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:

2013-09-30 09.12.15

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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Success: Swedish as a Second Language (SAS)

It’s official! After 22 weeks in Swedish as a Second Language and Civics (Svenska som Andra Språk och Samhällskunskap), I’ve made it! – 18 weeks early and with the highest grade for the course (A)!

In January I wrote a short comparison of SAS and SFI (Here) and six months later here I am telling you about the end!

One thing that I learned is that there are two options for S.A.S: Komvux and Learnia, which are very different. My experience is based off of Kumvux, which I found to be much more rewarding. Learnia goes by much quicker (20 weeks) with less/no assignments, no tests, and hardly any teacher interaction.

S.A.S. typically takes 40 weeks, that’s ten weeks for every course (E, F, G, H which each include two chapters) but anyone can go faster or slower depending on how much work they do. Having class 12 hours a week and studying an additional 15 hours a week let me go through it quickly (hence my infrequent blog updates lately).  There is a test at the end of each chapter, and a bunch of assignments in between ranging from simple questions to book reports and essays.

Even though there are less formal lessons from the teachers when compared to SFI, and more “egen arbete” (Own work) I felt I learned a lot because the teachers instead give more one on one time to review your tests and anything you write, focusing on your specific problems. My work had drastically improved by the time I got to the last course, even being excused from a whole chapter because the teacher thought my level was beyond it at 20 weeks into the program, which gave me more time to focus on my final assignment.

My last few assignments in the course included a seven minute speech and a power point presentation in Swedish on a topic of our own choosing without the use of notes (I spoke about the benefits of running), an in depth short story analysis, a research paper from a limited choice of topics (I wrote nine pages on Norse Mythology/Religion), and a final exam.

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From my final research paper: “You have written a work that meets all the requirements on a ground level and a little extra. You have chosen relative facts, detailed facts, done comparisons, checked sources and structured the work in an easy to understand way. The reading was interesting! The language is fantastically good with a rich vocabulary and very good grammatical structure… simply a brilliantly good work that gets the highest grade: A. Good job!”

Now I get to enjoy my vacation, until I start my next step in August: SWEDISH HIGH SCHOOL. (Well, high school level work, anyway)

Upcoming updates:

Something Swedish in NYC
Video: Studenten (Swedish graduation)
Video: National Dag (Sweden’s National Day)
Video: Midsummer (Sweden’s most beloved holiday)


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Never Stop Doing What You Love

Four months ago my husband urged me to keep doing what I love. Writing. He knew I was out of my element when I moved to Sweden and out of the groove. He suggested to start a blog. To keep me inspired, to keep my skills sharp, my mind alert, and my passion burning. It’s hard to get back into my old rhythm, but I know that I miss it and I need it.  This is to inspire myself and others – a reminder. Moving abroad turns your life upside down and inside out, it takes time to find yourself again, but never stop trying. Take the time and do it. Take your new life and use it as ammo, fuel, momentum.

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Life changes. Things get harder just because they are different. It doesn’t take much.
You’re not where you thought you would be. Time flies. People change.
Adjust.
Make the best of it. Find balance. Never Stop Doing What You Love.
Don’t say you’ll do it later. Or that you have more important things to do now.
Even if life is perfect and all the pieces aligned, don’t neglect your passions.
Sometimes we forget we have them.
Sometimes we adapt new ones and forget the ones we had.
Remember the way they made you feel.
To write. To read. To knit. To play an instrument. To throw a ball. To dance. To sing. To draw.
These things built you. Made you who you are today, wherever that might be now.
Sometimes we feel empty and can’t figure out why.
Life can be great. You love who you are with, where you are, and what you do.
Though something isn’t right.
It’s those passions you forgot about, pushed away and neglected. Priority elsewhere.
Bored, fading, and tired of waiting, they reach out to you and beg. Tugging on your sleeve.
Pick them up. Dust them off. And start again.
Don’t think it. Or say it. Or promise it. Or plan it.
Write. Read. Knit. Play. Dance. Sing. Draw.
Now. You haven’t forgotten how.
Only how they made you feel.
Complete. Calm. Skilled. Proud.


