Monthly archives: July 2013

Systembolaget: A Student’s Best & Worst Friend

Believe it or not, there is a Scandinavian shopping hierarchy for purchasing alcohol. It’s common knowledge in this region of Europe that Norwegians flock to Sweden, Swedes cross over to Denmark, and Danes slide down into Germany to buy alcohol whenever an opportunity to save a considerable amount of money presents itself. However, I don’t live particularly close to the Danish border and lack the time and motivation to make a trip with the express intent of purchasing alcohol, so like most people, I have to make do with what’s locally available.

My neighborhood Systembolaget. Photo by Brett Seward.


Sweden’s nationwide government-operated agency for any beverage containing more than 3.5% alcohol is called Systembolaget, and newcomers to the country will come to recognize and appreciate the conspicuous little green sign whenever venturing into a new city or neighborhood. My interpretation of Systembolaget’s mission is that they wish to provide everyone in the country with a safe, uniform alcohol purchasing experience. Store layouts tend to vary slightly, but the opening hours and product selection, presentation and lighting are nearly identical all the way from Malmö on up to Kiruna. For American readers, consider it as a strange amalgamation of a liquor store, a sterile hospital, and a Costco, except you’re definitely not going to receive any hint of a discount for buying in bulk. Beer, for example, has the same price per can or bottle no matter if you buy 1 or 6 or 24 at a time. And yes, part of the uniform shopping experience includes rather hefty tax rates, especially on beverages containing a high percentage of alcohol.

Systembolaget’s opening hours are also rather dismal by design. Late night shopping? Saturday evening shopping? Sunday shopping? Forget about them all. As a passive observer it’s hilarious to watch people scrambling to get into the the store at 2:59 on a Saturday afternoon in hopes of beating the 3 o’clock closing time.

Industrial lighting and “fair” pricing. Photo by Brett Seward.

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Night Moves

One of my summer self-improvement goals was to improve my knowledge of photography, with a special focus on nighttime landscape shots. I recently picked up a relatively cheap tripod and wired remote in order to motivate myself to actually convert this goal into a reality. In hope of capturing the atmosphere of Gothenburg after dark, I brainstormed a list of shots that could potentially be interesting to check out and then hit the bricks and ventured out into the night. Over the course of about a week and a half, I spent parts of four different nights taking pictures all over the city. I sometimes began as “early” as 11 PM and sometimes stayed out as late as 4 AM. The only real rule that made for myself was that I had to walk from point to point in order to entirely envelope myself in the various neighborhoods and environments. Initially I was a little wary of walking all over the city with a backpack full of fairly expensive electronic equipment, but I soon overcame any doubts I had and simply enjoyed the crisp night air and the lack of noise, congestion and people. As an added bonus, I was even able to learn a fair amount about the previously untapped potential of my camera.

The following pictures aren’t really presented in any particular order; there isn’t much of a rhyme or reason to the chronology or geography. With that in mind, I’ll start with arguably the best view in the entire city, which can be found next to Masthugget church (pro-tip: consider taking a picnic up here).

The view from Masthuggskyrkan. Photo by Brett Seward.


Street vendors and kiosks are popular after a night out on the town. This particular little restaurant sits next to the University of Gothenburg and Vasaplatsen, a fairly large public transportation hub.

Street food and traffic at Vasaplatsen. Photo by Brett Seward.

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Family Vacation

After months of planning and e-mailing back and forth, my family finally arrived last week for their vacation to visit me here in Sweden. I roughly planned the itinerary so that our destinations and activities would be a mix of things I both had and hadn’t seen before (my family had never traveled to Scandinavia before this trip). Due to their busy schedules and also partially because Americans don’t enjoy the same vacation benefits as Swedes, they could only visit for a week. In order to maintain a semi-relaxed schedule we decided to just stick to Stockholm and Copenhagen. It would have been nice for them to have been able to see my home city of Gothenburg, but I don’t regret our choice to avoid incessant traveling from city to city nearly everyday.

The view of Stockholm from Södermalm. Photo by Brett Seward.

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Midsummer: 24 Hours of Daylight

As far as parties and holidays go, Midsummer is the like the Swedish Super Bowl – a true celebration of life, light, food and drink with friends and family. My first Midsummer in Sweden was incredible, as one of my friends was gracious enough to arrange an outing at his home just outside of Piteå (about 1˚ below the latitude line of the Artic Circle for reference). Over the course of the past year, I had developed some nice friendships with this particular group of people, so it was great to be able to spend quality time hanging out with everyone before we all went our separate ways for the summer.

Preparing freshly picked flowers for the Midsummer wreaths. Photo by Brett Seward.

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