I have an expat friend who frequently comments that in Sweden everyone wears black. “It’s head-to-toe black,” she points out. “Not even a splash of color.” I usually don’t give this much thought, but my response is somewhere along the line that people in Boston and New York City also wear a lot of black. So, what’s the big deal?Read More»
It is snowing in Gothenburg. One might not think this to be a particularly noteworthy event being that Sweden is often considered the land of snow and reindeer, but I have found the last two Gothenburgian winter snow totals to be a mere fraction of what I was used to while living in the United States. There are few things in life more peaceful than an evening snowfall.
I find myself enjoying the quiet solitude which often accompanies such events. A hot cup coffee to keep me company as I write, the sound of my kitten purring beside me … it has been a long time since I have listened to the sound of snow.Read More»
I love Sweden, but there are a few cultural things that just plain puzzle me. Here are some of those things:
- Why on earth? People standing in line at the grocery store or Systembolaget, will stand in the longest line waiting and waiting, when there are three other cashiers with little or no line.
- The way Swedish people line up their groceries on the checkout belt. Each item arranged, one by one, bar code aligned and showing, for ease of checkout. Ok, I see the beauty of this which is to be courteous to the checkout lady/man. But as an American who simply unloads her groceries willy nilly onto the belt, it sort of makes me smile. I find, however, that when in Rome … And so now I also line up my groceries. Whenever I return to the U.S. … yeah, I’ll be willy nilly again.
- Lack of eye contact on the street or when in passing.
- I have walked in many cities … NYC, Boston, New Orleans, Hartford, New Haven, Paris, Dublin, and more. Here in Gothenburg, it’s madness, I tell you. People walking into each other. Stopping short (just like that) in the middle of the sidewalk or mall. No one moves or gets out of each other’s way. Perhaps it’s the lack of eye contact?
- Why are the washing machines so teeny tiny? I would say it’s due to apartment living, but no! The washer in the shared wash room of our condo is also teeny-tiny. The washers for sale in Elgigantan are tiny. Do Swedes not wash things like comforters, rugs, blankets? I don’t understand and I’d love to introduce the notion of “Extra Capacity” to the good people of Sweden. It’s a good thing. Saves water. Gets the job done. You can wash a whole blanket.
- You can only buy a liter or a liter and a half of milk! WHAT? Ok, here is where the American system of measurements is a beautiful thing. Buy a gallon!! Create a JUG!! Why? Because otherwise you need to buy milk every other day. And what on earth do the people with kids do? I’ll tell you … they buy four 1.5 liters of milk, and line them up neatly on the checkout belt.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. In fact, it’s all kind of fun. Things in other countries are just different. Not better. Not worse. Just different. Embrace the differences.
Hello. I’m an American. I come from the land of instant gratification. I didn’t realize this was the case, or even an issue, but herein lies another cultural hurdle I’ll have to jump. Here in Sweden, we wait. We wait and wait and wait…
We wait for the bus. We wait for our documents to come to us via snail mail. (That’s right, Sweden, one of the most sophisticated technological countries in the world works via snail mail.) We wait a month to get a paycheck. We wait for our paperwork to be filed (often this takes weeks). We wait in a queue at the store and advance only when our number has been called.Read More»
There are some things you have to give up. There are some things you absolutely will not give up. When I moved to Gothenburg, I knew there were going to be sacrifices which would have to be made. I knew I’d no longer enjoy International Coffee creamer in my morning/afternoon/evening coffee. I’d miss those wild New England thunderstorms. And lord knows, I would probably rarely, if ever, see a dirty martini made the way my favorite bartender in Connecticut makes it. (Sweden just doesn’t understand the dirty martini.)
In place of these sacrifices, I gained other things:
- Two beautiful Swedish kittens. They are my joy.
- Heart shaped ice cubes in a plastic bag. Brilliant! Love them. (Seriously, you fill a shape separated plastic bag with water and freeze it. You can get a variety of shapes so your cubes are custom made.)
- Long long summer days and beautiful Scandinavian skies.
- Herring, which I grant you, took a bit of getting used to … but now I couldn’t live without.
- And one of the best things. Fika!
But still, there are those things which you simply can’t live without. For me, it’s bagels. It’s almost impossible to find bagels in Gothenburg. Who would have thought? Aren’t bagels international?
There were times when my guy would literally traverse the city looking for bagels for me. Yup, he’s a nice guy. For weeks, we hunted for bagels. Finally, when we discovered the market where we can buy them (it’s truly a hit or miss situation), they aren’t those wonderful NY style bagels but a bit heavier. A bit doughier. No matter … beggars can’t be choosers. Right?
At this point, I’m very happy to have what I have. My bagels, albeit a bit substandard to what I was used to, are now adorned with Philly cream cheese (yes, they have that here), tomato and capers. Absolutely wonderful.
Sacrifices made indeed, but in doing so, it all turns out ok. One thing replaces another. You just have to keep your priorities in place and never give up on the hunt for bagels … or whatever it is that truly matters to you. Make it work!