Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Bathroom Poetry Reading in Sweden

I am a bathroom reader. Magazines especially, but books also. Of course Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers are classic. So when I find myself in a foreign bathroom I am always appreciative when there are reading materials strewn about. Magazines are the easiest of course, but I believe that those bathrooms that have actual books in them show some real thought. It’s as if they knew I would be there.

And so it was that I found myself reading a bathroom poetry book. In Swedish.

Now, as I have mentioned before, I consider myself pretty fluent in the Swedish language. My speaking skills are so that I can fool most Swedes into thinking I’m Swedish for a little while at least. My reading and writing continue to improve and are by no means equal to my English reading and writing skills, which still chaps my ass to be honest, but I’ll settle for improvement.

Anyway, reading poetry in my native language is not something I do on a regular basis. I have a few favorites that have stuck with me from all of the schooling (“What work is” by Philip Levine, “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas, and “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley), but I don’t seek out poetry of my own accord. Which might be a shame.

But even when reading poetry in English, I sometimes struggle to delve into the deeper symbolism that every literature teacher would have me believe is there. Mostly because sometimes I just want to believe that the author wrote what he meant. And the tree is just a tree. The whole say what you mean and mean what you say thing brought up Lewis Carroll. What it really boils down to is that I have become so intent on extracting a deeper meaning from poetry that I tend to just avoid it.

But in the bathroom it couldn’t be avoided. So I grabbed the book and flipped through the pages a bit. Browsing if you will. Because reading poetry is one thing. Reading poetry in another language is a very different thing. I wanted something that I could ease myself in with.

And there she was. Eeva Kilpi. Finnish. Born in 1928. And one of the best poems I have ever seen. Short and sweet. And simple. Whether this was written in Swedish or translated to Swedish I don’t know. But either way it was glorious: “Ring mig innan världen exploderar/vi säger hejdå.”

And that’s it. “Call me before the world explodes/we’ll say goodbye.”

That’s good stuff.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Moving to Sweden – Getting from the Airport to Stockholm City

Once again, it’s time for a new Moving to Sweden post. We’ve covered quite a bit:

Moving to Sweden – What to Bring
Moving to Sweden – The Swedish Language
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Place to Live
Moving to Sweden – The Metric System and You
Moving to Sweden – Getting a Cell Phone
Moving to Sweden – The Weather
Moving to Sweden – Swedish Citizenship Test

Moving to Sweden – Public Holidays
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Job
Moving to Sweden – Culture Shock: It's the Little Things
Moving to Sweden – Making Friends
Moving to Sweden – Cost of Living
Moving to Sweden – The Laundry Room
Moving to Sweden – Marijuana
Moving to Sweden – Most Common Jobs and Salaries

And the plan is to continue to cover quite a bit. So with that in mind, it was time to get back to basics. We’ve discussed packing, but neglected to discuss what to do immediately upon landing in Sweden. This one could actually double as a Visiting Sweden post also. Since to land at the airport does not necessarily you have taken the plunged and moved here. But I digress. Because now we need to get from Arlanda airport to Stockholm.

Chances are once you land in Sweden you’ve had just about enough. Enough travel, enough sitting, just enough. Luckily, getting through Swedish customs is ridiculously easy. Regardless of your passport really. You might have to wait in line for a little bit, but you’ll breeze through. And to be honest, it’s mostly just because there isn’t the same amount of traffic at Arlanda as you’ll find at Heathrow or O’Hare.

Then you’ll get your bags. I’m not going to help you with this. You’re on your own.

But once you have your bags you need to get into town. Because like many large airports, Arlanda sits a bit outside of Stockholm. North of town if you were really wondering. There are a few different options when trying to get into town. A bus. A train. A taxi. A car.

First option is the bus. Flygbussarna. It takes about 45 minutes to get into town using the bus. They will take you right to Central Station. The bus leaves about every 10, 15, or 30 minutes depending on the hour of the day. You won’t have to wait too long though is what it comes down to. As of right now a one-way adult ticket costs 119 SEK. Make sure to ask for any discounts you can think of. Student. Retired. Youth. Give it a shot. Even buying online will save you a bit of cash. Stockholm’s expensive and you might as well get in the habit of saving money where you can.

Stockholm public transportation now offers you options as well. Train options. Pendeltåg options. It's not bad and will take you about 38 minutes. About. You'll have to pay for a regular ticket to get yourself to Stockholm. But if you're planning on staying, the 30-day SL card is the way to go. Unfortunately, you'll also have to pay an 85 SEK station fee. That's the fee that goes straight to the railway. Apparently there was an agreement made back in the '90s when the station was built out at the airport. I don't ask questions. Either way, it's cheaper than a taxi.

Your next option is the train. Arlanda Express. Which I would suggest if you are under 26. Because if you are under 26 years old you get a cheaper one-way ticket. Otherwise, a normal adult one-way ticket costs 260 SEK. But make sure to again ask for discounts, they even have weekend discounts sometimes so always ask. They also like to have discounts for buying two tickets at a time. Don't know anyone? Ask the person behind you in line. It will save you both money. The trip on Arlanda Express takes about 20 minutes and puts you right into Central Station. As a general rule Arlanda Express leaves every 15 minutes, again though, depending on the hour it leaves more frequently or less frequently. Check the timetable.

