Something Swedish


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Voting Abroad

I’ve been living in Sweden for just over 4 years now, meaning that I was new to this whole living abroad thing and had no idea how to vote last election. Like everything when it comes to moving to a different country, it was a learning experience. Without bringing politics into the mix, I think it’s important for everyone to exercise their right to vote:

Living abroad shouldn’t be an excuse or reason not to. Living abroad doesn’t mean that our votes don’t matter. Let’s not miss our chance to be heard.

Why? What’s the big deal?

There are more than enough American citizens living abroad (see below) to make a difference. It might not feel that way but our votes do add up, no matter where we are residing or which state we are registered to.

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After living in Sweden for the past few years and learning about how politics and society work here I realized that we – Americans living abroad – have a very unique perspective on things:

  • We have a helpful and healthy amount of distance from some issues that other Americans don’t have.
  • At the same time, we have first hand experience with other issues (citizenship versus residency based taxation for example) that most Americans don’t even know exist.
  • We have seen and experienced first hand what works or doesn’t work in other countries and can make connections and comparisons that others aren’t able to make.
  • We don’t live in America’s bubble. Some of us can be more aware of international affairs, having access to more than one side of the story.

So, why vote this year? Why bother with the primaries? Isn’t it enough to wait until November? The race is so tight between candidates in each party this year that cards are being drawn and coins are being tossed to break ties. This is one of those times when absentee ballots from Americans abroad are making a real difference.

I became a Swedish citizen about a month after Swedish elections here last year, so I wasn’t able to vote, but I did tag along and see the process. When I did some research I was surprised to find that the majority of age-appropriate Swedes do make it to the polls and cast their vote – in fact it’s one of the countries with the highest voting turn out…while The United States has one of the lowest.

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Pewresearch.org

There’s a lot of reasons why The United States has a low percentage of voters that I’m not going to discuss, but citizens living abroad (for whatever reason) not bothering to or knowing how to vote is on that list. Just because we aren’t in the country we shouldn’t be dragging down the numbers shown above and making our democracy less effective.

The fact is that voting from outside the United States is a pain in the butt. There are forms to fill out and send out and extra dates to remember. In general an absentee ballot needs to be applied for (here) a few months in advance in order to send it in on time, meaning that by the time presidential elections in November or primaries (Feb-June depending on your state) come along, it’s already too late if you didn’t have enough forethought.

Thankfully, there are organizations that try to make it easier –  making it possible for Americans living abroad to vote IN PERSON for the primaries and provide on-the-spot help with registration  for the presidential election in 40 countries.

I’m not claiming to know all the details of voting abroad, but for those of you that read this blog because you’ve moved from The United States to Sweden and are interested in being heard, I thought this information would be helpful for you:

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Of course you can also vote in Stockholm, it’s just not on this flyer:

Stockholm: Tully’s Coffee, Götgatan 42, 11826 Stockholm

Thursday, March 3rd from 17:00 to 20:00

Saturday, March 5th from 12:00 to 17:00

I have no affiliations with Democrats Abroad, but was very happy to see that they have set up polling stations throughout Sweden and I wanted to make sure that as many people knew about it as possible. If you register and vote through them you will be influencing 17 delegates since American citizens abroad are counted as their own “state.”

If you are an American living anywhere else in the world or are interested in Republican options, I highly encourage you to look into your options.

Here are a few direct links to get you started (due to the time sensitivity I haven’t read up on more than I needed to in order to share this information):

votefromabroad.org

aaci.org.

overseasvotefoundation.org

americansabroad.org

justice.gov

Helpful facebook groups:

American Expatriates

Expats in Sweden

North Americans in Sweden

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Celebrating St. Lucia with the kiddies

While everyone in the states is “celebrating” (or at least posting on facebook about) Friday the 13th, the atmosphere here in Sweden is very different. December the 13th (no matter what day it falls on) is St. Lucia – a day of candlelight and song when the winter nights are so dark and long.

Last year was my first St. Lucia and I celebrated by going to the church to see the traditional luciatåg – which was breathtakingly beautiful and magical. If you missed the post about it, see the photos and read all about the history and how it is celebrated here.

