Monday, December 21, 2009

12 Days of Swedish Christmas

On the twelfth day of Jul my Swedish love gave to me: (feel free to sing along)

Twelve jars of sill (pickled herring)

Eleven Lussekatter (saffron bread)

Ten Triss lottos

Nine cups of glögg (Christmas wine)

Eight boxes of Marabou Paradis (chocolates)

Seven Saint Lucias

Six Julbords (Christmas meals)

Five golden shots of schnapps

Four Advent candles

Three Årets Julklapp (Years Christmas gift which this year is some mattress with plastic spike kind of things on it.)

Two Amaryllis flowers

And Donald Duck on TV

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sweden Is Nicer In The Summer

For some reason people here seem to be obliged to tell you that Sweden is nicer in the summer. It’s rare that a day will go by when somebody won’t make this revelation to me. Like they are opening my eyes to some profound truth. We’re walking along in the drizzly rain, it’s 3 degrees celsius, haven’t seen the sun in 3 weeks and they say ”Yeah, Sweden is much nicer in the summer”. Thank you Captain Obvious! I never would have imagined that a country that lies north of the 56th parallel, and partially within the Arctic Circle, would experience a more favourable climate in the summer. Isn’t the majority of the world nicer in the summertime? They tell me this knowing that I come from Canada. In the area I come from at the time of print it is -40 degrees celsius, so I am somewhat familiar with the whole deal of having not quite as beautiful weather during the winter months. This isn’t a phenomenon strictly related to Sweden. The Swedes are almost apologetic about the weather. ”You really should come here in the summer, it’s a lot nicer then. This is a summer town”. Every town here is a ”summer town”. I have also been made aware the fact that here in Sweden, in the winter, the length of time during the day in which the sun shines is shorter than in the summer. In fact, in the northern part of Sweden, there can be hardly any daylight in the winter, whereas in the height of summer it doesn’t get dark. This helpful information for those of us that missed that day of 5th grade science. We all get it. It’s nicer in the summer. This is normal.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Trains In Sweden

Spending a good part of the day today riding the rails through southern Sweden. Great way to travel….comfortable, no traffic to deal with, see the countryside, I got internet on this thing, I can buy food…top notch. And if I was going to drive it would cost me just as much for gas. Too bad we don’t have better train systems in North America. I know they’re alright some places but you can get pretty much anywhere by train here. I don’t own a car here and I seldom miss it. Just a bike and a train pass. You can even bring your dog on the train if you want. Be aware of that, if you’re looking for some peace and quiet on your trip don’t sit in the dogs allowed section. On the first leg of my journey today I felt like I was at Michael Vicks place. Two mutts brawling in the aisle for forty minutes. No one seemed to mind.

Friday, November 27, 2009

November Fart of the Month

This months featured fart is the Utfart, or Outfart, meaning exit, in particular where you drive your car out of someplace. This should be an easy one to remember given the fact that whether you are thinking in english or swedish, an outfart is going to represent some sort of an exit. The utfart is a common thing and something that most people encounter daily, however not everyone is comfortable with using them, or with how others use them. Misuse of the utfart can lead to a messy situation, so as with most forms of fart, caution is the key. As we discussed last month regarding the farthinder, fart can be a very good and useful thing as long as it’s used in the appropriate manner and location. It should not be used carelessly and that is why you see so many various signs instructing us on how to use and manage fart. The utfart is no exception. One cannot just fart ut any place one chooses. Rather you should only fart ut in designated utfart locations, otherwise it can lead to chaos and property damage as well as put the health of others at risk. Try farting ut in the wrong place and and you are sure to annoy if not anger someone and maybe even get a ticket. It can be rather uncomfortable and even stressful when you need to utfart but cannot find the place to do it, however utfarts are usually clearly posted so this is seldom a problem. There is a clear need to regulate utfart and I feel these signs are are a responsible use of tax money. Remember to look both ways and make sure the coast is clear before you decide fart ut, because once you commit to it there’s no stopping.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Swedish Pizza

