Something Swedish


12 Comments

Winter in Sweden is SVÅR!

“Difficult,” that is. Other words that can be used to describe winter in Sweden:

Mörk. Lång. Kall. Deprimerande. Dark. Long. Cold. Depressing.

It’s easy to focus on these things, but it’s important not to.

The nice thing is that we, as humans, adapt and adjust – and over the past few years I can report that I’ve gotten used to the short days and long, dark winter nights…but that doesn’t mean I’m not ecstatic every time Spring (vår) comes along!

Even in the middle of February- Sitting outside no matter the temperature, just because it’s sunny:

lunchdejt i solen “Lunch date in the sun with vitamin D enrichment”

Being deceived by a few warm or sunny days, because it IS still only February and I got waay ahead of myself (rookie mistake):

snow

But finally, at long last it is here – at least here in Halmstad! Unlike in the U.S. there is no set date for Spring, but a meteorological standard of 7 days above freezing in a row. Of course it’s always more fun to look for other tell -tale signs, like:

Noticeably longer days: photo(15)

Seeing people sitting around, for no reason other than to soak in the sun…and then becoming one of those people, kind of like these lemurs:

Spotting the year’s first flowers in bloom (last week):

 

 

Hearing the ice cream truck for the first time (which was today for me – they sound like this):

Eating your first ice cream of the year …with gloves and a scarf on (this is a photo from almost exactly 3 years ago, to the day):

2013-04-17 17.12.50

Enjoying the premier of  uteservering [out door seating] (last week):

IMG_20160401_182359

And my personal favorite project this year, making the balcony ready for summer!IMG_20160404_190842

What do you do to enjoy the spring weather? How was your first Winter in Sweden?

 


3 Comments

Voting Abroad

I’ve been living in Sweden for just over 4 years now, meaning that I was new to this whole living abroad thing and had no idea how to vote last election. Like everything when it comes to moving to a different country, it was a learning experience. Without bringing politics into the mix, I think it’s important for everyone to exercise their right to vote:

Living abroad shouldn’t be an excuse or reason not to. Living abroad doesn’t mean that our votes don’t matter. Let’s not miss our chance to be heard.

Why? What’s the big deal?

There are more than enough American citizens living abroad (see below) to make a difference. It might not feel that way but our votes do add up, no matter where we are residing or which state we are registered to.

12745745_10156460628245005_7774426120051616348_n.jpg

After living in Sweden for the past few years and learning about how politics and society work here I realized that we – Americans living abroad – have a very unique perspective on things:

  • We have a helpful and healthy amount of distance from some issues that other Americans don’t have.
  • At the same time, we have first hand experience with other issues (citizenship versus residency based taxation for example) that most Americans don’t even know exist.
  • We have seen and experienced first hand what works or doesn’t work in other countries and can make connections and comparisons that others aren’t able to make.
  • We don’t live in America’s bubble. Some of us can be more aware of international affairs, having access to more than one side of the story.

So, why vote this year? Why bother with the primaries? Isn’t it enough to wait until November? The race is so tight between candidates in each party this year that cards are being drawn and coins are being tossed to break ties. This is one of those times when absentee ballots from Americans abroad are making a real difference.

I became a Swedish citizen about a month after Swedish elections here last year, so I wasn’t able to vote, but I did tag along and see the process. When I did some research I was surprised to find that the majority of age-appropriate Swedes do make it to the polls and cast their vote – in fact it’s one of the countries with the highest voting turn out…while The United States has one of the lowest.

voters.png

Pewresearch.org

There’s a lot of reasons why The United States has a low percentage of voters that I’m not going to discuss, but citizens living abroad (for whatever reason) not bothering to or knowing how to vote is on that list. Just because we aren’t in the country we shouldn’t be dragging down the numbers shown above and making our democracy less effective.

The fact is that voting from outside the United States is a pain in the butt. There are forms to fill out and send out and extra dates to remember. In general an absentee ballot needs to be applied for (here) a few months in advance in order to send it in on time, meaning that by the time presidential elections in November or primaries (Feb-June depending on your state) come along, it’s already too late if you didn’t have enough forethought.

