Something Swedish


24 Comments

Officially Swedish

There are two ways to become Swedish:

Way One:  Adapt and integrate yourself into the culture:

THE WAY YOU EAT
https://antonjahnke.wordpress.com/smorgas/43ae0-sillwhattoeat_lunch_swedishmeatballideas
95b58d3aa0570ec4_org

431116_10151473779528717_1003548324_n_1_51a31c16e087c368999b31dd

THE WORDS YOU SPEAK
batman-laderlappen1616350_10152216163756111_147738579_n

7202

in-swedish-semester-mean-vacation

HOW YOU DECORATE

HOW YOU WAIT IN LINE
SUFGhcZ

Nummerlapp

Nummerlapp-Kölapp-Automat-Schweden-Hej-Sweden

Way two: Apply to become a Swedish citizenship

[DRUMROLL PLEASE]

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)


7 Comments

Visiting Stockholm

For a list of things to do in Stockholm, scroll to the bottom of the page.

P1030675cc

I’ve been living in Sweden for three years, visiting for six, and yet have never made the trip to the capital until last weekend when a friend invited me along for the ride. While we didn’t have time to go to any of the museums or see many of the sites, we had fun nonetheless.  Stockholm seems to have a lot to offer when you have the time.

P1030678 IMG_8895

After a 6 hour car ride we arrived at 3:00pm,  exactly ten minutes before the only thing we planned to do – a 90 minute boat ride. Our guide explained the history and significance of buildings and statues as we glided through the water with the beautiful view of Stockholm’s quaint skyline on the horizon. If the weather would have been better we would have seen it all during sunset, but it was grey skies the whole day. Still, Stockholm was beautiful.

P1030471ccP1030499-2P1030479 P1030470

By the time we made it back to land around 4:30, it was dark and we were freezing (because of course when everyone went back inside the boat after 15 minutes, we stayed on the roof for an extra 30 soaking in the sites…and the frostbite)

P1030492

So, we walked towards the only thing we recognized, the royal castle, and darted into the first nearby café we found. It was cozy, the beverages were warm and the pie was delicious.  Little did we know that everything would be closed by the time we headed out again, being 5:30 on a Sunday.

P1030664

Café from Day#2, Chokladtoppen

Luckily we were more interested in walking around and looking at the buildings anyway. We wandered around taking photos of everything while laughing at nothing.

P1030605P1030588

P1030606P1030569

My favorite part was all of the winding  side alleys.

P1030662P1030537P1030592P1030535P1030563

All the while, I made mental notes of everything I wanted to do when I came back (preferably during better weather).

photo(12)

 

Eventually it was time to eat and go back to our hotel, we had more traveling to do the next morning. Stockholm at night and Stockholm during daylight are two very different things – both picturesque in their own ways. After about an hour of re-exploring the area around the castle it was time to go; my friend’s sister had a plane to catch and we had another 6 hour drive ahead of us.

P1030669P1030652P1030658P1030651P1030638 P1030645cc     P1030648P1030666IMG_8907

After doing research for this visit (naively thinking we would have more time), asking Something Swedish readers for advice on Facebook, and actually being there and getting a feel for the city here’s my list.

Some things to do in Stockholm:

Museums:
The Vasa Museum: See a ship that sank in 1628 on her maiden voyage (due to having too many canons) right outside Stockholm and was salvaged in 1961. Due to the low salt content in the water on the west coast on Stockholm the ship remained well preserved and is an incredible and unique piece of history.
The Nobel Prize Museum: Take a journey through the past 100 years of extraordinary ideas, inventions, discoveries, initiative and courage that has molded the world we live in.
The ABBA Museum: The one thing everyone knows about Sweden in ABBA, so why not learn more about them and “experience the feeling of being the 5th ABBA member”
The Museum of Spirits: Also known as the Absolut museum, this is a chance to mix  a liquor tasting with history and art of “Swedish people’s bittersweet relationship to alcohol”.

The Medieval Museum: A free underground exhibition that gives you a taste of history, from architecture to daily living.

To See:
Gamla Stan “The Old City” The original city of Stockholm before it expanded. This is where we spent all of our time/where all these pictures are from.
The Changing of the Guard Watch the ceremonial tradition outside the royal castle
Skansen World’s oldest open air museum displaying Sweden’s traditional culture and architecture
Stockholm’s Subway Art  90% of the subway stations are decorated with art (sculptures, mosaics, paintings, engravings) by over 150 artists, some worth a special trip to see.