Taxis are next. Which I don’t suggest at all. They have fixed rates between the city and the airport but I’m just not a fan. It’s usually about 450 SEK. The bigger the taxi the higher the fixed rate. The last time I used a taxi I was in a bit of a flight induced stupor and just snagged the closest taxi. I was by myself. And found myself in a big van. By myself. So I had to pay about 850 SEK to get into town. By myself. Good times. I can’t really guarantee any sort of time table here with taxis. Depending on traffic and the sanity of your driver you might make it in half an hour. Or it might take an hour and a half.

Uber is another option. I've never used it. It exists here and will cost you about 520 SEK from Arlanda to Stockholm City. So it's not cheap.

Finally, there is a regular car. And by regular I mean not a taxi. You can rent, which I have never done so have absolutely no experience, or you can just hope that you have a friend or family member who has a car and is willing to pick you up. When renting, there are plenty of rental agencies around the airport and signs inside directing you to them. It’s like any other airport when it comes down to it.

In the end though, despite the various options, I would suggest the Arlanda Express. It’s quick, it’s easy, and if you get a discount it’s relatively cheap.

Welcome to Sweden.

To subscribe to A Swedish American in Sweden for free enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Autumn in Stockholm

Suddenly it’s fall. It kind of snuck up on me this year. I looked out my window around 8 in the pm and it was completely dark. It seemed like just recently it was still light at 11. There’s that bite in the air, it’s getting cold enough that I don’t venture out in the evenings without a jacket and maybe even a pair of gloves. Sleeping with my window open is becoming more and more perilous. I risk waking up with some part of skin exposed to the elements in the middle of the night.

I don’t really know what happened. Last year I was very conscious of the change. Maybe because it was still kind of new and exciting. This year I know what’s going on. The daily loss of five minutes of daylight isn’t as cool as it was last year. I guess I have adapted to the changes in season, daylight, and weather. The benefits of having stuck around as long as I have I suppose.

At the same time I see the same events popping up as last year. I remember discussing with a couple of visiting friends last year around this time about checking out the beer festival. Which we did not, due to the ridiculous price, but anyway. It’s back. The exact same ads are driving by on the busses in town and staring back at me on the subway. I even saw an ad for the fall market at Skansen, which my friends and I checked out while they were here.

Despite having made a conscious decision to move here, it still seems strange that I am here to some extent. Maybe seeing all of these happenings for a second time is really hammering that home. Last year wasn’t just a little vacation. It was a big happening in my own little world.

Now the question is just what the next big happening in my little world will be.

Welcome to Sweden. Where even business majors can turn philosophical in the face of the impending winter darkness.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lördagsgodis in Sweden

Today is Saturday. And for kids throughout Sweden that means one thing. Lördagsgodis. Saturday candy. Americans have Saturday morning cartoons, Swedes have Saturday candy.

And this is engrained in just about every sugar craving kid under the age of 12. Hell, I remember when we first moved to the US trying to keep the Saturday candy tradition alive. That didn’t fly for too long, unfortunately. But at the same time, Swedish candy is just so much better than American candy.

Therein lies the origin of lördagsgodis. Saturday candy was invented so as to placate the masses. Because to deny children the sugary goodness of Swedish candy is damn near criminal, but to feed them as much as they want every day of the week results in a over-sugared, toothless, and eventually, very unhealthy population. So the Swedes decided that one day out of the week would be mandated as candy day. And what better day than Saturday? And so it stuck. Obviously. You can look it up.

Now just to be clear, plenty of candy gets eaten on other days of the week. Saturday is just the big one. But still, people make comments if kids are eating candy during the week. Just the other day, I walked by this very scenario playing out in front of me. An older woman was talking to a kid, maybe about 10 years old. I assumed the woman to be some sort of teacher, or maybe a coach. But to be honest, and kind of mean, judging from the kid’s physique he wasn’t taking part in too many athletic endeavors. Our young candidate for knubbiga barn was eating some candy. It was the middle of the week. And the teacher (we’re making a final assumption here) commented in surprise that he was eating candy… “och det är ju inte lördag,” “and it’s not Saturday!” This is a glorious country.

Welcome to Sweden. On a Saturday. Where kids everywhere celebrate by eating themselves sick with gummy goodness.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden

Friday, September 19, 2008

Swedes at the Ryder Cup

A quick nod to the Ryder Cup. Started today. Europe vs. USA. The US tends to lose this event. Europeans come together and beat the Americans. It happens on a regular basis.

And I’ll be honest, golf isn’t really my thing. Mostly because it pisses me off. A lot. It seems so easy. Hit the little ball with a big metal club into the hole. Then the whole physics things come into play. And I took all of my science credits at my university pass/no pass. I realize my weaknesses and, as anyone with half a brain would do, runs the hell away from them without confronting them. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I use a 3-iron off the tee because I can’t manage to hit a driver without slicing it 40 yards. Like I said, run the hell away from problems without confronting them. Or from South Park: “Bail? Bail.”

That being said, I am an avid reader of Rick Reilly. Who is an avid fan of golf. So I checked out his article “There's going to be a miracle in Louisville, I guarantee it.” And stumbled upon this quote for reason number 13 why the Americans would beat the Europeans: “13. Faldo violated the time-honored Too Many Swedes theory. Swedes are the sweetest people on earth. Wouldn't hurt a kipper. No Swede has ever won a major. Faldo's got two on his team.” Reilly failed to mention that the Cup is taking place at Valhalla. Perhaps Faldo is a closet mythological historian and felt the need to pay homage to the Norse Gods.

