Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Archive for November, 2009

Karl XII, Skinheads and Blatte in Stockholm: 16 years on

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Today, November 30th, marks the annual “Kiss a skinhead Day” –or whatever skinheads called it– the anniversary of the death of King Karl XII. It used to be the date that skinheads took to the street, specifically in or around Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm to protest what skinheads protest best, us non-skinhead types.

Karl XII in Kungsträdgården explaining, “The skinhead went that-a-way

Karl XII

Back then we were more normally called “svartskallerna”  or black heads, “blatte” is a relatively new epithet.

Today  is also the 16th anniversary of my immigration to Sweden.And since I had been here back and forth for over a year I would never have remembered this particular date had it not been for Skinhead Day.  Landing at Arlanda with too much to schlep on the bus, I shared a taxi with a guy going to the Grand Hotel (the only hotel in Sweden good enough for Anna Anka, albeit barely.) Seeing that Kungsträdgården was blocked off, I asked the driver why and was told about the  Skinhead protests (and anti-skinhead anti-protests –all sorts of hullabaloo).

The irony that my “official move to Sweden Day” coincided with the “Skinheads hate immigrants Day” tickled me.

Today the skinheads have abandoned Kungsträgården and their revered King and I think they’ve moved to a suburb south of Stockholm on another day to mark a more modern occasion.

Maybe we ought to rename the day, Blatte Day.

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Stockholm Christmas: Jul is lit

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

There’s a great irony involved with Swedish Christmas and Christianity. Swedes use the pagan word —JUL or Yule in English– and yet despite there being very little religion in the daily lives of Swedes, nearly everything about Christmas is more Christian than my Boston Christmases.

Christmas in Stockholm officially started this weekend. The season always kicks off in line with the First Sunday of the  Advent. So many homes had jumped the gun on Saturday with all their lights up and lit.

Lights are nearly always “white” (no multi color bulbs and definitely no blinking lights ) in Sweden and candle “trees” in windows or advent stars are pretty much all you’ll see.  This window is about as stereotypical as you can get.

Swedish windows

I have joked for years that one of these Christmases I might just go Griswold on the house. It probably won’t happen, but boy would it be fun to have a spread of the tackiest light displays ever seen this side of Stockholm.

Griswold Christmas

It won’t happen this year. I think we have one star and one functioning candle tree. Must get those up soon.

Only 25 shopping days left to Julafton, Swedish Christmas.

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Thanksgiving Stockholm Style: Any which way you choose.

Friday, November 27th, 2009

My 6kg (12.5lb) turkey was delivered on Thanksgiving Day.
It’s a regular work day here in Sweden. American Thanksgiving doesn’t exist in Sweden (no surprise there) but Americans carrying on the tradition of Thanksgiving does exist.

Some of my American friends did Thanksgiving Day up right and even took the day off from work to celebrate on the day. Our family normally postpone to either the Friday or Saturday. This year I’m hosting for the first time in a long time this Saturday night. We’re a little gathering of Swedish/American families who have been bonded more as a variation of family rather than mere friends. Some things bind people who normally would probably not ever have gotten to know one another.

There is one thing I’m particularly thankful for this Thanksgiving. I am thankful that I can afford the 95kr/kg ($6.50/lb) price tag of that darn bird.

Doing up Thanksgiving in Stockholm costs and wing and a drumstick. Good thing we don’t do bird for Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving to those here and there.

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Happy name day to me. No, not Blatte Day (yet)

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Hey all you Elizabeths out there. Today (November 19 if you’re reading another day)  is our name day. Happy Elizabeth Day. (Or Elisabeth or Elisabet as you are more likely to be if you are Swedish)

So what’s a name day (if you haven’t already clicked on the Wiki link), it’s “a tradition in many countries in Europe and Latin America of celebrating on a particular day of the year associated with [your first name.]” There is a saint connection too for many names.

