Swedified

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This past weekend my five year anniversary in Sweden came and went without much more than the thought of “huh, today it’s been five years since I moved to Sweden.” Five years is kind of a milestone though, so I have been giving some thought to my half-decade here and my gradual Swedification. It ranges from eating way too much korv (essentially hot dogs) to accepting, and actually appreciating, the fact that I need to “take a number” for many services. Here are a few of the things I have noted.

I have eaten more herring, korv (hot dogs), caviar, and crawfish since 2008 than in I did in the 37 years prior.

I join in the communal shock over people who leave their Christmas lights up past Knut (20 January).

In the spring, I love the song of the koltrast and anxiously await the sprouting nettles to make nässelsoppa, the explosion of the vibrant spring green in beech forests, and I make it a point to walk in the woods when the vitsippor are blooming.

I anxiously look forward to the short, Swedish strawberry season and have become rather picky about what variety I actually buy, and that they are, in fact, Swedish.

Close-ups of the flowers.IMG_1826_strawberriescloseupKGcrop

Words of this length, which are not uncommon in Swedish, no longer paralyze me: Realisationsvinstbeskattning, (but the translation is no fun…Capital Gains Tax).

I saw something that had spilled on the floor and found myself automatically exclaiming “oj joj joj!” (which essentially is an exclamation like  “oh my goodness” but sounds like “oy yoy yoy!”).

I look forward to the arrival of semlor after Christmas, and am happy to see them go away for another nine months once Easter finally arrives.

I no longer find the påskris (feathers attached to birch branches at Easter) to be weird, I actually look forward to them.

I long for bonfires on 1 May with Valborgsmässoafton and want to be outside near one even though I know it will inevitably really cold weather.

Jam with cheese is one of my favorite snacks.

Making my own elderflower saft is a much anticipated event. I love picking the spicy blossoms early in the morning before the sun comes up.

I get that Midsommar holds nearly as much importance as Christmas.

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I automatically look for the nummerlapp (take a number ticket) when I enter a bank, pharmacy, government agency, or doctor’s office and it doesn’t phase me anymore (although it still makes me chuckle) that I may need to take a number, to get a number (no kidding on that one).

I have been sucked into Melodifestivalen and made my first televote for Loreen in last year’s competition.

I have prepared falukorv (essentially a giant hot dog that will feed 4 people) for dinner by choice.

I’ve foraged for wild blueberries, raspberries, havtorn, lingonberries, nettles, smultron, and chanterelles, and summer isn’t complete until I have been to the strawberry patch to pick my own berries.

I fully expect that things kind of shut-down during July when things are semester stängt (closed for the holiday).

Meatballs make great picnic food.

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I inadvertently served seven different kinds of cookies to a friend when they came to visit once (there is a classic Swedish tradition that any hostess worth her salt serves seven different kinds of cookies to her guests at coffee hour).

Open-faced sandwiches are the way to go.

I know that kanelbullensdag (cinnamon bun day) is October 4.

I find a sense of peace in the lighting of candles on Alla Helgons Dag for loved ones who have gone before us.

I tear up when my daughters are dressed as Lucia and sing in the procession.

I have accepted that red hearts are Christmas decorations and lutefisk is pretty edible if you add homemade mustard to the bernaise sauce (topping it with a little bacon doesn’t hurt either).

All of those things aside, there are still limits to my Swedification. I continue to think it is weird that people drink hot coffee from a thermos on a hot summer day at the beach, and there is one thing that I still have not done, and don’t plan to do, which is to sit in a super-hot sauna with a bunch of naked strangers (perhaps even some naked friends) and then jump into an icy, winter sea. For now, I say “no thanks”. Perhaps by 10 years in Sweden I will have done it, but quite frankly, I doubt it.

note: the bonfire photo is by Britt-Marie Sohlström, April 30, 2011 in Böle, Jamtland, Sweden

Tags: , , ,

Categories: observations, Sweden+

Author:mbnilsson

I'm an American immigrant to Sweden as of 2008. My blog is for people who like food, Scandinavia, or just think Swedes are hot.