But after reading that I did three things. First, I laughed, because come on, it is kind of funny. And then I looked up what a kipper was. Turns out a kipper is a herring that has been sliced from head to tail and smoked. Making it hard to further hurt the fish, but I digress. And finally, and maybe most relevant to the Swedish theme, I looked up who the two Swedes were on the team: Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson.

Karlsson’s first match result: halved. Stenson’s first match result: US wins 3&2. Whatever the hell that means.

As a general rule I tend to cheer for the underdog when Sweden meets the US with one notable exception. Hockey. Sweden always gets my support there. I blame Peter Forsberg. And my father. But in the Ryder Cup I can only say “Heja USA.”

Welcome to Sweden.

To subscribe to A Swedish American in Sweden for free enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tax Cuts in Sweden

Just a quick post really. Sweden is lowering income taxes. Again. By quite a bit. 15 billion SEK. For those of you scoring at home, that’s about $2,212,389,381 assuming the current exchange rate of one US dollar equaling 6.78 Swedish kronor.

Recently, Sweden moved down on the rankings for countries with the highest tax burden. Denmark now takes the cake with Sweden coming in second at around 47%. Fredrik Reinfeldt, (Sweden’s current Prime Minister) seems to have made it a sort of goal to lower the tax burden to 45% before he turns 45 during the 2010 election.

So, as promised Moderaterna (the current ruling party with a conservative leaning) are continuing to lower taxes. This will be the third cut since they started in 2007.

And in case you were wondering… I love it. I’m all for a little bit of a cut in income taxes when the overall tax burden is the second highest in the world. Especially since it results in a bit more money that I can spend in whatever way I please. And also, from a historical and economic perspective, in times of economic turmoil such as what we are seeing in the US, and what most financial experts are predicting for Sweden, lowering taxes tends to be a better idea than raising them in terms of creating jobs.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wallets and Good Deeds in Sweden

I found myself down in southern Sweden again this weekend. I was there to hang out with the cousins. On Monday, I headed back up to Stockholm, but before I really started my drive I stopped by a lovely little town to take a swim. Because it was sunny and I could see Denmark. Which tends to be all it takes for me to get in the water.

Anyway, as I approached my swimming hole I noticed a wallet hanging out on the bench near the dock. So I snagged it and checked it out hoping to find some sort of identifying marks. A phone number really. There was no phone number but a few bills and a credit card along with a couple other cards you find in your every day wallet. It was obviously something that someone would be missing. But I had some swimming to do.

So I jumped in the water and swam around for ten minutes or so. It was still at a pretty comfortable temperature after I got over the initial shock of my swimming suit getting wet. I had been swimming down here just a couple of weeks ago though and it was incredible the difference in water temperature. Anyway, all the while I was kind of hoping the person who belonged to the wallet would come back. They did not.

So I grabbed the wallet as I walked away, not really sure what to do with it. I found myself in a pretty small town with no police station and only one bank. Unfortunately not the same bank that issued the credit card in question. But I headed to the bank hoping that maybe they could just take care of it by getting a hold of their competitor who in turn could get in touch with the card holder. I was wrong. Instead they sent me to the police station which was one town over. So I hopped in my car and drove to the police station. No big deal really, I had nowhere to be so I had time on my hands.

When I arrived at the police station I was asked a few questions about where I found it, when I found it, my contact information, nothing too exciting. The wallet was then examined and inventoried. Cash was counted and the cards were noted. 270 SEK in the wallet by the way. But then I was in for a bit of a surprise. I was asked if I wanted a “hittelön,” a finder’s fee. I said no, it wasn’t a big deal, I didn’t need it. Then the lady informed me that it wouldn’t be much anyway, only 27 SEK. Apparently the hittelön is equal to 10% of the cash in the wallet. I had no idea. This was all very new to me.

It seems that the idea here is to encourage people to turn in lost goods. And it makes sense. I actually quite like the idea. Turns out, according to the police website, that anyone who finds something like a wallet is required to turn it over within 14 days. I got mine in within an hour. The person who owns the wallet and claims it is then required to pay the finder’s fee if the finder requests it. Apparently, if something is not claimed for three months, the finder becomes the owner. I doubt that the police are going to hand over someone else’s credit card though. So I’m probably out of luck. For the entire policy (in Swedish) check out: Hittegods.

Sweden has a similar policy when it comes to historical finds. If you stumble across a hoard of Viking coins for example you are required by law to turn them over to the government. Of course, you are given a finder’s fee that is related to the worth of the find. Again, the idea being to encourage people to turn over the find. For a brief overview of this policy (in Swedish) check out: Fornlämningar.

All in all I’m a fan of the policy. Granted, it would be nice to think that it’s not necessary but a little extra economic incentive to turn over a wallet probably doesn’t hurt. And especially if it is the owner who is responsible for the reward.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Malmö, Sweden Goes Green

Lately Malmö has been in the news for bombings, gang fights, shootings. Happy things really. But just the other day an article came out praising Malmö for its commitment to being green. As in environmentally friendly.

According to the article, 5 Amazing Green Cities, from How Stuff Works, “Model cities are ranked by a combination of criteria. These include urban planning and environmental statistics. They encompass energy sources, consumption and emissions, as well as transportation options and ­habits.” So it takes a lot to be considered a model green city. Of the five listed, one is Swedish, one is Danish, one is Icelandic, one is American, and one is Canadian. That in and of itself is kind of interesting because you have three Nordic countries, and then Portland and Vancouver are both in the Pacific northwest of North America. Seems very much like there is some sort of geographic thing going on.