In Sweden the celebration is sort of hit or miss. Some people do it religiously (most not literally, though I would guess some do it literally religiously too.) I have a Swedish client who checks her calendar (Swedish name day calendar) daily and sends a greeting to whomever’s name it is for the day. No one has sent me a greeting today (I guess she doesn’t like me enough.)

My first introduction to the name day thing was when I lived in Hungary. They take this name day thing seriously. So seriously that it can rival the attention you would get on your birthday, including getting presents or flowers at the very least. No one sent me presents or flowers today either (it is a bit f to send flowers if you are in Hungary, or maybe no one there likes me enough either.)

I never heard of this growing up in Boston, but leave it to the American will to never be left out of a fun thing, now you too can promote your name day in America.

So when is your name day? Find out here.

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Swedish Melody Festival goes Hollywood: Not quite Rocky

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

The best complement I’ve ever got about my Swedish has been, “I thought you were Swedish but had spent a lot of time in the US”. My tickled reply was, “You thought I suffered from Dolph Lundgren Syndrome?”  If the name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s was the Russian dude in Rocky IV.

The reference to “Dolph Lundgren Syndrome” comes from the star’s apparent  inability to manage Swedish during an interview. He blamed it on having been in the US speaking English for too long.

"You will lose" --Ivan telling Rocky Balboa

"You will lose" --Ivan telling Rocky Balboa

Despite his glory days being about 20 years old, Dolph is still a Hollywood star for most Swedes. (I guess after Greta Garbo died, Dolph is all Swedes have left –unless Anna Anka catches on.)

Today, SVT (Swedish TV) announced that Dolph was one of three hosts of this year’s beloved Swedish Music Festival. (The Swedish run up to the Eurovision Song contest)

Now I am not really sure what to make of that myself. The Swedish Schwarzenegger doesn’t ooze kitschy song contest.   People seem to have mixed reactions between pure thrill and  wondering if SVT needs a sanity check.

They probably have some master plan in it all. It has piqued my interest to tune in when I wouldn’t likely have .

Most people don’t know (and wouldn’t have guessed in a million years) that there are brains in that pretty head.  Lundgren has a masters degree in Chemical Engineering from the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology (The Swedish MIT –where he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship.)

Most importantly, he is pretty decent eye candy.

It doesn't hurt the eyes looking at that.

It doesn't hurt the eyes looking at that.

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Solna in Stockholm: Swedish Post Office thought they’d correct me.

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Boston gurka,gurka the Swedish name for pickled relish, to the great disappointment of many Swedes,  isn’t from Boston.  And Södermalms Trä, to my astonishment (first time I saw it) isn’t on Södermalm but in Nacka and now in Årsta. Just goes to show that the name of a place in a name is but a name and only a name (I think Shakespeare wrote something about this, though maybe had a different point.)

Keeping with the above logic you can imagine that the New Karolinska Solna isn’t necessarily in Solna.  Eventually, Stockholm’s new university hospital (cutting-edge and fascinating in so many ways) will be physically located in Solna (which in this case is indeed why the location is included in its name) but that still doesn’t mean their snail mail address can’t be in Stockholm. And for real, that’s where their address is.

But someone at the Swedish Post Office didn’t think so.

A very astute worker (yes, please read in heaps of sarcasm) crossed out the STOCKHOLM address on the envelope of a document I sent and hand wrote SOLNA. Another worker (no judgment passed on this one) couldn’t find the addressee in Solna and returned my letter now stamped “Unknown.”

The vision is still virtual, but when it's brick and mortar it will be in Solna.

The vision is still virtual, but when it's brick and mortar it will be in Solna.

Now it’s unfortunate for the PR people over at the New Karolinska Solna that most Stockholmers (and most certainly postal employees) don’t know anything about the exciting new hospital to open in 2015 (they really ought to get the word out) but I do wish people who don’t know even what something is wouldn’t try to presume where it is located.

I have a good mind to march down to the post office to demand a new stamp and deal out a tongue lashing. Now if I could only find one.

I guess I’ll have to settle for the local ICA.

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