Monthly archives: August 2011

A Preliminary Treatise on the Style of the Swedish Male

A report filed from the field

The Swedish male, while obviously related to others of its type, looks very different than other nationalities’ specimens. Generally speaking, the species might be described as taller, thinner, and blonder than those found in other parts of the world. Its physical dimensions are, however, only one factor that distinguishes the Swedish male from its foreign counterparts.

As with many other species, the Swedish male clothes itself in such a way as to send signals to its community. Clothing may indicate status, a particular in-group identity, even professional aspirations. It may also play an important role in attracting and securing a mate.

Men's jeans from J. Lindeberg. Baseline fit? Tight. Photos: J. Lindeberg's web shop

The clothing of the Swedish male fluctuates seasonally, increasing in bulk during winter months and decreasing during summer months, following a prolonged shedding period in the spring. During spring and summer months, a male may be found in red pants or shirts the color of Easter eggs. Shorts may assume any length, from “I-can-see-your-thighs” short, to a comfort zone above and below the knee, to the mid-shin man-capris.

A few constants endure throughout the year, however, including a proclivity for snugly fitting pants, V-neck shirts, and cardigans. The Swedish male clearly finds it important to accessorize himself, as necklaces, bracelets, and man-purses are common. More permanent decoration in the form of tattoos is also not uncommon.

Standard male accessories: the leather pouch necklace that is too small to carry anything and the man purse. Pouch by nn07, bag by Acne

As the Swedish male ages, it accrues various symbols of its wisdom and experience. Distinctive eyewear is a key component in signaling to others one’s age and prestige. Depending on individual preferences, signs of physical aging may be mitigated by chemical interventions (such as hair dye or anti-wrinkle cream) or cultivated as further proof of one’s gravitas.

The most distinctive element of the Swedish male’s appearance, however, is the specimen’s hair style. While the style itself might vary from individual to individual, the crucial factor is that it is styled. The hair of the Swedish male is parted, sculpted, shaped, and waxed, held into place by product. Grooming processes are in place. Leave-in conditioners may be used. Time is spent considering the most advantageous placement of part lines.

A bevy of male hair styles. All photos from H&M's web shop.

In many parts of the world, such attention to form rather than function would indicate an undesirable lack of masculinity. Here, however, it is simply a way of life.

Check out Sweden.se’s fashion blog for more.

Top 5 Money-Saving Tips for Traveling in Sweden

Despite not having an official vacation from work, I am in the middle of an amazing travel spree that has taken me to Helsingborg, Stockholm, and Båstad over the last three weeks, and this weekend I’m taking off again for Gothenburg! (Or Göteborg, as it’s called in Sweden.)

In the midst of all this traveling, I’ve been using a few tricks that I’ve learned over the last year to avoid spending all of my savings in one month. Every country has their own little peculiarities when it comes to what’s expensive and what’s not, so here’s the insider’s guide for Sweden on ways to stretch your budget and save a little for the splurges that are worth it.

1. Choose your mealtimes wisely.

To be more specific, choose which meal you’re going to eat out wisely. Eating in a restaurant in Sweden can be much more expensive than a similar restaurant would be in another country… with the wonderful exception of lunch.

My friend Elaine and I, maximizing our lunch money. 8 delicious dumplings with an enormous side of soup or salad and rice for 88 SEK? Yes, please. Oversize soup spoon-ladles are just icing on the cake. (At Steam in Stockholm) Photo: Kate Wiseman

Many, if not most, restaurants have fabulous lunch deals that are almost the same as the dinner menu, but go for half the price and include a drink of your choice. This is especially true with the ethnic restaurants for some reason, which often have a reasonably-priced buffet (score!!) or a sampler platter for 100 SEK or less. That’s a good deal!

2. Pick your poison with care.

The reasons behind the establishment of the Systembolaget and the sky-high alcohol taxes are a discussion for another time, but for now let’s just say that alcohol is expensive.

Alcohol is taxed based on the percentage of alcohol it has in it, so the price of a drink is much more influenced by how strong it is than how good it is. This means, of course, that if you’re trying to save money while going out, drink beer or the cider. Cocktails are a one-way ticket to Poorsville. (Been there, done that.) Wine is marginally less expensive.

