Something Swedish


13 Comments

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.

am and me crop 3

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.


5 Comments

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.


16 Comments

Someone, Somewhere, Something: A Transcontinental Love Story.

(Written a year and a half ago, never posted, newly updated. Happy 2 year Anniversary!)

20130711-142533.jpg

Everyone has a different form of love, success, opportunity, or happiness that they don’t even realize they need or want. Something that completes you. Sometimes that “something” is a “someone,” or even a “somewhere.” Mine turned out to be both, my “Something Swedish” you can say.

Five years ago I met my “someone,” in a somewhat strange way, having only spoken through Skype and video games, proving that the world is truly a small place. It was the first time he stepped foot in a plane when he traveled 3,800 miles across the Atlantic ocean to meet me in New York City, a long way away from Sweden.

I was expecting to meet “someone,” unaware he’d introduce me to two “somewheres” – one of which was in my backyard my whole life, unexplored. The other, on the other side of the world.

I learned that you don’t need to go far to experience something, or someplace. Being a tour guide in my own city opened my eyes to where I live. Known as ‘The Big Apple,’ New York City has something for everyone (who knew?) When growing up in New York it’s easy to overlook all of the sites, attractions, culture, and history around you and at your fingertips, not recognizing why millions of tourists flock to the annoyingly crowded area of Times Square every year. You don’t understand why people want to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge when you can simply take the train. We hatched an “attack” plan of how to see/do as much as possible in just one week. I learned that there are three kinds of tourists: the sight seers, the shoppers, and the museums goers.

It turns out my Swedish guest was very excited to see the museums. I had a “museum goer” on my hands and a museum goer I was not. (Since then we’ve become more of sight seers and shoppers, but still enjoy a good museum from time to time) First I brought him to a childhood classic; The Museum of Natural History, a staple for N.Y.C. school kids to learn about science, history, animals, and geology through impressively gigantic exhibits – the most memorable being the model 94-foot blue whale dangling from the ceiling and being greeted by the fossilized T-Rex in the lobby.

A tourist in my own backyard, I wondered how I’ve lived in New York City my whole life and never even seen the famous white curves of The Guggenheim.

20130711-142605.jpg

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) greeted us with contemporary exhibitions of photography, film, architecture, typography, and design. The Cloisters showcased a collection of European sculptures, tapestries, paintings, statues, gardens, stained glass, and architecture from the 12th -15th centuries.

We were drawn to the bright lights of Times Square where we instantly regretted not preparing and buying Broadway tickets ahead of time, knowing it is a New York experience that will be cherished for a lifetime. We instead went to an off Broadway rendition of Shakespeare’s Twelve Night, leaving us thirsty for more. (Making sure never to make that mistake again, seeing something every visit: Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Sleep No More) Instead we soaked in our surroundings: the huge stores and flashing lights, and the overwhelming amount of people walking, selling, yelling, performing, and painting on the streets.

IMG_0860

Seeing Manhattan together let me see it for the first time, I learned my way around my own city. We taught each other how to navigate the named streets and the subway system. I took him downtown, away from the large crowds into the comfort of Little Italy and China Town where we ate cannolis and Chinese food. We took a tour boat around Manhattan, passing by the iconic Statue of Liberty.

20130711-140316.jpgIMG_00012

I showed him the massive buildings in the financial district, whose archways were built for giants, we rubbed the famous balls of the charging bull, explored the oldest church, solemnly soaked in the wreck of the ground zero work site, and then walked through an illumination of blue lights sparkling against the water along the southern tip of Manhattan at Battery Park.

20130711-140617.jpg

We reached new heights in New York. We might not have climbed to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, but we did see the famous view from the iconic Empire State building (and the next year finding the even more breathtaking view from Rockefeller Center). A horse and carriage ride through Central Park was the perfect end of the evening.

We even escaped the grasp of Manhattan. Something that most tourists don’t get to do, know to do, or care to do. He taught me how to see Manhattan and I taught him that there was more to New York City than the “city”. We walked across the Brooklyn bridge, bringing us to where the most beautiful Manhattan skyline photos are taken.