In a word…not that good. But at least it’s easy to find. Based on the number of pizza restaurants here, I think it’s more popular in Sweden than it is in Italy or Chicago. If you want to know the population of a town, all you have to do is count up the number a pizza joints they have there. The ratio seems to be roughly 1 pizza establishment per 1,000 people. For example, the town I live in has about 20,000 people and boasts no less than 20 pizza places, and this seems to be a pretty average proportion across the board. Quite a high density considering the quality of the product. The menus at these pizza places feature about 800 choices, but among those I have yet to find a pepperoni pizza. Or sausage. I always thought of pepperoni as the common go-to pizza choice but apparently not here. However, if you are pregnant or maybe high on something and are craving a shrimp, banana, peanut, jalapeno, mussle and egg pizza with a curry sauce you are sure to be able to find that. I did have a Hawaiian pizza the other day but that was kind of weird too. Instead of big slices of ham and little chunks of pineapple, it had a few tiny slivers of ham and two huge pineapple circles in the middle. So four of the bites were entirely pineapple and the rest had none. Hardly any sauce or cheese but it did come with one of those thrilling ”pizza salads” which is like some kind of cole slaw or something with a lot of vinegar. And why would you ever cut the pizza into slices? That would just be silly. And it doesn’t appear that the pizza box manufacturers have ever had a dialogue with the people who make and sell pizza. Maybe that’s because, well let’s just say that there could often be a language barrier. But in any case, if a standard size pizza here is a 14”, then the standard size box is made for a 12” because they never fit. The sides of the pizza are always folded up to fit in the box. I’d be lying if I said I missed Dominos but I could sure go for a deep dish Chicago style with extra sauce (pizza sauce I mean) that was cut into slices and served with a cold beverage that maybe even had ice cubes in it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Designer Ball Hats

If you want to be cool in Sweden one thing you can do that seems to be popular is to wear a designer baseball cap, preferably New York Yankees. But not a real Yankees hat, rather one that looks like it came out of a rap video. Take, for example, the above picture. If you took the colours from the hat on the right and inserted the logo from the middle one, you would have what a Yankees hat should look like. But that just wouldn’t be stylish now, would it? A cool hat can have either the teams logo OR colours, but never both. Bear in mind that by wearing a baseball cap you are in no way implying that you are a fan of that team, or that you know the first thing about baseball, which Swedes do not. The other day a friend of mine here was sporting a pea-green NY hat so I made a comment about the Yankees winning the World Series. He gave me a blank stare. No clue. The most popular caps here seem to be any variation of a Yankees hat, but for some reason L.A. Angels hats are also a hip alternative. I’m not sure why but what do I know? I only wear a Minnesota Twins cap with the real logo and correct colour scheme so I obviously don’t have my finger on the pulse of fashion. Take your coolness to the next level and sport your orange or camo Red Sox hat with a perfectly straight brim twisted to the side and the shiny size stickers still on it. Then combine that with your tight jeans tucked into your socks and pulled halfway up to show off your Björn Borgs.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dagens Lunch

Just wanted to tip my hat to what I consider to be the best niche of the Swedish food culture. You hear a lot of talk here about fika, and one can't argue its importance as it's practically the backbone of Swedish social life. Fika is a beautiful thing and I wouldn't want to take anything away from it, but I think the whole phenomenon of the "lunch of the day" deserves a little more praise. Go to almost any restaurant here and they will feature a great, full-course meal for their lunch special, usually with a couple of choices. Many times it's an all-you-can-eat buffet. And I don't mean a crappy chinese food or KFC buffet. For an average price of about 75 kronor (around 10 bucks) you'll get a real meal with a pair of meat choices, potoatos or pasta, salad, bread, a drink, coffee and dessert. I hit the jackpot the other day at a local establishment that was serving porkchops AND meatballs with mashed potatos and a dream of a sauce. The time before that it was ribs and chicken. So skål to dagens lunch. If you visit Sweden be sure to take advantage of it, it's the next best thing to your moms homecooking and it sure beats the heck out of a burger and fries.

Happy Swedish Fathers Day...

To all you fathers out there. Especially to my own Dad, all my buddies that had kids in the recent months, and to my co-writer of this blog who will become a dad in a couple days. Hope you all have a great day.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Swedish Toilets 101

The Swedes are widely known for their engineering prowess and I think a good example of this is their toilets. Overall I would have to say that the Swedish toilets are superior to their North American counterparts, however there are some things to keep in mind in order to make the most of your experience. The best characteristic of the Swedish toilet is the high pressure flush, especially if you opt for the "full flush". They use a lot more water and the result is a more forceful, thorough flush. Pluggings are almost non-existent, I don't even own a plunger here. Some toilets offer the user the option of the forementioned full flush or else the half flush. I don't really see the logic in this. Why would anyone pick the halfer when the full flush button is right beside it? Maybe if you're really environmentally friendly but I choose other ways to reduce my carbon footprint. I'd recommend the full option everytime. The thing you want to be cautious of with the Swedish toilets is the low resting water level. The diameter of your water target here is going to be about 20cm versus maybe a 40cm standard with a North American toilet. This may seem unimportant, but unless you are right on target, you are going to have some collateral damage outside the water limit. Streaks that are often not eliminated despite the powerful flush. So although you can probably get by without a plunger, a toilet brush is an absolute necessity. Without one you are left with more creative and less appealing options of which I'll spare you the details.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Alla Helgons Dag