One big plus of the drinking culture in Sweden, however, is that in many towns you’re allowed to drink in public areas. No open container laws here! If you want to sit and enjoy a nice evening with a glass of wine, you can bring a bottle with you wherever you want, whether it’s the park, the town square, or the harbor in a little beach town.

Another way to save money on booze is to buy a box of wine instead of a bottle. (It's not trashy here, I promise.) But then if you buy it on a Saturday, you may have to carry it around all day until your arm feels like it's going to fall off and you're forced to take a break that leads to a little nap on the aforementioned box of wine. Hypothetically speaking, of course. Photo: Elaine Hargrove

Word to the wise: You’ll have to buy that wine at the Systembolaget, and their opening hours are not, ahem, accommodating. Buy before 6 pm on weekdays and before 3 pm on Saturdays. (Closed on Sundays.)

3. Get your wireless at a café—but double-check that they have it before you buy.

A lot of cafes have wireless available for their customers, but some places require you to use their company gift card or rewards card with your purchase to get the code. The system isn’t really posted, either, so it’s best just to ask if they have wireless and what you have to do to use it.

For example, Espresso House (a Swedish Starbucks lookalike) has free wireless with the purchase of any item, but you need to put money on their Espresso House card and pay with that card. It might seem like a hassle, but at least in the case of Espresso House, using the card also gives you a 20% discount on all coffee and food, plus their lunch deals are only available for purchase with the card.

In the end, it works out pretty well. I get discounted coffee and lunch deals with my wireless, and there’s no real cost to me besides the hassle of recharging the card every now and then.

4. Go to the train station in person and get the inside scoop.

The Stockholm subway system has an onlin3 visitor’s section (http://sl.se/en/Visitor/Plan-your-journey/), but the public transportation in other areas doesn’t always have as good information on the internet. Even if you’re traveling by bus or trying to take the subway, your best bet is to go directly to the train station and find the customer service desk.

In Skåne, for example, a company called Skånetrafiken is responsible for the busses and trains. If you’re traveling in a group of two or more, you can buy a discounted duo or family pass. (You don’t have to be related.) You can also buy a Jojo card that you add money to and gives you 20% off ticket prices. For the Swedish national train system, there are student discounts as well as “youth” discounts for people 25 years old or younger. Nice!

When you’re in the station, don’t be afraid to approach people who look like they know what they’re doing and ask for help, either. In my experience, Swedes are both incredibly good at English and helpful with all sorts of tourist-related questions. The last time I asked a woman for directions to the bathroom, she stopped one step short of accompanying me to the next open stall and making sure that I had enough toilet paper.

5. Location, location, location… and breakfast.

When picking your hostel or hotel, pay the premium for a central location. You’ll save a ton on public transportation, and it’s even more of a win if you go for one with breakfast included. It will always be cheaper than a regular breakfast at a restaurant or café.

Two hostels I've stayed at in Stockholm: the Gustaf af Klimt hostel ON A BOAT (right by Slussen) and the aptly-named "Best Hostel" (on Gamla Stan). The Best Hostel earned its name with free linens, free breakfast, and an endless supply of pasta for the taking. Oh yeahhhh. Photos: Kate Wiseman

Those are my top five money-saving strategies for traveling in Sweden! If you’ve got more, share the wealth! Leave your own tips and tricks in the comments.

As for me, I’m off to Gothenburg. Fingers crossed for good weather!

Quick trip to THE MOTHERSHIP!

I was in Stockholm a week or so ago, and I got the chance to stop by the Swedish Institute (or the Mothership as Lola called it in an earlier post). It is so exciting and inspiring to go to the office… not something you can always say about work! Check out her photos here and you’ll see why.

S.I. marks the spot! Here's the Swedish Institute! Photo: Kate Wiseman

The first time I went to the Swedish Institute, I was, of course, extremely nervous. The closer I got, the more impressive the surroundings became, and the worse my nerves became! The office is located right behind the Royal Palace (just think about that for a second) and as you walk up to the door, you have the most amazing view of Stockholm possible.