This year was a little different, this year it was a kiddie Lucia for me. Instead of going to the church after sunset, we gathered at “folkets hus” (The peoples house) before sunrise.

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photo from: http://fruerlandsson.blogspot.se/2010/04/sondrums-fokets-hus.html As I never got to see it during day time.

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The bulletin board invite

At 7:30am the kiddies started showing up dressed with their Lucia outfits on, ready to sing – at least most of them, naturally there were some tears and screaming when it was time to go on stage. If the traditional church Lucia I went to last year was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen, this was the cutest. The outfits that kids wear for St.Lucia are adorable! Of course, the girls all dress up as Lucia with a crown of (electronic) candles on their heads and a red belt, while the boys all want to be tomte (santa), leaving my two favorites ignored: stjärngossar (Star boys – which look like little magicians with star wands and pointy wizard hats) and Peperkaksgubbar/pepperkaksgummar (gingerbread boys and girls).

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Gingerbread outfit – so cute you can eat it up!

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stjärngossar hat and star

And then of course there are tärnor, Lucia’s “handmaidens,” dressed in long white robes to match Lucia but without the crown of candles, but strings of silver garland around the head and waist. This is the best way to “dress up” for Lucia without really dressing up. All of us teachers sported our garland crowns as we walked with the kids and helped them muster up the courage to sing  on stage for so many parents.

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Celebrating St. Lucia

The kids did great! They were able to sing all the songs and had a great time. (and now I’ve learned some more Swedish songs myself!) I wasn’t able to get any good photos, but did record a little bit for your listening pleasure (Yes, it was very dark and yes, I cut away any parts where I was singing along.): 

After the songs everyone sat down and had fika that all the families brought from home. It was still dark out, so the room was still dim – illuminated with candles on the long tables. At the “teacher table” we enjoyed lussekatter (holiday saffron buns), ginger bread cookies, and clementines. Similar to a “lussefika” we had last Sunday to socialize outside of work and celebrate the holidays with a special secret santa game:

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Photo from afterwork fika, not Lucia.

After fika one of the parents made a speech to thank the school and teachers and then, with the help of the kids, handed out beautiful flowers and cookie tins with cards for each of us.

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And to think I was hesitant about having to wake up at 6am. So worth it to see this other, adorable, side of Lucia.


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Celebrating Cinnamon Rolls in Sweden

October 4th: a day to cherish and savor the beloved cinnamon roll (which originates from Sweden), or “Kanelbulle” a little more than normal.

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To celebrate last year I made Swedish and American Cinnamon rolls side by side to compare. Read about that experiment HERE.

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This year, however, I decided to do something different (AKA: less work) and compared cinnamon buns from different local bakeries.

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I used the same bakeries as when we tasted Semlor last year, in this post HERE (read about each bakery, and another delicious Swedish pastry there)

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At first I was unsure, a cinnamon roll is a cinnamon roll, right? Would they really be THAT different? Here’s our results:

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Traditional kanelbulle, perfect for fika. At only 7kr ($1), you can’t go wrong. A bit more cardemum flavoring, but overall a balanced bun.

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At 14 kr ($2), we were hoping that this would be a big step up, but it wasn’t. It was sweeter and a bit nicer – but not 7 kr worth. I liked this one more than the “benchmark” from Östras, but it was too pricey.

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Even though it looks sloppy, this cinnamon bun was surprisingly delicious. Discouraged by the 15kr price tag, I had my hesitations, but the addition of almond paste really made for an especially tasty treat.

RESULTS:

Paulssons is our choice when we want something a little more festive, like celebrating Kanelbullar dag.

Östras is our day-to-day take-away cinnamon bun.

Regnbågen is a nice treat if you’re having fika there and want to enjoy something sweet.

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I hope those of you in Halmstad find this helpful! Either way, no matter where you are – I hope you had a kanelbulle today!


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My first 5k race and winning a trip to PORTUGAL!!!

