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Can You Help With My Book Research?

I'm Writing A Book About Life In Sweden

Katie Metcalfe
post 25.Feb.2018, 04:11 PM
Post #1
Location: Borås
Joined: 5.Jun.2016

Hej folks! My name is Katie and I'm a writer and blogger who has been living in Sweden for two years. At the moment I'm working on a book about my experiences of the people and culture and need some help with my research...

I'm looking for positive/negative thoughts, opinions and stories from native Swedes, people who have visited Sweden or expats on the following:

Swedish People & Culture
• Why personal space is so important to a Swede
• Why you don't make conversation with a stranger
• Why looking through the peephole is second nature
• Why too much enthusiasm can be seen as a bad thing
• Why parents are seen as 'getting it right' in Sweden
• Why Swede's hate small talk
• The directness of Swedes
• Making friends with a Swede
• Swedes and lateness
• The Swedish obsession with talking about money
• Going out for a night on the town
• Taking off your shoes at the door
• The cost of living in Sweden
• Law Of Jante
• The obsession with snus

Food & Drink
• The cost of food
• Fika
• The Swedish obsession with coffee
• Taco Friday
• Fredagsmys
• Lördagsgodis
• The open sandwich
• Liquorice
• BBQing in Sweden
• Knäckebröd
• Kalles Kaviar
• Falukorv
• Semla
• Messmör

If you have any interesting or funny facts, bites of history, recipes or personal stories/experiences to share about any of the things I've listed, please share, and, with your permission they may be included in the book.

If you have lots to say on everything I've listed, great! If you have only a few words on one thing, that's great too! Everything helps.

If you're interested in my credentials, you can find my website here: www.katiemetcalfewriting.com and my blog here: untamedhomemaker.wordpress.com Looking forward to hearing from any interested participants!
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jessiccarobertt
post 2.Mar.2018, 06:01 AM
Post #2
Location: Gävleborg
Joined: 2.Mar.2018

I will participate soon
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Katie Metcalfe
post 5.Mar.2018, 03:38 PM
Post #3
Location: Borås
Joined: 5.Jun.2016

Thank you very much! smile.gif
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robbie1985
post 5.Mar.2018, 05:17 PM
Post #4
Joined: 5.Feb.2018

Thoughts from a British expat after 6 months here:

• Going out for a night on the town
Having come from Newcastle, all I can say is it's bloody expensive! However, after 30 this might be a good thing, as it means I don't 'binge' drink here, so rarely have a hangover!

• Taking off your shoes at the door
At first I thought this was really odd, however now winter has rolled around, and my shoes seem to collect huge chunks of grit they put down here, it makes sense! I've scratched the hardwood floor at work several times with rocks stuck in my shoes. Don't have this issue in the UK as they use much finer grit.

• The cost of living in Sweden
In my experience, the cost of accommodation (should you be lucky enough to find it) is fairly comparable. Almost everything else is slightly more expensive.

• The obsession with snus
This is one of the more perplexing things about Sweden. They seem to be progressive enough that almost nobody smokes here, but at least 40% of the young Swedes I know use snus. So weird and gross.

• Fika
I have no problem with this, other than how fit Swedes are in contrast to how many cakes they eat.

• The Swedish obsession with coffee
There is literally no bad time to suggest coffee to a Swede.

• The open sandwich
It's a con. Where's the rest of my sandwich?

• Semla
Possibly the greatest baked good ever. It's like the long long ancestor of the battenburg.

QUOTE
If you have any interesting or funny facts, bites of history, recipes or personal stories/experiences to share about any of the things I've listed, please share, and, with your permission they may be included in the book.

JAM! What the hell is going on with jam in this country? I was served a lussekatte (saffron flavoured sweet bun) and found it a touch too dry for my taste. Now as any englishman who has experience with scones will know, the solution is to spread a little jam on it. As is customary, we had lingonberry jam in the fridge, so I add a dollop to my bun, only to look up into the faces of 5 mortified swedes. You would think I'd just punched one of their mothers. So apparently jam isn't for cakes here, it's only for bloody meatballs? What a bizarre place.

Also donating blood. This one is more of an observation on linguistics. In the UK we say "give blood" which implies several things; it's a voluntary and purposeful act. If I give you something, I generally did it freely (as in you didn't steal it from me) and I intended to do it. However, the Swedish expression "lämna blöd" which literally translates to "leave blood" has a whole set of other implications. Firstly, it seems a touch threatening. Like if the nurse asked you "would you like to leave blood?" I personally wouldn't feel like I had a choice. And secondly, it also suggests one could do it absent-mindedly, like you walk through your front door, pat down your pockets and with a gasp realise "I left my blood!".