IMG_00022IMG_00021

I took him off the beaten tourist path and showed him my version of NYC. We went to the Queens botanical garden and Flushing Meadow Park, were the worlds fair was held in 1939 and 1964. We went to Coney Island, known for its amusement parks (with the oldest wooden roller coaster in the U.S., the Cyclone, and the iconic Wonder Wheel),

20130711-140826.jpg20130711-140808.jpg

walked along the famous boardwalk, and enjoyed the food vendors, aquarium, beach, and minor league baseball. We ate traditional Coney Island food: Nathan’s hot dogs, sausage and peppers, and Italian ices followed up by his first American baseball game. (Which has since  become a tradition)

20130711-142508.jpgIMG_00015

Five months later it was my turn to travel to his world, to be the real tourist instead of the clueless tour guide. Traveling the world never even crossed my mind. Sure, I always wanted to trace back the history of my heritage in Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France, and Italy, but it seemed like nothing more than a childhood dream – “something” other people do. I never thought there would be a “somewhere” other than New York City.

524905_10151033612135628_2044084692_n

I took the same 10 hour flight and finally landed in Sweden to experience my first time in another country. I didn’t know much about many other countries, let alone Sweden, where as he knew a lot about New York from school, movies, and television. I didn’t know what to expect or how to act. To my relief most Swedes speak English extremely well.

261590_10150306023975628_8015932_n

My first impression was of how beautiful everything around me was. Flying into Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, felt very comfortable and pleasant. It was a mix of both fast and slow pace, just the right amount of hustle and bustle. When I saw the trolleys chugging along the cobblestone streets I knew I wasn’t in New York anymore. Everything was picturesque – the carefully crafted architecture of each beautiful and impressive building, the churches, the stained glass, the abundance of fountains and statues.

IMG_0198

It felt empowering to be amongst a place so rich in culture, tradition, and history. I fell in love. Not only with him, not only with Sweden, but with traveling and soaking in another country and its culture – with him. It was my “something” – both Someone and Somewhere. I enjoyed Sweden without feeling the need to have a packed site-seeing schedule. In that way, my trip to Sweden was different than his trip to NYC. Just being there was enough. I didn’t know whether to soak it all in and enjoy the moment or take a lot of photos to make the moments last forever.

IMG_0245

We casually strolled the streets, shopped in the stores, and ate Swedish food. When people ask what I did in Sweden I replied “nothing.” Everyone wanted to know about the sites, the museums, what I did and saw, and were disappointed by my lack of being a tourist. They wanted to vicariously travel through me but I didn’t feel the need to rush and experience every historical or cultural crevasse of Sweden. Maybe I sensed that I was the fourth type of tourist; not a sight seer, shopper, or museum goer- but a “stayer.” I was the kind of tourist that wasn’t in a rush because I knew I would be back and would have all the time in the world.

265144_10150306027875628_1589370_n

Since then I have enjoyed a Swedish Midsummer meal highlighted by pickled herring, new potatoes, and fresh strawberries. Then I experienced the festivities as people dance around a maypole to special songs about frogs and summer while wearing traditional clothing and a crown of flowers on their head. I’ve endured through the harsh winters when there’s only 6 hours of daylight, as well as basked in delight during the 18 hour days of summer.

IMG_0147

Together we have conquered the tallest wooden roller coaster in Sweden as well as visited the museum with the most Scandinavian art. I’ve adapted to stores being closed on Sundays and buying Swedish groceries. I’ve learned to eat thin Swedish pizza with a knife and fork. I have grown accustomed to taking my shoes off at the doorway of every home and have gotten used to open faced sandwiches for breakfast. I’ve seen little kids wearing witches hats to celebrate Easter and have eaten the Swedish specialty of Lutefisk for Christmas dinner. I saw that the stereotype that every Swede is a blonde bombshell with blue eyes is not true, it is actually a diverse country.

298422_10150370188690628_2562920_n

We’ve been aboard the world’s largest operational wooden sailing vessel, a replica which originally sank in the 18th century. We learned all about the history of Älvsborg, a fortress castle built to protect Göteborg in the 17th century, then pretended to get shot out of one if its many cannons.

