Something Swedish


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Don’t judge my decision to move to Sweden: In response to a vicious comment

Over the years I have tried to keep Something Swedish as positive, inspirational and helpful as possible. In response I have gotten hundreds of positive, encouraging, and touching comments. In fact, I have met a handful of these people in real life and have gained some life long friends through this blog. Thankfully, these kind and sweet words overshadow any negativity such as the mean and ignorant comment that I am about to share, which Something Swedish received three days ago.

Now, I am not personally offended by this comment per se, but I do find it offensive. In fact I read it twice to figure out if it was a joke or not. The reason I am sharing it is to give a proper response to someone who obviously wants to be heard – and to share the moment with all of you instead of hiding it in the unseen comment section.

Texas&Beyond Wrote:
May 6, 2014 at 6:43 am

I do not get it. How can a New York woman get married to a Swedish man and then leave the greatest city on earth – moving to a Halmstad – a medium sized Southwestern coastal city with 100 000 people and a density with is below 100 people/Km. I do not get these middle class liberal American women that move to Scandinavia marrying some liberal blond Middle class IT-programmer with an eco-friendly apartment. Than these American women get all creative and make a blog and fill it with Swedish food, design and nature pictures to show fellow American women that – why “hide” from United States in New York or San Francisco when they can go to Sweden and get married to a blond feminist eco-friendly man and live among 9 million socialists – that is even more hipster than the people in NY and SF. Soon they get pregnant and we have to read about how good socialized health care is. Nine months later we when the baby is born they write something about how “natural it feels not to circumcise the little boy”. We are then shown more picture from her IKEA-home and in the middle the little baby clothed in Swedish design cloths made by unionized labor and that her husband will take out “daddy days” so he can connect with the kid.

I cannot stand liberals – hopefully can the entire NY and SF move to Sweden so we can built a large parking lot over the Bay Area for our SUV:s and use NY as a test-site for no bull shit free market capitalism.

Dear “Texas&Beyond”,

Thank you for your comment, sorry for the delay! I am also sorry that my existence confuses you, if it helps – yours confuses me just as much. The difference between us is that I wouldn’t go onto your personal blog and tell you as much, but it’s sweet that you care so much to go through the trouble to search for a blog that you will hate the contents of. That’s real dedication.

Being a “New York woman” is not what defines me, and my husband is not just “a Swedish man.” We are people who happen to live in, and perhaps even come from (you don’t know, do you?) these places, so why would it matter where we move to? I do feel sorry for you seeing as you don’t understand enough about human beings to know that people fall in love despite gender, age, race, or location. In fact, I didn’t even know location should be on that list, but it seems as if your main problem with me and my blog is that I relocated from “the greatest city on earth” to “A Halmstad.” (Thank you! You know, I do still love NYC! What a shame that following this compliment you hypocritically end your comment with hoping to turn NY into a test-site for capitalism)  To make it clear, Halmstad is the name of the town I live in, not a thing  – although it does seem that you otherwise did your research! Good for you. It would be a shame to leave a comment without knowing what you are talking about. Yes, your Wikipedia stats are correct. It’s almost as if you know a little about Sweden…or at least the stereotypes.

By this point in your comment I am now considered a “middle class liberal American woman” – that sure escalated. How long have you been reading my blog by the way? I’m just curious to know how much you truly know about me. It’s obvious that Something Swedish is surely not the only blog on the topic that you have read, or read on a regular basis just to piss yourself off and add fuel to the fire to give you some sense of passion. I wasn’t aware that my particular life situation was a “trend” I am so damn trendy that I do trendy things without knowing it. I must have psychically known that the anonymous person I played video games with and whose company I enjoyed was a blond haired, IT-programmer Swede with an eco-friendly apartment….except that he is none of those things, aside from Swedish of course. In fact, I have to force my Swedish husband to recycle (such a bad Swede, I know!).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider having a blog to be “creative,” it’s more of an outlet – maybe you should start one to get all of this anger out of your system without attacking random people on the internet. You did catch me though, I am indeed guilty of starting a blog, I guess I can’t deny that one. And I do write about Sweden  and Swedish things – guilty again. I know doing this makes no sense; why would anyone in their right state of mind want to talk about and share things that are happening in their lives? Oh! Right, you think it must be so we can brainwash other American women! DUH! It sounds like a vicious cycle we’ve started by falling in love and relocating. Did you know that some people fall in love and move to countries OTHER THAN Sweden?? And SOMETIMES it’s a MAN that moves to Sweden because they fell in love with a Swedish woman… or a Swedish MAN. Shocking, I know.

