Tag archives for impressions

25 Impressions and Thoughts After 13 Months in Sweden

It’s time again to gather some impressions, observations, and ruminations I’ve had about my expat experience in the last few months. I’ve written about my impressions periodically during my year plus in Sweden. Here is a link to my previous one.

Ready?

Here goes:

Numbers:

  • I think, after a year, I have finally started thinking in 24-hour time. What trips me up the most often is writing the time with a period like this 9.00 instead of what I am used to, which is this: 9:00. Plus, the time 17.00 still messes me up on occasion…seems like it should be seven pm instead of five pm.
  • I also find using a comma instead of a period confusing. Four hundred and fifty kronor is written like this “450,00” so I worry, for example, that I am sending 450 thousand kronor to someone instead of 450.
  • Week numbers. OK, I could understand the value but I have met countless Swedes who don’t know what week number it is currently either. How can people refer to week numbers when most of us have no idea when Week #42 is…(To be fair, Ihave the same reaction when you tell me to exit the subway station and “head West.” Whah! Do I look like I know the cardinal directions at all times?)

Christmas:

  • Let me get this straight…Santa visits every Swedish household around the same time of the day on Christmas Eve and it always happens while Dad is out getting the paper? Got it!

Entertainment and Clothes:

  • This idea of booking a specific seat at a movie theatre is kinda cool. It beats worrying that you won’t get a good seat. You know in advance where you will sit. You can book the seat at home on your computer and then either print out the tickets or pick them up from a special machine in the lobby. (You can also purchase tickets in the theatre right before the show either from the machine or from a cashier.)
movie ticket machine

Self-service ticket machines in a Stockholm movie theatre.

 

  • Orange is the new black. Or, actually orange and black seem to be in the stores. I’m waiting patiently for the organge to leave. The black I can handle…
orange clothing for sale

Orange is “in” this year in Sweden and probably everywhere else, too…

 

Work:

  • Powerpoint presentations still knock me for a loop. It’s very common for the visual presentation to be in English but the audio portion, given by the presenter, to be in Swedish. For me, it’s hard to make the two fit together but native Swedes don’t seem to have any trouble.
  • Swedish massage is simply called “classical massage” in Sweden. When I was growing up I used to listen to the one Monty Python record I owned and several times on the record they would announce “And now, a massage (instead of a message…get it?) from the Swedish Prime Minister…”
  • I keep finding these freezers in Swedish houses (including my apartment) that let you take out an item but not immediately put it back in (ex. You take a portion of frozen vegetables to cook)…The freezer locks you out until it reaches a certain temperature again.

Cell Phones:

  • Callers almost never leave messages in Sweden. They assume you see that they called and that you will call them back.
  • The mobile networks don’t use visual voice messages either (where you can see who called and elect to listen to them in any order) don’t work
  • When someone calls you receive a text message telling you that someone called you. It almost always says (but in Swedish) “You received a call but the person left no message.” It feels strange to get these “non-messages.”

Apartment Living:

  • Lots and lots and lots of people in Stockholm and Uppsala live in apartments. So I visit a lot of apartments. It always amazes me that people just freely give out the code to the front door to nearly everyone: friends, delivery people, relatives even.
  • Apartments don’t have numbers. When someone comes to visit you, you just tell them which floor you live on. Your name is on the door. The mailman puts the mail through a slot in the door with the right name on it.
  • Nearly every apartment door says “Ingen Reklam” indicating that they don’t want any advertisements or snailmail spam. I wonder how many the mail person can actually off load?

Random Thoughts:

  • Why does it sound so bad to the natives when you swear in their language?
  • “Svamp” means too many things in Swedish. I’m just saying.
  • It’s cool that dogs need fewer monthly medicationss in Sweden…No flea control, no heatworm medication…
  • Hotels don’t have doormen. Is it just too darn cold to stand there? Or is holding the door open for people just completely dead?
  • There are very few college (or any other kind of) bumper stickers on cars in Sweden.
  • I love signs and marketing (etc.) phrases in English in Sweden. Here’s a picture of a takeout container…
takeout food container

I love seeing things in English in foreign countries. This takeout food container makes me laugh, not really sure why!

 

  • When you need to go to an ATM, you can go to any bank. You don’t need to find one belonging to your bank in order to avoid fees.
  • Checks are next to extinct in Sweden. Everything paid and debited electronically to you account.
  • I’ll end with this simple thought…I love snow on sculptures. I don’t know why…
snowy statues

I love snow on statues. Here’s one from the Carl Lineaus statue in Humlegården (park), Stockholm

 

15 Impressions After Living Nearly One Year in Sweden

Here’s some thoughts and impressions after 11 months doing “Swedish time.”