305754_10150370187685628_716661_n

I now know my way around a town in Sweden, where as six years ago I hardly knew the country existed. I have favorite places to eat and favorite Swedish foods. I’m learning the Swedish language, going to Swedish school, making Swedish friends, and working at Swedish places.542887_10151033620320628_1458500220_n

I have seen the red and white houses sprinkled through out the beautiful country side, such as is classically depicted in any story about Sweden. I’ve celebrated “Fat Tuesday” by eating a decadent creamy pastry with almond paste called “Semla.” We live in a town filled with rich history such as viking naval battles, valiant struggles between Sweden and Denmark, and a fire that destroyed almost everything. I’ve heard the cheerful drinking songs that Swedes sing before taking the first sip of liquor, and I love to say “Skål” in Sweden instead of “Cheers” while drinking snaps at every holiday dinner.

IMG_00076

I loved Sweden the first time I stepped foot there even though I didn’t do anything touristy or exciting. I couldn’t explain that it was the day-to-day life that I enjoyed. Maybe it’s because I was meant to get married in Sweden on a sunny day that lasted 18 hours with perfectly “lagom” weather. It’s because I was meant to move here, meet new people, gain the courage to socialize, and adapt.

282530_10150328201785628_5476501_n

Since his first visit in New York, my “someone” and I traveled back and forth between our two “somewheres” twice a year for three years, experiencing something new each time. We have explored and experienced each place together. Not only do I now feel more comfortable in Sweden, but NYC is now a home away from home for him.  We can compare our experiences and each  country more and more each time we travel back and forth. Each time is like a vacation and visiting home all wrapped in one.

It doesn’t matter if you are looking to see the world, given a job opportunity far from home, if you want to help the less fortunate, fulfill a bucket list, or maybe you are following love. Everyone needs to find their “someone,” “something” and/or “someplace” which sometimes means taking a leap of faith.

20130711-142547.jpg


6 Comments

Cooking Swedish: Fläskpannkaka

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine made a traditional Swedish dish called fläskpannkaka, or pork pancake. I’ve read about this food before and was curious about it because it seemed very simple and easy to make in addition to something that Swedes love to eat!

photo

It’s not just regular pancakes with pork, but instead a thicker version baked in the oven. The fläskpannkaka I ate was thinner and had spinach in it and I’ve read other recipes with parsley or other spices to give it a little different flavor and add some color. Below is the basic traditional way to make fläskpannkaka, enjoy!!

FLÄSKPANNKAKA

We used two different types of pork, as we didn’t have enough of either. Bacon works great, but the pork you’re supposed to use is called “rimmat fläsk” or “salted pork.” Many people prefer to bake the bacon or pork for 10-15 minutes instead of frying it by using the same pan as its going to be cooked in. Four eggs, 2.5 cups (6 dl) milk, and 1.5 cup (3.5 dl) flour with a sprinkle of salt and sugar into the batter.

Smaklig Måltid! Bon Apetitt!


10 Comments

Swedish Keyboards, Letters, and Words

For the past year I’ve been stubbornly hanging onto my laptop not wanting to switch to the scary Swedish keyboard.  A lot of the keys are in different places and there’s new letters and symbols that my fingers and eyes are just not used to! Once I get over accidentally typing _ instead of ?, ” instead of @, + instead of -, and åöä instead of whatever keys are normally there  – it’s actually been great!!

2013-01-23 18.00.47

Lets compare Ö (Oh, that’s where the colon button was…let’s try again :

keyboards

After using my Swedish computer for just a day I can tell that it’s going to improve my Swedish a lot! First of all, programs and websites are in Swedish now including Microsoft Word – which means that my spelling mistakes are getting pointed out instead of me making the same mistakes time and time again.

Until now whenever I typed Swedish I would simply leave out the öäå because they were too hard to copy and paste into my sentences. For a long time I didn’t realize it made such a big different and thought Well, they are just ‘a’ and ‘o’ with accents, people will understand what I mean.”