Sweden in general is considered pretty green. You recycle everything. Some cities have multiple trash cans so you can sort everything properly. Källsortering. It’s kind of a pain at first but you get used to it. And then you go back to the US and ask silly questions like “where does the soft plastic go?” or you flatten all cardboard boxes and try to find out where they can be recycled. In other words, it becomes very much a part of your everyday interaction with trash.

Now, with that mindset you would imagine someplace that isn’t beset by gang violence would be the greener city. Like Stockholm for example. Apparently, you would be wrong.

Malmö takes the cake, for the most part because of its use of sustainable energy. The article also mentions that the city is “pedestrian and cycle friendly.” But so is the entire country so that doesn’t really impress me that much. What did impress me was that an entire neighborhood (a former shipyard) in the city run on solar, hydro, and wind energy. Considering the rise in oil prices and the discussion in the US about oil independence and regardless of your stance on global warming, it’s kind of cool to see that renewable energy can be used successfully in larger areas.

Sweden does good work when it comes to this sort of thing. I would be interested though to know how much it costs to make an entire neighborhood run on renewable energy.

But if you’re looking for green places to live, look no further than Sweden and the rest of the Nordic countries. Or the Pacific Northwest if you want to stay over on that side of the Atlantic.

Welcome to Sweden.

To subscribe to A Swedish American in Sweden for free enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Friday, September 12, 2008

John McCain Footage in Sweden

Turns out Sweden has been harboring a secret love for John McCain all these years. Or harboring some footage of him at least.

Footage from the release of John McCain has been found in SVT’s archives. Pretty old stuff (old meaning before I was born). Shows the man limping along very noticeably. It does not show him on crutches. Which of course some people have jumped on claiming that the crutches when he met Nixon were just a show for sympathy. Of course, as is my understanding, McCain had surgery when he got back to the US to take care of some of those injuries sustained from his crash and subsequent torture. Surgery might lead to crutches being used. But that’s not nearly as sexy as a presidential candidate using crutches for sympathy in the 1970s.

Others just think it’s damn cool that the footage was found. I find myself in that group.

Follow this link to see the footage: Unik McCain-film i SVT:s arkiv

And here are a few links about the finding.
Lost McCain footage found in Sweden
Film shows McCain's release from Vietnamese prison
Unika bilder på McCain i Vietnam

I must say, it’s kind of cool that this popped out of the Swedish archives. Not exactly where you would expect to find lost footage of an American presidential candidate. It’s a small world after all isn’t it? Corny joke. I know.

Welcome to Sweden.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sweden – Hungary World Cup Qualifying Live

Last night I found myself sitting in front of the TV eating pytt-i-panna and watching NCIS at 6:55 in the pm. It was obviously the start of another exciting night. So in an effort to do something I decided to get my ass in gear. There was a soccer game going on.

Sweden was playing Hungary at 8:15 in Solna at Råsunda Stadium. I had to leave now. So I threw on my shoes, scrounged around for a vest to wear under my jacket, grabbed a bright orange beanie and bright orange gloves and I was ready to go. Despite it being only mid-September it was cold and rainy and I was going to be damned if I was going to freeze while watching soccer.

So I made my way to the stadium and got a ticket. I was surprised at how easy it was to get a ticket actually. Stood in line for maybe five minutes. I was approached by one scalper, but for some reason I’m somewhat hesitant to buy scalped tickets. I went ahead and paid full price.

I got to my seat, which happened to be right behind a large pole. Seriously. No big deal, there was a national anthem to get through so I was standing up anyway. And when 28,177 people belt out the national anthem with “ja, jag vill leva, jag vill dö i norden” well that’s just cool.

Then the game got underway. The field was wet and sloppy. It wasn’t long before the Hungarians in their white jerseys were looking a bit worn. And despite the pole I managed because when I leaned forward in my seat I could see all but one corner of the pitch (see… I’m learning). It looked like I was really into the game. Which was weird because the first half was miserable. I mean really boring. Nothing happened. I was more intrigued by the drunk guy who got up on the railing (as seen in the picture to the right) and led the section in a cheer. “Andra sidan är ni klara?” Glorious. Apparently I was not alone in my disgust with the game. The Swedes were actually booed off the field at halftime.

The second half came around and I decided to move. I was tired of the pole obstructing my view. And I figured that if people hadn’t made it to their seats by the second half they weren’t coming. So I found myself a seat close by and plunked my ass down. And it was glorious. Right behind the goal. Dead center. Beautiful. I could see everything.

And the game picked up too. Two goals were scored within 20 minutes of the second half. Kim Källström and Samuel Holmén, both on passes from Henrik Larsson, playing his 101st game in the Swedish blue and yellow.

The Hungarians got a goal in the closing seconds of the extra time. The 90+2 minute if you will. And I mean really the closing seconds, I wasn’t even sure the goal counted the whistle blew so quick afterwards. But it did. Sweden wins 2-1.

A few thoughts on the game. After plenty of railing against soccer, I haven’t completely changed my mind. The first half was rough. The second half was fun. There wasn’t too much rolling around on the ground. Maybe because the ground was wet and cold and even soccer players have limits to how much they will try to act. I understand that Zlatan is an incredible talent. But he seems kind of like a spoiled athlete. Every time the ball didn’t roll his way he was shaking his head in disgust. He was jogging everywhere. I wasn’t impressed. I’m hoping it was just a bad first live impression. But then again, I’ve read that he often times doesn’t play his best when he’s wearing the national team jersey. So maybe it was just that rearing its head.