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19 Comments on “Swedified”

  1. March 1, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    I think Sweden is the coolest… used to live there for 4 years and very much enjoyed it… especially the space they have… :-)

    • March 1, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

      I ceratinly can’t complain. It has been a good place to land. :)

  2. Qualia
    March 2, 2013 at 12:18 am #

    ha! thank you for this Swedish slice of life. Quite sums up my own impression since I’ve emigrated here. But you should definitely try the bastu (even if I must admit, the best part of it is the beer you share with friends afterwards!)

    • March 2, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

      Interesting that you have had the same kinds of impressions. Did you also emigrate from the U.S.? I wonder if I will ever get the nerve up to do the sauna to sea plunge. I don’t do well with extreme hot, or cold, swimming suit or no! :)

  3. Fred
    March 2, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Hi Maia,
    I admire and envy your ability to be so positive about a country i’ve struggled to embrace. I came here from London and find the people small minded, bitter and institutionally unhelpful. My fear is that this struggle is a mostly a reflection of my own inability to adapt.
    How different our lives might be if the people we happened to have fallen in love with were, say, Italian, Thai or Chilean!!
    Taking part in these many charming Swedish traditions seems to have brought you a sense of belonging that continues to elude me.
    I did try the kallebadshus experience and despite my doubts, actually enjoyed it. I am not predisposed to public nudity but by the time you’re descending into icy water after part baking yourself, exposing your dangly bits is the least of your worries.
    Go for it!

    • March 2, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

      Well, Fred, we may have discovered the secret to your inability to adapt – according exilgolfer’s comment, you weren’t supposed to do the sauna at kallebadshus naked! :0

      But in all seriousness, perhaps it has been a bit different for me because I am part Swedish. Living here, I understand my farmor so much better. We used to think she was so “short” sometimes when she spoke, but she grew up in a Swedish household in Iowa with a Swedish immigrant father and a mother born in the U.S. to Swedish immigrants. I think that much of her way of speaking English was a translation of the Swedish language, which is very direct. It is how she grew up. Although I’m quite a mutt with English, Scottish, Irish, and German, in addition to Swedish, my strongest connection is to Sweden since my farmor was the only grandparent I got to know well into my adulthood. I even have my own relatives here in Sweden, and have met them. So I do feel like Sweden is a part of me.

      That is not to say that everything has been roses, and that I still don’t think about moving back to the U.S. I most certainly do have those days. But all in all, I am really quite content here. I also grew up in a little city, not a major capitol of the world like you did, and I also moved around a bit in the U.S. before I ever made it to Sweden. So that probably makes a difference too, on top of the fact I am really quite shy (I can’t imagine you describing yourself that way), so I am ok with a more introverted society.

      I know that Sweden has been a struggle for you. I hope that you find the right balance here to feel settled, or that you make it back to London eventually although that would admittedly make me sad if I am still here. In the meantime, since you have exposed your dangly bits in a public sauna, plunged them into the frigid sea, and have come to the other side of that experience recommending that others give it a go as well, you may be more Swedified than you realize. ;)

  4. March 2, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    Very nice description, but I believe you haven’t been close to a swedish sauna once. The Swedes don’t go naked!

    • March 2, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

      Obviously, I can’t speak from personal experience because I haven’t done it, but my one tour of a seaside bath house was an eyeful of nakedness which was particularly awkward since I was taking a tour of the place and was fully clothed. :/ There tends to be a men’s side, and women’s side, at many bath houses along the sea with boardwalks that are on opposite sides of the building for the opposite sexes, and people are going naked from the sauna to the sea. I guess the idea is that a little distance is a good thing when fully exposed?

      Maybe it’s different inland? Or maybe different up north? I certainly can’t speak for all of Sweden, but as you can see by Fred’s comment, and as my husband has confirmed for me, there is decidedly a portion of the population that is going au naturel.