My husband tirelessly corrects me and reminds me that they are actually letters and not ‘ ‘A’ with two dots,‘ ‘O’ with two dots,‘ and ‘A’ with the bubble.

Now that I have this new keyboard and can start saying what I actually mean to say in Swedish it makes a huge difference.

Skipping the Swedish letters? This is what you can be saying (more or less):

Jag väntar i kön = I’m waiting in the queue
Jag vantar i kon = I gloves in the cow

Jag gillar räka = I like shrimp
Jag gillar raka = I like straight

Ska vi käka? = Shall we eat?
Ska vi kaka? = Shall we cookie?

Min får är mjuk = My sheep is fluffy
Min far ar mjuk = My father is fluffy

Hon behöver båda = She needs both
Hon behover bada = She needs to bathe

Receptet kräver kräm = The recipe requires cream
Receptet kraver kram = The recipe requires hug

Vill du höra nyheten? = Do you want to hear the news?
Vill du hora nyheten? = Do you want to whore the news?

med hela min själ = with my whole soul
med hela min sjal = with my whole scarf

Var testet svårt? = Was the test difficult?
Var testet svart? = Was the test black?

Jag tar ett tåg =I’m taking a train
Jag tar ett tag = I’m taking a while

Köpt du en båt!? = You bought a boat!?
Köpt du en bat!? = You bought a bat!?

Can anyone help me out and think of some more funny or awkward sentences when you skip the accents?


28 Comments

S.F.I _ v s _ S.A.S

I started my next step towards Swedish fluency this week – Svenska som Andra Språk, S.A.S. (Swedish as a Second Language)

All throughout my S.F.I (Svenska for Invandare/ Swedish for Immigrants) classes I’ve heard about this awesome next level of learning and how much better and more helpful it is.

2013-01-16 11.16.23

The difference between the two schools is bigger than I expected, but I wouldn’t say one is better than the other – just different approaches for different levels.

S.A.S is sort of an extension of S.F.I,  only because you must finish S.F.I first and your ability in S.F.I determines your level in S.A.S.  Confused yet?

I knew SAS would be more formal and different from SFI as soon as we had to sign rules and a study contract during the orientation:

2013-01-16 11.17.47

SFI ranges from levels A – D, and SAS has levels E – H.

SFI covers the basics of the language so that you can function at an Elementary level, while SAS is considered Middle School level.

At orientation most people (about 25) went to the “E” level and a few of us (5) skipped ahead to “F” or “G” because of recommendations from our SFI teachers – I started in “F” – which means I am skipping 10 weeks of SAS!  The “normal” pace means that class takes 10 weeks, but you can take your time or work faster, since you have the whole schedule of assignments. If you work at the “average” pace, SAS takes a total of 40 weeks, I should be done in 30, but I’m aiming for sooner!

2013-01-16 11.18.43

The biggest difference in SAS is the amount of structure – every level focuses on specific chapters of the same book, has a weekly and daily plan, with pages of assignments and  goals.

2013-01-16 11.16.572013-01-16 11.15.42

This type of structure is not found in SFI because so many people are at so many different levels and learn at such different speeds. Until you get the basics of the language, it’s hard to work on your own, which is 90% of SAS.

My schedule went from having 4 hour long classes to 2 hour classes, which consist of a lot of “egen arbete tid” – “own work time.” It’s easy to stay on track and know what you are supposed to be doing by following the study plan, where as in SFI it was common to switch between topics, assignments, and difficulty levels from day to day in an effort to include everyone and give a wide base knowledge of the language.

SAS is more specific and more like an actual class. Instead of talking about vocabulary and spending 10 minutes explaining one word for one or two students, we read on our own and discuss “why?” and “what do you think?” together.

2013-01-16 11.16.122013-01-16 11.15.51

We are responsible for making our own study time plan, keeping track of books we read, listing words and definitions, using given verbs in sentences, and other things that are updated daily, along side with the homework assignments. It’s my second day of SAS and I’ve already finished 4 assignments and 7 out of the 59 check points there are required to complete level F. It feels good to have an organized work plan to follow.