There's not a whole lot to say about Halloween in Sweden, it's almost non-existent. I for one am glad that Sweden doesn't buy into the halloween hype, I really don't miss it. In the U.S. halloween is now the second most celebrated holiday after Christmas, but here I haven't seen one house decorated with skeletons, witches or jack o lanterns. I did get invited to one loosely termed halloween party and I'm not even sure if costumes are involved. But just in case, I do have a costume idea that I think the Swedes would find particularly scary. I'll just go wearing my Team Canada hockey jersey!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


So let's say that you kind of like hockey and you would play except either you just can't skate, or you don't like all the body checking and rough physical stuff. Or maybe you just don't like the cold, or how the helmet messes up your pretty hair. Well if this is the case for you, you might want to give innebandy a try. Innebandy is basically the same thing as floor hockey that you played in elementary school gym class, or street hockey out in front of your house. Except instead of using a real hockey stick and one of those hard plastic orange balls, these hard-nosed athletes showcase their skills with a wiffle ball and basically the wiffle version of a hockey stick...plastic with holes in the blade. This way, if someone does get struck with the ball or a wayward stick, it doesn't hurt too much. A relatively pain free experience being one of the reasons in choosing innebandy over hockey. Now, within the confines of 6th grade gym class, or the odd Friday night with your buddies at the local sporthall, this is actually a pretty fun game to play. However, here this game is taken a couple steps further and there are actually professional leagues. Almost any town will likely have a team with sponsors, a booster club, and ambitions of qualifying up to Swedens All-Svenska innebandy league. Ranks right up there with pro frisbee golf or the rock-paper-scissors world championships. Check out the newspaper and you can read up on your local team right next to the bowling and ping pong results. Once a year are the innebandy world championships and Sweden has traditionally had a lot of success at this event. They consistently finish in the top 3, which is quite impressive even if there are only about 8 countries in the world that are aware of the sport. If you are in Sweden and get invited to play a pickup game it can be a good time, just a couple of points to remember. Do NOT contact another player or their stick with your stick or any body part. And make sure to style your hair with plenty of gel so it will hold in place for the duration of the game. This seems to be important.

Friday, October 23, 2009

October Fart of the Month

The introductory Fart of the Month is the farthinder. Of course the role of the farthinder is to hinder or reduce fart, which most would consider to be a good thing. Hindering fart is of increased importance in high traffic areas, particularly in places where there are greater numbers of children and elderly present. Excessive fart in these areas can definitly pose a risk to public safety, so that is where most farthinders are located. So when you see one of these signs, please do your part for the greater good and keep your fart to a minimum.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Farting in Sweden

One of the best words in the Swedish language has to be "fart". It doesn't mean the the same thing as it does in actually means speed. (For you Swedish readers out there, in english fart means fis.) But, considering that fart means speed, it makes for some great compound words, road signs etc. So starting tomorrow we are introducing the "Fart of the Month". Approximately once a month we'll all get together and laugh about a fart word. Maybe it's a little juvenile but, så är det. So tune in tomorrow for Octobers FOM.

Monday, October 19, 2009

American Dressing

One of the most popular hamburger condiments here in Sweden is this so-called "American Dressing", and I'm not sure where it comes from but I know I've never seen it in America. And it's terrible. I guess the closest thing you could compare it to would be that "special sauce" you find on a Big Mac, but even worse. The Swedes love the stuff and I think they are embarrassed by that. Maybe that's why it's called American dressing. That way they can enjoy it on their burgers but they don't have to take credit for inventing it, they can just blame it on the Americans. So when you are ordering a burger at a Swedish burger joint (which I would discourage you from doing in the first place) I would strongly recommend asking for no sauce.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Swedens Baseball Legends

With the Major League Baseball playoffs under way on the other side of the Atlantic, I thought I'd do my part to increase the popularity of the sport here in Sweden. I think the locals should have a little more pride, and the world a little more respect for Swedens rich baseball heritage. Granted, it has been the better part of a century since a Swede donned a big league uniform, but that doesn't make their impact on the game any less impressive. So forget Salming, Borg, Sörenstam and Zlatan, here are four real pioneers of Swedish sport. Here are the 4 Swedish born players to appear in the Majors.....

Charlie Bold, born in Karlskrona. Charlie was in the lineup for two games with the St. Louis Browns in 1914. He had one at-bat and struck out. He also had one error.
Axel Lindström, born in Gustavsberg. This guy had a .500 career batting average! He played one game for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1916 where he had two at-bats and one hit.
Charlie Hallström, born in Jönköping. Nicknamed "The Swedish Wonder", Charlie played one game for the Providence Grays in 1885. Charlie pitched a complete game in his one big league appearance where he allowed 18 hits and 11 earned runs. He was 0 for 4 at the plate with 2 stikeouts.
Eric Ericksson, born in Göteborg. Eric has to be the king of Swedish baseball. He played parts of 8 seasons with the New York Giants, Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators between 1914 and 1922. His best year being 1920 when he won 12 games as a pitcher and boasted a .277 batting average for Washington.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

