• Sweden edition
 
January in Sweden: Week one, thirteenth day, thinking time

January in Sweden: Week one, thirteenth day, thinking time

Published: 05 Jan 2010 14:45 GMT+01:00
Updated: 05 Jan 2010 14:45 GMT+01:00

Welcome to Week 1. Every week in the Swedish calendar has a number. This combines efficiency and inefficiency: instead of scheduling a meeting for a day of the week that begins with the 5th, you suggest Week 32. Easy to find in a diary, impossible to remember without one. Only Week 1 and Week 52 are easy to keep track of.

Wherever you are, it’s cold. The trees are bare, and you can now see from one side of a city park to the other. Even in the extreme south, the mean temperature is zero Celsius, although the country’s western face to the North Atlantic and the Gulf Stream provides a relatively mild winter climate considering Stockholm’s shared latitude with, for example, Anchorage, Alaska.

The last of the Christmas holidays is the thirteenth day after Christmas, celebrating the visit of the Three Magi to the infant Jesus. The following Monday, schoolchildren slip back to their desks after the holidays — some after taking unapproved time on distant charter islands. July has always been the major holiday period because of the weather; now there’s competition from December-January — also because of the weather. Charter flights to Spain started in 1955, flashbulbs popping for the first departures.

These days, Thailand is the most popular destination. Nine million people generate ten million charter trips annually. One poll said that 60 percent would prefer more vacation time to a bigger paycheck. Sweden’s travel operators are efficient. When the 2004 tsunami hit southeast Asia, 4,500 Swedes were in Thailand. The effective help provided by Sweden’s biggest Thailand operator, Fritidsresor, has since been included in Harvard University’s leadership training curriculum.

This is the poorest sales month for Systembolaget, the state alcohol retail monopoly. By their philosophy, poorest is also best. The monopoly grew from an 18th-century decree banning the use of grain for private distilling — poor harvests had led to a scarcity of bread, a major food. The monopoly is cursed, ridiculed — and beneficial. Juggling with taxes and tariffs while fighting off EU trade infringement charges has produced results. Swedish alcohol consumption, once among Europe’s highest, dropped to among the lowest after the monopoly became law. Alcoholism is seen as either an illness or a rebellion against conformity.

The state has also produced booze. Before it was sold to a French company in 2008, Absolut vodka was earning zillions for the same state that took every opportunity to rap its population on the knuckles for its drinking habits. But the message about the dangers of drink was a mixed one, and the state no longer manufactures demon rum while tut-tutting its users. Systembolaget is an efficient monopoly: the selection of beers, wines and spirits is broad, sophisticated and available anywhere. If you live in the countryside far from a System outlet, they’ll send your order by post to the nearest food store.

Coffee al fresco in January? Swedes drink more java per capita than anyone in the world after the Finns. And in the depth of winter — at least in the southern third of the country — mocca addicts who are also smokers take their espressi outdoors under radiator heaters.

Culture blossoms in deepest winter. Myriad art courses involving eco-beads from ancient, musical cultures. And people buying theatre seats and popcorn. The Swedish word for cinema is bio, derived from the Biograph, an early German projector. The Guldbagge Awards for film (the word translates to Gold Bug, but the actual prize is a 1.2-kilo copper beetle) are awarded with fanfare in January. Swedes are avid moviegoers — apparently everyone goes one and a half times a year. Some swear that watching subtitled movies from childhood helps foreign language skills, a possible explanation for the Swedes’ excellent English compared to most people from Germany, France or Spain, where markets are big enough to support dubbing. Sweden and Denmark top EU rankings for state support of culture and numbers of citizens putting rear ends on seats.

At the end of the month, the architectural gem that is Stockholm’s Liljevalchs museum gallery opens its salon for amateur artists. The salon is open to all comers, but almost a century ago it was the major entry point to the art establishment. Easily the most successful Swedish artist is Carl Larsson (1853 – 1919). He has visibly impacted Swedish taste and might be considered the aesthetic root of Ikea. He painted countless interiors with loving precision, a diary of life in a perfect home. His wife Karin, a designer and artist, once commissioned a rocking chair from a local carpenter who delivered the finished product in the gloom of night because its plain lines embarrassed him.