2013-01-16 18.31.29

Within the next three weeks we will all be reading the same book, “Marie Curie”  and discussing it on Tuesdays – with a book report at the end. My “F” class is very focused on writing, which might be the teachers method or each level focuses on a different aspect of the language (speech, hearing, reading, writing). I think reading this book will be the hardest part of the class, but I’m pretty excited to start reading something other than children’s books.

Vocabulary

Test – Prov

Grades – Betygen

School – Skolan

Study – Studera

Learn – Lär


20 Comments

A Swedish Thanksgiving

Figures that the first time I host my own Thanksgiving dinner, I’m in a country that doesn’t celebrate it! My first year away from my family traditions and celebrations, I wanted to start my own – so I brought Thanksgiving to Sweden, to share it with my Swedish family.

Turkey nails for the occasion

On The Menu:

Turkey & Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, String Bean Casserole, Cauliflower Casserole, Fruit & Walnut Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, Glazed Carrots, Pumpkin Cookies, Cannoli Cups, Mulled Apple Cider

Eight over-sized American dishes I’ve never cooked before for seven new Swedish family members who have never tasted my cooking? No Pressure! It’s not as if I only started cooking a year ago and have hardly stepped foot in a kitchen before then or something… No Problem! Thankfully my husband helped me through it all, my mother-in-law made sure the turkey was cooked and made the gravy, and my sister-in-law brought the apple pie and vanilla sauce.

Chopping nuts and veggies at 9 am, handling a knife this early is just not safe!

My Swedish Thanksgiving breakfast.

Initially I thought celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving in Sweden would be hard to do, as Turkeys aren’t really sold here, but about a month ago I was shocked to see a small part of the freezer in Hemköp filled with small-medium sized turkeys! And about a week later, it was empty. I guess there are other American expats out there! Thankfully my in-laws were able to buy one in time. The store “defrosted” it for us for three days – but it was still half frozen!

We placed the turkey in the cold laundry room with the window open overnight, while it was brining in a pot of water, salt, sugar, and spices. After it didn’t fit in the refrigerator we didn’t know were to put it! I’ll never forget my husband running around with a huge turkey pot, “New Plan! New Plan!”

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is the canned cranberry sauce. I asked my cousin to mail a can, but neither of us thought that it was worth the $13 shipping. I spotted fresh cranberries two weeks ago, thought it was normal, and didn’t rush to buy any. When they were gone, my husband said he has never seen them being sold fresh before. Luckily we found frozen cranberries and I made my own. It was easier than I thought: cranberries, water, orange juice, white & brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, salt & pepper. Tasty tasty.

I was tempted to buy an extra pumpkin after Halloween, because canned pumpkin isn’t sold here in Sweden and I thought I would have to make my own if we were to have a traditional pumpkin dessert. Then, I heard rumors of it being stocked in the international section of MAXI. I made Pumpkin cookies instead of pumpkin pie; they were gobbled up quickly, being compared to different sorts of Christmas cookies. I also made a batch of cannoli cups, which were a hit.

My cousin sent me a care package with some Thanksgiving essentials like a turkey baster and French’s fried onions – without which, a classic dish would have been missing (Yes, I added bacon):

She also sent festive turkey napkins and paper plates. The decorations pulled it all together.

As soon as we arrived I realized I forgot the marshmallows at home. THE MARSHMALLOWS! A Thanksgiving tragedy, I thought – our poor sweet potatoes!  Seeing as I already cut out half of the sugar and mixed in white potatoes to make this dish more “Swedish” the lack of marshmallows was probably a good thing.

When we started talking  about celebrating Thanksgiving one of the first questions was, “Are we going to stuff the turkey??” Having seen Thanksgiving celebrated on T.V and movies, I guess this part of the meal was a staple for my Swedish family’s knowledge of the holiday. At first I said “Sure!” which lead to a bit of disappointment when I decided not to do it, as it can be potentially dangerous, too salty, and too much work for a first timer.