It feels like just yesterday I learned about Vår Ruset (Spring Rush) and decided to make it a goal – my first 5k (3.1 miles).  Vår Ruset has been running for 25 years and is one of the biggest races in Sweden with thousands of participants in each of the 17 participating cities throughout the country, taking over a month to reach the last city. It’s only for women and raises money for a different cause each year.

I started training (jogging) three weeks before with absolutely no running experience to speak of,  horrible cardio, terrible feet, and really old sneakers. See my improvement below – the last one is my time for the actual race: 36:44. My goal was to finish it between 40 and 45 minutes. I think I was able to jog about 90% of the time, which felt pretty awesome – next step is improving my speed.

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Prepping for the race:

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After our group zumba-like warm up session with the instructors high up on scaffolding:

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The race is split up into six different start groups depending on if you are being timed, if you are running the 10k, if you are running, jogging, or taking it easy and walking.

This is our start line:

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Behind us at the start line (did I mention there was a lot of people? Imagine, our start group is second to last so most people are already gone):

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And we’re off! It was motivational to be running along side so many women:

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Hubby found me in the crowd about 2 km in:

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Afterwards everyone received metals:

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And a goody bag of stuff from the sponsors (and bananas and juice):

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I bought a bracelet to support children in Kosovo who need homes:

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The weather was perfect for the race and to sit down afterwards and enjoy a picnic.

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And as we were leaving an hour after the race, I heard my name in the distance being called over the load speaker. I went on stage and sat with 8 other women, all anxiously waiting to see what we could have won. Half way through the prizes got significantly better and my name was still not called. I’m told that I looked excited and terrified at the same time.

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With a microphone in my face I received my first place prize: a trip to Portugal for a whole week to attend Training Camp with Vår Ruset.

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I was shocked and didn’t know what to say, let alone in Swedish to thousands of people picnicking after the race.

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I explained that I’ve never won anything before and I’ve never traveled outside of New York and Sweden.

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I didn’t dare mention that I’ve only been training for three weeks… but now I’ll be sure to continue!

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Each day there will be activities to participate in such as running, “nordic walking(?)”, yoga, dancing, strength building, core exercises, and of course lots of fun in the sun!

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I can’t wait!!

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After an unbelievably exciting day I came home, collapsed, and dreamed of my next adventure.

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Halmstad Gillet

Last week was the “Halmstad Gillet 2012” which was filled with events and activities all around town. (Gillet means Guild or Feast) It was the first year for the event, which brought art, culture, music, and crafts together. There were plays, singing, and dancing near the library one day, a flea market in “Lilla torg” another day, there were tents filled with hand crafted goods in Norre Park over the weekend. All of the performances were done by high school (Gymnasium) students. There was a lot of different art work on display. Sit in the workshop tent and learn how to craft different things with all sorts of materials. You could paint your own Raku (Japanese tea cup), which would be burned for you to bring home. Or just sit back and enjoy a picnic on the lawn while listening to the music. One of the days all the local stores were welcome to bring items outside and sell infront of their shops, most with discounts. There were games, activities, and balloon animals for children. And best of all, sweet food to eat: Waffles, grilled meat, donuts, candy, roasted nuts, and more.

It was a nice change of pace, to have something different to look at each day. We shopped at the fleamarket and I spent a lot of time browsing the handcrafted area. The only things we bought were roasted almonds and a donut each, resisting the urge to spend lots of money on earrings or iron candle sticks. There were metal smiths, jewelry makers, clothing, hand blown glass, wooden house decorations, and much more. Its always interesting and inspiring to see what people can create. It all made me start looking into crafting classes, which would be fun. Mostly it was refreshing to see so many people enjoying the festivities.

If people reviewed the Gillet positively then it will be an annual event, I for one think it is a nice mid-spring addition! Its always nice to have something new to do! (Especially if the weather is nice, which thankfully it was) Being a smaller sized town, i think events like these are perfect. The only thing is since it is spread out over 6 days in five different parts of the town, it didn’t seem as exciting as if it were only a one or two day event to look forward to and not want to miss.