You are right about one thing – there are about 9 million PEOPLE living in Sweden. How socialism and being a hipster coincides truly eludes me, just like that fact that women tend to have children and then like to talk about their children, seems to elude you. Ah, now we’ve moved onto circumcision, how sweet. It turns out that every culture has it’s own way of doing things and these things might be different than what people are used to when they move from a different country…I think what you are are referring to is “adapting”. It happens. When people are exposed to more ways of living, they tend to change the way they think and even some of the things they believe in or just daily things they do. And yes, people write about it because people are story tellers – we always have been. Blogging might be new, but the tradition of talking and writing is not. We like to share and teach and learn from other through these stories and that is why these women, including myself, write about these things that might seem strange to you. The secret is, you don’t need to read it.

Ikea – probably the one thing you knew about Sweden before doing your blog and Wikipedia research. The last time I checked, Ikea is international – even though it is from Sweden. Many Americans, maybe even your friends, family, and neighbors own furniture from Ikea. I hate to tell you this secret, but there are other furniture stores in Sweden. Lastly,  I’m not sure why anyone would have a problem with a father connecting with their child and I feel very bad for your children if you think this is a bad thing. I guess this goes back to you thinking that all Swedes are feminists; there is a difference between feminism and equality. If I were to hazard a guess I would say that you think women should stay home barefoot and pregnant, cooking, cleaning and looking after the kids while the man is making the money – the equality in Sweden would shock you and most people in the world think it’s a good thing.

If I understand correctly – you can’t decide if you hate socialists, liberals, hipsters or Swedes more; you want to wipe both NY and SF off the map, even though you admit that NY is the greatest place on earth; you judge without knowing or understanding, but you know how to use Wikipedia to make your point; you hate blogs and bloggers, but read them anyway; you really like stereotypes; you don’t understand cultural differences; you have no desire to connect with your kid  – or for your husband to connect with your kid – since, unlike you, I won’t assume anything about who you are. I hope I understood the point of your comment. Thank you for taking the time to write to Something Swedish :)

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Whew, that took a while, but as you all know I ALWAYS – even if its a few months late (sorry!) reply to comments left by readers! And I always encourage discussion and feedback on posts.

Welcome to Sweden

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When you first move to a new country you wonder and worry about a lot of things:

“Is this ever going to feel like home?”
“When will I get used to the way things work here?”
“How long will it take to feel normal again?”
“How long until I can speak the language?”
“Will I ever find a job? Make friends? Get used to the food and traditions?”

For me, the overall answers are, “Yes” and “About two years.”
A few months ago I noticed that I no longer felt the need to take pictures of everything I saw or did. A few months ago I noticed that things were no longer strange and exotic. A few months ago I realized that I had found my place in Sweden, started working more, can speak the language and have a strong group of friends. I began to forget how hard and different it was when I first moved here two years ago. The differences that made me laugh or get frustrated are now part of my everyday life. A few months ago, I stopped blogging.

Today though, I decided to pick it back up. Stopping was never my intention, it just sort of happened as a side effect of being busy and not finding anything fun or interesting to write about. This weekend I watched a new show about an American who moves to Sweden and I felt the need to comment on it, criticize, and continue doing what I can do to help other people who are still finding their way.

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About the show that motivated me to write again: Welcome to Sweden – it is a semi autobiographical comedy of Greg Poehler (Brother of actress/comedien Amy Poehler) moving to Sweden for love (Which he really did do about 7 years ago). Sound familiar? I thought so too, so I was eager to watch it.

This interview (which is in English) and short clip from the show make it seem like the perfect show to watch:

And it’s true; it is about being a “fish out of water” and trying to reinvent oneself. For some reason though, I couldn’t connect to the actual show.

While it shows a lot of stereotypes (of both Americans and Swedes) I can’t say i was personally able to relate to all of it. Greg Poehler plays the over the top ignorant, oblivious, culturally obnoxious American who moves to a country without doing a single second of research or putting a single thought into it. The way the character is portrayed is supposed to be funny and charming, but is a bit insulting. His girlfriend’s parents expect him to fail and go home and wonder why he hasn’t found a job and can’t speak the language after two days. Yes, there are pressures and expectations, but this is exaggerated for no reason.

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“…and so you moved to Sweden to live with our daughter. You have no friends, no job…”

Now, I know its hard to make reality into a show (aside from reality tv) and still make it fun and captivating, but part of the problem for me is that most of the show doesn’t make sense because it’s simply not the way things work. Immigration interview after you’ve already moved to the country? Illegal. Needing to get your drivers license changed to Swedish immediately? In reality, you have a year. The Swedish teacher speaking English to the class/the class introducing themselves in English? Should never happen. Not knowing about taking off your shoes indoors until you’ve lived there for three weeks? Seriously? Come on! Perhaps this is exactly how it was for him, but parts of feel hard to believe.

Maybe I am too serious and like to be overly helpful and informative, and a comedy show doesn’t need to get all the facts straight because there is an artistic freedom, however, I find some of it to be misleading or annoying at some parts. Of course everyone has different experiences and I don’t expect it to portray my exact struggles or observations, but there are a lot of things that are overly exaggerated and even more basic (and potentially very funny) things left out.

Those in Sweden- What are your thoughts on the show? (If you haven’t seen it yet, it is being aired on TV4 play) Those in the US – you’ll get your chance to see on July 10 2014 (My wedding anniversary) as NBC has bought the rights and renewed the contract for a second season – so it must not be so bad. Even if I don’t think it’s great, it’s interesting to see and I will certainly tell my friends and family to watch it to get an idea of what it’s been like for me…kind of.

I will continue watching because it does have potential. I can see the appeal and there are funny parts and parts I can kind of relate to, but it’s still an overall “miss” for me so far.

I think I can do better (in written form)- and maybe one day I will. For now though, I’ll continue blogging.

Welcome back Something Swedish.

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Riddle me this, Sweden

First things first…

Stay with me here – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th. In Swedish these would be 1:a, 2:a, 3:e, 4:e, 5:e, 6:e, 7:e, 8:e, 9:e, 10:e. I wasn’t able to recognize them either, don’t worry. But sometimes you do see “1st” in Swedish – usually in the produce section of the supermarket and you wonder what it is, “Is it the first crop of the season?” then you see “2st” and think it’s just a typo. “st” in Swedish means “stycken” a useful word that we don’t have in English which indicates how many of something, like individual pieces.

Time

Telling time is telling time, right? Wrong. It might be easy for those who know how to use military time, but I have literately missed a work meeting because of the habit of using AM and PM and mistaking an early morning meeting for an “after work” meeting. It takes a lot of time and finger counting to look at a clock and read 21.15 as 9:15, or vice versa, thinking 9:15 but needing to write 21.15, without getting it wrong a few dozen times.

Here’s a tip: if someone is meeting you for a drink at 10.00 they probably mean coffee, not alcohol.

But don’t worry, it’s only written this way, when Swedes speak they use the am/pm system, just to mess with my mind I assume. Not that saying the time is any easier – wrap your head around explaining 7:35 as “five minutes past half till 8,” More simply, dinner at 6:30? instead of saying “half past 6″ you would say “half till 7″.

Oh, and 10.00 is how we write the time here in Sweden, I wasn’t accidentally talking about the price of overpriced drinks (coffee/alcohol) in Sweden.