I was probably just as nervous about the fruit & walnuts stuffing as I was about the turkey. It came out very good, and now I know what to do to make it better next year! (Smaller, torn pieces of bread)

Next year I need to make more cauliflower casserole and green bean casserole:

Of course we had  to Swedify Thanksgiving a bit and have some boiled potatoes and meatballs -

Once all the side dishes were done, and the kitchen was clean (Thanks to my incredibly helpful & supportive husband, who also did all the peeling and mashing) we had time to sit back for an hour before we started prepping the bird.

Being in Sweden means having no roasting rack or pan, but we made do with what we had!

Hubby had the honor of  washing, handling, and carving the bird, while I prepped the flavoring.

While it was cooking everyone was in the kitchen saying “luktar så gott!” – “Smells so good!”

I tried the method of cooking it upside-down for half of the time, which seemed to make the breast less dry and more tasty. The gravy from the juices was delicious!

Tasted, smelled, and felt like home.

Thanksgiving in Sweden was officially a success! Everyone took seconds, and had a favorite dish. The next day we all enjoyed a full plate of left overs. I took home enough sweet potatoes and stuffing to last a few days. Looking forward to next year with notes of improvement from this very first Thanksgiving! Happy Gobble Gobble Day!

Vocabulary

Turkey: Kalkon

Give thanks: Ge tack

Family: Familj

Tradition: Tradition


22 Comments

Halloween in Sweden

Growing up in New York Halloween meant dressing up for costume parties, bobbing for apples, and trick or treating door to door. Even stores and businesses stock up candy to give to the kids. When I was a little older Halloween was more about the massive candy sales, carving jack o’lanterns, and decorating with gravestones, half buried skeletons, glow in the dark eyes, and cobwebs. You can’t go anywhere without seeing spooky decorations everywhere.

Pumpkin Picking Two Years Ago vs. “Bobbing for Pumpkins” This Year

The cashiers literary didn’t know how to ring it up or what to charge.

Halloween in Sweden just isn’t the same. There’s the occasional costume party. Some bars have Halloween themed nights. But… there’s no decorated houses, porches or windows. No Pop-up Halloween stores to excitedly browse. No gigantic bags of individually wrapped candy that will be half price in a week. No candy corn. No haunted houses. No pumpkin patches to find the perfect pumpkin. No excited trick or treaters. (So Far)

Thankfully, our local bakery bakes Halloween themed cakes:

The Americanized Halloween traditions I’m so used to were introduced to Sweden in the 1990′s, supposedly from Hard Rock Cafe and a Swedish year-round costume chain called “Buttericks”, but American traditions are also widely known and sometimes mimicked in Sweden through TV and Movies. With all the hype and festivities, a lot of people forget that Halloween is not an American holiday, but instead has Pagan (fall harvest festival of Samhain) and Christian (All Saints Eve/ All Hallows’ Eve) roots, which was brought to America by the surge of Irish immigrants in the 19th century and became mainstream in the 20th century.

Similarly to Valentines day (Read Here), Halloween is observed and known in Sweden, but not nearly to the same extent. This is ALL of the Halloween stuff I could find  in town, aside from a couple bars and bakeries:

I’ve read a few interesting reasons why Sweden hasn’t jumped on the Halloween bandwagon:

1) All Saints Day is traditionally observed here, which is a time to pay respect to saints, visit the graves of loved ones, and light candles in remembrance. The two holidays conflict too much, as the contrast between them is too drastic. Some think they are the same day, but they are not. Alla Helgons Dag = All Saints Day Alla Helgons Afton (eve) = Halloween

2) Many people here view Halloween as only celebrating with scary costumes such as skeletons, ghosts, witches, and zombies (From the few Halloween costumes I’ve found in stores I’ve never seen anything cute and fun like princess’s, cowboys, cartoon characters, or superheroes) Too many “Tricks” are associated as part of the regular tradition, such as toilet papering and throwing rotten eggs. This seems to discourage parents.

3) Youngsters in Sweden dress up as witches for Easter (Read here), starsholders for Lucia, and gingerbread cookies for Christmas. Another costume? No Thanks.

4) Trick or Treating is pointless when Swedes have a huge  lösgodis (Loose candy) consumption and buy candy regularly.

