Something Swedish


Riddle me this, Sweden

First things first…

Stay with me here – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th. In Swedish these would be 1:a, 2:a, 3:e, 4:e, 5:e, 6:e, 7:e, 8:e, 9:e, 10:e. I wasn’t able to recognize them either, don’t worry. But sometimes you do see “1st” in Swedish – usually in the produce section of the supermarket and you wonder what it is, “Is it the first crop of the season?” then you see “2st” and think it’s just a typo. “st” in Swedish means “stycken” a useful word that we don’t have in English which indicates how many of something, like individual pieces.


Telling time is telling time, right? Wrong. It might be easy for those who know how to use military time, but I have literately missed a work meeting because of the habit of using AM and PM and mistaking an early morning meeting for an “after work” meeting. It takes a lot of time and finger counting to look at a clock and read 21.15 as 9:15, or vice versa, thinking 9:15 but needing to write 21.15, without getting it wrong a few dozen times.

Here’s a tip: if someone is meeting you for a drink at 10.00 they probably mean coffee, not alcohol.

But don’t worry, it’s only written this way, when Swedes speak they use the am/pm system, just to mess with my mind I assume. Not that saying the time is any easier – wrap your head around explaining 7:35 as “five minutes past half till 8,” More simply, dinner at 6:30? instead of saying “half past 6” you would say “half till 7”.

Oh, and 10.00 is how we write the time here in Sweden, I wasn’t accidentally talking about the price of overpriced drinks (coffee/alcohol) in Sweden.

Like so:

2013-09-30 09.12.15


So, if a period equals a colon (10.00 instead of 10:00) to indicate time, then how do we deal with money? Commas, of course, ya know, unless there should be a comma, then we use a period ($1,000 = 7.000 SEK)

Buying a pair of pants? Price: 699,90 SEK. Don’t worry, that’s hundred, not thousand, don’t let that comma startle you. And good news, tax is always included in the price tags in Sweden, so what you see is what you pay! Except that the “öre” (think “penny”) hasn’t existed in many years, so prices are just “rounded” to the nearest kronor, so yes, you will be paying 700 SEK.


Have an important meeting on 5/4/2013? Don’t miss it, it’s on April 5th, not May 4th.  Oh, and don’t try to make it any easier by writing “April 5th” because it is really “5:e april” (You were wondering where they used that colon, if not for telling time, right? Me too) The colon is also used when you would add an ” ‘s ” to an abbreviation, but I digress.


While we’re on the topic of commas, colons, and periods being used differently than what I’m used to – why not talk about apostrophes and semi colons, too?

It’s easy, they barely exist while writing Swedish. Big sigh of relief, eller hur? Semi colons not being used as often as in English I can understand – people use them incorrectly all the time anyway, but apostrophes!? That’s like the bread and butter to English! Well, here’s the thing – Swedish doesn’t use contractions. You’ll never find our beloved “I’m,” “you’re,” “she’ll,” “aren’t” “they’re,” “here’s,” “I’ll,” “he’ll,” and “won’t” in Swedish which means that 90% of the apostrophes we use every day are gone. The other 10%? Also gone: “Sweden’s soccer team” becomes “Sveriges fotbollslag” no apostrophe needed, and yes soccer in the U.S. is “fotboll” (football) here in Sweden.

At least one thing is just as important in Swedish as it is in English, don’t forget your capitalization, as in don’t forget to NOT do it  for months or days of the week.

Multiple choice time!

Why is there an X here?

1) “2” and “3” are way too similar to put next to each other

x) Swede’s thought they’d get the numbers and the letters mingling.

2) To be even more confusing to immigrants!


Happy Pounds

Since I’ve been in Sweden I’ve somehow managed to rip three pairs of jeans (In my defense one pair was during my two month stay during the summer!). Maybe this isn’t the type of thing one normally shouts to the world, but here it is. By no means would anyone consider me to be, for lack of a better word, fat. I’m only 5’2 and 115 pounds (Hold on, I need to start using this darn metric system! 160cm and 52Kg) However, I have put on a few “Happy Pounds” as my best friend defined them. Three years ago I was probably more like 105 pounds (47kg) and this year I have fluctuated to 120 pounds (54kg), and I am actually proud of that! I have always wanted to be a healthier weight and now I have happy pounds to help! I eat when I’m happy and I am happy when I eat. By no means do I think I have put on too much weight, but my pants don’t seem to agree! I never realized that just a few pounds can make you want to walk around with your pants unbuttoned. And who can blame me? I am around so much new and exciting Swedish cuisine! Oh, how I love everything topped with lingon berries  and/or a creamy sauce. Fresh potatoes and strawberries in the heart of the summer. Meatballs, herring, salmon, and potato casserole all year round. And the traditional ham and lutefish during Christmas. Anyway, now that we have narrowed down a few of the culprits behind my ripped jeans, lets move on. (I will post plenty about food in the future)

The point is I needed to get new pants which means I needed to go shopping. Clothing shopping in Sweden really confuses me. The prices, the sizes, the measurements- I’m not there yet. The first two pants I try on are just to understand what size I am, (the smart thing would have been to look up a conversion table.) 36, 38? 27 x 33? These look like mens clothing sizes to me! Which number is the waist and which is the length? Now, don’t get me wrong. I think this makes more sense than saying I am a size 2 or 4- what is that anyway? At least these are actual dimensions. To my relief the descriptions are in English, so I know if I am looking at a high or normal waist, regular or slim cut.  I was surprised to encounter the same issue shopping in Sweden as I did in New York: What is with all the slim cut jeans?? Why do people want to walk around without circulation to their legs? I am not paying money for pants that I have to struggle to get in and out of, and that cause pain!

