Frogs in the Road

Sign that says "frogs on the road"

Sign that says “frogs on the road”

 

This is my final post as Work blogger for Sweden.se. It’s been a great experience for me. I began writing in October, 2011 while I prepared to move to Sweden and waited for my work visa. I moved to Uppsala and began working as a technical writer in Stockholm in late November. That was nearly six months ago. The gift of writing a blog was that it made me really pay attention to the little things in my transition from American life to Swedish life.

I’ve come a long way, baby.

  • I learned to drive in Swedish roundabouts and reacquainted myself with the manual transmission.
  • I navigated the complicated waters of being a foreign citizen in Sweden; learned how to work with the Migration Board and the Tax Agency.
  • I convinced a Swedish bank to let me open an account so that I could get receive paychecks from my employer; then waited the months it took to get registered in Sweden so that I could have an account with more benefits, such as the ability to send money owed and to pay for things online.
  • I learned to ride the commuter train to work and complain about the delays like a real Swede
  • • I watched wacky cartoons and film clips on Christmas and New Year’s eves. Crazy old lady and her butler, anyone? (Who knew about these hidden Swedish customs?)
  • I basked in the amazing gluten-free alternatives readily available in Sweden. Wow, gluten-free bread can actually taste good!
  • I discovered that Swedes love candles and there are even lit candles at my workplace, outside restaurants and in the airport.
  • I discovered what the Swedish ice claw is (not a horror film!)
  • I found out that offices in Sweden can be highly mobile. In my office, there aren’t even any landlines.
  • I worked on having a Sweden-friendly CV and cover letter. They didn’t have to be in Swedish but they had to have the right tone.
  • I went to my first social and professional networking meetings in Stockholm. that took all my courage for some reason.
  • I got my work permit extended, obtained a personal number and a Swedish ID—keys to accessing the benefits of Swedish society and moving freely in and out of the country.
  • I learned about feathers and witches at Easter and bonfires and rafting at Walpurgis.

I learned that, in Sweden, sometimes you dance around the Christmas tree or the May Pole singing about frogs. And sometimes there are frogs in the road.

You can read my own blog at http://3menandaswede.blogspot.se/

Thanks for reading!

Bikes and Birthdays in Sweden

bike

My trusty "Made in Sweden" bicycle...The color makes it easy to find in a bike stand full of bikes.

 

I love how so many people use bicycles in Sweden as a central form of transportation. Although I have always owned a bike, I can’t say that I have ever used it seriously as transportation. Now that I have moved to Sweden and don’t own a car, I am even more interested in this bike-riding culture.

I recently inherited (well, long term borrowed) an old 3-speed bike from my friends. They had an extra bike that used to belong to Helen’s mother who is now an old person’s home. It’s a women’s bike, bright orange with a rack on the back. It’s the kind of bike that I wouldn’t have been caught dead riding back home in Northern California where everyone rides a souped-up mountain bike even if they are just going on asphalt to the local 7-11. But this bike is perfect. It has the requisite bell for letting people know you are approaching from behind on the bike/walking path. It has a sticker that says it was made in Sweden and is of “Sweden quality.” You don’t get too many things that say that, it’s more likely to say it was “designed in Sweden” which means it was made somewhere else. The bike has a full chain guard and long tire fenders—perfect for when protecting pant legs from chain grease and muddy conditions.

I filled the neglected bike’s tires, oiled the chain, tightened the gear changer on the handlebars, and adjusted the chain guard so it would stop rubbing against one pedal. Then I took her for a spin. Not bad for an old lady’s bike. Not bad for an old lady. I was ready to ride to Uppsala for Walpurgis (Valborgsmässoafton).

But no sooner did I get the bike all ready for my trip to Uppsala, then I read that more bikes are stolen in the Spring in Sweden than any other time of the year. Last year, 65, 000 people in Sweden reported a stolen bicycle. And the day that the most bikes are stolen is on Walpurgis when there are twice as many bicycle theft as any other day.

Oh no! I can’t get my friend’s mother’s bike stolen! The good news is that bicycle thefts actually decreased during the last ten years, according to 8 Sidor (25 april 2012)

And since we’re on the subject of statistics in Sweden, 8 Sidor had some more interesting facts and figures this week as well. Did you know that the 15th of April is currently Sweden’s most common birth day? In other words, more Swedes are born on this day than any other. Second place goes to the 22nd of March and the 10th of April. When I mentioned these statistics over lunch at work, all my Swedish peers knowingly nodded and said something along the lines of, “Well March 22 is obviously a Mid-Summer celebration thing and the other dates are due to summer holidays.”

But this does not explain why it appears that in the future,  summer will have the most Swedish birthdays instead of Spring. Throughout the 2000s, the most Swedish children were born in July. Last year, according to 8 Sidor, the most children were born on the 8th of June.