Like so:

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Money

So, if a period equals a colon (10.00 instead of 10:00) to indicate time, then how do we deal with money? Commas, of course, ya know, unless there should be a comma, then we use a period ($1,000 = 7.000 SEK)

Buying a pair of pants? Price: 699,90 SEK. Don’t worry, that’s hundred, not thousand, don’t let that comma startle you. And good news, tax is always included in the price tags in Sweden, so what you see is what you pay! Except that the “öre” (think “penny”) hasn’t existed in many years, so prices are just “rounded” to the nearest kronor, so yes, you will be paying 700 SEK.

Dates

Have an important meeting on 5/4/2013? Don’t miss it, it’s on April 5th, not May 4th.  Oh, and don’t try to make it any easier by writing “April 5th” because it is really “5:e april” (You were wondering where they used that colon, if not for telling time, right? Me too) The colon is also used when you would add an ” ‘s ” to an abbreviation, but I digress.

Grammar

While we’re on the topic of commas, colons, and periods being used differently than what I’m used to – why not talk about apostrophes and semi colons, too?

It’s easy, they barely exist while writing Swedish. Big sigh of relief, eller hur? Semi colons not being used as often as in English I can understand – people use them incorrectly all the time anyway, but apostrophes!? That’s like the bread and butter to English! Well, here’s the thing – Swedish doesn’t use contractions. You’ll never find our beloved “I’m,” “you’re,” “she’ll,” “aren’t” “they’re,” “here’s,” “I’ll,” “he’ll,” and “won’t” in Swedish which means that 90% of the apostrophes we use every day are gone. The other 10%? Also gone: “Sweden’s soccer team” becomes “Sveriges fotbollslag” no apostrophe needed, and yes soccer in the U.S. is “fotboll” (football) here in Sweden.

At least one thing is just as important in Swedish as it is in English, don’t forget your capitalization, as in don’t forget to NOT do it  for months or days of the week.

Multiple choice time!

Why is there an X here?

1) “2” and “3” are way too similar to put next to each other

x) Swede’s thought they’d get the numbers and the letters mingling.

2) To be even more confusing to immigrants!


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Feeling Helpless Abroad: Losing a Loved One

am and me crop 2I know she hasn’t been healthy enough to read my last few posts, but it hurts to write my first post KNOWING she CAN’T read it and comment. My most loyal follower, my most active commenter,  my biggest supporter, my most frequent Skype buddy, my Aunt Maria (Some might recognize her comments signed as “Aunty Ree”). I won’t get too personal, except to say that we were making up for lost time when her time was cut short yesterday. Moving to Sweden brought us closer together, closer than anyone else over the past two years. And I am thankful for that.

Moving to Sweden also means not being there. For any of it. The good or the bad: bridal parties, baby showers, funerals, weddings. I can’t be there to hug a friend who needs comfort, or wildly jump up and down with a friend who just found out she’s pregnant. I can’t be there for my cousins graduation, or my uncles operation. I couldn’t be there to help anyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. I can’t help my besty find the perfect wedding dress, and I can’t meet my brothers new girlfriend (if/when there is one). I can’t say my good byes in person, and I can’t share the still silence of sorrow with my family. I won’t be there to smile, laugh, and share stories after the wake with my family to celebrate her life, as I know that’s what she would want us to do.

Despite which occasion it may be, it’s hard not being there sometimes – whether for good or bad. I’m not really one sensitive to things like homesickness, but being a bit bitter about missing out on time and experiences with people I love and care about is something that hits me now and again. This time harder than others. That’s part of moving around the world though, it’s a package deal – experiencing a new side of life while missing out on experiences in the life you kinda left behind.

It’s not always/only these big occasions and experiences, but the small every day things too – the things you don’t even know or realize you’re missing out on, or the things you would be glad you missed.

In a huge way I’m thankful I moved to Sweden; not only to start my life with someone I love in a beautiful, new, and exciting country with new opportunities,  but because moving here did, in fact, bring me CLOSER to many people – more phone calls, emails, Skype video calls – despite the distance or time difference. Keeping in touch and staying in the loop is a delicate balancing act – here and there, old and new. She was one of my “anchors”  (of which I think I have a solid ten) that made me feel like I was still back home, living in a town not too far away.