TV Tax

Just got the bill in the mail for my TV tax! I love when that comes. Paying taxes on something I get absolutely nothing in return for is one of my favorite things about living in a socialist society. And what could possibly deliver less than government run television? It comes every 3 months and adds up to a little over 2000 crowns a year, or about $300. If you own a TV here, or a radio for that matter, you'll be getting this bill from Radiotjänst. This isn't a tax that you pay upon the purchase of a TV, or tax tacked on to your cable bill. This is $300 a year just for the right to have a TV physically present in you home. And if you don't pay you bill, or if you truthfully or otherwise tell them you don't own a TV, you can expect a government agent to come knocking on your door just to make sure you aren't trying to stick it to the man.

And what do you get for your forced contribution to channels 1 and 2? Well I rarely tune in but I'm pretty sure you're looking at the test picture until noon, hours of government debates, some news, probably some soccer. Oh yeah, and Melodifestivalen in January, can't forget that annual "song" competition! I'm not really sure but that's the's a lot of money for something I don't use. I could double my annual fika budget with that money! Think of it this way, if you live in North America and don't have cable TV, you probably get four or five channels like NBC, ABC, FOX, CBC, etc. And then you get PBS. Public TV. What if you got billed $300 a year for PBS, wouldn't that be sweet? Well that's exactly what's going on here. You'll hear the argument here that because we pay that money they don't have commercials. Congratulations but is it supposed to make me happy that I get to support crappy, commercial-free television? If they did have ads, they would likely be the highlight of their programming schedule. So here's an idea SVT....put some decent shows on, sell advertisements, and support yourself like big boys and girls.

There has recently been rumours of eliminating this tax but, in the meantime, a couple of things to keep in mind. If you are planning on buying a TV, buy it used instead of in a retail store. This way there is less of a chance that the TV police find out that you are a TV owner and start billing you. Secondly, if you hear an unexpected knock at the door some evening, remember to quickly hide your TV in the closet before answering. I may write more about this later, but for now I have to run. There's a show coming on about lonely farmers looking for love.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Temperature In The Shade

When talking about the temperature, the Swedes often feel the need to add "in the shade" after the stated temperature. However, this phenomenon typically occurs only when the temperature is very warm....roughly 30 degrees celsius being the apparent threshold. For temperatures below 30 degrees celsius, simply stating the actual temperature (which happens to be in the shade anyway) is considered sufficient. Here's an example. "Yeah, last week I was down in Spain. While it was cold and rainy here in Sweden, down there it was 35 the shade!" Apparently, since temperatures so high are rarely experienced in Sweden, this suffix somehow becomes necessary. A little added shock value perhaps. As if the other person is supposed to think, "Wow! If it's that hot in the shade it must be really hot if you were standing in the middle of your driveway with the sun beating down on your black shirt!"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kanelbullens Dag

Today is a special day in Sweden, it's cinnamon bun day. An entire day dedicated to the celebration of cinnamon buns. I guess it would be like having donut day in the US. Might sound a little strange but why not celebrate the finer things in life? So go eat a CB today.


Thought we'd clear the air regarding a few brilliant questions we frequently get regarding Sweden from from people back home over the pond. Not that we spend a lot of time learning about Sweden in our North American schools, but whether your teacher would admit it or not, there is such a thig as a dumb question. But we love them so keep them coming.
Q. What language do they speak in Sweden?
A. Uuhh, that would be Swedish.
Q. Do you ski a lot in the Alps there?
A. Not when I'm in Sweden.
Q. Do you have one of those "Swedish bank accounts?"
A. I assume you're referring to a Swiss bank account which I do not have, but yes, I do have a Swedish bank account. As to whether or not the dozens of dollars I have in it are traceable, I can't say.
Q. Do they have McDonald's there?
A. Unfortunately, yes.
Q. Is everyone in Sweden blonde?
A. Yes, every single person.
Q. Do you know the Lindströms?
A. Yes, but probably not the ones you're referring to.
Q. Do you shop at IKEA a lot?
A. Every chance I get.

And finally.... "How far is it to Stockholm from where you live?", I was asked. "About 3 hours by car", I said. "Really?", they replied, "Is Sweden that big?" Yes.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Welcome to our blog. We're a couple North American guys who have spent a few years living in Sweden and feel it's time to share our observational wisdom with the world. What is life like in Sweden? From stuff that Swedish people like, to morsels of crucial information that you need to be aware of if you're planning on spending time here, we'll tell you what you need to know. Afterall, there is a lot more to Sweden than meatballs and blondes. And, although we are very fond of both of these and don't wish to downplay their importance, there is actually a lot more to this fine country. Like any place, Sweden has its sometimes amusing, sometimes annoying idiosyncracies, and we will explore them all. From fika to farthinders. Enjoy.