All about Sweden

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Our storage room at work is a bonanza, really. You can find the funniest thing there. Today, I happened to find four sets of the board game “Sverige runt” that I think the Swedish Saturday School uses. Of course I had to take it with me and see what it’s like.

The game looks like a true 80ties pastime. On the cover you see the Swedish nuclear family (but why are the parents dark-haired?) that we instantly named: Mamma Elisabeth, called Bettan, pappa Hans, called Hasse and their kids Anna-Karin and Lars-Åke. Both my co-worker and I struggle to even know the Swedish landskap (province), I have been trying to memorize them for four years now but I always forget Medelpad. (Medelpad, I learned from the game, is the geographical center of Sweden – how is that even possible?!) Our intern is pretty good at this stuff as we noticed when I quizzed each other quickly with a few of the question cards. Such random questions, really. I was extremely proud though of the ones I could answer correctly. Whenever I did not know, I always answered, “Jämtland”.

Here’s a selection for you of those I could answer. Test yourself! (Answers at the very end.)

Who founded Vadstena Abbey?

Where does the Vasa Race start?

What does the sculpture in the Stockholm Cathedral portray?

Which province has most runes?

Which royal lived at Waldemarsudde?

What is the plague during the 1300s commonly called?

Who is considered Stockholm’s founder?

Which one is the biggest party in parliament? (Such a random question since that changes in a democracy?!)

 

Del 3 i random quotes från jobbet:

Extra co-worker coming out of his office, walking by ours, “Hello, Swedish House Mafia!”

“Dejtar är inte kul, de är som jobbintervjuer”.

“Vad heter det djur äter ur?” “Trog”. “Heter det inte krubba?” “Nej, det fick för hög status pga Jesus”.

“Det ser bra ut.” “Du menar det ser ut som om en tysk hade gjort det”.

Saint Birgitta – Sälen – St. George and the Dragon – Uppland – Prince Eugen – Digerdöden – Birgel Jarl – The Social Democrats

 

 

 

To the land of the free

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Emily and me, 2010-today, Stockholm, Malmö, Kiruna, Damme, Bremen, Juoksengi, London, Hamburg. And soon: Murica!

Yesterday, twelve years ago, I set foot on American soil for the first time.  I have not been back since that high school exchange semester. The first five years, I didn’t feel like I had to return. When others felt New York City or Los Angeles irresistably calling for them, I just wanted to go Stockhome. But it was there, in Stockholm, I met Emily who I came to call one of my very best friends, and she was from across the pond. When political and cultural news coming from the U.S. depressed, disillusioned my European soul, I had her  restore my faith in the American people.

And all these years, I’ve been wanting to visit her. Today, I booked! We’ll be spending our birthdays together (because we’re born just one day apart) and I’ll be in Washington, Philadelphia and New York City at the worst possible time: February. But I don’t care, I’ll meet Emily and I’ll see my 2004 host sister Bridget again and I’ll go to the Swedish American Emigration Museum. This is going to be grand! Now I’ll just have to apply for a passport.*

*As a German, you only need a passport if you are travelling outside of the Schengen area which includes all of Europe.

Pax be with you

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Today was a big day in my life. Today I felt like a real grown-up. Because today, for the first time in my life, I bought a wardrobe. I don’t think I ever spent this amount of money on anything yet (even though many others probably don’t think it’s that much). If you wonder where I stored my clothes the past 9 years after moving out: there were mostly built-in wardrobes in my rooms. In Sweden, that’s a pretty common thing.

I bought a Pax from Ikea. I’ve been wanting to do that for months, maybe years. I’ve longed for this piece of furniture ever since I moved in here. But buying a Pax is not something you just do. I planned four Paxes online, took stock of my clothes, measured my room (too small!) and – most importantly contacted my Paxexperts. My Paxexperts are Ilka and Anthony, my friends who have five metres of Pax that they built up themselves, something I deeply admire them for. They were so nice to meet me at Ikea and help me choose and plan, adviced and calmed me (“Will 100 cm of storage for bed lines really be enough?!” “Helen, that’s a lot. You will be fine.”) and they assisted me in downsizing so much that I could take away 50 centimetres. I was so glad to have them with me because not only to they know more (like that if you, like me, persist in getting hinge doors, you can only put baskets in the lowest part) but they also helped me deciding, something I am really bad at because which door handles should one get?