Just my thoughts.

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Bsmith
post 5.Mar.2018, 05:31 PM
Post #5
Joined: 25.Jun.2009

QUOTE (robbie1985 @ 5.Mar.2018, 05:17 PM) *
we had lingonberry jam in the fridge, so I add a dollop to my bun, only to look up into the faces of 5 mortified swedes. You would think I'd just punched one of their moth ... (show full quote)



Should have spread ketchup on it...that would probably been acceptable.
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yet another brit
post 5.Mar.2018, 07:39 PM
Post #6
Joined: 5.Jan.2013

Kalles Kaviar

Basically the Swedish equivalent of Marmite. If you were brought up on it, there is a fifty-fifty chance that you love it. If you never had it as a child, you hate it anyway, Swedish or not.

See also surströmming, lutfisk, salt liquorice, messmör, falukorv...

Surströmming (and to a lesser extent messmör) also has the regional thing. There is a line roughly level with Sundsvall above which it is considered food. Below that, it isn't.
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Katie Metcalfe
post 5.Mar.2018, 08:07 PM
Post #7
Location: Borås
Joined: 5.Jun.2016

Robbie 1985 - Thank you so much for the time and thought you put into your reply! Everything will be added to my notes and I'll be using some of the text for sure. smile.gif

(Not quite sure how to use the quote/tag thingy, so please forgive me if you don't see my reply right away.)

P.S. Totally agree with you about the open sandwich...I know when my dad comes to visit for the first time he'll be mortified! It took me a long time to get used to eating a sandwich like a Swede, though it might explain why they're so bloody slim...not eating that extra piece of bread every time they have a sarnie. Oh, and those saffron buns...I don't think I've ever actually eaten one that didn't have the consistency of sand. I think the taste is just odd. Semla though. The Swedes got something very right there.
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Katie Metcalfe
post 5.Mar.2018, 08:18 PM
Post #8
Location: Borås
Joined: 5.Jun.2016

Yet Another Brit - Thank you for your insight!! Added to my notes and I'll keep you and everyone who comments updated on the progress of the book and the texts I'll be including. smile.gif

My four year old step-daughter eats Kalles Kaviar like it's chocolate spread. I sit and stare, slack jawed wondering 'how the bloody hell...'
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Svedallas
post 6.Mar.2018, 12:05 PM
Post #9
Joined: 21.Apr.2016

QUOTE (Bsmith @ 5.Mar.2018, 05:31 PM) *
Should have spread ketchup on it...that would probably been acceptable.


I think we need a thread for Bsmith one liners... laugh.gif
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Apache001
post 6.Mar.2018, 02:10 PM
Post #10
Joined: 7.Mar.2016

Parents in Sweden have to get it right not because social service will take their kids, but because Swedish social life is built around parents and children. Let me explain
Swedes can be very mean to each other..So a Swede can call another Swede for hang out and he/she can say no abruptly. Almost every 3rd hour the kids ring up their parents for a walk, it’s almost like they have no other life outside of this, so parents try to get it 100% right so they have someone to talk and take a walk with in a country where close neighbors don’t give a f$$k about you.

Lagom is not completely true because most times you have Swedes who are at either end of the extreme, super close and quiet or borderline talkative.

As for me and having known many Swedes, I do not think been socially close is a cultural thing, I have seen many people living with social anxiety disorder here, so I will lean more towards that as the reason of their closeness and also why they need to look at the doorhole before going out so as to avoid any social encounters with anyone and try as much as possible to create a big personal space. When they are drunk they can be all in your face though. How can someone make any conversation with a stranger when the first minute they see a stranger they have this creepy look always suspecting a stranger with the corner of their eyes. A Swede told me to always watch out for the squeezing of the skin in the middle of both eyes.

Enthusiastic people are people with high positive energy,,...the energy in Sweden can be seen as negative that’s why many people feel choked and just can’t explain what the problem is. You will notice the lack of enthusiasm with the many words of negation like “nej, inte, måste, kanske etc. it’s not uncommon to find Swedes cursing themselves out loudly just for a simple mistake and saying something like “I hate myself, I just feel I’m going to die now”. When I first moved here I just couldn’t come to terms with how people can use so much negative words on themselves. At least to me if friends and the society at large beat you down, the best you can do to yourself is to look in the mirror and see the goodness in you.

Swedes are direct because they don’t want to hold any sort of conversation due to the reasons above, they are blunt and want to get over and done with you fast. If they manage to force out one or two sentences then don’t expect much talk, you can clearly see the panic attack in some of them when they hold a convo with you by the quivering voice.