To Do:
Boat Tours We did the “winter tour” but will certainly be back to do another, the bridge tour is supposed to be magical.
Hot Air Ballooning A unique way to experience Stockholm
Ice Bar Who doesn’t want to get drunk while in a winter coat, drinking from an ice glass and sitting on an ice chair?
Stockholm Improv This is supposed to be a very funny improv show about being a foreigner in Sweden.
Skyview on top of The Globe Get a great view of the city by sitting on top of the largest hemispherical building in the world. Or go inside the globe to watch some ice hockey!


16 Comments

Navigating Sweden

I’ve been living in Sweden for nearly two years now and I have a confession: I still don’t know my own neighborhood. Outside of four major streets or highways, street names are an elusive mystery to me. Having grown up in Queens, NYC, where every street is perfectly aligned with a ruler and numbered in order, I’ve never been very great with named streets. Naturally, I thought that was the problem – until yesterday.

straightstreets

Yesterday I had my first lone adventure in Sweden. I took the 8am train to Gothenburg all by myself so that I can get my fingerprints, photo, and signature taken for my new ID card (Permanent residence, yay!)

2013-10-17 10.05.54

Even though I’ve been to Gothenburg a dozen times before, I’ve never had to think about where I was because I wasn’t alone – especially not trying to find an address. Even though I’ve been to migrationsverket one time before (two years ago) and I was using Iphone maps, I was having a hard time. And that’s when it hit me:

Street signs in Sweden suck. Sorry to be so harsh (it was partially for alliterations sake… I couldn’t resist the 4th ‘s’ word) , but they are so different than what I’m used to, I’ve never even NOTICED street signs in Sweden before. No wonder I don’t recognize any street names. (thankfully, and obviously, I don’t drive)

Let me compare:

Street signs in NYC are ALWAYS posted in the same exact spot on every street corner – sticking out from a pole on the corner, away from the buildings in clear sight of pedestrians trying to find their way – spottable and readable from more than a half a block away. These signs are also always at the same height, not to be missed or confused with anything else.

114699893_amazoncom-street-signs-in-new-york---peel-and-stick-wallstreet

Street signs in Sweden can be anywhere. Yes, they are on the corner, but not always every corner. They are not always at the same height (from above store entrances/ signs to almost eye level). And worse of all, they are camouflaged into the surroundings – attached to the sides of buildings, sometimes nestled next to awnings or signs.

2013-10-17 09.50.42 2013-10-17 09.49.072013-10-17 12.18.117697870 2013-10-17 09.57.10 2013-10-17 10.03.542013-10-17 09.53.58

BTW, stumbling upon street names named after Norse gods (Odin and Frigga) was pretty awesome, I have to say.

While the street sign system is not my favorite, I do give partial credit to the addresses. The sorting of addresses on each block reminds me of how books are sorted in a library: each book shelf (block/street sign) indicating which books (addresses) you’ll find there. While I don’t think it gives a good indication of where that address will actually be, if you’re looking at the sign (if you can find it) then you’ll know if that block has the address you need.

In Queens a three part address system is used (xx – xx- xxx street), which seems confusing, but helps understand where in the neighborhood the address is located in relation to other streets. The first number being the cross street, the second number being the house number, and the third number being the street that the address is actually on. Without using cross streets in the address, dependency on a map (or knowledge of the area) is more crucial in Sweden – or so it feels for me.

Of course street signs are different everywhere, and it’s easy reading what you’re used to. This is simply not something I expected to have to adjust to. Now that I’ve noted the difference, I can start paying more attention and forcing myself to look for them – on the sides of buildings.


