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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


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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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Good job, Halmstad! <3


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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?

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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

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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

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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?


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Eurovision 2016 to be hosted in Sweden

This year was the 60th anniversary of Eurovision with the slogan of “Building Bridges” and it featured a lot of new things: Australia competed for the first time (came in 5th place) China was watching live for the first time, a record amount of performers wearing capes, and sadly there were no ridiculous, over the top performances that showcase the true (weird) spirit of Eurovision.

There was however, Sweden – which was a refreshing change from all the boring (yet, admittedly sometimes very beautiful) ballads this year. It was a very unique performance and a fresh sound that made Måns Zelmerlöw a favorite to win from the very begining …and then won after a tight point race with Russia and Italy.

This victory officially puts Sweden in second place for most Eurovisions wins ever (previously tied for second place with two others) with SIX successful songs!  Check out this blog post for videos of Sweden’s five previous winners (1974, 1984, 1991, 1999, 2012), the four different arenas where Sweden hosted. The 2016 Eurovision is expected to once again, for the third time, be hosted at Globen.

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Congratulations to Sweden and Måns! Looking forward to seeing the show next year.

If you weren’t following #Eurovision2015 on twitter last night while watching – you missed out on half the entertainment, I’ve found that it’s the best way to enjoy Eurovision

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Lessons from Pippi Longstocking

Most people are familiar with the iconic red head with braided pony-tails, mismatched socks, and super strength – but are you familiar with her original name “Pippi Långstrump”?

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That’s right – she’s Swedish! And today she turns 70 (all while staying 9 years-old)! Happy Birthday Pippi!
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Pippi Långstrump is a staple in Swedish culture. The stories take place in a small Swedish village based on the authors own home town. I expect that Pippi books, clothing, dolls, and toys can be found in any Swedish household with a child. If you are interested in celebrating Pippi’s 70th anniversary then make your way to Skånsen (the open air museum in Stockholm) on Saturday for theater, songs, face painting, free giveaways and more! Find out more here

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Why is Pippi so special? Pippi is no ordinary girl. She is a character that empowers children by being strong and playful, with a wild imagination, an appetite for adventure, the courage to be herself and an “I’ll do what I want, how I want” attitude – all while being independent enough to live on her own and cook and  clean for herself.

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Pippi is a real contrast to her Disney princess counter-parts and could be said to reflect the gender equality found in Sweden.

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In 1945 Astrid Lindgren created Pippi as a bed time story for her sick daughter – and the rest is history. Astrid Lindgren is celebrated as the most beloved author in Sweden – she will even be featured on the reprinting of the 20 kronor bill later this year:

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Pippi Långstrump is one of the most successful international books, having been translated to 70 languages, making Astrid Lindgren the 18th most translated Author and Pippi the 3rd most translated children’s books ever!

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Pippi turning 70 is truly something to celebrate – for seven decades this little girl, her monkey, horse, and two best friends have been entertaining children (and adults) around the world while teaching them life long lessons.

She shows kids how to love themselves and the way they look:

“No, I don’t suffer from freckles […] I love them.”

She teaches confidence:

“Don’t you worry about me. I’ll always come out on top.”

She exemplifies that boys AND girls can BOTH be strong:

“’He’s the strongest man in the world.’  ‘Man, yes,’ said Pippi, ‘but I am the strongest girl in the world, remember that.”

She teaches everyone to try new things:

“I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”

She shows us that it’s okay to not fit into gender rolls:

“The ladies looked disapprovingly at her, but that didn’t bother her.”

She teaches us that experience is a form of education:

“Pippi could tie good knots, she could indeed. She had learned that at sea.”

She reminds us that we all come from different places and have different experiences, so fitting into society isn’t always so easy:

“At sea we were never so fussy about things like that.”

She teaches us to not waste time and enjoy the simple things:

“I can’t lie around and be lazy. I am a Thing-Finder, and when you’re a Thing-Finder you don’t have a minute to spare.”

She teaches us to be responsible:

“I tell myself [when to go to bed]. First I tell myself in a nice friendly way; then again more sharply, and then I get a spanking.”

She reminds us that sometimes bad things are innocent mistakes.

“Yes, it’s very wicked to lie […]But I forget it now and then.”

And to admit when you’ve made a mistake

“That was a lie, of course.”

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Thank you Pippi and Happy Birthday!

And thank you Astrid Lindgren for sharing your creation and imagination with the world.


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How Swedish are you?

As a follow up to my last post about becoming Swedish and getting Swedish citizenship – I’ve compiled a list of 40 things that can help determine how Swedish you are!

(Yes, some of these are exaggerated, generalizations, stereotypes, might not apply to all Swedes, or has nothing to do with being Swedish – but they are all things that I have either noticed or experienced since moving to Sweden and are meant to be read for fun)

Don’t forget to keep track of how many you answer “yes” to to find out how Swedish you are at the end of the test!

So, how Swedish are you?

1. Do you pick wild flowers, mushrooms, or berries at least once a year?
Allemansrätten, Mushroom Picking
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2. Do you looove lösgodis (loose candy)?
Lösgodis
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3. Do you regularly eat open faced sandwiches for breakfast or mellanmål (snack)?

4. Do you put butter on all said open sandwiches?

5. Have you spent at least one winter in Thailand?
Snowfall

6. Did you grow up watching the same snippets of classic Disney movies every Christmas?
Swedish Cartoons
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7. Is it true that you have never painted any of your walls any color but white (not counting wall paper)?

