Monthly archives: January 2012

20 Ways to Annoy a Swede: Part II (#11-20)

On Wednesday, I published Part I of 20 Ways to Annoy a Swede. So here it is, fresh out of the oven: Part II of 20 Ways to Annoy a Swede!

If you didn’t read the last post, here’s a little background. The Local (Sweden’s news in English) published a list called “How to lose Swedish friends in just 10 days,” and it got me thinking… and then inspired to do my own list of surefire ways to alienate the people around you. It’s up to you to choose whether to use this knowledge for good or for evil.

So here it is, courtesy of my own and my friends’ most awkward moments as foreigners in Sweden: the next ten ways to annoy a Swede.

11. Try to arrange an office happy hour less than a week in advance.

Didn’t you know that people already had plans with their families/respectives/friends? They would have liked to have come, but why didn’t you think of this a little more in advance? Are you purposely waiting to invite me to do things until I have other plans so that I can’t come?!

No, it’s not the ravings of a delusional 14 year old, it’s what happens when you try to organize a spontaneous social event without proper notice. Scheduling in advance is not a preference in Sweden; it’s a way of life. Disregarding it means nothing less than taking a scissors to the fabric of Swedish society (plus inviting all hell to break loose in your inbox).

The Vasa: The Greatest Warship Ever Built. Photo: Doug Wiseman

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20 Ways to Annoy a Swede: Part I (#1-10)

We’ve all been there, right? That terribly awkward moment when…

… you look up from your plate and see that the whole table is staring at you, their once-friendly faces alternating between looks of disgust and disbelief.

… you suddenly realize that a hush has fallen upon the train, and the only sound that can be heard is your own voice, echoing throughout the cabin, and your friend is hiding her face against the window.

… you say, “Hello!” in a big, cheerful way to a passerby on your street, and she flinches, noticeably surprised, then picks up her pace as she walks by.

Oh, please! Say it’s just a dream! SAY IT’S JUST A DREAM!!

(It’s not a dream.)

All three of these things have happened to me during my time as an expat in Sweden, and this is one of the facts of expat life: you are going to make a few false steps here and there. There’s no avoiding it—the best you can do is just be ready to laugh at yourself (and possibly apologize).

Last Friday, the Local (Sweden’s news in English) published a list called “How to lose Swedish friends in just 10 days,” and it got me thinking. Swedes are pretty forgiving of foreigners and their faux pas in general, but a few do’s and don’ts might be appreciated for future expats in Sweden!

After all, I’ve done so many embarrassing and awkward things in my time here… it would probably do me good to stop repressing gigantic chunks of my social mishaps Sweden and at least put those memories to good use.

So here it is, courtesy of my own and my friends’ most awkward moments as foreigners in Sweden: the first ten ways to annoy a Swede. Read more » >>

Life in Sweden, as usual?

Does anyone else ever get totally surprised by the realization that it’s Friday, and *whoosh!* another week has just raced by? The days pass so quickly that sometimes I think there’s a massive hoax being pulled and that the normal 60-minute hour has been shortened to 45.

The last two weeks since we moved into our new apartment have been really fun. For the first time in a long time, Simon and I are doing a lot during the week with our friends, and it’s a great change, if totally exhausting. (Our future as 70 year olds totally revealed itself yesterday evening when we both feel asleep on the couch somewhere between 9 and 10 pm.)

Friday afterwork = a girly cocktail with friends. Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

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St. Knut’s Day (Tjugondag Knut): The most confusing and least-appreciated Swedish holiday ever

Last Friday was Friday the 13th, and with the exception of an extremely unlucky Italian cruise ship, the day passed like many others. Work, grocery shopping, På Spåret, and then sleep, heavenly sleep.

The special thing about last Friday, January 13, passed almost completely unnoticed, even in this country that loves holidays. There were no themed pastries, no advertising campaigns, no trivia quizzes in the free newspaper you get on the train. It’s like the whole country was totally unaware of the significance of this holy day, Tjugondag Knut, the official end of the Christmas season.

Tjugondag Knut translates into “20th Day Knut,” which refers to the 20th day after Christmas Eve. This used to be the day when Swedes, Finns, and Norwegians would ransack the tree of the candy and cookies it had been adorned with before Christmas and then kick it to the curb, so to speak. Now it seems to be widely forgotten, and if you ask me, it’s kind of a pity, because St. Knut’s Day is one strange but awesome holiday.

Sadly, there was no plundering our Christmas tree this year because by the time Tjugondag Knut came around, it was dry as a match and dead as a doornail. We threw it out the window and all the needles fell off. Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

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No Shoes Indoors

Finally, you arrive in Sweden.

Maybe you’re meeting someone—maybe an old friend. A friend who could be more than a friend. A lover.

You’re welcomed at the airport, and on the trip towards his or her home, you’re almost shaking. It could be the tiredness, the effects of the long flight, the rough-edged emotions that can’t be quieted at this particular moment.

You recognize these feelings. Excited. Nervous. Overjoyed. You’ve felt them before, but never like this.

Then you arrive, your friend helping you carry your bags up the stairs and over the threshold. You stumble through the door and into the living room, eager to see the pristine white walls and Ikea-dominated apartment you’ve heard so much about.

And then you hear your friend’s voice, but it sounds different—harsher than before.

Where the hell do you think you’re going with your shoes on? Read more » >>