But seeing a national team game live in Sweden was a pretty damn cool experience. Because in the end, that’s what sports are all about. The experience. The atmosphere. The competition. Next on the list is a regular game from the Swedish league. And if not, Sweden plays Portugal in October. Who knows, I might even check that game out.

Welcome to Sweden.

To subscribe to A Swedish American in Sweden for free enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Swedish Taxes and Prostitution

In some exciting Swedish news, prostitutes want to pay taxes. Because, as we all know from a previous discussion, prostitution is legal here in Sweden. It’s just the johns who are breaking the law. Selling sex is fine. Buying it? Not so fine.

But let me just repeat that in case you are just skimming. Prostitutes in Sweden want to pay taxes. Want to.

I just love the fact that people actually want to pay taxes here in Sweden. Coming from the US, “taxes” is like a dirty word and politicians promise to lower them to cheers from thousands of onlookers. In Sweden, people get upset when politicians lower taxes, and some people who are currently not paying taxes actually want in on the action. Despite their profession being, well, a bit under the table.

The idea is that the prostitutes want the social benefits that come with being a tax payer. And I suppose prostitution could probably use those benefits. Does not a prostitute get sick like you and me? Does not a prostitute have children like you and me? Does not a prostitute want to take vacation like you and me? Does not a prostitute want to retire? The answer is yes. And to some of those questions maybe even more emphatically than the average person.

However, it seems to me that the widespread paying of taxes by prostitutes might being up a few, shall we say, issues. Filing taxes in Sweden is quite easy. I was pleasantly surprised actually when I did it. However, there are records to be kept, and if you’re in a certain line of business, receipts to be kept. So with the furthered legitimization of prostitution comes paperwork.

And paperwork means better records. And with better records comes the potential for tracing who it is that is buying sex. It’s a bit of a conundrum really. The Local quotes Blank Thörnroos as saying “[o]ne should really have accounting records. And in actuality [customers] should write out a receipt, because the transaction is considered a private operation which is subject to value added tax. But customers’ names need not be on the receipt.”

Because that will work like a charm. For some reason, I don’t imagine too many sex buyers really wanting a receipt for their recent purchase. But I may be wrong. Maybe it’s tax deductible if done on the company dime.

Anyway, bad jokes aside, I find this Catch-22 a bit perplexing. Buying sex is illegal. Selling it is not. Paying taxes on the purchase of sex would legitimize it. But to pay taxes someone needs to be buying it. Which, remember? Is illegal. I guess I just don’t really understand. Either make it legal. Or make it illegal. But to have this half-ass nonsense is just ridiculous.

In the end, I’m not all that interested in the prostitution law itself. I just love the fact that prostitutes want to pay taxes in Sweden. Not exactly your average headline in America.

Welcome to Sweden.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden

Monday, September 08, 2008

Working Out in Sweden

I’ve hit up the in-building gym the last couple of days. And when I say gym I mean a room with a bench press, a pull-down machine that at one point doubled as a row machine before the cable snapped, and a stationary bike that is nearly as old as me. Couple that with the ceiling and walls made of wood that, minus the blue rubber floor, makes me feel like I am in the world’s largest sauna, and you’ve got probably the finest gym this side of the Atlantic.

But it works for what I’m doing. Which is just trying to be halfway active. As I walked in this evening I was surprised to see another person in there. I nodded and smiled as I walked in. And got no response. As I walked in closer, I even said hello and smiled again. This time I got a slight nod. I’d like to add that this guy wasn’t in the middle of any sort of heavy lifting. I wasn’t that guy.

Anyway, I turned on my iPod and got on the stationary bike and went about my business. After being in the same room together for just over 12 minutes and 19 seconds (the stationary bike keeps time) my fellow gym-goer decided it was time to go. At which point he smiled at me, said a few words and then goodbye. I was taken aback. And pleased of course. This was clearly a victory on my part. I had broken down the wall of silence. I had prevailed. Kind of. I mean we had been in a room for 12 minutes and 19 seconds without so much as a word spoken after my introductory “hejsan.”

Since everyone knows 12 minutes and 19 seconds on a stationary bike doesn’t really constitute a good workout I continued a bit. Then decided it was time to lift. So I did some lat pull downs and some shoulder and back stuff. With my iPod on. So it was with some confusion that I turned around to see a girl in the room with headphones in and saying a few words in my direction. I pulled out my headphones and asked her what she said. This being Sweden, you don’t turn down the opportunity to talk to someone willing to talk. She waved and I said hello. And that’s when I realized she sure as hell wasn’t speaking any language I understood. And that the headphones were just a part of her cell phone. Yup, this time I was that guy. She wasn’t talking to me.

I hate hands free cell phone technology.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Free Entertainment by Lennart Nilsson in Stockholm’s Kulturhuset

I’ve written about Kulturhuset before, located right next to Sergels torg, it towers (about five stories) over the square. There’s even a rooftop restaurant (which I have yet to check out). It’s a glorious place, for various reasons. The one most important to me at this point in my life is that there tends to be a couple of free exhibitions going on there. And free is good.