When you plan your Pax at Ikea, you can name your project. Somehow it was impossible to log out again so everyone who used the same computer after me had their projects named “Helen’s Pax!” which was a bit funny when they printed it and showed it to the shop assistant.

I still wonder why the Ikea wardrobe system is called Pax. In Swedish, att paxa or pax på means to reserve the right for something. But I think that maybe this Ikea name is exception from the rule that Ikea names are Scandinavian. I think it might be Latin. Pax. Peace. Peace in the wardrobe.

After the Pax purchase, I attended the Crayfish Party Ikea hosts for its partners every year. We don’t have company parties or a Christmas staff party so this is kind of our thing. It quickly got very late and I ate half a crayfish as every year. I really try again each year but I just don’t like it. I love all the rest of a Crayfish Party though so I even signed up for the Swedish Association’s tomorrow. Let’s see if I can get away with not cracking little red tails and not sucking claws…

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This week, I was also better at living up to my challenge of testing the bars around my house. Thursday with Britta.

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Sweden played Germany tonight, I couldn’t decide who to root for.

 

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My sofa table had to be taken to the conservator so I got this replacement for three weeks. So pretty!

Del 2 i random-citat-samlingen:

20 minuter efter lunchpaus: “När är det fika?” “Halv tre but I like your thinking”.

“Han har ett enda intresse angivit på Tinder och det är Techniker Krankenkasse, han får ett megalike!”

“Det är för varmt. Jag lider faktiskt lite. Mina lår mår inte bra just nu. Jag är som en kamin!”

The Pokébridge

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I’m back at work where I was greeted enthusiatiscally by my co-workers upon my return. There’s lots going on now with three big events in store this fall. I am oscillating between sleepless nights worrying about the arrangement and having great fun when I suceed in convincing sponsors to partner up with us or discussing flower choices.

Dizzel has been treating us to some real summer days with humidity (who thought that was possible here?) and my co-worker and I took the opportunity to go for a lunch walk to what might currently be the biggest sight in this city: The Pokémon Bridge. Yeah, you heard right. The Girardet Bridge, only a stone’s throw from the office, has become the mekka of all Pokémon Go players and got Düsseldorf into international news when the mayor decided to close off the bridge for all traffic and put up portable toilets.

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We were there this week and it is really packed. I wonder if none of these people have any duties to attend to? The most endearing sight was when an old lady walked over the bridge and stopped to bend down and ask the teenagers about what they were doing.

But because one bridge is pokéblocked and another is under construction and with local complaning about the noise, the city administration felt this was no longer acceptable. They have contacted the makers of the popular game to shut down three of the four so-called Pokéstops on the bridge which are the cause of the huge masses of gamers. But there’s still Dizzel’s PokéTrain to comfort those who now will have to leave the bridge. Apparently, this is a city of monster lovers.

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Del 1 i Helens random-citat-från-jobbet-samling:

“Om du vill prata med Helen så har jag några kontrollfrågor: hur lång är du? Hur gammal är du? Är du singel?” (fiktiv telefonsamtal mellan kollegan och en samarbetspartner)

“Jag tittar bara på bilder, det är därför vi rekryterade dig”

“Jag tror folk uttrycker sig illa för att det ska låta tufft”

“Vad vill du ha för fika?” – “Gärna nåt med bär”. “Just det, du är en sån bärofreak”

Sweden at its best

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If I could precisely remember who introduced me to my friend Michelle, I would write that person a thank you card every year. These past days, I had the pleasure of enjoying her and her lovely parents’ hospitality and while it was way too short, it was a summer paradise experience.

