Something Swedish


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New Swedish Defense System

Have you heard about Sweden’s new military defense system? I promise that it’s unlike any other and worth reading about.

A few months ago Russian submarines were believed to be lurking around in Swedish waters without permission (article here), triggering 200 of Sweden’s military to embark on a three day mission around the archipelago.

Exactly one month ago, The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), the worlds oldest peace organization,  installed an alternative defense system in the waters outside of Stockholm in response. So far so good – no new reports of Russian submarines yet. How does it work?

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Well, it is called SSUDS, which is of course short for “The Singing Sailor Underwater Defense System” and one of its features is to send out a Morse code: “This way if you are gay.” Once you get close enough to actually see the defense system, a submarine will find a neon pink outline of a scantily clad sailor thrusting his pelvis, surrounded by hearts with the text: “Welcome to Sweden. Gay since 1944” (the year Sweden legalized homosexuality) in both English and Russian so there is no misunderstandings.

*SPAS has no government affiliation, and receives no Swedish military funds

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The Singing sailor might seem like a joke (hence me taking a month to write about it), but it’s not. It’s purpose is not only to scare off Russia’s military, but to open a discussion within Sweden concerning a re-distribution and re-allotment of military funding and resources into new, forward thinking ways to fight wars without weapons: “the world doesn’t need more weapons. Military rearmament in itself is a major contributing cause of conflict, and that conflicts take a violent and destructive process.” – SPAS

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What do you think? Is this an effective way to keep countries within their own borders? Is it using cultural differences to escalate or diffuse a tense political relationship between two countries? Do you think it will succeed in starting the discussion concerning Sweden’s military funds?


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Officially Swedish

There are two ways to become Swedish:

Way One:  Adapt and integrate yourself into the culture:

THE WAY YOU EAT
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THE WORDS YOU SPEAK
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HOW YOU DECORATE

HOW YOU WAIT IN LINE
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Nummerlapp

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Way two: Apply to become a Swedish citizenship

[DRUMROLL PLEASE]

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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)


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S:t Lucia in Sweden

Yesterday I finally got to celebrate Lucia for the first time! It’s a special holiday in Sweden that we just don’t celebrate in New York City, so I was excited to see it.

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Photo Credit: Recepten.se

Days (or even weeks) before December 13:e, you can find Lussebullar (also called Lussekatter or saffronsbullar) in all of the bakeries in anticipation of Lucia Day.  This is a  traditional bun shaped like an “S” with saffron flavoring, which gives it the classic yellow tint and a distinct flavor.

Here is the  Recepten.se recipe.

Halmstad Lucia 2011

Preparations for Lucia festivities start about a month before December 13:e, because Lucia’s all over the country need to be chosen. Every town votes for a Local Lucia through a contest which is held in newspapers, such as the one to the left, Hallandsposten, where everyone can vote via SMS for their favorite Lucia. Contestants are always teenagers, and are meant to look the most serene, calm, and soothing. They also need to be able to sing, as you will see in this interview of this years crowned Halmstad Lucia: here. On the first advent the town’s Lucia is publicly named and crowned. All of the Local Lucia’s are also runner up’s to become the National Lucia on TV. This is not the only Lucia you will find on Lucia day, as every church and school (from universities to kindergartens) also has their own selected to perform for Lucia concerts throughout the whole day.

At 5:30pm yesterday we went to the library for a Lucia concert, which featured the Halmstad Lucia. The town Lucia often also visits senior centers, community centers, city hall, and schools. This was a beautiful bite-sized (15 minutes) performance, which a selection of all the most popular Lucia and Christmas songs. The smaller setting allowed me to see the halo of candles, wreaths of lingom, red sashes, and white robes up close. (although I was a scared of so many candles walking around so many books!)

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Lucia was first celebrated in Sweden in the late 1700’s, but not in the same way as nowadays – it wasn’t until 1927 that Lucia became a public event. Lucia was originally a celebration observed only within the household by each family. The oldest child would wear a crown of candles and bring their parents breakfast in bed (Normally consisting of Gingerbread cookies) while singing Lucia songs. This is still a common family tradition today, every year stores sell the Lucia Crowns that families can use at home:

Next was the nights main event. We arrived at the S:t  Nikolai church an hour early and it was already half full. After an orchestra performance the lights dimmed down low and the beautiful voices surrounded us. The Luciatåg (Lucia procession) of tärnor (Lucia maidens) holding a single candle each walked slowly up the aisles towards  Lucia, who lead them to the front of the church. It was truly magical.

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This Lucia procession was by an all women’s choir, but many Lucia performances include male members. Boys dress up as stjärngossar (Star boys), wearing cone shaped hats decorated with stars, tomtar (Santas) wearing all red, or gingerbread men, which is common for the much younger boys.

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Saint Lucia is one of few Saints celebrated in Sweden, representing the spreading of light when the dark nights are longest and warmth when the winter is coldest.  There are many different stories of Lucia’s history. Her feast day is widely celebrated as a Scandinavian tradition, holding Germanic pagan traditions. Born in Sicily (283-304), she is said to have become a Christian Martyr after seeing an angel in her dreams when she prayed for her dying mother. She devoted herself to Christianity, distributed her wealth and dowry to the poor, and refused to give up her virginity even after marriage.