THE MOTHERSHIP! Photo: Elaine Hargrove

Of course, I also have to mention that it’s not that often that I get to see my awesome boss, Oliver, and talk to him about the blog and about life in Sweden in general. If only all jobs could be this good… :)

Nostalgia, Hybridity, and the Zen of an American Brunch in Sweden

In Sweden, my friend groups are predominantly Swedish instead of being made up of fellow expats. There are, however, a few notable exceptions, including my friend Steve from Michigan.

Steve is a special kind of American expat, because he is the most crazy mix of integrated and not integrated that I have ever seen or heard of in my life. Swedish friends, Swedish job, Swedish roommates—but until earlier this summer, he could hardly speak a word of Swedish. And thank goodness he’s that way, because while we love our lives in the midst of the Swedish masses, sometimes we need to join forces for a little Americana.

Have Bisquick, will travel. NOTHING CAN STOP ME NOW.

Enter the American brunch.

To celebrate summer, to celebrate glorious travel plans, to celebrate a treasured weekend tradition, we (plus one of Steve’s Swedish roommates, M-Lou) threw ourselves a brunch to be proud of.

Elderflower mimosas make work go more quickly.

While a love of brunch is obviously not limited to Americans (see: Brunch Stockholm), I would argue that our particular brunch traditions  have elevated it beyond its basic definition as a half-breakfast, half-lunch meal around mid-day. Firstly, the range of options is staggering. Secondly, the amount of food is staggering. (Both of which are reasons why most people stagger home from a successful brunch outing.)

What did we have at our brunch? All the American classics, but with a Swedish twist.

Bloody Mary with a Chilean-Swedish-Barcelonan touch = very happy brunchers.

American pancakes two ways: with lingonberry jam and with honey and fresh fruit! Mimosas with elderflower cordial! Super-crispy bacon made from Swedish pigs! A pitcher of Bloody Mary, made spicy and with orange juice by a Chilean-Swede-Barcelonan transplant! Coffee brewed to Swedish levels of intensity! And then a few favorites we didn’t mess with: hash browns a la Kate, scrambled eggs a la Steve, fruit salad a la M-Lou.

Holy moly, Captain America in Sweden.

Brunch was delicious. We ate and drank and listened to music, watched the cats play, talked about summer travel plans and enjoyed the sunshine coming in through the window. Post-brunch staggering ensued. We tried to ease the strain of our overstretched stomachs by drinking coffee and listening to Motown. For some reason, it seemed appropriate at the time.

A SMORGASBORD, I TELL YOU!! Groaning tables, over-full plates, and a Michigan-shaped pancake for Steve and me. (I'm from the West side, he's from the East side.) YUM!

As I slowly made my home, I thought about all the brunches I have been to at my house in the States or at restaurants, with family and with friends, to celebrate special moments and to commiserate about our hangovers. Our brunch may not have been the typical American fare you’d find in the United States, but it satisfied our need to be nostalgic for home. Even better, by becoming an American-Swedish hybrid, it reflected the state we find ourselves in today: a little of this, a little of that, a mix of all the places and people we love.

ALL THE INSIDER BABY GOSSIP: What the English-speaking media doesn’t know and isn’t telling you

Crown Princess Victoria has “en bulle i ugnen”—a royal bun in the oven!! Woohooo!!! I’m so excited. Victoria, Daniel, if you’re reading this, CONGRATULATIONS! (Omg, I would die if they read this.) If you’re trying to find out more about the royal-highness-to-be, but you don’t speak Swedish, you’re probably getting the following news brief from the Royal Family and not much more.

The Crown Princess Couple is expecting a child

Their Royal Highnesses The Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel are happy to announce that The Crown Princess is expecting their first child.

The birth is expected to take place in March of 2012. No changes in the schedule of The Crown Princess’s public engagements are planned during the fall of 2011.

All due respect to the Royal Family’s press office and all, but that is not enough information. And you know I can’t get enough of the Swedish monarchy.

So here’s all the royal dirt that there is to be found, collected and translated by yours truly from all the Swedish media sources I know (Aftonbladet, Svenska Dagbladet, Sydsvenskan, blogs…).

A CHILD BORN OUT OF LOVE, BUT NOT A LOVE CHILD

Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel were married last year on June 19, 2010, which was also the 34th anniversary of the King and Queen’s wedding. The couple was given Haga Slott (Haga Palace) as a wedding gift, and they moved in shortly after the wedding. A commoner, Daniel was given the title “His Royal Highness Prince Daniel of Sweden, Duke of Västergötland” and his own coat of arms. (Sweet.)