Not so much for the weather (which was decent only two days) or any spectacular activities, but more because of the atmosphere in her home. It’s difficult to describe, but yesterday when we sat with Michelle’s mom’s homebaked fika (because of course we got an assortment of homemade cookies every day) in the sofa with her parents, I said, “It’s a bit as if your mom and dad had four daughters”. Mom and Dad fed us, we watched the Olympics with them, they called us to come play Kubb. To add to the mysfaktor, their adorable dog Tessan traipsed behind us, ready to be petted, and when we came back from some trip to the mini train station where we dropped someone off, Tessan ran all over the yard, enthusiastic to greet us.

The time was way too short (I really need to take two weeks vacation in one piece next year) and I unfortunately did not get much sleep either. One night, we had a grand party, the next insomnia haunted me and another one, me and my room mates could just not stop chatting – that’s the camp feeling at its best.

Tonight, I landed in Dizzel which was melancholic. These other past times I returned, the longing for Sweden had been less urgent. But today, when we saw my friend Henrike off at the station, I felt the yearning come back. Henrike lived close to Dizzel and now she’s moved to Stockholm. I felt like I should have gone with her. 45 days till my next flight stockhome.

Monday morning, my morgonpigga friends made me get up before 9 and we had a picture perfect breakfast by the lake in the woods, mosquitos inclusive. Later, we played Kubb and Raphael and I lost twice. Lunch was salmon and potatis in the Swedish sunshine – a perfect day suitable for imagebank.sweden.se

Yesterday, we drove to the beach despite our hangover. It was totally worth it.

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Saturday was the day of the big party! Michelle had invited her friends and family to celebrate her Masters Degree. The house gradually was filled with elegantly dressed people, and even two sweet as candy babies. We got lots of good food and sang the traditional dinner songs. (I really enjoyed watching the foreign  (and unfamiliar with the tradition) guests’ facial expressions when we sang O gamla klang which includes standing up on chairs, singing lines alone and pounding on the table.)

I guess awesomeness attracts more awesomeness because Michelle’s friends are a bunch of wonderful people. A delightful mixture of languages and cultures arose, Europe at it’s best. (“Did you just say that to me in Swedish or German?” “Eh, I don’t know?”) Most of us were assigned a task contributing to the party and I was made the DJ. Since my Uppsala years, I’ve somehow gained the reputation of being able to throw a good party. This time, things have gone so far that I actually obtained a real name, DJ Hoffis/Hoffice (the nickname my intern coined for me adhering to the logic of Swedish nicknaming). The party went great and I think DJ Ingrid would have been proud of me.

Our actual gift to Michelle was a newspaper we made for her (that was the secret project). The Österlen Herald was presented on Saturday and found many interested readers. We already had to promise to publish a new issue in case of Michelle completing a PhD.

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Fika in one of the pretty rooms

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Michelle’s favorite place is the market garden and it inspired me even more to get more plants for my home

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We also checked out the “city” of Simrishamn…

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…a pretty little summer town

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…where Handelsbanken advertisments speak right to my heart (“Imagine the washing machine and the car break down the same week”)

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…and where black pug puppies sit on the shop counters, ready to be petted

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Simrishamn is also home to fabric paradise, so many nice colors and patterns!

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Outside Michelle’s home

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Tessan, my new favorite dog

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I also had to work a little

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At night, we looked like an old married couple. That was fun!

Time Travel in Skåne

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Hello from 1831! I am writing this from a huge, huge house. A homestead to be more precise. My room mate Angelina just tried to go from the hallway back to our room and nearly got lost.

It looks like a mixture of a museum and a filmset, just that we are explicitly allowed to touch and use everything. Oh, and yes, it also belongs to my friend Michelle. This place is absolutely amazing, I stop and express my astonishment every other minute, and I have failed to capture it photographically and I feel probably also have trouble conveying it with words. There are antique gorgeous tiled stoves in every room, the furniture is from the 18th and 19th century, there are two pianos, several dining rooms and I accidentally pressed the bell to ring for a servant. Yes, you read right, there is a display of which room rang for the servants in the kitchen – just like in the Downton Abbey series!