Thankfully, there are organizations that try to make it easier –  making it possible for Americans living abroad to vote IN PERSON for the primaries and provide on-the-spot help with registration  for the presidential election in 40 countries.

I’m not claiming to know all the details of voting abroad, but for those of you that read this blog because you’ve moved from The United States to Sweden and are interested in being heard, I thought this information would be helpful for you:

photo.PNG

Of course you can also vote in Stockholm, it’s just not on this flyer:

Stockholm: Tully’s Coffee, Götgatan 42, 11826 Stockholm

Thursday, March 3rd from 17:00 to 20:00

Saturday, March 5th from 12:00 to 17:00

I have no affiliations with Democrats Abroad, but was very happy to see that they have set up polling stations throughout Sweden and I wanted to make sure that as many people knew about it as possible. If you register and vote through them you will be influencing 17 delegates since American citizens abroad are counted as their own “state.”

If you are an American living anywhere else in the world or are interested in Republican options, I highly encourage you to look into your options.

Here are a few direct links to get you started (due to the time sensitivity I haven’t read up on more than I needed to in order to share this information):

votefromabroad.org

aaci.org.

overseasvotefoundation.org

americansabroad.org

justice.gov

Helpful facebook groups:

American Expatriates

Expats in Sweden

North Americans in Sweden


7 Comments

Transcript Headache

It seems that every time I disappear for a while it’s due to being busy with school. This time the difference is that I’m finally done with studying Swedish, and am finally studying for a future career in Sweden…in Swedish.

After four years of being here I’ve finally reached higher education and while I’m excited to share my experiences and explain how it all works,  I want to tell the story (from a year ago, that I never got around to posting) of my pre-application process to help someone from making my mistakes:

______________________

photo(7).JPGApplying to certain college (högskolan) or university (universitet) programs, vocational/trade school  (yrkesutbildning), or specific job positions requires verifying your transcripts to make sure you’re qualified. If you have foreign transcripts because you aren’t from Sweden, there’s an extra step that can make this messy: simply sending them in isn’t enough. Your transcripts will  need to be translated (if not in English), reviewed, and converted to their equivalents acceptable in Sweden schools.

The problem is that this process can take anywhere from 6 – 10 months (to compare with my own personal experiences of getting things sorted in Sweden: marriage paperwork= 1 month, Permission to move to Sweden= 2 months, Swedish citizenship approval= 2 weeks, Swedish passport= 4 days Read about it here)

This means that it’s really important to do this as early as possible because this wait time can really delay your plans if you miss an application deadline while waiting for your transcripts to be evaluated.

Thankfully, I knew about the wait time so I got the process started almost 2 years before I needed to – which was good because everything that could go wrong, did.

Lesson one: You always need paperwork

The first thing I did was go to the “guidance center” that assists with adult education: vägledningscentrum (works together with the unemployment services arbetsförmedlingen in certain towns)

They were very helpful in answering all of my questions, told me that UHR (Universitets- och högskolerådet or “Swedish Council for Higher Education”) is where my transcripts need to be sent to get verified and gave me the address. Most importantly they made official copies (vidimerade kopior) of my transcripts; each page stamped, signed, and dated.

Knowing it could take up to 10 months, and not yet being in a rush because I was still studying Swedish, it wasn’t until almost a year later I decided to call for an update. UHR had no record of ever receiving my transcripts. At this point, I knew I would be applying to an education within the year so the pressure was on.

I went back to the guidance center to resend my transcripts and explain what happened. It wasn’t until I was handed a form I had never seen before  that I understood why my transcripts were never processed: I sent them with no paperwork. This form was not only something to fill out, but a checklist of everything you need to send ASIDE from your transcripts, like an official print out of Swedish grades and a personbevis (“civic registration certificate” – ordered online from skatteverket “tax agency”). This time I did it properly. Or so I thought.