499, 599, 399. Swedish prices. As I mentioned earlier I am getting better at understand the value of an amount of SEK, however it gets harder  as the numbers get higher. One USD is about 6.7 SEK (right now), so I always assume 1:7 which means means that 70 kronor is about 10 dollars, which is the way I estimate prices, in relation to domination of 10. Then we get to the 300+ range and I have to think slightly harder.

Anyway, back to pants. I have a 20% coupon for one item so I am excited to go shopping. I’m discouraged by the 499 price tags (75 bucks, yes I think that’s expensive!), but figure the coupon will make it worth it to get a nice pair of jeans. I was wrong. I instead went to H&M (Which is another Swedish based store by the way) and found three pairs of jeans on the sale rack for 100 SEK each! That’s 15 bucks!

So, it might not have been an exciting day, but a victorious one. Sweden does have higher taxes and slightly higher prices on certain things, but the more I shop the more I feel like the prices are reasonable and not so far from what I’m used to.


Adjustment: “Justering”

It’s official! I have been living in Sweden for exactly one month!

Reflecting upon this I think its appropriate to list some things that I have already, or need to in the future, adjust to. This applies to a few different things: being in a new country, being “on my own” for the first time, becoming a wife.

  • Language: I’m currently waiting to be allowed to take my SFI (Svenskundervisning för invandrare: Swedish for Immigrants) classes. Its easy to live and survive in Sweden without knowing the language. But why? I want to stop missing out on conversations, be able to socialize easily, grasp the culture better, and I don’t want to be “That ignorant American”
  • Money: I’m finally getting the hang of converting Kronor (SEK) (Krona is the singular, which translates to “crown”) to the equivalent amount in Dollars (USD), which is very helpful in understanding how much I’m spending on things, especially in relation to what I’m used to paying for them in NY. However, there is a step beyond this. I think I’m beginning to be less dependent on that relationship, I am learning the prices of things in correlation to other Swedish things instead of American equivalents. I’m getting the hang of judging if something is too expensive compared to Swedish prices of the object or if i can find it in another store for less.
  • Shopping: This is obviously directly related to money, plus some additional factors. Sweden has a 25% tax. Having said that, naturally things are in general more expensive than I’m used to. It’s a different economy which would of course mean that prices are different anywhere you travel. (I have read many forum threads of people complaining and crying about high prices which is so rude!) The tax is calculated into the price. I love this, but it did take some period of “Oh…right!” There is no surprise at the end when the cashier gives you the total. There is no calculating the wrong amount of money. A lot of Swedish stores charges for bags. I’m pretty sure there are a few areas in the U.S that has started doing this recently, but it was very strange to me at first. I think its great, actually, but I am still adjusting to remembering it. It is usually 2 Kronor for a (sturdy) plastic bag, that’s the equivalent to about a quarter (25 cents). Instead of using 4 bags, its easy to pack everything into 2, or use bags from other stores you already have on you. The thing is you have to remember to place the bag on the conveyer belt or you don’t get one. Or in other stores (like clothing stores) they ask if you would like to buy one. Which, while I have learned my numbers and I can understand how much I am paying at check out, I still have to ask what they said so I don’t miss out on a bag. Take a number. A lot of stores use the ticket system instead of waiting on line, it’s usually only enforced and used if the store is rather busy, but I am still not used to looking for the ticket machine.
  • Grocery Shopping: I’ve always enjoyed grocery shopping, more than shopping for clothes, even. However, I’ll be the first to admit that I did not do it that often, living at home meant I was not the one doing all the shopping. So yes, part of this adjustment is getting used to being the one who does a lot of the shopping (maybe most), which is part of being “on my own” and being a wife. The other part of this adjustment is cultural and the language boundary. Its aggravating not being able to recognize the food you are looking for, or looking at. Sometimes its the packaging that is not what I’m used to and sometimes I just can’t read or figure out the name because its in Swedish.
  • Cooking & Cleaning: No, its not an adjustment because cooking and cleaning is different in Sweden, I’m just doing more of it. So, part of my adjusting this month is keeping our apartment clean, doing laundry, dishes, and cooking. I actually do enjoy it, its pretty relaxing and keeps me busy and entertained since I am not currently working. Thankfully I have a great husband who helps with any of this whenever he can (Willingly, without being asked!) And who likes to cook. Score!
  • Co-Existing: I’ve never lived with anyone aside from my family.  It is going excellent  and I think we are both pretty easy to live with, but moving in with someone is always an adjustment!
  • Being Without: Its easy to get used to the things you do, the things you eat, and the things you buy and use on a daily basis. Some of those things don’t exist here or are very expensive, which is fine, I am not complaining, but it is worth mentioning along the lines of adjusting.
  • Missing Friends and Family: I think this goes without being said and doesn’t even need an explanation.

Over all its been a great month and it will only get better once the adjustments are easier to handle. One day at a time.