Hmmmm…wonder how they’ll explain that away at work?

“10-voice Blow to the Body,” “Armed Horse” and Other Interesting Uppsala Police Reports

Swedish police car

...About to respond to an armed horse call...Photo by: Riggwelter (CC BY 3.0)

 

I have always loved reading the police reports in small town newspapers. It’s simply great reading. It gives you a sense of what’s going on around you–the stuff that you might not otherwise know about. Recently I stumbled across the police report in an Uppsala newspaper called, well, “The Uppsala Newspaper (Uppsala Tidningen). There I read my first Swedish police report in the April 26-May 3, 2012 edition. At first I thought I would tell you about it, or maybe translate some of the text and fix the Google translation. But you know what? This stuff is even better with the crazy Google translation. So, here it is, almost in its entirety (some repetitive shoplifting removed), including some hilarious translation…*

*Yes, there are real victims in these reports. My heart goes out to them. Read more »

Adventures in Airports

Kiruna airport

Someday I'll get to the Kiruna Airport in Lapland. Photo by: Fredrik Broman/imagebank.sweden.se

 

Living in a foreign country, I find myself on an airplane a lot more often than I used to. I traveled back to the US for Easter a few weeks ago in order to take care of some family issues and to visit loved ones. There are no direct flights between San Francisco and Stockholm because the distance is too great and (presumably) the jets cannot hold enough fuel to go the whole way. I’ve taken all sorts of configurations of the two flights it takes to get to California over the past 20 years. I’ve changed planes in Reykjavík (that’s the Republic of Iceland, to you), Munich, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, New Jersey…This time I changed planes in Chicago. I prefer to change planes in Europe somewhere so that my final destination is where I go through customs. It just seems easier. Chicago is always a roll of the dice because of weather delays and because it is a large hub so it’s not my favorite.

I managed to get yelled at twice before I even left Stockholm’s Arlanda airport. First I forgot that I had a bottle of water in my backpack and I attempted to pass through Security with it. Then I neglected to show my residence and work visa when passing though Passport Control. Actually I didn’t forget, I had no idea that I was supposed to show this when leaving the country. How are you supposed to know this stuff? I’ve never even showed it when coming into this country but that’s because I have so far always entered from a EU country and no one showed any interest.

On the way back to Sweden, I had trouble navigating Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Why is it that your connecting flight is always in another terminal (and gate) that is as far away as is geographically possible? Yes, I was switching from domestic to international but still… (this should be ready in a whiney tone)

After finally locating the elevated transport system that moves people between terminals, I rode to Terminal 5. We passed terminals number 2,3, and 5. Where was number 1? Where was number 4? They didn’t seem to exist. Perhaps they were sold off to real estate developers or something.

For the first time ever (and can I just point out that the first rule of traveling must always be flexibility because every flying experience seems to bear little resemblance to the previous one?), I was not issued the second boarding pass when I checked in in San Francisco. So, after locating Terminal 5, I walked up and down the terminal trying to find the SAS counter so I could check in for the flight to Stockholm. After many attempts, and after asking two airport employees who had never even heard of SAS, I found the tiny SAS counter at the end of a line of Mexican and Irish airline counters.

Next I went through Security and discovered that I no longer had access to anywhere to eat. Isn’t it also strange that you never really know where you will end up in airports? Once you go through Security you are stuck on the other side. (Well, you could leave and go back through Security but that’s such a big deal these days that it’s not worth it.) In San Francisco, there are lots of places to eat after you go through Security. But in Chicago, for this flight, there was nothing. I was forced to make do with a yogurt, some Pop Chips and an Odwalla fruit juice. Hard to not eat decent food right before you are trapped on a plane for 8 hours!

The best thing about flying? It’s the first time I hear Swedish again. It may be a family boarding in front of me on the first leg of my trip, it may be in the waiting area in Chicago. When I hear it I feel like I am a member of a special group. And then there is the first moment I see Swedish land from the plane. There she is, patches of snow; flat, flat land; and endless bodies of water. And I feel like I am home.

Walpurgis Eve (Valborgsmässoafton)

Valborgsmässoafton

Bonfires are lit all over the country on Walpurgis Eve, 30 April. Stockholm City Hall in the Background. Photo by: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

 

I have wanted to experience crazy Uppsala on Walpurgis Eve (Valborgsmässoafton)  for decades and now I am finally here on the last day of April! One of the most attractive things about this wonderfully pagan holiday is the bonfires people have. It is still pretty chilly here (I reluctantly surrendered my winter coat a few weeks ago but I am still wearing a wool peacoat, often with a down vest underneath it.) According to Wikipedia, “At Walpurgis (Valborg), farm animals were let out to graze, and ever since the early 18th century bonfires (majbrasor, kasar) have been lit to scare away predators.” Read more »