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Tack Så Mycket! : “Thank you so much!”

A few weeks ago I entered a give away contest on the LostinStockholm blog, celebrating her 5,000th comment- Grattis! The grand prize was generously donated by a local Swedish shop  Happy Hedgehog, which has a wide selection of unique products from both England and Sweden! With a lovely arrangement of items as incentive the give away was a great success and people had their eyes on the prize! Third place prize was a set of cards donated from FikaTown which has a cute collection – more winners the merrier! The contest was to write something about Hedgehogs and Sweden – it could be a story, a poem, a haiku, anything of any length that has “Swedishness” and “Cuteness.”

Those who do not know me might not know this but I have a thing for Hedgehogs. And Poetry. And free stuff- especially house items and soaps and candles. So naturally my ears perked up and I jotted down a poem immediately! First contestant!

A contest containing cuteness you say?
Celebrating hedgehogs, there’s no better way!
Years ago the difference between porcupine and hedgehog I learned.
Ever since then, for a hedgehog I’ve yearned!
I love how in water they swim or do an upside-down float,
showing off their pink bellies, as if to gloat!
Their curiosity is as high as a cats,
never resisting getting stuck in this or that.
Always wanting one for a pet,
I knew I wanted two instead!
But alas the timing could have been better,
as I was moving away the very next Winter.
And so I had to put off getting this adorable creature,
not knowing that hedgehogs are one of Sweden’s cutest features!
To my gleeful surprise while walking down a cobblestone road,
I spotted a hedgehog trotting along.
I carefully followed with camera in hand,
never seeing one in person, Sweden must be a magical land.
He hid in the grass along the riverbed,
I resisted my urge to pet him and took a photo instead.
Every so often I’d see them out and about,
resisting my urge to giggle and shout.
When my family came to Sweden this Summer,
they spotted a “rodent,” took a photo and murmured.
I confirmed it was not a rat or a mouse,
but a cute little hedgehog you can have in a house!

As the days went by more people participated, so I crossed my fingers and waited. Then there was news: There was a tie between my poem and one other so the polls went to Facebook for a vote which was almost tied for the duration as well.

And so I am a “special Runner up” – I’ll take it!! It was fun to write and enjoyable to read all the other entries about Hedgehogs! I am excited to see what my Special runner up prize will be! I will keep you posted when it arrives!

Huge thank you to LostinStockholm and Happy Hedgehog for hosting this contest! Great things happen when an awesome blog and an amazing store come together- everyone should check them out!!


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Annual Country-Wide Booksale!? – “Bokrea”

I have fond memories of the school book fairs when I was younger. Rummaging through the bins of books, searching the shelves, adoring the posters, figuring out how much I can buy. The school library was transformed from a place to study and required classes to a place of magic. I’m not sure what the difference was, they were still books. This was a long time ago, when I would read any and every book that was authored  or starred by anyone with the variation of the name “Meghan,” the spelling was never the same but for some reason I felt connected and a desire to read books by or about them. Or at least own them.

When I moved to Sweden I left most of my books behind. Thankfully my kindle is here for withdrawals, but it’s not the same as looking at my bookshelves filled with such history, wisdom, adventure, fantasy, tragedy, and culture. Side effect of being a literature major I guess. I know that hubby and I will rebuild and create a collection of books together, but I didn’t count of prices of books to be so high in Sweden.

The other day I noticed book sale signs in the window of one of the bookstores, assuming it was an average sale I thought nothing of it. A couple of days later I saw a book sale in a department store, which seemed abnormal. Then when walking with hubby I spotted another book sale with a huge colorful sign at the other book sale. I asked what the heck is going on. He explained the book sale phenomenon and we went to check it out. Apparently he had told me about this before but I didn’t understand that it was every year, country wide, or such a big deal.