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Thank you for keeping me connected and always helping me stay positive. I’ll miss your stories, advice, and you Skyping me first thing when you wake up, while I eat lunch – sometimes for hours. I’m happy we got to spend time with you right before you went away. Thank you for the memories. I wish i hadn’t missed your call last week…I wonder how you were feeling and what you would have said. I’m sorry I can’t be there now, but I know you’ll be here whenever I need you most.


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Being an American in Sweden

At ten o’clock this morning (4am EST)  Air-force One landed on Swedish soil, that’s right – President Obama is in Sweden. I know because we watched it in class for almost an hour, yes, it’s THAT big of a deal here. Granted, it IS civics class which discusses domestic and international politics, so it was pretty relevant, but I was still surprised. Over the past week or so it has been impossible to turn on the radio or open a newspaper without hearing or reading about this jam packed 24 hour (completely televised) visit. Before I delve into the details on Obama in Sweden, I figured this gives a relevant transition into how it feels to be an American in Sweden – or at least a few broad one side observations that I hope don’t offend anyone, but just came to mind:

First off let me point out that we are few and far between, unless you are working at an International school. Keep in mind that Sweden accepts a large amount of immigrants and refugees, so the ratio is not too surprising. Outside of native English speaking teachers recruited to Sweden, I’ve met 5  Americans in two years (one in passing, one moved back, one being my old boss, one in my current class and one a friend from school & the blog I don’t see often enough), plus a few Swedes that have lived in the US for a long time. Compared to the large groups of people from other countries bonding during class breaks (often in their own languages), sometimes it can feel a bit lonely. Not to say that people aren’t friendly and welcoming, but cliques are natural. I’m guilty of it –  hanging out with a mix of Americans, Brits, a New Zealander and a Canadian. Oh, and Swedes.

For the most part I want to say Swedes like, or are at least impartial to the U.S. The bigger happenings in America are often reported here, which is an upside of being an American in Sweden – being in the know. Someone in class today asked why it was such a big deal that president Obama is here in Sweden, knowing that if it was a president from any other country it wouldn’t have been as important or such a big deal. As much as I hate that many Americans seem to think that the U.S is the center of the world or know little to nothing about other countries, (I’ve been asked if Swedish is really a real language and told that I can drive a car from NYC to Sweden instead of fly) it’s true that America gets a lot of attention world wide, at least in Sweden. It’s not that the world cares so much about America, but one way to look at it is that the European Union and the United States are two sides of a coin – large and powerful with many smaller parts (countries / states). Countries in Europe, to me, are like states in the U.S. – different cultures, languages (Dialects, anyway), economies, politics. News is no more reported about all European countries combined than it is about the U.S.

In almost all of the classes I’ve been in and many casual conversations I’ve taken part of, America has been brought up in discussion in one way or another, sometimes more relevantly than others, sometimes with more or less hostility than others – all with me feeling awkward wanting the conversation to change (I’ve never been a fan of politics). Being the only American in a room when the super power gets brought up is a lot of pressure; either you’ve got to have an opinion, your political views are assumed, or thankfully sometimes you aren’t put on the spot but you are anxiously waiting for it to happen anyway.

Sometimes the conversations are welcomed and pleasant, especially depending on how much you enjoy talking about politics and the like. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to talk about where you are from, your opinions, and find out that people are interested in something you care about or are invested in. Sometimes it’s not even politics, which is even better.

Oh, and don’t be surprised to see Yankees baseball caps here and there –  unlike I originally thought, this does not mean they are from, or have ever been to the U.S.

I’m constantly reminded of common advice most Americans have heard at least once in their life, “When traveling abroad, say you’re from Canada.” You’re never sure how people will respond to you, what they will ask you, or what they will assume about you just because the country you come from has gotten involved in a few too many things. Oh, and sometimes being “American” automatically means being a Texan, the southern accent being a favorite to use when quoting Americans. Other stereotypes: being loud, prude, rude, and good tippers.