Lesson Two: Read the fine print

A few days later I got a mail confirming that they received and are processing my transcripts. My deadline  was in 8 months, so I was relieved and worried at the same time. It should make it in time.

About a month later I get another mail: my transcripts are incomplete.

How!? It turns out that certain countries (USA included) require all transcripts to be sent officially aka directly from old school to new (UHR in this case). This means that the transcripts that I sent were invalid. I should have learned my lesson from the first mistake. I should have read the fine print – myself.

The good news was that my application is on file, so I didn’t have to do anymore paperwork. The bad news is that it is no easy task to get transcripts quickly sent to another country, from another country. While UHR was willing to receive everything electronically, my old schools were not so hip to the times. This involved needing to snail-mail an addressed envelope  with American stamps, a form filled out with my signature, and a money order from an American bank. Getting all of this sorted could take weeks, thankfully my brother helped as a middle man to speed up the process. The high school didn’t charge extra for sending internationally, but the college insisted on using Fed-Ex which costs an extra 60 bucks.

A few weeks later I received another letter confirming that everything was complete and ready to be processed. About 6 months later – the same week of the application deadline – it was finally done. I had proof of attending high school and having all the English and math prerequisites I needed to apply to the Certified Dental Assisting Program (Tandsköterskeutbildning). Phew.

Tips:

  •  The application itself available online – this saves a lot of time (and is an option I was unaware of at the time): https://utbildningsbedomning.uhr.se/
  • If you have the ability to scan your files (that don’t need to be mailed directly)and save them as PDFs they can also be sent in online.
  • For additional information: https://www.uhr.se/bedomning-av-utlandska-utbildningar/
  • Make sure that you actually need to have your transcripts/diplomas evaluated.  This depends on the education you are applying to or if you are applying to a job that has specific requirements.
  • For certain educations, this step is unnecessary or done by a different agency, such as:  https://www.antagning.se/se/start


7 Comments

Finding Sweden in New York City

The Big Apple is known for being the most culturally diverse place in the world, so there is no wonder that you’d be able to find a taste (literately) of Sweden and it’s Nordic neighbors there. This post is for those of you who have moved from Sweden,  Denmark, or Norway to NYC and are feeling homesick or those of you who live in, or are visiting, NYC and are curious about the culture, history, and food…most importantly the food.

20+ Scandinavian ‘Somethings’ in NYC

TO DO (yearly)

1) Battery Park Swedish Midsummer Celebration (mid-late June)- There’s nothing more Swedish than celebrating Midsummer. It’s a mix of everything you need to satiate home sickness or curiosity about a country you have never been to. Traditional Swedish food, music, and dancing around the maypole – all while being surrounded by other Swedes (Swedish Americans, at least). Besides, who wouldn’t want to wear a crown of flowers in the middle of Manhattan?

2) Bay Ridge Norwegian Parade (May): This part of Brooklyn has Scandinavian roots, here is your chance to see some of it in action. Everyone is welcome to watch the festivities – get a glimpse of traditional Norwegian clothing, eat the food, hear the language, listen to the music and make some new Norwegian-American friends.

3) Crayfish party (August) – Fishing Crayfish during the early summer months in Sweden is not permitted, so come mid-August to mid-September it is Crayfish season! This is a beloved tradition of sitting around the table, drinking snaps (after singing), and chowing down on pounds of tasty crustaceans while wearing a colorful bib and hat, of course. While in Sweden this would be celebrated with friends and family, in NYC you have two main options: Ikea’s Crayfish_Party [Limited tickets, buffet style, August 16, $12.99] or Aquavit’s Crayfish Festival [Formal meals and dessert, August 17 – September 11, $52.00]

4) Nordic Food Festival (September) – For three years in a row  Nordicfoodfestival has been bringing Nordic cuisine (One day dedicated to each Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark) to the front lines for five full days with top chefs speakers, cooking classes, gourmet pop-up dinners and other (free & ticketed) events.

