you buy something to reveal the hidden escalator to the next level.
I have 3 items to buy today. I fully expect this to take an hour an a half. Has anyone ever gotten out of Ikea in less time than that? I don’t think so. It’s impossible. Wow! Carpets for 5 dollars?! I could use another carpet! Oh! Now these bowls are yellow. Never can have too many bowls! ……
If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, I never made it out.
Our son is in a choir. Today we got a letter regarding the choir outfits the children must wear while performing. It says that they must wear black slacks (not jeans) and black dress shoes (not gym shoes). Then it goes on to say that if you happen to be in London, there are some good deals at Marks & Spencer on these items.
I’m beginning to think the other kids in this choir may have a bit more money than us.
“Oh honey, Johnny needs new slacks. I’m going to run to London this weekend for some shopping.”
Can you tell that clothes are way too expensive in Stockholm?
An advantage to shopping in Sweden – you can wander around alone in a store all day and not one salesperson will bother you. If you need help, they are pretty easy to find, but they are polite enough not to interrupt your browsing.
Whenever we go back to the states, it throws me off to have people constantly approach me while I shop. “Do you need anything?” NO. “Have you heard about our special offers?” DON’T CARE. “Has anyone else been helping you today?” LEAVE ME ALONE I JUST WANT A PENCIL.
And I can’t get over how everyone gives out all of their information to the sales people. Here’s how buying a shirt goes in Sweden:
I put the shirt on the counter. The clerk rings it up and tells me the price. I pay. The clerk says, “Thanks.”
Here’s how buying a shirt goes in America:
I attempt to put the shirt on the counter but it’s covered in all sorts of extra tiny knick-knacks they are trying to get me to impulse buy. The clerk says, “Oh, that’s a nice color. Did you know we also have that in red?”Me: DON’T NEED RED. JUST WANT THIS ONE.
Clerk : But if you get 2, you can get a 10 percent discount.
Me: DON’T NEED TWO.
Clerk: Do you have our club card?
ME: NO, ONLY SHOP HERE ONCE A YEAR.
Clerk: That’ll be 25 dollars. Can I have your phone number please?
ME: ARE YOU TRYING TO ASK ME OUT?
Clerk: It’s just so we know what area our shoppers are from.
ME: WHY DON’T YOU JUST ASK ME WHERE I’M FROM.
Clerk: Well can I have your email address for extra coupons?
ME: NO, I DON’T LIVE HERE, I DON’T WANT COUPONS.
Clerk: How about your zip code?
ME: I THINK YOU’RE TRYING TO STALK ME. YOU’RE MAKING ME NERVOUS. I JUST WANTED A SHIRT. ALL I WANTED WAS A SHIRT! AHHHHHH!!!!!!!
And that’s a typical shopping experience for me when I travel in the states.
Americans, please quit giving out your phone number and email address. You don’t have to do this. Plus, I’m really tempted to call or email one of you after you loudly announce this personal information all over the store. From me, you’ll get an annoying warning not to do that again. But that guy in the Hello Kitty sandals and the trenchcoat hanging out over there by ladies lingerie might not be so pleasant when he calls you on the phone.
Many of us foreigners who move to Sweden like to tell stories of the horrible mistakes we’ve made in the grocery store. Two of my friends made a cake with yeast because they couldn’t tell the difference between that and baking powder.
Besides making mistakes in good and bad food products, my most memorable mistake was buying what I thought was shampoo. For one month I went around with greasy hair thinking there was something wrong with the water or air around here until I found out that my bottle that said, “balsam” translated to “conditioner.”
So when you see one of us foreigners walking around Sweden with bad hair carrying around food that you would never eat yourself, please remember how it would feel if you couldn’t read anything and hand that person the green striped milk and the decent yogurt (2 of the toughest things to figure out with a lot of trial and error).
Just checked Amazon’s “Gift Ideas for Grandma” section. They suggest the Millenium book series. I’m not really sure that’s the right choice for most of the grandmothers I know.
I was at the grocery store this morning when I noticed a new display with butternut squash. After years of seeing so many American recipes using butternut squash, it was amazing to find it for the first time in Sweden. Butternut squash is such a rare thing here that there isn’t even a translation for it. I immediately grabbed some and took it up to the counter. I don’t know why I expected things to go smoothly. My first clue should have been that I found the butternut squash display in the beer and soda section. The check-out woman had no idea what it was or how much it cost. She kept asking me what it was and I kept saying, “Butternut squash! Butternut squash! That’s what your sign says. There is no translation!” She had to ask another employee walking by who also had no idea what it was. Luckily this all worked to my advantage because he said, “oh just charge her 10 kr for it (about a dollar),” and I’m pretty sure it should have been 30 kr or more.
But this made me think about how many things I can get now in Sweden that I wasn’t able to get when I moved here ten years ago.
– Dr. Pepper – Although I’m told they tried to market it earlier, it was not succesful and didn’t show up again until 2001 and it was hard to find. Now it’s in every store, though I have never seen one piece of advertising for it.
– Pumpkins – My first couple of Halloweens, I remember it being almost impossible to find a pumpkin. I think there was one place in Stockholm where you could find a few but no one else carried them. Now all of the grocery stores carry them in October.
– Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – I think that only showed up about 5 years ago in the grocery stores and a scoop shop just opened last year. We’re spoiled now.
At the moment we’re all waiting to get our first Starbucks. They plan on opening it sometime soon at the airport. Now the airport is a bit too far to travel without a car, but hopefully this will lead to other Starbucks closer to town.
Now if they could just get some beef jerkey, rotel and velveeta, I would be all set.