June 29, 2011

Välkommen till Sverige! Almost.

It's here. It's time! 2 more days and I will be on my way to Stockholm. And lucky for me, my friends are picking me up from Arlanda Airport so I won't have to deal with paying $80 for a taxi or taking the Arlanda Express after hours and hours of traveling. Plans are well under way as I have a pool party to go to Saturday night (Hawaiian themed so had to bring an outfit. And I had to check if the pool was heated. Otherwise, I'm not getting in. Luckily, it is.) and a girls night out on 4th of July to see Alice Cooper at Tivoli Gröna Lund amusement park. That's right. I said Alice Cooper. Those Swedes love their heavy metal. 

Tivoli Grona Lund

June 20, 2011

Finnish Fashion Shows

During my first visit to Scandinavia in summer of 2008, one of the stops in Finland was a town called Jyväskylä, where my friend had gone to University. One evening we met up with some Finnish friends at a bar, had drinks and then ate dinner at a restaurant called the American Kitchen. Everyone knows the stereotype of American food portion sizes, which are mostly true at quite a few restaurants in the states. Well, one of the guys ordered a burrito. There were 2 very interesting things about this. One, the burrito was served on top of waffle fries. And, it was the biggest burrito I have ever seen in my life. Keep in mind I have eaten a lot of Mexican food. In a lot of different places. The guy that ordered this was tall but a very slender build. I wondered how he would even eat half of it. Shockingly he ate every single bit of it. Not because he was that hungry. Because people do not waste food in Scandinavian countries. They eat everything on their plate. It is considered rude and wasteful not to. Still, an impressive feat regardless of the cultural expectations.

So, at some point later in the night there were 3 of us left. We decide to go to a large nightclub with several floors and different rooms. One interesting thing about many European men compared to American ones is that if they drink enough, they will dance all night long. It is fantastic. And entertaining. As we sat in one of the dance rooms people watching, I quickly noticed a group of guys dancing. They were totally committed to their cause and nothing was going to stop them. Think Night at The Roxbury on SNL, but way funnier. I have never laughed so hard in my entire life than I did during this moment. I couldn't stop laughing. I usually worry about being to obvious and loud and obnoxious as an American abroad but I couldn't help myself. Soon, the bartenders all noticed me hysterically laughing at the dancers and actually started laughing with me. Which is something if you have ever met a sober Finnish man (I am partly kidding my lovely Finnish friends, but you get it).

We later moved to another floor where a "Fashion Show" would be starting shortly. I was thinking, cool! A fashion show! Turns out it was just 4 beautiful girls doing dance routines and then changing into less and less clothes between each song until they were down to swimwear. Interesting. Despite the cultural differences between Finland and the U.S., some things are universal. Like the men flocking around the stage with their tongues hanging out at even the hint of a naked woman. 

Here are some pictures from that Fashion Show, in order of appearance:

June 8, 2011

Reading Hamlet For Fun: It's Harder Than You Think

In preparation of my visit to Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, Denmark this summer, I thought I would re-read Hamlet. This is, after all, the castle where the famous Shakespeare tragedy takes place so it seemed like a great idea at the time. So far I have read about 20 pages but since I have started I intend to finish it! Guess there is a reason they make you read this stuff in high school. I figure it is a great sleep aid on those nights when you need a little extra help.

Photo: Lookon.net
Photo: cphlimo.com

May 11, 2011

There and Back Again

I haven't posted anything in a while, but I have been busy and a lot has happened since my last entry. I have been back in the U.S. for a bit, which has pros and cons, one of the pros being the gorgeous summer weather here in South Florida. The good news is I will be back in Stockholm on July 1st!!! I can't wait to get back and am counting down the days. I miss my friends, the magical summer weather and the city. Trips are also planned to Copenhagen, Helsinki, maybe Gothenburg and who knows where else.....

September 20, 2010

Fall in Stockholm & Searching for the Sun

Fall has been here in Stockholm for about a month now, but the past week has been especially grey and dreary with temps in the low 50's and cloud cover so heavy that you can barely guess where the sun might be. For the 1st few weeks I was thrilled to be wearing my fall clothes, that as a Floridian, I normally get to wear only a few weeks per year. But with this chilly & gloomy week I have found myself thinking of sun, sand and minimal clothing! In honor of this nostalgia I thought I would post a few photos of the beach from my home in the U.S.

Makes me realize why people in Sweden worship the sun. Because it is short-lived and they must get it while they can. I went to IKEA with my friends this weekend and they bought ice cream. We headed back to the car and they stood outside to eat it in the sun. In jackets and scarves.