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Some versions say that when she was sentenced to be defiled at a brothel and refused, nothing could move her. Not even 1,000 men and packs of oxen could make her budge from where she stood. Instead they built a fire around her, but she did not burn. They stabbed her in the throat but she continued to sing and preach.

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St. Lucia is known as the patron of sight, often portrayed holding a platter of two eyes. Some say this stems from her being tortured with eye stabbing when she wouldn’t move or burn, but she was still able to see. Other versions state that she removed her own eyes because they were too admirable and attracted attention from men and unwanted lust. In both cases, God restored her eyes to be more beautiful and with better sight.

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Lucia is seen as a protector. She cared for her mother when her father was absent. She spreads light to cure the darkest part of winter. In the old almanac it was believed that December 13:e was the Winter solstice, and thus this longest night of the year. It was also on this night that “Lussi’s,” known as witches or demons, supernatural beings, trolls, and evil spirits of the dead would roam the darkness. It was Lucia who would protect people against harm by bringing hope and joy through spreading the “light in her hair”.

Others say the date of Lucia is to celebrate the first of the “12 Days of Christmas.”

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It was an amazingly beautiful event to see. Now I know why it is a beloved tradition  in Sweden. Even without understanding all the lyrics to the 15 songs they performed, I had goosebumps the whole time. They did sing (in Swedish) a few songs I recognized such as Silents Night and Hark the Bells.

A video so you can experience Lucia, too!


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About The Nobel Prize

This week the winners of the 2012 Nobel Prizes were announced. Aside from knowing that the Nobel Prize is from Sweden, it wasn’t until I moved here that I bothered to learn more about it.

Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm in 1833 and died in 1896 with the creation of the Nobel Prize in his will. Being the inventor of dynamite (among 355 other things), he had a large fortune to share. After his brother died in 1888 there was an obituary titled, “The Merchant of Death is Dead,” in a French newspaper that thought Alfred was the one who died. Upon reading this he revised his will many times concerned with how he would actually be remembered. 94% of his 31 million kronor ($4.7 million) fortune was to be used to create awards for those who give the “greatest benefit on mankind” in Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature, and Peace. It took years to verify the authenticity of the will, set up committees that would award such prizes, and to create guidelines for the awards.

Since 1901 these awards have been given annually by four different committees. Each committee only awards and has influence over the Nobel Prize/Prizes they are responsible for. All of the committees were specifically created for this purpose after Alfred Nobel’s will was approved: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Nobel Assembly of Karolinska Institute, the Swedish Academy, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

The award ceremony and banquet for the Nobel Prizes are always held in Stockholm, and the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, on December 10th – the anniversary of Alfred  Nobel’s death. The week leading up to the banquet is “Nobel Week” when the Nobel Prize winners give lectures on the topic for which the award was given. This year each Nobel Prize will award 8 million Kronor (Most split among two joint winners) along with the traditional gold medal and ornate diploma.

Some Interesting History:

  • It wasn’t until 1968 that Economic Sciences was added to the Nobel Prizes.
  • Nobel’s will specified that prizes should be awarded to scientific discoveries from the preceding year, which had to be changed due to awarding someone a Nobel Prize for finding the cure for cancer in 1926. Nobel Prizes are now given to discoveries that have withstood the test of time and which the full impact of has been recognized, which sometimes takes decades.
  • At the time of Nobel’s death Sweden and Norway were in a union, and Nobel asked that The Peace Prize be awarded by the Norwegian Parliament, which in turn created a new committee to do the job. The Norwegian Parliament selects the 5 members in the committee.
  • 77% of the Physics Prizes have been given to discoveries, only 23% to inventions.
  • The Norwegian King did not support the Nobel Prize ceremony and refused to participate because it would be awarded internationally- to foreigners. Unlike in Sweden where Prize winners personally receive the award from the Swedish king, a chairman traditionally gives out the Nobel Prizes in Norway. In 2006 the King and Queen of Norway started to attend the Nobel Peace Prize awards.
  • In 1948 the peace prize was not handed out due to “no suitable living candidate” after Gandhi died that year.
  • 1949 5,000 lobotomies were performed in the US immediately after it received the Nobel Science Prize.
  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee building was a safe haven from the invasion of Nazis into Norway during WWII because it was Swedish property and Germany was not at war with Sweden.
  • In 1979 Mother Theresa refused to have the five-course banquet for 250 people and instead used the money to feed 2,000 homeless people on Christmas day.
  • The Nobel Foundation has assets of 3.628 billion kronor ($545 million US dollars) and has been exempted from taxes since 1946.


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Toxic Smoke and Featured Blog Interview

Four times a year we hear loud alarms signaling a routine test of the VMA system, which would notify us of any emergencies when we should stay inside, close all doors and windows, and listen to the radio for updates. This morning we heard the alarms for real.

Late last night there was a loud noise outside and thought nothing of it. Apparently it was an explosion from a chemical factory nearby (a few miles away). The residences closest to the factory were evacuated. This morning the alarms signaled because the thick toxic smoke from the fire started blowing inward towards the center of city. The police in town were wearing gas masks and shops were closed. The fire was raging and uncontrollable throughout the night and most of the day. Finally it is under control and the chemical levels are no longer harmful. What a day.

In other, more positive news:

I was recently invited to the InterNations website as a Top Recommended blog for Sweden! They are a website filled with tons of information like guides, tips, events, blogs, and forum communities for expats around the world.

Read my interview about moving to Sweden here!