5 Comments

Being an American in Sweden

At ten o’clock this morning (4am EST)  Air-force One landed on Swedish soil, that’s right – President Obama is in Sweden. I know because we watched it in class for almost an hour, yes, it’s THAT big of a deal here. Granted, it IS civics class which discusses domestic and international politics, so it was pretty relevant, but I was still surprised. Over the past week or so it has been impossible to turn on the radio or open a newspaper without hearing or reading about this jam packed 24 hour (completely televised) visit. Before I delve into the details on Obama in Sweden, I figured this gives a relevant transition into how it feels to be an American in Sweden – or at least a few broad one side observations that I hope don’t offend anyone, but just came to mind:

First off let me point out that we are few and far between, unless you are working at an International school. Keep in mind that Sweden accepts a large amount of immigrants and refugees, so the ratio is not too surprising. Outside of native English speaking teachers recruited to Sweden, I’ve met 5  Americans in two years (one in passing, one moved back, one being my old boss, one in my current class and one a friend from school & the blog I don’t see often enough), plus a few Swedes that have lived in the US for a long time. Compared to the large groups of people from other countries bonding during class breaks (often in their own languages), sometimes it can feel a bit lonely. Not to say that people aren’t friendly and welcoming, but cliques are natural. I’m guilty of it –  hanging out with a mix of Americans, Brits, a New Zealander and a Canadian. Oh, and Swedes.

For the most part I want to say Swedes like, or are at least impartial to the U.S. The bigger happenings in America are often reported here, which is an upside of being an American in Sweden – being in the know. Someone in class today asked why it was such a big deal that president Obama is here in Sweden, knowing that if it was a president from any other country it wouldn’t have been as important or such a big deal. As much as I hate that many Americans seem to think that the U.S is the center of the world or know little to nothing about other countries, (I’ve been asked if Swedish is really a real language and told that I can drive a car from NYC to Sweden instead of fly) it’s true that America gets a lot of attention world wide, at least in Sweden. It’s not that the world cares so much about America, but one way to look at it is that the European Union and the United States are two sides of a coin – large and powerful with many smaller parts (countries / states). Countries in Europe, to me, are like states in the U.S. – different cultures, languages (Dialects, anyway), economies, politics. News is no more reported about all European countries combined than it is about the U.S.

In almost all of the classes I’ve been in and many casual conversations I’ve taken part of, America has been brought up in discussion in one way or another, sometimes more relevantly than others, sometimes with more or less hostility than others – all with me feeling awkward wanting the conversation to change (I’ve never been a fan of politics). Being the only American in a room when the super power gets brought up is a lot of pressure; either you’ve got to have an opinion, your political views are assumed, or thankfully sometimes you aren’t put on the spot but you are anxiously waiting for it to happen anyway.

Sometimes the conversations are welcomed and pleasant, especially depending on how much you enjoy talking about politics and the like. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to talk about where you are from, your opinions, and find out that people are interested in something you care about or are invested in. Sometimes it’s not even politics, which is even better.

Oh, and don’t be surprised to see Yankees baseball caps here and there –  unlike I originally thought, this does not mean they are from, or have ever been to the U.S.

I’m constantly reminded of common advice most Americans have heard at least once in their life, “When traveling abroad, say you’re from Canada.” You’re never sure how people will respond to you, what they will ask you, or what they will assume about you just because the country you come from has gotten involved in a few too many things. Oh, and sometimes being “American” automatically means being a Texan, the southern accent being a favorite to use when quoting Americans. Other stereotypes: being loud, prude, rude, and good tippers.

It’s been interesting hearing so many outside views of my home country, sometimes as if I’m not even in the room, being offended, enlightened or amused. As an immigrant, I get to learn about not only Sweden, but so many other cultures through my fellow classmates, all of whom seem to have a different opinion about something that is happening, or has in the past happened in America. I’ve heard conspiracy theories, admiration, confusion, hatred, respect, and just plain interest in current events. On the other hand, some people don’t even know who Obama is, let alone anything concerning news in the U.S.A., maybe with the acceptation of something that effects Sweden or their homeland.

Most of the time though, I’m met with positive reactions, “Oh! Where in the U.S are you from!?” Thankfully I’m from NYC, which always opens up the conversation of “Really? I’ve always wanted to go there” or “It must be really different here” or “Oh! I’ve been there!” Which are all great ice breakers.

All and all, it’s nice to live somewhere that isn’t too different from living in America, unlike if I moved somewhere where I couldn’t buy my meat already slaughtered and prepackaged, or where technology wasn’t so advanced, or where English isn’t understood or spoken by the majority of the population.

Maybe this deserves it’s own post – more on Obama’s visit tomorrow instead.


5 Comments

The Village of “Os”

While spending the weekend in Värnamo to visit family we went on a little “utflykt” or an “outing” to a nearby village called “Os” (also spelled Ohs). What puts this little place on the map isn’t it’s population of about only 100 people, but it’s use of narrow gauge steam trains from 1910.