It’s been interesting hearing so many outside views of my home country, sometimes as if I’m not even in the room, being offended, enlightened or amused. As an immigrant, I get to learn about not only Sweden, but so many other cultures through my fellow classmates, all of whom seem to have a different opinion about something that is happening, or has in the past happened in America. I’ve heard conspiracy theories, admiration, confusion, hatred, respect, and just plain interest in current events. On the other hand, some people don’t even know who Obama is, let alone anything concerning news in the U.S.A., maybe with the acceptation of something that effects Sweden or their homeland.

Most of the time though, I’m met with positive reactions, “Oh! Where in the U.S are you from!?” Thankfully I’m from NYC, which always opens up the conversation of “Really? I’ve always wanted to go there” or “It must be really different here” or “Oh! I’ve been there!” Which are all great ice breakers.

All and all, it’s nice to live somewhere that isn’t too different from living in America, unlike if I moved somewhere where I couldn’t buy my meat already slaughtered and prepackaged, or where technology wasn’t so advanced, or where English isn’t understood or spoken by the majority of the population.

Maybe this deserves it’s own post – more on Obama’s visit tomorrow instead.


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Something New: Haircut

While away on vacation in NYC I decided it was time for a change. Actually, I decided this a long time ago, but the time had come. You see, I’ve been living in Sweden for over a year and a half now, but I still haven’t been brave enough to get a hair cut here. Not because I have a go-to hair stylist or anything, but I’ve just been chickening out. That and I think it’s too expensive (like most beauty related things are here: hair, nails, eyebrows, make up), but I digress. Another reason I waited? I wanted to donate my hair to the Locks of Love charity so that my hair can be of some comfort to a child who can’t grow his or her own.

Before and after:

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Bye bye hair!

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Mailing my locks:

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Finished product vs old product:

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Acknowledgement:

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Then and now – looking over New York City and Halmstad:

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With short styled hair I’m bound to start going to get my hair cut on a regular basis, forcing me to finally get my hair cut in Sweden, which might sound trivial, and it is, but it proves that even after living here after a year and a half there is still something new to experience.

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We got back to Sweden about two weeks ago and are finally back on track with our daily routines and without (a full week of) horrible jet lag. You know what that means? Back to blogging!


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Something Swedish in New York City: Visiting The Highline

2013-06-24 05.50.06It’s that time of the year! Visiting family, friends, and good ol’ NYC. Last year was my first “visit” back home, but not my first time being a tourist (I’ve done that every time my husband came to visit me over the years). Experiencing your own town as a tourist is like visiting a completely different place. You want to do, see, and learn more which means actually appreciating all that stuff around you that you would normally ignore. This is especially true in NYC, where there is so much going on all the time and not enough time to slow down to even notice.

Last year I had been in Sweden for only 6 months before we came back, this time the gap has been a whole year and a lot has changed in that time: Namely me. I’ve adjusted and adapted to my life in Sweden, so I’m here to tell you that reverse culture shock is a real thing. For my visit last year I ignored Something Swedish, since it wasn’t anything to do with Sweden, but since I now have readers from all around the world who might think it’s fun with a change of scenery, I’ll try to give you a taste of my trip!

Our first big outing was to the Highline, which we have been meaning to see since it was opened in 2009. The Highline is a public park built on an old elevated freight train track which preserves the old history and structure and adds a beautiful touch of greenery, artwork, and plenty of places to sit down to relax and soak up some sun. Stretching between Gansevoort street (south of West little 12th) and W29th street, it’s a great walk above the busy yellow cab filled streets below with an awesome view of Manhattan from a new angle among the rooftops, which is amazing for photos.

The old tracks:

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The view down Manhattan Streets:

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Artwork:

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Relaxing:

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The rest/random:

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There are lots of entrances/exits so this is a great way to walk through a small part of the city to get where you need to go with some refreshing scenery, no cross walks, honking cars, or street vendors. Great for easing back into the hectic city from a small laid back town in Sweden.

Bonus! Hubby has started up his own blog and his first post is featuring his select favorite photos from today’s outing. Check it out here: Ensorcella

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