May 2010 - Anna Maria Island


St. Pete Beach

September 17, 2010

You Know You Are in Sweden When....

1.  You see groups of men EVERYWHERE with strollers having lunch, at the park or at the mall while on their government subsidized parental leave.

2.  You see women driving bulldozers, working on road crews or landscaping.

3.  People are only standing on the RIGHT side of the escalator. The left side is for those in a hurry. If you do stand on the left side, people get pissed and will likely ask you to move.

4.  Everyone you see looks to be at least middle class. Class differences are almost non-existent at first glance.

5. You are unsure of people's ages because many people look so young.

5.  Pre-teen girls dress like grown women. (It is quite alarming actually. Most people I know wouldn't let their daughters leave the house looking this way)

6. If it is Friday after work, almost everyone will be carrying a purple Systembolaget bag on the way home.  (Because the weekends are for drinking, of course)

7.  Baby girls don't usually wear pink. Gender neutral colors for babies are more preferred here and are even debated in terms of equality of the sexes.

8.  The majority of people are agnostic or atheist.

9.  Wherever you came from seems dirty in comparison. Streets, water, parks, you name it - all perfectly  clean even though this is a city of 2 million people. Pretty amazing.

10. Caesar salad comes with bacon.

11. There are no fans. Anywhere. Get used to it.

12. There are American t.v. shows on that you didn't even know existed until now.

13. Toilets have buttons, not handles to flush.

14. People on bikes are everywhere. Many of these people have stylish outfits on and maybe even a suit.

15. Many Swedes that you meet will apologize to you for their English, in advance. And in perfect English. So perfect that you are not sure if they are even Swedish.

16. You wonder if there is a big funeral going on that no one told you about because everyone is wearing all black.

17. People will be swimming in water that a Floridian would need a wetsuit for. And they will tell you it is warm.

18. Baby strollers face the opposite direction & are parallel to the ground.

19. You can buy sex toys at the pharmacy.

20.  You see or meet men and their mouths look funny. Specifically, their upper lip. Then you realize that they use Snus (smokeless tobacco in a pouch that is put under the upper lip, no spitting required). Their hotness goes down slightly in your estimation. You wonder if you can put aside your rule of not dating tobacco users since snus is a cultural thing here and a SHOCKING number of people use it. Even some women.

21. You go buy lunch, and an immigrant takes your order. Their English is good, but not great, since they likely arrived here later in life and were not privy to the English education of most Swedes. You realize not only do they speak at least their Native language, Swedish and good English but that now you feel stupid because you only speak 1 language. You wonder why a 2nd language is not mandated to be taught at American public schools.

September 14, 2010

Eating Out in Sweden: You never know what you're going to get

As a person who loves to cook and visit restaurants, Sweden has many delights as well as some real let downs when it comes to dining out. And since it is relatively expensive to eat out here, it is best to know what you are getting.

From fast food to fine dining, there is something for everyone here in Stockholm.  If you want hot food on the quick and cheap your options are places such as IKEA, food stands (quite good late night), McDonald's or a place called the Taco Bar. Most of these are exactly as you think they would be but I have found that any quick type of "Tex-Mex" as they call it here just gets it wrong, wrong, wrong. It is not completely unlike Mexican food but something is just not quite right about it. An extra ingredient here, a spice missing there.....in this case you don't get what you pay for or expect. 

In the price range from about $10-15 dollars, I highly recommend the Dagens Lunch (Daily Lunch) special Monday through Friday that is available at almost any cafe' or restaurant. It comes with a very large lunch portion of a wide variety of things: sandwich, soup, meatballs, fish or pasta (I have found that it is best NOT to get the pasta. Could use a lot of improvement at most places). Whatever you choose, salad, bread, coffee & water come with.

Classic Swedish foods that I highly recommend:

1.   Swedish meatballs, potatoes and lingonberry sauce - I can't stress how great this dish is, no matter   where you order it. 
2.   Salmon with dill sauce & potatoes
3.   Toast Skagen - Probably my favorite Swedish dish, newly discovered. I have already made it here and plan on bringing it back with me when I return to the U.S. It is delightful in its simplicity: shrimp, mayo/creme fraiche, lemon and dill. Served on bread sauteed in butter. 

4.   Crepes/Pancakes - Can be served with anything. Jam and whipped cream are my favorite.
5.   Cakes/pies/cinnamon buns - All good. All the time.