DSC_0219

When we first arrived I didn’t understand that the trains were actually functioning, or going anywhere – until I heard the classic Chugga Chugga noise, bells loudly clanking and the powerful pressure of steam shooting into the air as a train pulled into the station with passengers and conductors hoping on and off:

DSC_0173

“Train to” time schedule:

2013-08-25 13.33.38

The trains travel a distance of 15 km, to a town called “Bor Norra”. The round trip ride takes 2 1/2 hours, which includes a 30 minute stop at Bor Norra.

DSC_0196

If 2 1/2 hours is too long, then take the “Short round trip” to experience riding on the train for 45 minutes, to a town called “Gimarp” and back again.

DSC_0189

Turning the trains around is a two man job:

train turning

DSC_0235

Trains of all shapes and colors lined the tracks:

DSC_0245

 2013-08-25 13.31.39DSC_01992013-08-25 13.29.34 2013-08-25 13.29.04

Os is not only known for its trains and its train museum, but also for its industrial history. Founded in 1600, Ohs was centered around an iron mill, which was converted into a paper pulp factory in 1893. When the factory closed in 1978 the population dwindled down to about 100. This iron mill/paper factory is now a museum:

2013-08-25 13.35.462013-08-25 13.40.49 2013-08-25 13.40.26

Some of the industrial background is still around; the train yard also has sawmills (sågverk):

2013-08-25 13.27.21DSC_02292013-08-25 13.26.47

   A nice little trip to a nice little town.

2013-08-25 13.26.13


15 Comments

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!


8 Comments

Advice to myself: Packing

Hopefully someone out there will find this somewhat useful, even though it’s really to remind me of my packing do’s and don’ts for next year. I guess anyone that’s traveling needs to be smart about what to bring or leave behind, but this is more for those trips going “back home” when living abroad – in this case specifically Sweden to NYC.

~ You might have moved to Sweden, but all of your stuff did not. You do have clothes to wear there, and clothes/stuff you want to bring back with you. Pack accordingly.

~ Do not pack a sweater. I know that Swedish summers are cool and breezy, but you WILL NOT need one in 95 degree NY weather. Not even at night. And no, it’s not worth it because you “might get cold on the plane.” A light cardigan is enough. One, singular.

~ Only bring one pair of (comfortable) long pants and wear them on the plane. Anything that goes below the knee stays home (dresses/skirts included)!

~ Pack less, in general. Clothing is so much cheaper in NY, keep as much space available as possible.

~ Basics, basics, basics!

~ Less skirts, more shorts.

~ All those nicer dresses and cute outfits you put in your suitcase? Take them out (except maybe two) This trip is not the same as when hubby used to visit you in NY, it is all about running around to see as much family and friends as possible, not seeing the sights and going on dates. You just want to be comfortable and convenient. No matter how much you bring you will keep wearing the same basics over and over.

~ Leave the books behind. What are you thinking? Commendable thought, but you will not have the time or energy.

~ This includes your cookbook, I know you want to show off your new cooking skills and Swedish recipes, but you will NOT be cooking on your vacation.

~ Don’t bring your sunglasses, you will want to buy a cheap pair when you get to NY. (And they are annoying to carry [oh, and it’s too hot in NY to wear sunglasses anyway])

~ Leave home your running pants, you will NOT be exercising. Too hot & humid, no time.

~ Shoes are never worth the space they take up. You wore your sandals every single day. If something comes up and you need nicer or different shoes, go shopping. It’s cheaper in NY (and an excuse to get new shoes)

~ No perfume. Less earrings. Less socks (remember that socks and sandals is acceptable in Sweden, but gets strange looks in NY)

~ Bring your totes or else you’ll keep buying new ones. Too useful to leave behind.

~ Don’t forget power adapters, better yet a power strip + an adapter (and leave it there if your staying with family)

~ 3 weeks is a long trip, don’t bother packing toiletries, buy them there.

~ Once in NY don’t run out to buy toiletries until you inventory what you left there from last year.

~ Hubby was right, we probably didn’t need two laptops – even if it was nice and convenient sometimes, we just didn’t have time to use them as much as I expected. And no, you won’t bother taking it out on the plane, even if you have important work to do. An iPad is enough.

In conclusion, pack less and enjoy more!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 566 other followers