The adorable dog, Tessan, Raphael and Michelle preparing song books, the homestead

Additionally, this carefully furnished filmset is inhabited by our lovely hosts, my friend Michelle and her parents who have fed us with homemade kanelbullar and waffles. We’re here to celebrate Michelle’s Master degree and little by little, more and more friends will come so that in the end we will be a party of 18 living here. So cool.

I also did lots of stuff in Gothenburg but I’ll just have time to give you a picture parade of that because the past three nights, I’ve finally mananged to fall asleep and I don’t want to mess with that pattern. Good night!

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Coincidentally, my aunts were in Gothenburg, too, so we met up.

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Short visit to the German Church of Gothenburg. Fancy!

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At the German church, they give you Bible words to take away.

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It didn’t rain all the time in Gothenburg.

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The latest Gothenburg shoe fashion….?

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We rented a car (so easy! so cheap! so convenient!) and went to Tjolöholms Castle in Halland to look at a castle that was build by some English Sweden at the turn of the century in Elizabethean style. It had a small Jane Austen exhibition. Very small, actually, But nice merch!

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Joraine and Nathalie in the gardens

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Being Jane Auste

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Quite an okay view those living in the castle had.

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Mrs Blanche Dickson was one of the first to buy a vacuum cleaner. It was rather big.

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In the former worker’s assembly house, they now had a lovely fika place…

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…where an artist displayed illustrations I fell in love with

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The old workers’ village

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On the way back, we stopped at a garden shop

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And Joraine bought plants and paid them via Swish which enables you to textmessage money.

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We went to Henriksbergsterrassen and saw Stand Up Comedy. It was the worst I’ve seen. 3 out of 5 comedians joked about sexual abuse of children. In which universe is that funny?

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Swedish advertising: The labored, worried man.

Hallåååå eller

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Going to Gothenburg is really special. Going to Stockholm does not feel like going abroad but Gothenburg gives me back the foreign feeling. I don’t know how the trains run, I don’t know how far it is to the airport and I have no idea where the good cafés are. Luckily, I have a very knowledgeable local host, my friend Joraine. I tell people I brought her here, to Sweden. Sweden, I gave you this gift. I am not sure if she agrees but it was after I kept going on about Stockholm that, 6 years ago, she said, “Maybe I should do my internship in Stockholm”. I still have the video on which I teach her to say, “Hej, mitt namn är Joraine och jag vill göra praktik i Sverige”. Little by little, by ended up in Gothenburg in a brand new super nice apartment, now an accomplished Chalmers graduate with a job at one of my favorite Swedish companies. And she even caught herself a lovely Swedish boyfriend. Basically, she is living the dream.

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Joraine made basil lemonade- veeeery tasty!

After two shaky, shaky approaches for landing (both in Stockholm and then in Gothenburg), I walked through these two biggest Swedish airport with my nation-branding-eyes wide open. Nation branding, communication and destination marketing are kind of my things. Sweden excels at it like maybe no other. I realized that walking through Landvetter, Gothenburg’s airport, today where there have, among other things, a wall installation with typical wooden benches and grandma’s china up on the wall. You see the people sitting there and get into the West Coast holiday feeling right away. And let me assure you, that’s not a coincidence. Everywhere you also see large walls saying “Välkommen to Volvo’s hometown” or “Welcome to where Hasselblad cameras were invented”. Talk about sucessful partnering up with the business world.

At the core of the Swedish nation brands are four words, core values. Two are exhibited here at Arlanda airport: open und innovative.

Many regions in Sweden pride themselves on their local dialect words but Gothenburg is one of the most famous ones. The happy, good Gothenburger is a cliché that stems also from the dialect which is perceived as a very cheerful singsong. Apparently, the Gothenburg Central Station wants us others to be able to integrate so they plastered their walls with a Gothenburg-language-101. Destination marketing in such a charming way!

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The ticket machine asks you to be patient

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Swedish poetry during my stopover in Arlanda

 

Now I shall enjoy the guest room that was prepared for me. What does a good friend in Sweden do when Helen comes to visit? She starts subscribing to amelia, my favorite magazine, so that I get to read it when I come. It does’t get much better than that!

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