Some confusion about the “When” is also a part of the Swedish Halloween downfall. While some people celebrate on the “traditional” or “popular” date October 31st, some Swedes will still celebrate Halloween on the eve of All Saints Day, even though it is now a floating date -  the first Saturday between October 31st and November 6th. I’ve read stories of expats being very confused about finally receiving their first ever trick or treaters, but it was almost a week later and they weren’t prepared. There are also some school parties or bar themed parties the weekend BEFORE, which spreads out the holiday celebration even thinner.

I was sad to hear that carving pumpkins is also not too common (I’ve seen two outside of a toy store), and many Swedes have never carved a pumpkin! I couldn’t resist the tradition- and it turns out my husband HAS carved pumpkins and is quite skilled at it!

I just stumbled upon a website for a pumpkin patch  in Sweden that an American started in 1998: Louie’s Pumpkin Patch  It might be something to check out next year!

Additionally the island of Öland has a yearly fall harvest festival Skördefest during the last days on September, which looks like fun! Öland  is known for the Swedish pumpkin growing, and has expanded since the introduction of Halloween.

I dressed up a little witchy to celebrate All Hallows Eve, and was met with strange looks. Maybe because it was during the day. I’ve heard reports from classmates of spotting other people dressed up, but haven’t seen more than two.

 

My earrings are cute spiders…because the devil is in the details :)

Next year I’m having a Halloween party to bring the celebration to ME.

In the meantime, I’m planning Thanksgiving Dinner for my Swedish family! Any tips?

Happy Halloween Everyone! *And a lot of love and prayers to those who lost so so much in Hurricane Sandy, I am thankful that my friends and family only sustained minimal damage but NYC as a whole is on my mind – Halloween has been a needed distraction.*

Vocabulary

Halloween – Alla Helgons Afton
To Celebrate – Att Fira
Pumpkin – Pumpa
Candle – Ljus
Costume -  Maskeraddräkt
Witch – Häxa
Spider – Spindel
Ghost – Spöke


19 Comments

Shopping in Swedish Supermarkets

When you move to a new country it isn’t the huge cultural differences that catch you off guard, but the day-to-day tasks that are seemingly the same but secretly aren’t. Food shopping in Sweden seemed easy enough whenever I tagged along during my short visits, never paying close attention to the details, but when I started solo shopping I started to notice differences.

These are observations and experiences beyond the obvious language barriers, currency/prices, and metric differences that I wrote about here when I first arrived.

Tubes: In Sweden, tubes aren’t only for toothpaste, apparently. When you walk around the supermarket you will find tubes everywhere. Mayonnaise, tomato paste, but most of all caviar and many many different flavors of cheeses! These soft cheeses have flavors ranging from ham, turkey, shrimp, lobster, bacon, reindeer meat, to mushroom or onion.  Even the tubed caviar has started to branch out into new flavors such as caviar mixed with cheese, dill, or even diced up boiled egg! You can spend a lot of time browsing these tubes! Seems strange to me, but completely normal in Sweden!

Quantity: Unlike in my hometown you will never see anyone shopping for a months worth of food in a single trip. Where as people often take hours in the supermarket, shopping in bulk, with food piled high in the cart, creating long lines and general chaos, it has been the exact opposite experience in Sweden. In the five months that I have lived here I have only seen the large push carts used a few times, and never even half full, let alone filled to the brim. Most use the small hand baskets, (or none at all) only walking out with one or two bags of food. (This is based off of living near the center of a small town, which to me is similar to living back in Queens, NY. I’m sure some things vary if you live in the country or a large city.)

Frequency: Shopping for less at a time means more trips to the supermarket. Instead of going two or three times a month, I now go food shopping at least two or three times a week. At first I thought this was a pretty annoying inconvenience, but I have grown to enjoy it. Each trip is quick and easy.