8. Do you bike to work, school, and/or to go food shopping?
Biking

9. Is pasta incomplete without ketchup?
When in Rome
Pasta Ketchup

10. Do you wear socks with your sandals?

11. Is your preferred way of confrontation writing angry or passive aggressive notes towards your neighbors?

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“Remove your time slot, you fucker, if you aren’t doing laundry!” (Found this in our laundry room last week)

12. Do you believe there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing?
Lessons Learned

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Swedish saying: “Det finns ingen dåligt väder, bara dåligt kläder”

13. Have you ever slept with flowers under your pillow?
Midsummer

14. Have you ever traveled long distances to buy booze (say out of the country, to Denmark or Germany for example) to save money?
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15. Have you ever dressed up as a witch for Easter or Santa for Christmas?
Glad Påsk, Witches in Sweden,
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16. Do you and your friends always have a few drinks at home before going out to the bar (förfest)?
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17. Have you ever worn a crown of flowers on your head?
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18. Do you enjoy fika (social coffee break with sweet pastries) at least once a day during work hours and sometimes again afterwards with friends?
First Fika, Cinnamon Rolls, Working in Sweden
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19. Have you ever danced like a frog?
Midsummer
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20. Do you smash words together to create new words that you wouldn’t find in the dictionary, but everyone understands you anyway? (AKA do you speak Swedish?)
Language Mishap

21. Have you ever had to cancel plans because you had a laundry time booked or used laundry time as an excuse to get out of plans?

22. Does the idea of buying pre-sliced cheese when you can cut it yourself perplex you?

23. Have you ever worn a reflective vest at some point as an adult?
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24. Do you dread winter, not because of the darkness or cold, but the fear of getting the inevitable “vinterkräksjuka” (winter puking)?

25. Do you eat burgers and/or pizza with a fork and knife?
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26. Do you proudly shop at loppis (flea markets) and show off your finds to all of your friends?
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27. Have you ever eaten Swedish meatballs? (Maybe at IKEA?)
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28. Is there nothing you look forward to more than the first semla of the year?
Semlor Galore, February, Cooking Semlor
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29. Do you occasionally look at the time, panic, and rush out the door to buy a bottle of wine for the upcoming weekend?
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30. Have you ever painted furniture white?

31. Do you sharply inhale to say ‘yes’, agree, or to acknowledge that someone is speaking?

32. Do you always, always, always take your shoes off when you enter a (any) house or apartment?

33. Do you go food shopping at least four times a week instead of in bulk?
Swedish Supermarkets
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34. Is locating the number machine to queue in line the first thing you do when you enter a store?
Nummerlapp

35. Can you eat knäkebröd (hard bread) without getting crumbs everywhere?
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36. Have you ever sang in unison with your friends or family before taking a shot of snaps?
Cheers! Skål!
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37. Is it true that you have never met your neighbors and you like it better that way?
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38. Does your name have a birthday (namnsdag)?

39. Can you read the words ‘slut’ (end) and ‘fart’ (speed) without giggling?

40. Are you really good at recycling?
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If you answered yes to:

36 – 40: You are extremely Swedish! You are a Swede that loves Swedish traditions and culture!
31 – 35: You were born, raised, and have lived in Sweden your whole life!
26 – 30: You are a born Swede living abroad or you moved to Sweden 10+ years ago!
21 – 25: You were born in Sweden and moved away when you were young, but have spent every summer there!
16 – 20: You moved to Sweden within the past 5 years!
11 – 15: You have Swedish relatives or are dating/close with someone Swedish!
06 – 10: You have visited Sweden!
00 – 05: You have no Swedish friends or relatives and have never visited Sweden.

Leave a comment with your result and how accurate it was! (Keep in mind this is for FUN!)


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Officially Swedish

There are two ways to become Swedish:

Way One:  Adapt and integrate yourself into the culture:

THE WAY YOU EAT
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THE WORDS YOU SPEAK
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HOW YOU DECORATE

HOW YOU WAIT IN LINE
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Nummerlapp

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Way two: Apply to become a Swedish citizenship

[DRUMROLL PLEASE]

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Yep – I am officially Swedish! (Culturally and legally speaking!)

Quick facts/tips:

–  After two years of living in Sweden you can change your temporary residency visa to a permanent visa by “extending” (not filing for new) about one month before your temporary expires (cannot do it sooner). This costs 1200 SEK and you must go to the nearest migrationsverket office to get a new card. LINK

– If you live in Sweden with a spouse or a sambo you can apply for citizenship after 3 years

– Other situations like work, school or refugee status requires 5 years

– Decision wait time can vary. The migrationsverket website says 8 months, but I got mine back in 2 weeks. Be prepared for the full wait since you need to send away your passport and Swedish Residency card.

– Application for citizenship is also 1200SEK

– Any trip outside Sweden for more than 6 months counts as an “interruption” and can affect your application/doesn’t count towards your time in Sweden.

– There is no language or history test to become a citizen.

– Once you are a Swedish citizen you are allowed to: vote in/be elected for Swedish elections, work as police/military,  easier to live/work/travel anywhere in Europe

– Sweden allows dual citizenship. Having dual citizenship can mean that you need to pay double “world wide” tax  (this applies to the USA).

–  After getting your decision it is up to you to get your Swedish passport at the nearest police station. For me the whole process of waiting, taking finger prints, photo, signature and payment took ten minutes, cost 350 SEK and I got my passport in 4 days.

– It is recommended to use your own countries passport when visiting your own country.

– In 2014, Swedish citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 174 countries and territories, ranking the Swedish passport 1st in the world according to the Visa Restrictions Index. (Wikipedia)

If I missed anything important or you have any questions – let me know in the comments!

(all pictures in this post were borrowed aside from the two  last)

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