TO DO (whenever)

5) The Scandinavian East Coast Museum – A museum in Bay Ridge that focuses on the historical and cultural link between Scandinavia and America’s East Coast (specifically New York City) They host events and meetings for groups, cultural societies, and the Scandinavian community.

6) Scandinavian House This is an all-in-one stop Nordic Center you can’t miss: exhibits, films, music, performances and lectures, or simply stroll through the museum to brush up on your knowledge or to learn some history. Best yet, there is a restaurant with a selection of Scandinavian foods (Smörgås Chef, see next)

TO EAT

7) Smörgås Chef Known for it’s new Nordic cuisine, ranging from fine dining to open faced sandwiches, this is the first restaurant people think of when asked about Scandinavian food in NYC. With one location downtown, and the other midtown (Scandinavian House, where there is sometimes Dinner and a film) – you are never far from some Swedish food.

8) Fika – This little coffee shop/café/restaurant (depending on location) is sweeping Manhattan with almost 20 Manhattan locations. Named after the Swedish tradition of drinking coffee and eating something sweet with friends, why not have a Swedish pastry or piece of chocolate? If you are looking for a meal, their menu is made up of Swedish specialties.

9) Konditori – With seven locations in Brooklyn, this seems to be Brooklyn’s version of Fika. Meaning “bakery” in Swedish, Konditori focuses more on the “strong Swedish roast” coffee and Swedish pastries with light food options such as bagels and sandwiches.

10) Aquavit –  A midtown restaurant with two Michelin stars that focuses on modern Nordic cuisine and Swedish culinary traditions where you can find both formal and casual meals created by executive chef, Marcus Samuelsson, who went to the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, guest lectures at Umeå University, has published multiple cookbooks, has his own television show, has cooked at the White House, and has hosted a fundraising dinner for the president at his own restaurant (See next).

11) Red Rooster – This might seem but a long shot, but if you are looking for Swedish flare or fusion but not in the mood for Swedish food (though they do have classics like gravlax (smoked salmon) and Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce), this is the place to go. The Ethiopen-born, Swedish-raised award winning chef that put Aquavit on the map opened up this restaurant in 2010 in the heart of Harlem and is a hot spot for tourists and locals alike.

12) Danish Athletic Club – Located in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, the Scandinavian Center of NYC, this is a much more homely option for food and socializing. The kind of food you will find here is the comfort food made in Danish kitchens, and costs less than 20 bucks a plate. On the same street you’ll find the Norwegian Sporting Gjøa Club and the Swedish football club – but this is the only one with a restaurant.

13) Copenhagen Street dog – All throughout Denmark, and even making an occasional appearance in Sweden (and I assume other Scandinavian countries), you’ll find the long, smokey, bright red Danish hot dog – pølse. If you are a hot dog fan but want to try something different, something Scandinavian – look no further.

TO SHOP

14) Sockerbit – Surely you’ve heard about Swedes’ everlasting sweet tooth and affinity for loose candy? All candy is not created equally, come pick out a selection of Swedish candy and get addicted. Yes, that black stuff is liquorice.  The store’s white interior mirrors Swedish minimalist design and the wall of candy is exactly what you would find in any Swedish supermarket – even including each candy’s Swedish name and translation. There’s also a wide selection of Swedish food and merchandise if candy isn’t enough.

15) Nordic Delicacies Have a craving or want to impress your friends with an authentic home-cooked smörgåsbord? Looking to stock your fridge with real Scandinavian food?  Make your way to Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge to go shopping for authentic Scandinavian foods and brands you can’t find in other stores like Abba sill, knackerbröd, tubes of cheese and Kalles cavier, lingonberry, and more.

16) Ikea Brooklyn – A trip to Ikea is both practical and cultural (kind of). It is certainly the one thing people associate with Sweden, and Ikea furniture is actually a feature of Swedish home decor. It doesn’t hurt that the big blue bags make amazing laundry bags, the food is probably the cheapest Swedish meal you’ll find in the city, and you can find a few food items to buy for your kitchen. It might seem out of the way, but Ikea Brooklyn has it’s own 20 minute ferry from Wall Street Pier 11 – it’s $5 ticket price is deducted from your Ikea purchase and completely free on weekends.