Freshness: Part of the reason shopping this way makes sense in Sweden is that the food does not last as long. If you buy vegetables, fruit, or bread, do not expect them to last for weeks. This took a long time for me to adjust to, constantly buying too much food only to have to throw it away later in the week. The amount of preservatives is much lower, the fruit ripens faster and goes bad faster. We buy our bananas green and we look for the firmer peaches, avocados, mangos, and nectarines. The next day or two they will be ready to eat, unlike the agonizingly slow week I used to wait for my fruit to ripen, which then stays ripe and ready to eat for at least a week or two- which I now see is just far too long. Our bread must be freshly baked; I’ve never paid such close attention the the best before date before – it turns out that mold forms quite quickly, who knew? Until now I never understood why my husband was scared of American bread after seeing it stay fresh for weeks. I have thrown out way too many loafs of bread and far too much fruit by refusing to believe things here don’t last as long as back home. Buy only what you need for those few days, then its back to the store for more.

Look for the Green Keyhole: No, that was not a riddle. Sweden marks healthier food alternatives, lower fat and/or higher fiber, with a green keyhole on the packaging (since 1989).  How convenient, too bad I didn’t know about it for a long time. Use it.

Lösgodis: On the other side of being health conscious, a staple in every Swedish supermarket is the colorful wall of sweet and salty lose candy. This sets Grocery shopping in Sweden apart from anywhere else. More details about the Swedish candy craze here.

Bag it: In Sweden the line doesn’t stop moving because the cashier needs to hold your hand. I haven’t been in, or ever heard of, a supermarket where the cashiers bag your groceries for you. It’s not their job, so don’t expect it. Instead there is a longer split conveyer belt to give each customer time and space to pack their bags. In New York most supermarkets bag the groceries for you, (or you will you find a youngster waiting at the end of the conveyer belt packing your bags for you in hopes of a tip). Many times only to be repacked by the customer afterwards because they are unsatisfied with how they were packed. Some stores have special “Bag your own” lines that some people use, but usually only when other lines are too long.  As an ex-cashier, I can say that bagging everyone’s groceries is a stressful waste of time, especially when there is a huge quantity and the customer sits back and watches instead of speeding it up by helping. I think Sweden has it right to have everyone pack their own groceries, it makes the line move faster and it can be packed the way the customer wants.

Bags: In Sweden you have to buy your grocery bags along with your purchase. Nice, quality, no-need-to-double-up, can-fit-a lot-of-stuff,  won’t-break, bags. Instead of paying the 2 Kronors for a bag you will sometimes see people use the free produce bags for smaller/lighter items and carry things like soda by hand. Many people use other bags that they have from other stores, or backpacks, or purses. So, it’s not completely odd to see cheese, milk, and chicken sticking out of someones purse.

Barcodes: In Sweden instead of your cashier helping you bag your groceries, we help our cashiers. Instead of carelessly piling your items on the conveyer belt, Swedes are more thoughtful and organized. No piling. No mess. Instead, it is common to try to place items with the barcode facing the scanner so that the cashier can swipe quickly and easier. This speeds up the line significantly and is appreciated by everyone.

Sssshhh: I can tell you first hand that in New York people love talking to the people ringing up their groceries. We know customers by name, what days of the week they came in, what they always buy, we knew about their family, their neighbors, and the latest gossip. Some customers even get on longer lines just to talk to their favorite cashier. Spending our work hours talking to and laughing with different people was the best part of the job, it kept our mind off the long hours of standing and repetitious work. I have never seen any of this in Sweden. One likely reason is because of the quantity and efficiency differences. Cashiers are often only ringing up a max of 20 items instead of 50-100 and spend much less time with each customer (especially with not having to bag or look for a barcode), so there is not as much time to make conversation. Another is that talking too much to customers slows down the line in itself, which wouldn’t be appreciated. In Sweden it is normal to smile and say hello, then continue to place your items on the belt and wait for the total. Everything is very friendly, but nothing beyond that. One stereo type of Swedes is that they are not great at small talk, which this truly showcases.

Cheese: Before I met my husband I never enjoyed cheese. When he came to New York he searched all of the local supermarkets for a decent selection, only to be disappointed time and time again. There is a very strong love of cheese in Sweden, from frukostsmorgas topping (Open breakfast sandwich) to evening crackers and cheese, so you will always find a huge selection.

What differences have you noticed in your new local supermarket?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 444 other followers