So today, in an effort to get a little culture in me, and get the hell out of my apartment, I wandered into town and headed over to Kulturhuset. There were a few different exhibitions, but I really only checked out two of them. And really only paid attention in one of them (the other exhibit by Gunnar Smoliansky had hundreds of pictures and I lost focus). Luckily, I did not lose focus in Någonstans i Stockholm. Somewhere in Stockholm. Lennart Nilsson.

Honestly, I didn’t go there with any intention of seeing Nilsson’s work. I went there because it was free. But apparently this guy is supposed to be world renowned. I don’t really know what that means though.

Anyway, the exhibit featured 42 (yup, I counted) black and white photos taken throughout Stockholm. Some of famous places, others of just random parts of Stockholm. All were taken in the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. And all were pretty impressive really.

One in particular stuck out though. Not because it was a spectacular photo really, and who are we kidding, I’m no photography critic, but because of the subject. The picture, titled “Tjänsteman övar prickskytte,” was taken in 1955 in Riksbanken. Now a quick translation tells us that the title is (basically) “Employees practice sharpshooting,” essentially they were shooting target practice.

That’s really not too exciting. Granted, guns are somewhat rare in this country so that in and of itself was interesting. But I’m American; I’ve seen pictures of guns before. The really interesting thing was where this photo was taken. In a bank. Riksbanken. And when I say “in” I mean inside the bank. With a roof overhead, and walls to the side. Not only that, to top it all off, a woman sits in the foreground working, while four men stand behind her with handguns. Three of whom look to be in the process of firing their weapons, while a fourth is re-loading.

Now, there are probably all kinds of great insights into Swedish culture in the 1950s that can be culled from this photograph. The gun thing. The shooting inside the actual bank. The woman in the foreground who looks to be doing secretarial work. The men at focus with their guns drawn. I just like that they have target practice inside the bank. I’m a simple man.

And I love it. However, you cannot love it. Because today was the last day. It’s been running since May 31st. No one ever promised timely information from this blog.

That being said, there’s always something worth seeing, so check out Kulturhuset. Especially if you want something cheap/inexpensive/free to do in Stockholm, Sweden.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden

Friday, September 05, 2008

Moving to Sweden – Getting a Cell Phone

It’s time for yet another installment of Moving to Sweden. Because we all need help when deciding to throw caution to the wind and move to a country that is shrouded in darkness during the winter months. Of course, we’ve already covered some of the basics of getting here in the previous posts:
Moving to Sweden – What to Bring
Moving to Sweden – The Swedish Language
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Place to Live
Moving to Sweden – The Metric System and You
Moving to Sweden – Getting from the Airport to Stockholm City
Moving to Sweden – The Weather
Moving to Sweden – Swedish Citizenship Test
Moving to Sweden – Public Holidays
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Job
Moving to Sweden – Culture Shock: It's the Little Things
Moving to Sweden – Making Friends
Moving to Sweden – Cost of Living
Moving to Sweden – The Laundry Room
Moving to Sweden – Marijuana
Moving to Sweden – Most Common Jobs and Salaries

Now that you’re here it’s time to get a cell phone.

I recently was speaking to a couple of people, one of whom had just arrived in Sweden and after four days was without a cell phone, and one of whom had lived here for quite a while. The honorary Swede (because I’m just not sure of the status of his Swedish citizenship) joked that you couldn’t get in anywhere in Sweden without a cell phone. And it’s true. Kind of.

Obviously, no one is frisking you at the door, but not having a cell phone in Sweden is tantamount to kicking baby seals. You just don’t do it. Along with Finland, Sweden is one of the most well connected countries when it comes to mobile technology. They do good work. I’m not sure what it is but the Nordic countries tend to be at the forefront of mobile technology. You can basically be anywhere in the country and get decent connection. Except for the tunnel through Stockholm Södra. Damn that tunnel.

Anyway, with that in mind, it’s a good idea to get a cell phone when you get to the country. It makes things a lot easier when you start making friends, start searching for a job, or start looking for a place to live. The following will give you an idea as to what kind of choices you will face. In the end though, only you can prevent forest fires. And choose your own cell phone.
Look at how old that phone is.
2008 was a long time ago.
There are a few different options. You need to decide if you want a kontantkort or an abonnemang. Literally, a cash card or a subscription. Basically you have the choice between signing up for a contract for a set amount of time or getting a plan where you can just fill up as you go.

Plenty of thought can be put into this. But it depends on how much calling you plan on doing, how much texting you plan on doing, what kind of options you want, and all that extra stuff. The contracts are usually for 12, 18, or 24 months. The pay-as-you-go cards, (which have a name in English that I can’t think of for the life of me) come in various levels but the most common is 100 or 200 SEK. Various plans and cards have different advantages so you need to put a little bit of thought into this. Or, maybe you’re like me and have a deep seated disdain for cell phones and didn’t get one until after freshman year of college. Then you can avoid some thought and keep it simple.

I just wanted something that I could call with every now and again and maybe make an international call or two when I felt the need. So I went with the kontantkort and chose Comviq Amigos because it offered really cheap phone calls to the US and other countries around the world. If you plan on just using Skype (a wonderful Swedish invention by the way) you don’t need to worry about it, but it’s still nice in case you find yourself stuck on a train wanting to call someone back home. Whatever you do, don’t pay full price for a phone if you’re going to get a contract. And, because Sweden likes to make things difficult for immigrants, most places will not give you a cell phone contract unless you have a personnummer. So that's a thing. If you're just here as a student, consider bribing/asking nicely a friend to put you on their plan. That way, you can get any perceived benefits of a contract, without the hassle of not having a personnummer.