According to Herman Lindqvist, a journalist and popular historian, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia were the first Swedish monarchs to marry out of love. Victoria and Daniel continued in this tradition.

Prince Daniel's coat of arms and royal monogram.

HEIR TO THE THRONE?

According to Roger Lundgren, Royal Expert, the new baby will almost definitely be a future King or Queen of Sweden. The Swedish Act of Succession was revised in 1980 to allow the first child to become the country’s monarch regardless of sex, so the baby can become King or Queen regardless of whether it is a His or Her Royal Highness.

Sidenote: Apparently “Royal Expert” is a real title because it showed up in multiple newspapers for more than one expert.  I don’t know how you obtain the necessary qualifications for such a position, but if reading gossip magazines is a requirement, I’m totally on my way.

WHERE THE BABY WILL BE BORN

There’s some speculation about where the baby will be born, with some claiming that he or she will be born in a hospital and others saying that the birth will take place at the royal couple’s official residence at Haga Slott in Solna, Stockholm. Crown Princess Victoria was born at the Karolinska Hospital, but all of her siblings were born at the Kungliga Slott (Royal Palace) in Gamla Stan, Stockholm.

Victoria’s father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, grew up at Haga Slott with his four sisters: Margaretha, Birgitta, Désirée, and Christina. The four princesses were known fondly as the “Hagasessorna”—a shortening of “Haga prinsessorna,” or “the Haga princesses,” a nickname that Victoria and Daniel’s baby could inherit.

BABY, SERVED ON A SILVER PLATTER?

When Gustaf V (King 1907-1950, great-grandfather to the current King, Carl XVI Gustaf) was born, the whole royal family was present, along with several governmental officials and foreign ambassadors. They all sat in an adjacent room where they could hear the mother’s labor pains. When Gustaf V was finally born, they brought him out on a silver tray so that he could be recognized and acknowledged as the next heir to the throne.

I tried to find the silver tray online, but no luck. Not the sort of thing you’d think was thrown away or reused as a sandwich tray, though… or at least I hope not. Ahh, yes, finally the tea sandwiches are ready. You know, this is the tray that little Gusse was displayed on when he was newly born! Afterbirth and all! Well, who’s for a little triangle of cucumber and cheese?

WHAT WILL THE NAME BE?

All bets are on a traditional name, which is fairly limiting when it comes to the men. Betting sites have placed the highest odds on “Carl” and “Gustaf” if it’s a boy, given historical tradition, but “Erik” and “Carl-Johan” are also in the running. If it’s a girl, odds so far are on Désirée, followed by Christina, Margaretha, and Maj. Royal Expert Sten Hedman also said that the name will probably be traditional, but suggested “Louise” and “Sibylla” as possibilities.

In any case, the royal baby will probably have 4-5 first names, so any combination of the above is a possibility. The list of reader-suggested names in Sydsvenskan, a Skåne-based newspaper, was heavily dominated by “Zlatan” combinations. That name did not show up in the betting odds, or at least not at the moment.

THE MEDIA SPECTACLE

Of course, everyone’s excited about the new baby. Top marks for enthusiasm have to be awarded to the German journalists who tried to disguise themselves as doctors and sneak into the hospital for an up close and personal look at Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel. They were unsuccessful. For my part, I’m looking forward to non-stop media coverage of the royal baby bump from now until March. Maybe the baby and I will even share a birthday! (Mine’s the 21st… fingers crossed!) Photos photos photos!!

PHOTOS!

Sadly, all the best photos are copyright protected, and for some reason, Victoria and I are not Facebook friends. (Very disappointing.) For some exciting photos/photo galleries, click the links below!

Hello! Magazine photo gallery

Svenska Dagbladet’s photo gallery of Victoria and Daniel’s first year of marriage

Hello! Magazine photo gallery of Crown Princess Victoria’s and Prince Daniel’s relationship

The first official picture of Crown Princess Victoria, taken on Öland in August 1977

A little Daniel at his baptism at Almby Church in 1973

A proud King and Queen show off baby Victoria