Archive for Brett Seward - Student from a small town in the American Midwest. He studies Sound & Vibration at Chalmers in Gothenburg, and these are his candid impressions of everyday life in Sweden.

Gothenburg City Museum

Last week I went to the Gothenburg City Museum in downtown.. uh.. Gothenburg close to the central Brunnsparken transportation hub. I had been to the museum a couple of other times in the past, but I wanted to make a special visit to check out the new exhibition ‘Gothenburg from Above’, which is a series of aerial photos taken over the past 10 or so years by Swedish photographer Lars Bygdemark. Entrance is free if you’re 25 or younger and still a very affordable 40 kronor if you’re older.

The museum is actually housed in the 18th century Swedish East India Company’s former office and warehouse building. It is also just across the street from the impressive and historic Chalmers house (the past residence of the guy who founded the university in 1829).

Once inside, the museum actually starts with a primer on the origins of human life in this part of Sweden from thousands of years ago. It quickly moves on to the age of the Vikings which is obviously a focal points for a lot of visitors. When the average person thinks about the Vikings, there is a tendency to gravitate towards their legendary ships and weaponry, but the museum does a nice job of also providing some context to everyday life and artifacts in addition to a summary of their history and an outline of the main points of the Norse belief system. One of my friends who visited the museum with me is a blacksmith who marveled at many of the pieces in the museum. According to his informed opinion, the quality of the work exceeded his expectations based on the available technology of a thousand years ago.

A Viking relic. Photo: B. Seward

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Window Shopping in Majorna

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut from the same old daily routine, and I do my best to avoid this feeling of monotony by exploring different areas of the city outside of my own neighborhood. Gothenburg has over half a million residents, so it’s quite easy to find new places to explore and activities to occupy myself.

Last weekend I visited the eastern neighborhood of Majorna (and technically Stigberget too). From every indication, this area is continually gentrifying with an increase in businesses, cafés, families, and (inevitably) hipsters.

Leaving home, on the tram. Photo: B. Seward.

The first stop on my journey was Fabriken, which is probably the coolest store that I’ve come across in Gothenburg. It’s basically a vintage store with items scavenged from flea markets, old buildings, and other unique places all across Sweden. Some of the stuff is a little pricy, but the curation of items is second to none. The owner was friendly when I stopped in, and she had a dog who helped her watch over the store. Any place with a dog receives bonus points from me!

Outside the vintage shop ‘Fabriken’. Photo: B. Seward.

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Lost in Translation?

My experience with the Swedish language is a topic that I could probably write a book on. I’m not saying it would be the most compelling or best-selling book in the world, but I think I could come up with enough material to fill a couple hundred pages at this point if my life depended on it. I wrote more about the mechanics of the language in an earlier post, but here I’m going to focus more on some of the linguistic quirks I’ve noticed both from others and myself during my time in Göteborg.

My first observation is one of the most surprising to me: some days I feel like my English is deteriorating more than a little bit, which I was honestly not expecting. I sometimes forget words that I haven’t used in a long time, and I also tend to unintentionally appropriate speech patterns and sentence constructions that aren’t very common in the US.

Unrelated but delicious. It’s semla season in Sweden. Photo: B. Seward

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The Little Differences

Vincent: But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?

Jules: What?

Vincent: It’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same stuff over there that we got here, but it’s just… it’s just, there it’s a little different.

In case you aren’t familiar with Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, this memorable conversation continues with a brief discussion of the metric system and then shifts to the American Quarter Pounder and French Royale with cheese, which is named such due to the incompatibility in the units between Europe and the US.

 I believe Tarantino meant for this conversation to be informal, humorous character development for Vincent and Jules, but countless ex-pats and international students have adopted this dialogue to express some of their feelings after moving to a new country. As my way of appropriating this discussion topic, I’ve compiled a short list of random observations that are perhaps mildly interesting but not necessarily newsworthy in their own right.

  • A Swedish mile (mil) is a unit of distance equal to 10 kilometers, or 6.2 American miles. Summary: American mile = easy walking distance. Swedish mile ≠ easy walking distance.
  • Cheese slicers (osthyvlar) and wooden butter knives seem kind of like gimmicky souvenirs to me, but a lot of people actually use them here on a daily basis. Just add some knäckebröd (Swedish cracker) to the equation and you’ll have enough for a small (and unexciting if I’m being honest) snack.

Cheese and butter essentials. Photo: B. Seward

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Reflections on Swedish Education

Now that I have officially finished my requisite master’s coursework and have just started my thesis, I feel like this is the perfect time for me to reflect back and offer some of my impressions of the Swedish university system and general classroom atmosphere here at Chalmers. I personally believe that my feelings and opinions are held by a lot of international students, but keep in mind these are still just one guy’s experiences at one specific university.

Anyway… one of the very first things I noticed upon arrival over a year and a half ago is that the hierarchical/organizational structure is very flat at Chalmers – and at most universities in Sweden I would assume. It seems like there are typically only a few levels of administration between the average professor and the university president.

Chalmers – “Avancez”. Source:

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