You also need to pick a service provider. The big ones are Tre, which means three. Luckily, they use a large bubbly “3” as their logo. There is also, Telia, Tele2/Comviq and Telenor. Then there are a few smaller ones that are working hard like Halebop and Glocalnet. This is obviously not a complete list but gives an idea as to what you have for choices.

What you plan on doing with it is going to be important. Calling. Texting. Sending pictures. All stuff to take into account. You can also take into account which logo you prefer. Because when I studied abroad here that’s what I did. Which is how I ended up with Comviq. They have a basset hound. And who doesn’t love basset hound’s? I probably wouldn’t suggest this for everyone though; it’s basically like picking the Lions over the Rams because you believe a lion could eat a ram. It’s not a good strategy for most aspects of life. But it worked out quite well for me and I haven’t had any problem at all.

For those who want to make a more informed decision, some stores, like The Phone House, will offer some information comparing the different plans. A handy pamphlet with options, columns, little x’s. It’s beautiful really. And should help you decide which plan will meet your needs. You can also check places online like where they compare contracts.

It’s important to note here that most companies will allow you to call for free to others who are using the same company. So Tre can call Tre for free. And Comviq can call Comviq or Tele2 because they are the same company. This is one reason it pays to stick to one of the larger carriers. If you already have a group of friends, check with them to see what they have. If you plan on communicating primarily with them, it might not be a bad idea to get the same carrier as they have.

You also need a cell phone. There are plenty of options here. Too many options to choose from really. You can go obviously go to a specialty store. Like a Telenor store. Or a Tre store. You can also check out an electronics store like MediaMarkt, Siba, or Expert. Or you can go to The Phone House. Which is what I suggest. They’ve got just about everything you need. They have always been incredibly helpful, which you don’t always find in Swedish retail, and they tend to have pretty good prices. Plus, they usually have a couple of phones that have special deals tied to them so you can slide in and snag one of those.

If you’re trying to save money ask around. Everyone loves to get a new cell phone. And with the cellphone culture here in Sweden, Swedes are no exception. That means that a lot of people have older cell phones lying around. Sometimes they’ll just give them away, other times you might have to drop a bit of money. But it’s worth asking. Also, check places like’s notice board. It has a large ex-pat and international community. People are coming and going, and those going often want to get rid of their cell phones for a bit of money.

Finally, because in 2014, when I moved back to Sweden, I had graduate to a smartphone. Really moving up in the world. If you plan on coming over to Sweden with your current smartphone, that's fine. Just make sure you unlock it first. I've been with AT&T in the US for years and they tend to just unlock my phone without too much hassle. This time around, I've been using a Swedish contract with Tele2.

There are other options though. You can sign-up for plans such as T-Mobile's Simple Choice Plan, which offers a whole lot of benefits for not a whole lot of cash. There's unlimited data and unlimited texting. Of course, since you're in a different country and maintaining your American phone number, it means anytime someone wants to call you, they're calling international. And that gets expensive. Or at least annoying.

Now you should have the basics taken care of. You have a plan (card or contract), you have a carrier, and you have a phone. You’re ready to tackle Sweden like a true Swede. With a cell phone as your newest appendage.

Welcome to Sweden.

To receive A Swedish American in Sweden in your inbox enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Fun with the Swedish Language

Today I had a bit of an adventure in Swedish. Now I am pretty much fluent. I can speak the language, I can understand the language. I can have a conversation with most people without them realizing I’m not Swedish. But sometimes it still just kind of trips me up. Of course, the English language does the same but anyway.

This afternoon I found myself having to leave a message as a job follow-up. And I hate leaving messages. I always feel like I am rambling on, even if I have kept it short and concise. I also have a habit of wishing people a good day, evening, lovely Thursday, wonderful weekend, something to that extent. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s that friendly Americanism coming out. But today it just kind of felt like it went wrong. And maybe it would have gone wrong in English too. But I was working with Swedish.

It’s Thursday. I know it is Thursday. And today when I left a message for someone, I was assuming that they knew I knew it was Thursday and would probably not get back to me until next Monday. However, one should never assume, because it makes an ass out of u and me. Cute huh?

And I assumed. At the end of the message, I said, “I hope you have a wonderful Friday and a fortsatt trevlig helg.” A nice weekend basically. Sometimes I’m a little slow. And as I hung up, I realized what I had just done. Because had I received a message like that, I would have thought that the person was under the impression that today was Friday. Not Thursday. And we all know its Thursday. Unless you are in Australia.

This led to that fleeting moment of wanting to call back and correct myself. Which quickly passed because I thought it necessary to retain some semblance of dignity and not dig myself a hole. So I kept my cell phone shut.

But as the day wore on I started thinking about the Swedish language. And various adventures in Swedish. Which led me to some glorious Swedish words. Now I am well aware that this happens in every language. It’s just a collection of words that literally translated to English have a somewhat different meaning.

Sometimes, the Swedes just keep it simple as evidenced by the first word on the list. Other times, they mean what they are supposed to mean but just make me laugh because of my English language background. And so without further ado, a collection of Swedish words that bring a smile to my face. Please add your own in the comments sections, because there are plenty I’ve forgotten.