Society

• It feels odd that there is no contact when you sit next to someone on a bus or buys something from a cashier. Of course there is the exception but typically there isn’t much “Hi, how are you?” or “It sure is cold out.”

• If someone bumps into you on the sidewalk or suddenly swerves into your path, they’re not going to say, “Whoops, didn’t mean to do that.” They’re most likely not going to say anything at all.

Sculpture in Kungsholmen

Sculpture in Kungsholmen. Photo by K. Lund

 

• It’s impossible for me to understand Swedish when it’s loud and there are lots of different conversations (for example, in a restaurant). Interesting how the brain computes languages differently. I wonder at what point I will be able to follow a two conversations in a restaurant? (What I actually mean is to understand one conversation while there’s a distracting one nearby.)

• Sweden has a really marked group mentality. I’ve written before how nearly 95% of Swedes seem to prefer a black winter coat. So now that it is Fall, I am seeing this black sea on the sidewalks again. Thursday is the day to eat pea soup and pancakes. In August, you eat crayfish…Is there a rebel who secretly eats crayfish in, say…January? (not the season they’re caught, I suppose…OK then, is there someone who eats pea soup on Saturdays?)

• Every apartment door that I’ve seen in Sweden says “Ingen Reklam” in some fashion. This means the inhabitants don’t want any advertisements pushed through their mail slots. It always makes me laugh because to me, it looks like someone named “Ingen” lives there.

apartment mailslot

“No snailmail spam, please.” (Name obscured to protect the innocent.) Photo by K. Lund

 

Dogs

• Dog owners seem to rarely let their dogs off leash in the parks. I think it’s generally not allowed but I admit to be a little hazy on the subject. Perhaps because I sometimes let my dog off the leash and because I want to have plausible deniability about my ignorance of the laws. Bad. Very bad.

Dog in the park

“Rabbit” enjoys a rest in a park near Sundbyberg (Stockholm). This picture looks like a painting to me. Something about the light…Photo by K. Lund

 

• There is a mandatory dog register in Sweden, and every dog is micro-chipped so there is clear responsibility if the dog is lost or the dog hurts someone. It cost around $10.00. Yup, Rabbit is registered. Don’t worry.

Food, Restaurants, and Medicine

• Soda in Sweden seems to have less carbonation. I miss the extra bubbles.

• There’s much less high fructose corn syrup in Swedish food. Hurrah!

• There’s less preservatives in the food so milk and meat spoils sooner. It’s worth the effort of going back to the store.

• This Fall I have noticed that most of the restaurants put blankets on the chairs of their outdoor seating. These chairs (and tables) are often right out on the sidewalk and I am amazed that the blankets don’t “walk away.” The blankets are designed to cope with the fact that it’s really too cold to sit outside on the sidewalk, even with your coat on.

blankets on outdoor tables

If you choose to dine outside, you can take advantage of the blankets the restaurant sets out. Photo by K. Lund

 

• There are lots of everyday medicines and supplements that come in a tablet form designed to drop in water and dissolve in a fizzy burst. Here in Sweden I’ve casually seen vitamin C like this, headache pain medicine, and charcoal tablets for upset stomachs.

• There were 30 kinds of orange juice back in California. Here in Sweden? There are 30 different kinds of dairy products. It’s hard to understand what the differences are.

dairy products

There are lots of dairy products to choose from… Photo by K. Lund

 

Household Stuff

• Why hasn’t that little loop (for hanging up) on towels in Sweden not caught on in other countries? It’s such a small thing and such a great thing! And it works so much better than trying to make the tag do the work (if there even is a tag that forms a circle.)

Autumn leaves

Autumn color in Stockholm. Photo by K. Lund

 

• Boy howdy, but it’s hot inside buildings and houses! Even after surviving last winter, I find that it is difficult to handle, the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures. It’s pretty cold outside now (mid October) and as soon as I go inside, I need to immediately strip down to a thin shirt, preferably one with short sleeves. Sweaters or even turtlenecks don’t work for indoor work because it’s too hot for them. Guess I shouldn’t have brought those. This still feels unexpected, seeing as how it’s Scandinavia which the whole world thinks of as the Cold Dark North. I never expected it to be too hot!

Special bonus: I love signs in other countries. Check out the one below which I saw in a restaurant in Stockholm. Really, it needs no introduction…

sign in Stockholm

This is disappointing because I thought thieves would look obviously different from me…black hat…twirling a devious mustache…at least SOMETHING different! Photo by K. Lund