Something Swedish


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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