Making friends with Swedes as a foreigner or outsider like Swedes call it is the most difficult thing in life you would ever do. Monday to Friday they claim they are busy with work and are not interested in making any friends at work, and on weekends when you invite them out they are too drunk to socialize and the circle continues like that. Many people on this forum have finally left Sweden for good just because Swedes are close off, and trust me I’m sure these people are open minded and social people. I heard Danes are a little different because government pays them to go abroad after high school for volunteering and that way they return home with a broader mindset...maybe Swedish government should divert our SFI funds into sending Swedes abroad after high school.

Swedes are very punctual as they mark everything on their calendars and to be honest a social butterfly like me will always be late when I will probably run into people I know along the way and of course exchange pleasantries.

To be honest I know they talk about money a lot but I’m yet to dive deep into why, I promise to make my findings and come back with more info on that.

It is very safe in Sweden to go out clubbing.

It’s a good concept to take off your shoes because of the wooden floor, and the house looks more cleaner that way.

The cost of living in Sweden is higher than other parts of Europe but the salary takes care of that, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

Law of jante correctly define by Wikipedia
The Law of Jante is the description of a pattern of group behaviour towards individuals within Nordic countries that negatively portrays and criticises individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate.
It has its pros and cons which I will also dive into deeply later.

Snus is more like a culture here to gain some adult points. It’s what it takes to be cool for Swedes and it doesn’t bother me as long as you don’t throw that shit in the toilet bowl which Swedes do a lot especially in the clubs.

I know someone studying food and nutrition and she agrees Sweden can do better in that area.

I am still trying to come to terms with my son’s love for bread or smörgås.
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scotfree9
post 6.Mar.2018, 08:46 PM
Post #11
Joined: 6.Mar.2018

I read the former posts in surprise. I have been here 20 years. At the end of the first year, my Swedish female complained that she had lived there all her life, and I knew more people than she did, judging by the greetings I received when walking through the town, or going to pubs.
On moving to Stockholm, I met many Swedes, and in a couple of pubs,my preferred beer was on the bar, before I had my coat off. I had many pub friends, male and female. 15 years later I am still in touch with a few. I have stayed with them and they have visited me from as far apart as 600 Kms. A couple have been married in the interval, and I seem to get on well with the wives. I was even invited to their wedding.
I spent my first midsummer in the arctic circle, where I had a drunken night with some total strangers. They invited me back, and I see them every year for the last 19 years. I now live in a village in the wilds, and have eaten at the mayors house on a few occasions. The people I meet in the shops always say hello, and we chat about this and that.
I have seen many posts on this site, often by Brits, complaining about Sweden and the swedes. Some of the Brits I met in Stockholm were the most vociferous.I often wondered why they stay. Maybe I am just strange but I have never learnt the language, and people seem happy to talk to me none the less.
My main gripe is that people I have worked with in the last 20 years, have contacted me on FB, and my feed is full of posts, in Swedish, ( which I can read). They were all lovely people, and it would be rude to unfriend them.
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Katie Metcalfe
post 7.Mar.2018, 08:39 AM
Post #12
Location: Borås
Joined: 5.Jun.2016

Apache 001 and ScotFree9 - Absolutely fascinating write ups, thank you so much! There is a lot for me to think about and I certainly have some new threads to weave into my writing when it comes to the Swedish people. smile.gif Thank you again!!
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JonG
post 8.Mar.2018, 06:55 PM
Post #13
Joined: 16.Feb.2018

QUOTE (robbie1985 @ 5.Mar.2018, 05:17 PM) *
Thoughts from a British expat after 6 months here:<snip>What the hell is going on with jam in this country? I was served a lussekatte (saffron flavoured sweet bun) and f ... (show full quote)


HAHAHA, bless you Robbie, you gave me such a belly laugh.. but then it got better! My Swedish wife asked what I was laughing at so I read the jam section of your post out, laughing as I could relate to it so much. I looked up from the iPad to see her horrified face and then witnessed a typically Swedish reaction which included the choice phrases "What the hell is wrong with that man?", "he must be sick in the head if he thinks Lingonsylt goes on lussekatte" and "lingonsylt isn't jam anyway, it's food!!"

Her exasperated offence persisting now, but I understand where you're coming from Robbie. I just doubt any Swede ever will!!
biggrin.gif
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elliha
post 8.Mar.2018, 11:22 PM
Post #14
Joined: 13.Oct.2014

I am Swede and I will try to give my perspective on some of these things.

(About the lingonsylt and lussebulle, that is the most disgusting and funny thing I have heard in a long time. Maybe I am extra disgusted since I also don't like lingonsylt very much.)