17) Fjällräven: Be Swedish sleek with these classic Swedish backpacks, originally designed with the durability for camping, 50 years later these bags have a much wider assortment and are fashionable and hip – both in and out of Sweden.

18) The largest H&M in the world: That’s right, H&M is Swedish(it stands for Hennes & Mauritz, and is pronounced “Ho-Em” in Swedish) and it’s largest store ever (4 floors, 63,000 square feet/ 5,800 square meters) just opened up in 2015 in NYC, Herald Square. So if you want to dress like a Swede, you know where to shop.

TO VISIT

19) The Swedish Cottage – An authentic piece of architecture from Sweden in the heart of the Big Apple. Built in Sweden 1875, imported to the United States in 1876 for an exhibit, moved to NYC in 1877 and now a marionette theatre in Central park.

20) “Seamen’s Churches” Svenskakyrkan (Swedish), Sjømannskirken (Norwegian), Sømandskirke (Danish): A church might feel like a strange place to “visit,” but it is a place for community, social gatherings and cultural events. A great way to meet people or practice the language. Plus, there’s usually a café.

21) The Swedish Consulate: If you are planning on moving to Sweden, it’s good to know you can find this building on Park Avenue – a few blocks from the Swedish Church. The people were friendly and helpful when I went there and there were pamphlets for additional guidance. The website is a good source of information and local Swedish events.

2015 exclusives:

See Mamma Mia on Broadway (After 14 years on Broadway Mamma Mia will be closing SEPTEMBER 12th – go now before it’s too late!) While the story line of a daughter looking for her father to give her away at her wedding in Greece has nothing to do with Sweden – the music sure does. The one thing all Americans associate with Sweden is the music of Abba, so this broadway-play-turned-movie that was written based on two dozen Abba songs doesn’t get much more Swedish.

Nääämen: A comedian from New Zealand that moved to Sweden 6 years ago, Al Pitcher, is known for poking fun at Sweden’s culture, people, and traditions from the perspective of an outsider. Catch his performance on SEPTEMBER 22nd at Scandinavia House (first bit will be in Swedish – rest is in English).

Ingrid Bergman: A Centennial Celebration – If you stop by the Museum of Modern Art before SEPTEMBER 10th, you will find an exhibition dedicated to Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, showcasing a selection of her films, to celebrate her birth 100 years ago.


2 Comments

International Midsummer Celebrations

It is almost the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, which means that it is almost time for the biggest holiday in Sweden: MIDSOMMAR (Midsummer)

Here in Sweden we like to celebrate everything on the eve, or the “afton” which means that our eating of “new” potatoes, herring, eggs, and strawberries while ingesting vast amounts of alcohol (only after singing drinking songs), dancing around a pagan fertility pole (usually in the rain) starts on Friday.

If you have no idea what Midsommar is then this video can help:

If you live in Sweden, you probably already know all about Midsommar and have plans to celebrate – or hopefully have someone to show you the ropes (If not, read this old post The magic of Midsummer)

Not in Sweden but want in on the fun? You might be in luck! There are Swedish midsommar celebrations outside of Sweden. It’s a fantastic way to get a feel for Swedish culture, food, music, games, tradition, language and to meet some Swedish people!

1.  New York City, USA. (Pictures of last year’s celebrations)

Friday, June 19, 5-8 pm
Robert F. Wagner Park
Battery Park City in lower Manhattan
Rain or shine

2. California, USA (Flyer to the event details)

Sunday, June 28, 2015
8:30 am – 6:00 pm
Vasa Park, Agoura
$5 admisssion

3. London, UK  (Pictures from last year’s celebration)

Saturday June 20th
Hyde Park
12:00 – 7:00pm

4. Berlin, Germany (Facebook group with info on tickets)

Friday, June 19th
4:00pm – onward
Urban Spree

5. New Jersey, USA (Flyer with details)

Saturday, June 27th
Vasa Park
10:00am
$10 adult admission

 6. Michigan, USA (Swedish American heritage Society of Michigan)

Saturday, June 20th
11:00AM-4:00 PM
Grand Rapids, Alaska Avenue
$12 admission

7.  Vancouver, Canada (Event program)

Saturday, June 20th & Sunday June 21st
9:00am -11:00pm &  10:00am-4:00pm
Scandinavian Community Center
$10 admission