  5. Bill Brindley
    March 6, 2013 at 12:02 am #

    Visste du berättat för din farmor mig “Har du aldrig låta Magnus flytta henne till Sverige”? Jag tror att hon trodde det skulle vara alltför konservativ och inneslutande. Kanske ett samhälle du skulle vara obekväma lever bland. Trots detta tror jag min mor, din mormor, gärna, ja stolt, av hur du har justerat och respekterade svenska traditioner och samhället och jag är säker på att din mamma skulle hålla med mig om att det har varit spännande för oss också. Vi är stolta över att berätta var du bor, vad du håller på med, och hur din och Magnus “familj kommer tillsammans. Jag kan tänka mig era inlaws närheten i Sverige och i mindre utsträckning på grund av avståndet, har mina släktingar i Sverige hjälpte denna justering. Jag vet för min del att när vi slutligen flyttade från Idaho tillbaka närmare de svenska släktingarna i Iowa, att från 12 på jag hört många svenska från människor som jag respekterade mycket. När Laverna avslöjade hennes reservationer T till mig att jag inte lovar att försöka hålla er i USA. Jag var ganska säker på att du skulle passa i fint. Bor i Sverige har öppnat oppotunities för dig och din familj, förmodligen mer så kan vi verkligen veta nu och det har öppnat en ny uppsättning kontakter för oss. Varje gång jag skriver i något liknande till Google Translate jag är imponerad mer med din prestation.

    • March 12, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

      Ok dad, it kind of freaks me out when you do the google translate thing. ;) But thanks for the nice comment.

  6. March 7, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    You really are a wonderful breath of fresh air! I love following your adventures!!!! :)

    • March 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

      Thanks Jen. That is a lovely comment, and this definitely still feels like an “adventure!”

  7. Caryn
    March 13, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    I’ve been back in the US for almost a year now, after 10 months in Malmo, while my husband studied at Lund. I just wanted to thank you for being an easily accessible resource for me when I was there. I would have never tried making any Swedish food without your blog! I gave out recipes from your blog as Christmas presents this past year, along with the non perishable ingredients, so family would have an idea of the Swedish food traditions. My husband and I still make aggkaka for Sunday brunch at least once a month, and I’m determined to get it on the brunch menus here in Portland, OR. Thanks again, and congrats on your 5th year.

    • March 14, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      Hello again! Many thanks for this truly lovely comment and for taking the time to write again now that you are back in the U.S. If we ever move back there, it will be to Portland, and I will look for äggakaka on the brunch menus! :)

      It is really heartening to know that this blog made a difference to your lives while you were here in Sweden. I don’t find much time to get things posted these days, so I appreciate you are still following along and sharing what you have found with friends and family.

  8. March 17, 2013 at 4:41 am #

    Oh, this post was just lovely! My Swedish husband and I are still living in the US (I’m American) but we’re planning a move within the next few years. I am ready for the adventure! We try to visit twice a year for a few weeks at a time, and this post made me feel a bit “homesick” for Swedish summer, even though I have yet to make it my home. Soon…

  9. June 22, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    I love your posts! I found you while attempting to translate some of the words in yesterday’s Sydsvenskan about the history of strawberries in Sweden. I’m here from Seattle with my husband and daughter. My mother was from Sweden and came to the states in the early 50s. I first came with her when I was 11 and met my relatives and made who became my oldest and dearest friend. Over the last 47 years I’ve made many trips to Sweden and my friends and relatives have come to Seattle. My children have come here and their children have come to Seattle. We are a Swedish-Irish-American family enjoying this lovely month of June in Skane. When we return to the states on July 1, I’ll be sure and tune in to your slice of my beloved Sweden. …. speaking of slices… have you started eating your pizza with a knife and fork? :)

    • June 22, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      Thank you for such a nice comment Viveca. How lovely you have had so many opportunities to visit Sweden and that you enjoy it so much. As far as the pizza question goes…it depends on how hungry I am as to whether I tuck in with a knife and fork or just go for picking it up. But I still can’t bring myself to eat hamburger with a knife and fork. :) Safe travels back to the US and welcome back to Semiswede any time!

  10. Patricia
    September 2, 2013 at 3:31 am #

    It was so nice reading your comments about Sweden, my Mothers family came from Sweden and I have practiced the Swedish ways for Christmas time and Easter. I am a bit jealous of how lucky you are to enjoy all of the seasons in Sweden and the wonderful holidays right there. I feel that in the US we are the forgotten people, it is getting harder and harder to find anything Swedish around here anymore.

    • September 3, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      Thanks for your comment Patricia. If you can find your way to an IKEA, you will be able to get a bit of a Swedish fix, but it’s not the same as some of the small Scandinavian boutiques that you used to be able to find, so I know what you mean.

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