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.


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”?


That’s right – she’s Swedish! And today she turns 70 (all while staying 9 years-old)! Happy Birthday Pippi!

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


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.


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


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:


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!

den-romska-litteraturen-idag-3010_0 finskpippi 9789197126465_large l_lindpippi199 l_lindfifib67

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.


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

2. Do you looove lösgodis (loose candy)?

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?

6. Did you grow up watching the same snippets of classic Disney movies every Christmas?
Swedish Cartoons

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?

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?


“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


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

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

14. Have you ever traveled long distances to buy booze (say out of the country, to Denmark or Germany for example) to save money?

15. Have you ever dressed up as a witch for Easter or Santa for Christmas?
Glad Påsk, Witches in Sweden,

16. Do you and your friends always have a few drinks at home before going out to the bar (förfest)?

17. Have you ever worn a crown of flowers on your head?

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
2012-10-03 20.06.51

19. Have you ever danced like a frog?

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?

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?

26. Do you proudly shop at loppis (flea markets) and show off your finds to all of your friends?
529 006

27. Have you ever eaten Swedish meatballs? (Maybe at IKEA?)

28. Is there nothing you look forward to more than the first semla of the year?
Semlor Galore, February, Cooking Semlor
017 (2)

29. Do you occasionally look at the time, panic, and rush out the door to buy a bottle of wine for the upcoming weekend?

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
63 015

34. Is locating the number machine to queue in line the first thing you do when you enter a store?

35. Can you eat knäkebröd (hard bread) without getting crumbs everywhere?
2013-02-18 14.29.50

36. Have you ever sang in unison with your friends or family before taking a shot of snaps?
Cheers! Skål!

37. Is it true that you have never met your neighbors and you like it better that way?

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?

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!)


Officially Swedish

There are two ways to become Swedish:

Way One:  Adapt and integrate yourself into the culture:










Way two: Apply to become a Swedish citizenship


photo 2 photo 3

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)



The first thing I noticed when I first came to Sweden was all the bikes. Everywhere. I’ve seen more bikes than people. I’ve seen people talk on the phone, text, smoke and walk their dogs while on their bikes. It was clear to me that in order to ever truly become integrated into Swedish society, I would need a bike. I even got asked multiple times, ‘Don’t you have a bike?’ as if walking just doesn’t cut it.

Sweden is a very health and environment conscious country, center stage being the strong biking culture.

This commercial was just released by our county explaining that people who bike are superheros:
~ Halmstad is a biking town.
~ 21% of Halmstad residents travel via bike.
~ We have 21 (swedish) miles of biking trails. [= 210 kilometers = 130 miles ]
~ We are building super bike lanes
~ Everyone who bikes is a superhero)

It took a year, but last year I finally loaned a bike from my in-laws and have been riding it nearly every time I go anywhere.

Even though I’ve been able to ride a bike my whole life, this was different. Biking to commute to work/school or when you go to a friend’s house or when you go grocery shopping is a lot different than riding your bike around the block for fun as a kid or to exercise as an adult. In NYC you don’t see too many bikes, it’s simply not a common way to get around. It’s as if I had to relearn how to ride: bike lanes, hand signals, traffic laws, and getting used to so many other cyclists and pedestrians. Oh how things have changed; before I started biking I had no idea. I was amazed by by husbands ability to hear the tire treads of a bike approaching from a block away. I was blissfully unaware of the high pitched yet gentle dinging of a bike bell telling me to move out of people’s ways. Bike lanes seemed like wide sidewalks. Every time a bike whizzed past me I thought for sure that I would be run over.

Today my husband and I took our bikes out for a ride together for the first time. It was nice to bike for the fun of it instead of using it as a mode of transport. It’s truly the best way to learn your neighborhood, too. Even though I’ve lived here for two years, biking today allowed me to see more places and understand where everything is in relation to each other and the fastest ways to get around. I learned that there is a separate traffic light for bikes, which means that I’ve wasted a lot of time waiting for the pedestrian one instead. Better safe than sorry though! Enjoying the beautiful Swedish weather on a nice long bike ride followed by a picnic in the park is the way to go.




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.


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.


“…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.


Meeting and Greeting in Sweden: Handshake, Hug, or Kiss(es)?

I started writing this post almost a year ago, when it was more relevant to my newness here in Sweden and attending SFI:

When I first started visiting Sweden I wasn’t familiar with the small details of Swedish culture, like what you do when you meet someone new, or when you say hi to a friend.  I was always a little annoyed with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, because he never introduced me to people that he was talking to in front of me that I hadn’t met yet. I thought it was rude, but it was simply a difference in culture.  In NYC, It’s more common to be introduced by the mutual friend, “Meg, this is Randomname, Randomname this is Meg” handshake greetingwith pointing and gestures to indicate who is who – usually received with a wave and a smile or a handshake. It’s a lot less common to introduce yourself in NYC and comes off to be a little too forward.