Grönsaker – literally “green things,” actually “vegetables.”
Tandkött – literally “tooth meat,” actually “gums.”
Surströmming - literally “sour herring,” actually well… fermented herring, rumored to be edible.
Jordgubbar – literally “earth men,” actually “strawberries.”
Kofångare – literally “cow catcher,” actually “bumper.”
Sjukhus – literally “sick house,” actually “hospital.”
Slut – literally “finished,” actually “finished” (but come on… it’s kind of funny).
BH – stands for “bröst hållare,” literally “breast holder,” actually “bra.”
Pepparkakor – literally “pepper cookies,” actually “gingersnaps” (but much more delicious).
Fruktkött – literally “fruit meat,” actually “pulp.”
Björnbär – literally “bear berry,” actually “blackberry.”
Jordnötter – literally “earth nuts,” actually “peanuts.”
Bröstvårta – literally “breast wart,” actually “nipple.”
Infart, utfart – literally “entrance, exit,” actually the exact same thing. But again. It’s just funny.

Welcome to Sweden.

Since I first posted this I've had a few suggestions. Some coming from the depths of my own mind, others from readers who have commented below. So here is an extended version:

Blixtlås - literally “lightning lock,” actually “zipper.”
Flodhäst - literally “river horse,” actually “hippopotamus.”
Kiss (from anonymous) – literally “kiss” obviously, actually “pee.” Keep reading.
Puss – literally well... your pick... actually “kiss.” Do not get confused and say you want to “kissa på dig” you might think it means you want to kiss them in some weird “kiss on you” way. If that’s your style. It would not mean that.
Tvättbjörn (from JD) - literally “washing bear,” actually “raccoon.”
Andedräkt (from anonymous) – literally “spirit clothing,” actually “breath.”
Färgglad - literally “color happy,” actually “colorful.”

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Why Sweden Really Voted Against the Euro

In the fall of 2003, Sweden voted on whether or not they would start using the Euro instead of the Swedish Krona, affectionately known on the international level as SEK. I found myself in Uppsala during the campaign and was constantly bombarded with people in vote yes and vote no pins coming up to me. I usually just pulled the English out and went on my way, similar to my charity strategy. I wasn’t interested in getting involved. And I wasn’t really planning on voting, despite having the right to.

It seemed strange to vote on something when I was only planning on being in the country for a short amount of time. That being said, I will be voting in November, because let’s face it, who becomes President of the US has a bit more impact on the rest of the world than whether or not Sweden is on the Euro. But I digress.

Despite being in the EU, Sweden did not use the Euro. So it was up to the Swedish people to decide. Democracy was in action. Various economic reasons were given, the impact the Euro would have on Sweden, and on the European Union. Of course, there was also a little bit of Swedish pride involved. Keep that Swedish currency around. In a hard fought battle the No side won. About 56% of those who voted decided that Sweden should keep the Swedish Krona.

So Sweden was without the Euro. And it was decided that nothing would be done until 2010. No new votes, nothing of the sort. Something to do with some sort of governmental term ending. Fair enough, if they voted no, there’s no need to push the issue just a couple of years later.

I tell you all of this because yesterday I found myself on a bus in southern Sweden. Heading to Landskrona of all places. And behind me were four gentlemen. Maybe early to mid- 30s. Seemed like friendly fellas. Talking with each other, giving each other a hard time, generally enjoying each other’s company. I was one seat in front of them reading a book. And was struggling to concentrate because I have grown accustomed to silence on all forms of public transportation in Sweden. From what I heard while eavesdropping they seemed like halfway intelligent people.

Anyway, it turns out one of the guys had just returned from Europe. I can’t remember which country he had visited. But he had some Euro bills in his wallet as he was fishing for his bus card. In passing, he told his friends that the bills looked like “djävla låtsaspengar.” Essentially, damn play money. He went on to say that, if for no other reason, he was glad he voted against the Euro because of the way it looked.

Because of the economic impact? Because of national pride? No. Clearly, voting against the Euro was based solely on design.

Welcome to Sweden.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sea Monsters in Sweden

Sweden has an answer to the Loch Ness Monster. And now there’s proof. Or “proof.” Filmmaker’s have managed to get a picture of the monster, known as Storsjöodjuret. The Local even tells us that in 1986 laws were passed to protect the creature and prohibiting people from “‘killing, injuring, or trapping a live animal such as the Great Lake Sea Monster’ or from ‘removing or injuring the Great Lake Sea Monster’s eggs, roe, or dwelling.’”

So obviously when proof was found of this fantastic creature the world just had to know. Because this is international news. The monster was first sighted in 1635 in Storsjön according to this Yahoo article.

Honestly, the only reason I’m writing about this is because I found it on Yahoo as well as The Local. Sweden struggles to get into the news in the US. But find a sea monster and you’re good to go.

The glorious thing about all of this is that the municipality of Jämtland is actually helping fund the project. The money they are putting in is going to install various underwater cameras. Right now there are six. There are plans to install another 20 or so.

There’s even a website. Storsjöodjurets Webbplats. Or for the English speakers: The Great Lake Monster Website. Silly Nessie. She thought she would always be the famous one. But Sweden couldn’t stand for that. And now there’s proof. And a website.

And this quote from Gunnar Nilsson, who is apparently head of some sort of commerce committee, is quoted in the Yahoo article as saying that all of this work is “aimed at improving business around the lake," and that "The monster has helped us.”

Welcome to Sweden.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden