Something Swedish


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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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Stig Stiger Ner

For the past 14 years ICA, a large supermarket chain in Sweden, started doing commercials (reklam) that have become a  part of Swedish culture. Maybe saying that a commercial is part of culture is a bit of a stretch, but these comical skits are really popular and beloved. Every week or so, Sweden gets to chuckle as the store manager, Stig Olsson, and a few employees work around the store, film commercials, eat in the break room, or go on vacation together. Each character has their own personality and brings something to the commercial. Here’s a quick mash up so you get an idea:

ICA reklam come out every week or so and never fail to make me laugh and I’m not alone; ICA’s Youtube channel has more than 26,000 subscribers, and each video has anywhere from 20,000-500,000 views! The commercials are praised for being ambitious, smart and funny – just to advertise the price of food. Some commercials go above and beyond smart or funny, to touching and emotional. This Breast Cancer awareness commercial for example, that was viewed over 900,000 times (Tip- It’s a time lapse of the same family):

When you watch ICA reklam you don’t realize you are watching a commercial aside from the pop-up price tags that are somehow not intrusive at all. There’s even a commercial about it, “Is there anyone that notices these price tags on all of our goods?” “What prices? Oh those, who in the world cares about them?” followed by ‘The Swedish Interesting Club’ noting the ICA prices in the commercials:

The wikipedia page has the full history of episodes and cast members and labels the ICA reklam as a soap opera, which makes  sense since there has been alien abductions, paternal revelations, farewells, and police investigations only in the last 12 months.

Stig and Ulf are the only two cast members that have been with the “show” from the very first episode in 2001 – and that is sadly about to change. Today, “ICA -Stig” (the store owner, played by Hans Mosesson), a staple in the ICA reklam,  announced that he will be retiring from his role and that his last commercial will be on February 1st.

Hej då ICA-Stig. The commercials won’t be the same without you, but if anyone can make it work, it’s the people behind ICA commercials.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with ICA reklam, here’s some more good ones that don’t need too much Swedish to understand:

“Good offers for the year’s poorest month (January)”

Ulf isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box: “Look what I learned online yesterday!”

Summertime comes to ICA “I refuse to work in these conditions!” “What conditions?”:


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(Not) Ice Skating in Sweden

If you ask people that have never been to Sweden what it’s like they will most likely say something about it being cold and having a lot of snow.

A winter wonderland. Picturesque landscapes of cute red houses covered in a blanket of white snow.

When I started visiting Sweden it was always in the winter and the one thing I wanted to do was go ice skating. It would be so romantic and memorable: ‘I went ice skating on a frozen lake in Sweden with the love of my life’. Upon spotting the first outdoor ice rink I saw on my first day in Gothenburg I excitedly asked my then-boyfriend-now-husband to skate with me, even if it wasn’t a lake (I was a little scared of that part anyway).

Alas, it didn’t happen.  And to this day, it still hasn’t.

It couldn’t. Because of ice skates.

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Apparently it’s not easy to find a place that rents out ice skates in Sweden.  It’s just not a thing – or at least not anymore. This boggled my mind because in New York you can rent ice skates no matter where you go. It’s almost like renting bowling shoes; if you go to a bowling ally to bowl, or if you go to skating rink to ice skate, a few bucks will get you the equipment you need. They aren’t always the most comfortable or beautiful looking skates and sometimes felt a bit dirty putting them on, but they are available. Not in Sweden – at least according to what people have told me and what I have seen (more so in Stockholm, if I understand correctly, although 4/6 on this website do not provide rentals: Ice skating in Stockholm).

I have very fond memories of ice skating with friends and family at different (indoor and outdoor) rinks throughout New York. If someone is bored and looking for something fun and spontaneous to do with some friends “lets go ice skating” isn’t an option because someone would be left out (especially expats, most probably not having grown up having to own a pair of ice skates). What if someone doesn’t know how to skate and just wants to try something new without spending a ton of money? What about tourists? I had the option the buy custom made skates years ago and thought it would be a waste of money because ice skating is seasonal. And now that I’m in a country where that season is longer, I am regretting that decision. Of course there are cheaper options than buying brand new ice skates, if you are lucky enough to find your size at second hand shops like Amnesty, Röda Korset (The Red Cross) , Myrorna (Salvation army), or garage sales.

photo 2 (2)I was reading the local paper today and an article about ice skates piqued my attention, reminding me that it might be something to write about. This article is about the exclusion of children on school trips that don’t have their own ice skates. Since ice rinks in Sweden no longer provide rental skates (Because of some missing equipment according to this article) there is no way for kids to participate in fun activities with their friends and classmates if their parents don’t have the money to buy them ice skates. The best the school can do is send out a letter asking parents of other students if they have extra skates for students that don’t have any. The man in the photo decided that this isn’t enough and kids should never be left out. He set out do something about it and rallied up companies and private persons to provide ice skate and helmet rentals (to school kids only) in Halmstad once again.

I think it’s a good start.


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Mushroom Picking

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I know it’s been awhile and I hope you’ll excuse my absence – I was vacationing in the U.S. for 5 weeks.

(blog post in the works about Swedish related stuff in NYC)

Today I checked off a To-Do on my “become more Swedish” goal – I finally went mushroom picking. Ever since I’ve visited Sweden I’ve heard about how popular it is to scour the forest for mushrooms. Not just any mushrooms – but chanterelles.

“Do you want to go mushroom picking” 

“Sure! How hard can it be!”

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Step one: Have boots

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When I asked my husband what we need he simply said, “boots.”

“But, it hasn’t rained in days! It’s sunny and warm”

“Boots.”

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If it weren’t for our newly bought boots we probably would have given up half way through the three hour adventure and went home empty handed.

Step two: Know where and when to go.

Not being from Sweden and having grown up picking mushrooms and berries in the woods, we were a bit blind. Thankfully, in Sweden there is allemansrätten – which means that anyone can roam into nature freely without worries of property boundries as long as you don’t destroy anything. There are definitely good “spots” for finding chanterelles, but finding one is hard, and people want to keep it their secret. Mushroom picking season is in the late summer months, August and September being the best.

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So, we headed into the forest with no clue where/how to start.

Step three: Be patient

We didn’t find any chanterelles for the first hour. Instead we found every other imaginable type of mushroom. Naturally we didn’t know which ones are edible, so we stayed clear – but I took tons of photos:

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The classic red and white mushroom – flugsvamp:

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I’ve never seen so many mushrooms! All different shapes, sizes, colors – but none what we were looking for.

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I never knew mushrooms got so large:

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Or so ugly:

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This one reminded me of a moose antler:

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 Step four: Look closely

We were close to giving up when we had our very first spotting

“Guys!! I think I found some” followed by us running to see the mythical fungi:

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Our second (spotted by me) was strangely out in the open, giving us hope that we might find more:

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And our third – by this time all three of us had found some, so we were happy:

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But then we started finding more and learning where to look. Apparently chanterelles like mossy, dark, and wet areas, usually growing near the roots of pine trees or under rocks and aren’t too easy to spot even though they are bright yellow.

Sometimes all you see is a sliver:

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Sometimes they even took some digging to get to:

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Or reaching down into a dark hole in the ground underneath a boulder covered in moss:

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Some more tips:

~ Check that your chanterelles are real – there are yellow look-alike mushrooms that can make you sick.

~ Be careful of ticks.

~ Bring drinking water.

~ Have fun!!

 

 


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Swedish Scrabble – Alfapet

Whenever I teach an English course I always suggest different ways to practice the second language casually at home:

1) Read books you have read before in your own language
2) Read magazines or blogs about topics you’re interested in
3) Read or watch the news in your second language
4) Watch TV or movies with subtitles
5) Listen to music or audio books
6) Play games

Since I’ve moved to Sweden and started learning Swedish I have tried to integrate the language into my day to day life by doing as many of these things as possible. I especially like to use my Swedish while playing games – it makes language learning more fun, social and casual:
(As a sidenote: board games in Sweden are way more expensive than in the U.S., 300-500kr in stores, depending on the game)
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I’ve always enjoyed Scrabble, so I figured: What better way to work on my vocabulary than playing scrabble in Swedish? After being here for 2 years and refusing to pay 400kr for a board game that I’ve bought for 100kr in the past, I finally found one at a fleamarket for 40kr. Score!
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Now, Scrabble does come in Swedish scrabble as well, but more popular is an almost identical game called Alfapet. (The Swedish spelling of “Alphabet” is actually “Alfabet”)
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As you can see, the board and premise are exactly the same, but there are a few differences:
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In Afapet, not only do you try to build on tiles that give you bonus points, but you try to avoid tiles that take away points. (Note the dark blue tiles)
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Naturally, there are a few new tiles due to the different letters in Swedish. I was surprised that there weren’t more of these, as they are commonly used letters in Swedish.
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Like in Scrabble there are blank tiles, that can be used as any letter without collecting value.
Now it gets interesting, as these next tiles don’t exist in Scrabble at all:

The black tiles represent stops. Once you use this tile you can spell a completely unconnected word next to or after another word: no common letters needed.

The arrows make it possible to turn your word another direction, making space constraints a thing of the past. This also allows you to turn your word so that you can collect bonus tiles that normally wouldn’t align.
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We played for the first time last week, and it was a lot of fun. We initially agreed to use both English and Swedish words, so that I would have a fighting chance, but we played 95% Swedish words, anyway. It was a really great way to practice my Swedish – and I thought this variant of Scrabble was a lot of fun.


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Welcome to Sweden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome back Something Swedish.

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