They say it used to rain dead Christmas trees on Knut’s name day, twenty days after Christmas when children took a last whirl around the tree before packing down the ornaments. By tradition, the trees would be jettisoned on the nearest pavement. These days, the tarry wood is collected to fire furnaces for district heating.

Fewer dinner invitations this month. Christmas budgets are overdrawn. But after the mad partying of December, Swedes are pining for that insulating darkness again. Thinking time.

The Year in Sweden by Kim Loughran is on sale now at the AdLibris online bookstore.

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

21:59 January 6, 2010 by calebian22
Great article! Thanks.
00:36 January 13, 2010 by lingonberrie
A mind relaxer.

Yes, the so-called gloom from the dark is often the best refuge for thinking--and for escaping

the mindless chatter, complaints and the omnipresent opinions from people with minds like onions.

This article is simply a good way to relax.
Today's headlines
National
Stockholm bomb investigation to cease
The suicide bombing took place in 2010. Photo: TT

Stockholm bomb investigation to cease

Sweden’s Security Service (SAPO), is expected to announce that it will stop its core investigation into a suicide bombing in Stockholm four years ago. READ  

National
Chainsaw man destroys house in family feud
The man used a chainsaw to destroy most of the Lidköping home. Photo: Shutterstock

Chainsaw man destroys house in family feud

A man in central Sweden has gone on a rampage with a chainsaw after a family housing dispute took an unexpected turn. READ  

National
Man frames beggar with stolen tablet computer
The beggar was detained for almost 24 hours after the accusation. Photo: TT

Man frames beggar with stolen tablet computer

A man in southern Sweden has landed in hot water after he stole a tablet computer, gave it to a beggar, then reported her to the police. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Military seeks 'patience' in sub search
The Swedish Armed Forces have sent out 200 troops. Photo: TT

Military seeks 'patience' in sub search

Sweden's military says it has no plans to downsize the search for a possible foreign submarine and is prepared to force any suspect weapon to the surface of the sea, "with weapons if necessary". READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sub hunt: 'There is something out there'
Former navy officer Bosse Linden in Vaxholm. Photo: Maddy Savage

Sub hunt: 'There is something out there'

Stockholm's archipelago is the focus of the biggest military operation in Sweden since the Cold War. The Local is in the region's capital, Vaxholm, to see what residents make of the drama. READ  

Presented by CurrencyFair
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
CurrencyFair co-founder Brett Meyers

CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers

Tired of losing money when you send cash back home? Join other expats in Sweden who avoid bank fees and hidden charges by sending money internationally with CurrencyFair, an online marketplace where secure transactions are faster and cheaper. READ  

European Union
Extremist saves Sweden Democrats' EU group
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Extremist saves Sweden Democrats' EU group

The EU group that bound several Eurosceptic parties including the Sweden Democrats has been saved by an MEP from a far-right Polish group, just a week after it appeared to have crumbled, according to a UK press report. READ  

Stockholm 'submarine' hunt
Timeline: Mystery 'submarine' in Stockholm
Sweden's Armed Forces are out in force after reports of a foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: TT

Timeline: Mystery 'submarine' in Stockholm

The world has had its periscope on Sweden since the Swedish military launched an extensive hunt for what is rumoured to be a damaged Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago. Here is the timeline of events so far. READ  

Business & Money
Profit leap for Swedbank
A branch of Swedbank in Malmö. Photo. TT

Profit leap for Swedbank

Swedbank has seen its profits rise higher than expected. READ  

New coalition
Sick pay U-turn from Sweden's new coalition
Stefan Löfven has changed his strategy on sick pay. Photo: TT

Sick pay U-turn from Sweden's new coalition

Small businesses won't face rising sick pay costs, following a policy reversal from Sweden's new coalition government. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
National
Sweden deploys troops over underwater threat
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Blog updates

21 October

Denna & den här (The Swedish Teacher) »

"?Denna? or ?den hr?? Swedish language students often ask question about different pronouns. One pronoun that especially..." READ »

 

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
National
A Touch of Scandinavia: Reindeer in the kitchen
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Lifestyle
Sweden's The Bridge to become 'more Danish'
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
National
What's on in Sweden
National
Sweden rethinks Afghan translators' protection
Society
Interview with Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

992
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN