Something Swedish


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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.”

_______________

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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My First Birthday in Sweden – Hurrah Hurrah Hurrah Hurrah

Celebrating my first birthday in Sweden couldn’t have been better. First, I was happy to get phone calls, Skype calls, messages, and photos from friends and family back home. When you live abroad you get a little scared that your friends and family back home will forget you.

I was a bit nervous about my first birthday in a new country: What will it be like? What are the cultural differences?

Last weekend we celebrated my birthday with my husband’s family. They bought me a cake, gave me presents, and sung happy birthday to me:

The Swedish Birthday Song:

Ja, må hon leva, Ja, må hon leva, Ja, må hon leva uti hundrade år.
Ja, visst ska hon leva, Ja, visst ska hon leva, Ja, visst ska hon leva uti hundrade år.
(x2)

“Ett fyraldigt leve… leve hon. HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH.”

English Translation

Yes, may she live, Yes, may she live, Yes, may she live for a hundred years.
Oh sure, she will live, Oh sure, she will live, Oh sure, she will live for a hundred years.

“A four fold cheer … cheer for her. HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH.”

Listen to it here:

Some Common Swedish Birthday Customs

  • Breakfast in bed- unfortunately this is usually only for children. The family comes into the room with breakfast (sometimes with cake) and sings for the birthday boy/girl.
  • Some Swedes enjoy Smörgåstårta (Sandwich cake) on their birthdays. Read more about that in a previous post. Hubby bought me a shrimp sandwich this morning, which was close enough…this time.
  •  A popular birthday cake is Prinsesstårta (Princess Cake)- a sponge cake with lots of cream inside and a shell of marzipan. Read more about that in a previous post.
  • Swedish flags are often used to decorate the birthday cake.
  • Bring your own birthday cake to work to celebrate yourself with your workmates.
  • Surprise parties are not common in Sweden, instead you plan your own festivities if you want.

Vocabulary

Grattis på födelsedagen: Happy Birthday!

Grattis: Congratulations

Tårta: Cake


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The Whole Town Celebrates Graduation Day

Graduation day in Sweden is the opposite of how I have always known graduations to be. Each student was allowed three guests. Some people got a few flowers or balloons. Very calm and formal. We wore long black robes and a flat square hat with a tassel that hung in our faces. Laughing and crying as we walked down the aisle of the large auditorium, then we listened to a stuffy speech- knowing all we want to do is throw our hats in the air, go outside and take photos with friends and family. Unlike the Swedish graduation I got to see on Friday, ours was not an exciting spectacle for everyone in the neighborhood to watch and celebrate.

At a distance all you can see is a sea of blue and white student hats (resembling sailor hats) being driven around town by trucks and tractors – constantly beeping their horns to draw attention. I could hear it all from a 15 minute walk away. The graduates are blowing whistles and horns of their own; shouting, dancing, and singing to blaring music. Each truck or tractor (there were maybe 8) is decorated with balloons, leaves, branches, and a hand painted sign made by the now-former-students. Their mobile dance party drives around town for about an hour, causing commotion and getting attention.

When the tractor & truck joy ride finally comes to an end the teens come rushing into town in groups, still singing, dancing, and yelling. Some have boomboxes on their shoulder to keep the party going. Some are talking through megaphones, many are still blowing horns and whistles. For the most part the guys are wearing suits and the girls are wearing short white dresses. The student cap (studentmössa) is the only official part of the graduation outfit, since the mid-1800’s.

The streets are lined with hundreds of people proudly holding up large signs – a baby picture of their graduate. Some are cute, some are embarrassing. Each sign has the name of the graduate in large print along with the year and date – most are decorated in blue and yellow.

Some people are holding balloons, flowers, and stuffed animals –  these too, are mostly blue and yellow. All of the presents have have long (blue and yellow) ribbons attached  to them, because each present is actually a necklace. By the end of the event, each graduate resembles a piñata.

It was amazing to see how many people were there to celebrate, if they knew a graduate or not. It is a very fun spectacle each year, especially for someone who has never seen anything like it. Swedes know how to celebrate graduation! I’m just happy it didn’t rain the whole time because I didn’t stick around after that.


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Valborg- How We Welcome Spring in Sweden

The warmth of Spring showed its shy face yesterday, and we think it’s here to stay this time. We knew it was finally Spring by the smell of the barbeques, appearance of our favorite gelato truck, people enjoying picnics in the park and soaking up the rays – sunbathing anywhere and everywhere. What perfect timing as yesterday was Valborgsmässoafton, which is the eve of Walpurgis Night – a time to welcome and embrace Spring. Thankfully it embraced us right back.

This celebration of Spring is common in many European countries but not in the States so I was very excited. Large bon fires litter the Swedish towns as the main event for the celebrations, which is said to have originated because on May 1st farm animals were allowed out to graze and fires were set in an effort to protect them from predators (and witches of course).

In Halmstad our bon fire is set up on the Nissan River- out of reach for any pranksters to light it early.

The band started at 7:30 and people started to gather an hour before, some early to enjoy a picnic in the park and others to grab a good spot near the river. Thousands of people show up to listen to the music, the choirs, the speech, and watch the fire burn. Traditional spring songs are a huge part of the celebration, along with the national anthem.

The speech was given by the headmaster of the university, aside from a few random words the only sentence I caught was “We hope Spring always comes back.” The first choir was students from the school, named köörmit (kör=choir, the name is a wordplay to sound like Kermit) and the second is the ‘Men Choir’- which oddly enough was lead by a women conductor.

Some examples of traditional Spring songs:

Vintern rasat ut
Vintern rasat ut bland våra fjällar,
drivans blommor smälta ned och dö.
Himlen ler i vårens ljusa kvällar,
solen kysser liv i skog och sjö.
Snart är sommarn här i purpurvågor,
guldbelagda, azurskiftande
ligga ängarne i dagens lågor,
och i lunden dansa källorne.

The winter raged among our peeling;
drift flowers melt down and die.
The sky smiles in the spring’s bright nights,
sun kisses lives in forests and lakes.
Soon it is summer here in purple waves,
gold coated, azur shifting
lie the meadows in today’s flames,
and in the grove the wells dance.

Majsång (Sköna maj, välkommen)

Sköna maj, välkommen till vår bygd igen!
Sköna maj, välkommen, våra lekars vän!
Känslans gudaflamma väcktes vid din ljusning;
jord och skyar stamma kärlek och förtjusning;
sorgen flyr för våren, glädje ler ur tåren,
morgonrodnad ur bekymrens moln.

Beautiful May, welcome to our area again!
Beautiful May, welcome, our playful friend!
emotions godly flame rose at your dawn;
earth and clouds stutter love and delight;
sorrow flee for spring, happy smiles from tears;
morning blush from troubled clouds.

At around 8:45 we spotted a kayak approaching with two flames, which were held by a small boy who looked very excited to light the fire. They circled and lit it from all sides- quickly plumes of smoke filled the air.

Then came the flames. Then out came the ducks! Only two or three but they swam away at full speed:

Once the fire was roaring more kayaks came to perform the torch parade. There was 10 kayaks with fire at the front and end of each. The circled the fire a few times, making different shapes and patterns.

The fire did not burn for as long as I expected, I’m sure it lasts longer in other places where this tradition is an even bigger deal such as Goteborg, Uppsala, and Lund which are known for having a large Sista April (Last Day of April) celebration including events from the graduates of their universities.

For someone who has never experienced such a celebration it was something special. What else is better than celebrating wonderful weather? This is the time when Sweden shines.

The rest of the night was celebrated with great friends and liquor, the best way to spend Valborgsmässoafton.