In Sweden, however, you have to take it upon yourself to step up and reach out your hand and announce your name with a solid handshake and eye contact. Naturally, I never did this the first few times I visited and it got to be pretty awkward as I didn’t officially “meet” a lot of people.  Finally, I confronted my then-boyfriend-now-husband who explained it all to me. After that, I started doing it Swedish Style; introducing myself right away instead of awkwardly standing around waiting for him to do it.

Once I got over the hurdle of MEETING people in Sweden, I realized that I’ve been GREETING people all wrong. When researching how to greet people around the world, Sweden is usually not on any of the lists, because there is nothing too specific about a Swedish greeting – except maybe moderation. There is no special way to hug or shake hands that could be rude, offensive, or embarrassing. It is good to know that they generally don’t kiss on the cheek though, singlekissgreetinglike many other countries do. It wasn’t until our wedding in Sweden that my mother-in-law pointed out (in a friendly, shy and giggling way) that my family kisses on the check, which was a little strange to her and she failed to reciprocate since it’s not something normal for her. Meanwhile, this is something I have always done since being in Sweden, but it’s never been pointed out to me. Thankfully, I’m a ‘light contact’ cheek-to-cheek air-kisser which might have gone undetected or else I might have been making a lot more people a lot more uncomfortable. Towards the bottom of this interview HERE I mention it as one of the most embarrassing mistakes I’ve made in Sweden, going around kissing stand offish Swedes who generally like their personal space; at least until you are good friends.

So, I’ve braced myself and committed to being a little gentler with my hello’s and goodbye’s, reserving hugs till I’ve built up a friendship instead of freely handing them out to people I’ve only just met – and then I started making other expat friends and had to start all over again. I never thought any of my anxiety would be over how to say hello or good bye to friends and classmates, but there it was.

The thing with being an expat is you generally tend to hang out with a lot of people from different countries, we go to school together, learn the language together, and socialize together more than I’ve ever hung out with any Swede aside from my husband. This is especially true in Sweden, as anyone new to the country is given the opportunity of free language courses (SFI) everyday. Expecting SFI to be all Swedish and Swedes, I wasn’t prepared to find so many people from around the world. I thought I was well diversified coming from NYC, but it is a whole different thing when everyone has just moved to Sweden straight from from their home countries – Iran, Thailand, Africa, Iraq, Turkey, Spain, Serbia, Germany, Bulgaria, Russia, Lithuania, Korea, Croatia, Egypt, Romania with a light sprinkle of New Zealand, Australian, UK, Canada, and the U.S. All trying to adjust to living in Sweden, while bringing in their own traditions and cultures, such as how to greet one another.

Every country naturally has their own way of greeting friends, so I was thrown back into the whirlwind of what to do with who; not just “stop kissing Swedes”. I always try to take the other persons lead, but sometimes slip and turn a hatriple kiss greetingndshake into a panicked cheek kiss because there was a moment hesitation from both of us and I didn’t know what to do. Sometimes it is a light hug, a wave, a smile, or a strong embrace depending on where someone comes from. A handshake varies from a light gentle graze or a very firm grip. In some cultures it is offensive to kiss on the cheek, and in others it is offensive not to, and then you never know how many times to do it, once twice or thrice. Throw in everyone’s effort to integrate into Sweden and no one seems to know what to do outside of their own culture groups. Greetings become a little blurry and shaky, unless you have the same traditions and already know how to handle greeting each other. For my birthday I was given  triple or double cheek kisses by some cultures, hugs from others, handshakes from the rest as they congratulated me.

Upon saying good bye to new found friends from England, Canada, and USA (Places with the same customs as myself, so this should be easy) I froze and automatically (read: awkwardly) stepped back and offered a hand shake instead of what would be a friendly wave or a hug. We stumbled through it, laughed it off and ended up hugging instead.

All in all, it’s just a funny observation of a sometimes awkward situation that maybe you’ve also experienced while learning the Swedish language along side other people learning the same thing, all from different places around the world, speaking different languages inbetween classes and bringing in all sorts of delicious food that I’ve never seen or heard of before for class parties. SFI is a unique place; a smörgåsbord of cultures all brought together to learn about one thing we all have in common: Sweden.

List of THINGS TO SAY to Greet People in Sweden

Hej! or Hej Hej! = Hey/Hi – Most common, appropriate for both formal and informal.

Hallå = Hello

Hejsan = Hey

Tjena = Hey – Less formal, between friends

God Morgon/Dag = Good Morning/Day

Trevligt att träffas!  = Nice to meet you!

Hur är det? = How is it? (Whats up?)

Hur går det? = How goes it? (How’s it going?)

Hur läget? = How are things?

Vad hittar du på? = What are you finding? (What’s are you doing/up to?)

Hur mår du? = How do you feel?

Hej då! = Good bye!

Adjö! = Bye!

Ha det så bra! = Have it so good! (Have a good day)

Vi ses snart! = See you soon!


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