Swedish People & Culture
• Why personal space is so important to a Swede

I am not sure I have a good answer for that, I just don't like people being too close. I also hate hugging people I don't know which some Swedes are totally OK with. I call it a Stockholm-hug, that hug you give people to appear friendly but is mostly for show and not because you really like hugging that person. The Stockholm-part comes from the fact that most I know who do that are from Stockholm.

• Why you don't make conversation with a stranger

I actually do sometimes. I talk to people at the bus stop sometimes, about the weather, about the bus being late/early and so on. I do small talk with neighbors too if the situation is given. I consider the more extreme recluseness to be a Stockholm/bigger city thing. In the small town I grew up in small talk was normal. I live in a bigger city now and it is less of it but not totally gone. Especially older people like to talk and sometimes others too.

• Why looking through the peephole is second nature.

I have a door with a peephole and I hardly ever use it. If someone rings the doorbell at night maybe or if I am not properly dressed perhaps because if it is a friend I could open anyway and if it is just someone trying to sell something I can just not open.

• Why too much enthusiasm can be seen as a bad thing

Enthusiastic people are often kind of annoying especially if they are the cheerleader type. Happy is fine, going overboard isn't, sometimes life sucks so don't pretend it is always great.

• Why parents are seen as 'getting it right' in Sweden

Are they? I am parent and constantly worry about not being a good parent. I do like the long parental leave and that there are a lot of child-friendly things to do though.

• Why Swede's hate small talk

I like it as long as it is done by someone who can read signals and gives you space if you need to and don't go overboard into asking personal questions. As I said, I grew up with small talk being the norm but also that people would give you space if you looked tired or not into talking at the moment.

• The directness of Swedes

I think that many other groups are much more direct. Finnish people are very direct to me. My students of Arab decent are usually much more direct and often find much more personal questions to be OK to ask than most Swedes. Actually I feel that Swedes might sound more direct sometimes due to how the language works more than actually being direct. Swedes like indirect questions so as a second-language speaker you might not even notice these questions about something else than the actual words.

• Making friends with a Swede

I have very few close friends but I am friendly and enjoy being around people so I have plenty of colleagues I have good relationship at work but who I rarely meet outside of work. I think that I am a bit lazy to be honest and this is why I don't make the move into closer relationships with friends that often. I also hate cleaning and inviting people home means I have to clean. Due to a slightly hearing impairment hanging out a bar or going for a fika is not always fun for me since if it isn't a quite drab place I get too tired from the noise and sometimes have trouble having a conversation that I am fully active in.

• Swedes and lateness

I am not late for booked appointments but with friends I allow myself to be a bit late 10-15 mins sometimes.

• The Swedish obsession with talking about money

I have been taught that talking about money is quite rude. I don't think either the circle I am in now or where I grew up was talking that much about money.

• Going out for a night on the town

When I was in my twenties we had getting drunk as a goal when going out so we almost always had a "förfest" where we would drink enough to not need to drink more than 1-2 beers at the club but not be so drunk we would not be let in. It is expensive to drink at a club and to be honest, it is easier to talk and have fun together at someone's home than at a club where someone will always get lost or find a boy/girl they like and go and hang out with them so the party before the partying was fun for that reason too, we got a moment together whatever happened later.

Now in my mid-thirties I usually only have 1-3 beers if I go out and I don't drink anything at home. I tend to go to calmer places like more quiet bars or pubs rather than clubs both due to not being as much into dancing and because of my hearing problems.

• Taking off your shoes at the door

Yeah, otherwise the floors get dirty and as I said above I hate cleaning so that is a given.

• The cost of living in Sweden

It is not a cheap country but I feel like I have a good life anyway and that I can afford what I need and some of what I like and that is enough for me. I would like to travel a bit more than I do though.

• Law Of Jante

I am not that anti-Jante really. I see no reason to believe I am worse or better than anyone else. I think it is OK to be good at something but not at the expense of someone else. I think it is good to be able to see you are really not that special and that others are just as good/bad as you are. I can't say I want to be special, it is just fine to be "lagom".

• The obsession with snus

I have never tried it and also never smoked. I just don't get the appeal but if I have to choose between other people using snus or people smoking snus is to be preferred if I don't have to kiss them. In that case they are both disgusting. I am so glad my husband doesn't smoke or use snus either.
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robbie1985
post 9.Mar.2018, 11:41 AM
Post #15
Joined: 5.Feb.2018

QUOTE (JonG @ 8.Mar.2018, 06:55 PM) *
HAHAHA, bless you Robbie, you gave me such a belly laugh.. but then it got better! My Swedish wife asked what I was laughing at so I read the jam section of your post out, ... (show full quote)


Glad you provide some entertainment! But seriously, JAM IS FOR CAKES!!! I think I might create a political party running on this slogan.
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