The book sale was so large that it took place in another building, where a store next door had just closed 4 or 5 months ago. We assume that Bokia (the bookstore) rented the space since the Bokrea was coming up soon. Hubby said that the book store used to hold it’s Bokrea at this location before another store opened there- about ten years ago. He was disappointed as soon as he walked in and saw how much smaller the sale is now, remembering when he was younger when this sale was a much bigger deal (Although, it was already a week into the sale). He compared it to “Black Friday” in the U.S., stores opening early, people waiting on long lines early in the morning, and the sale being packed with people searching for books. The discounts are still very good, but the demand and popularity has decreased over the years pushing this from the largest sale date to the second largest next to Christmas sale. In this age of technology, e-books are replacing the need for frantically purchasing books at the bokrea every year. Additionally, people are ordering online instead of going to the sales.

Bokreans started in the end of the 1920’s, as a way to sell a large surplus of old books. Since then bokrea has become regulated by the Swedish Booksellers Association, creating rules and regulations in the 1930’s. Every year it is strictly coordinated which day for every store and online participant to start the sale, so that no bokrea starts too soon. It is always in the end of February, carefully situated far enough from Christmas and hopefully around vacation week from schools. Anticipation is key. It is heavily advertised and some places send out catalogs. The sale lasts for about two or three weeks, this year it started on February 22nd and when I asked they said it would end in another week. The first day is always the busiest, when the doors open at midnight or very early morning. As of 2009, you are no longer allowed to pre-order your purchases, as it is seen as “cheating.” The specific books that will be on sale (reaböckerna) during this time are not allowed to be sold before the bokrea. In the 1970’s Bokrean started to lose customers due to repeat titles being sold every year, as a result price cuts were made larger.

And so we shopped. I can get lost in a book store, apparently even if it isn’t even my native language and there is only a small section for English. We bought a pile of books,  most of them reference books, three for fantasy and two for language and then one book to read. I’m excited about the “Rimlexikon” which is the Swedish Ryhme dictionary. Of course itt will be some time before I can use it but it’s really nice to have for the future and was over 50% off, paying 99kr ($15) instead of the original price of 269kr ($40).

The next day I was scared that the sale would end soon so I visited a department store that was also participating. I decided to go another direction and buy some Swedish books. Not any Swedish books, but children books. I found a decent range to read starting with two very simple books that have pictures and very small sentences for kids who just start to read (I already learned that “husdjur” which I read as “house animals” is the same as “pets” which of course makes sense but I was only making a literal word for word translation instead of trying to make sense of it). It is a bit embarrassing to read “baby books,” but its the best place to start without getting frustrated and giving up. And the pictures are super cute!

Next there is an “in-between” book with less pictures and much more text, “Nils Holgerssons Wonderful Trip Around Sweden”. This one is actually a Swedish classic and my hubby was pretty happy that I picked it up and said it was the best one I could have found. The language is simple enough, but it will take a long time to get through. It is about a little boy who rides a goose all around Sweden. (I thought it was a gnome, which reminded me of a book from my childhood). I’m actually very excited to read this one for a lot of reasons.

Lastly I picked up three “teen” books, which will take awhile to get around to that level, but its nice to have them around.

The great thing about going back and buying these books was that it was “slutrea” (endsale) since the sale has been going on for a week and a half, the sales prices are cut. I bought all 6 of these books for 150kr, where as we spent 450kr on the 6 other books (of course different quality, but the “slutrea” cut off about 200kr from my purchase)

Not exactly the books I had in mind for our bookshelf, but it is a start to other goals. I would love to start reading more again, but I need to concentrate on reading Swedish instead of books I have on my “to read” list. I will find a balance for both, both time wise and mentally. I’m just glad to have learned about bokrea and had the chance to pick up a few cheap finds.

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