1 Comment

Halmstad Pride 2015

Today I am proud to live in Halmstad, as today is the first ever Halmstad Pride Festival. There was a huge turn out to support the LGBT community (HBT in Swedish), especially considering the dreary weather for the first few hours, other big planned events happening all over town, and that the population of Halmstad is only about 58,000.

Halmstad Pride (16)Halmstad Pride (11)

While Halmstad is certainly not one of the first cities in Sweden to publicly embrace and celebrate gay pride with a parade, it is one of the smaller ones.

Halmstad Pride (12)Halmstad Pride (8)2

“Park, Parad,  Partaj & Påverken” was the theme of the Halmstad Pride.

At 10:00 am it kicked it off in Picasso ‘pride’ Park with live music, a fashion show, tents with information, selling of flags, bracelets, flowers, and face painting. Not only did some companies and small artisans show support by sponsoring, being there, doing face painting, giving out balloons and selling flags & bracelets – but also by offering “pride prices” on merchandise.

Halmstad Pride (3)Halmstad Pride (17)

Even the Church of Sweden and the military showed up to show their support (probably not a big deal in Sweden, but a welcomed surprise for me)

Halmstad Pride (9)Halmstad Pride (15)Halmstad Pride (6)

Next was the parade, which filled the stretch along the Nissan river with hundreds of people waving rainbow flags, holding up banners, and spreading positivity.

Halmstad Pride (1)Halmstad Pride (7)Halmstad Pride (2)Halmstad Pride (10)Halmstad Pride (14)

The Party part of Halmstad Pride is a paid event at a local venue with live music, dancing, drinking, performances, and a drag show. I’m sure it will be a blast.

Lastly, “påverka” means “effect” in English meaning that they are trying to raise awareness and equality for the other 364 days out of the year.

Halmstad Pride (13)

Good job, Halmstad!❤


3 Comments

New Swedish Defense System

Have you heard about Sweden’s new military defense system? I promise that it’s unlike any other and worth reading about.

A few months ago Russian submarines were believed to be lurking around in Swedish waters without permission (article here), triggering 200 of Sweden’s military to embark on a three day mission around the archipelago.

Exactly one month ago, The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), the worlds oldest peace organization,  installed an alternative defense system in the waters outside of Stockholm in response. So far so good – no new reports of Russian submarines yet. How does it work?

singing_sailor01

Well, it is called SSUDS, which is of course short for “The Singing Sailor Underwater Defense System” and one of its features is to send out a Morse code: “This way if you are gay.” Once you get close enough to actually see the defense system, a submarine will find a neon pink outline of a scantily clad sailor thrusting his pelvis, surrounded by hearts with the text: “Welcome to Sweden. Gay since 1944” (the year Sweden legalized homosexuality) in both English and Russian so there is no misunderstandings.

*SPAS has no government affiliation, and receives no Swedish military funds

The_Singing_Sailor_sea_II

The Singing sailor might seem like a joke (hence me taking a month to write about it), but it’s not. It’s purpose is not only to scare off Russia’s military, but to open a discussion within Sweden concerning a re-distribution and re-allotment of military funding and resources into new, forward thinking ways to fight wars without weapons: “the world doesn’t need more weapons. Military rearmament in itself is a major contributing cause of conflict, and that conflicts take a violent and destructive process.” – SPAS

 The_Singing_SailorThe_Singing_Sailor_2_back

What do you think? Is this an effective way to keep countries within their own borders? Is it using cultural differences to escalate or diffuse a tense political relationship between two countries? Do you think it will succeed in starting the discussion concerning Sweden’s military funds?