Swedish customs

Introduction

This page is Jonas's page for explaining weird or not so weird Swedish customs and similar things. As Jonas is from Sweden, it is hard for him to understand what should be considered weird. This is mostly based on what is different from other countries he has visited. Photos from some of those trips (mainly those he didn't have to pay for himself) can be found on the photos from Jonas's travels page.

Vaguely related link

My brother has moved to Tokyo and sometimes writes in his blog about things happening to him there. Mostly in Swedish, but there are also some photos.

Garbage (20060405)

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If you have your own house, you throw away anything you like in a container like this. It will be emptied once per week by some company. Points of interest: you do not have to sort your garbage. Neither do you have to wash your garbage or in other ways make it clean. You can throw away garbage whenever you like, any day of the week. For people living in apartments, the system is usually even better, though I have no photos yet.

Breakfast, bread (20060406)

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This is a typical Swedish breakfast. Bread, and something to put on top of it. Very often cheese, like here.

Blood pudding (20060406)

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Blood pudding is cheap and nutritious food. It is not very tasty, but neither does it taste bad. As can be seen, it contains quite a lot of calories, 200 kCal per 100 gram, with a small pack like this weighing 425 gram (enough for two people). It costs about 100 Japanese yen or less than one euro. You typically fry it in a fry pan. Eating without anything else is really boring. Typical accessories are bacon and or lingonberry jam. The content listing includes: water, rye, wheat, fat from cows, powdered blood from pigs and cows, sugar, fatty parts from pigs, salt, spice, protein from fatty parts of pigs, potato fibers and something to make the consistency more appealing. Which may explain why foreign friends believe this is disgusting.

Winter sand (20060407)

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In Sweden we put sand on the roads in the winter, so as not to slip when walking or skid out of control when driving cars. This makes the sidewalks and roads very dirty. In Japan people told me they do the same, but in fact they do not. I saw sand on the street roughly three times in half a year, and those times it was very little sand, concentrated to a very small place, such as the stairs to a building.

Free newspapers (20060407)

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Many cities in Sweden have free newspapers. The biggest one is Metro, which is distributed amongst other places in the subway in Stockholm. Since it is free, many people read it. this also gives rise to large amounts of garbage.

Natto (and onions)

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When it comes to natto, the Swedish custom is to not eat natto. You can buy it in Stockholm anyway, but it is quite expensive compares to prices in Japan. Here a three pack costs a little over 300 yen. On request, there are also examples of Swedish onions in one of the photos. There are many types available, and the yellow ones are cheap (less than 100 yen for one kilo). My latest tip when it comes to natto is to add something called "very spicy Thai chili sauce" (the red thing in the bottle). While the natto still looks and tastes disgusting, after adding enough of the sauce your mouth and lips feel like they are on fire. This deadens any sense of taste, which is good. The drawback is that when the pain stops the taste of natto still lingers in your mouth, since the sticky things stick to everything.

Swedish seasons: early spring

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The early spring sees the last of the ice leaving central Stockholm, birds returning to Sweden and early spring flowers blossoming. While the weather can be nice, it normally isn't. Even on a nice day the ground will normally be wet and dirty. All in all, not a very good season to visit Sweden.

Swedish waffles

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In the early spring there is the official waffle day. (I missed it because I was not in the country, but made up for this by eating waffles on another day.) Waffles are mostly butter (you add some more things, but still... quite a few calories, over 200 kCal for one, not counting whipped cream and other accessories), and the taste is very good. Normally you eat them with whipped cream and jam. Traditional jam is based on berries from northern Sweden, but here strawberry jam was used (because it tastes better).

Easter decorations (20060411)

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This is a traditional Easter thing in Sweden, greenery with feathers. Other things we do include eating huge amounts of eggs, and even larger quantities of candy. I also hope to get some nice photos of kids dressing up in a Halloween-like fashion on Thursday.

Supermarkets (20060411)

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There are large selections of cheese in Swedish super markets. This is just one of four isles of cheese. The second picture shows how you go about paying. You have to put all your things on the automatic belt conveyer. Then the cashier totals up the price and you go to the other end of the conveyer (after paying) and put all your stuff in some appropriate bag. If you want to get plastic bags to pack your stuff in, you have to pay for them.

Celebrating the Wolf (20060411)

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In Sweden there is a tradition of "name days". Every day is the celebration of people with a certain name. Today is the day for people named wolf, both boys ("Ulf") and girls ("Ylva"), though family names (such as "Varg") do not count. Since my mother is named wolf, I set out to make a cake, the traditional way of celebrating the name day. You can also buy cakes, the first picture shows for instance the famous "princess cake" (the green one). They are huge, about 40 cm across, but cost about 2000 Japanese yen. This however is cheating, so I bought some fruits to make a cake myself. Since strawberries are not in season they are quite expensive (half a kilo for 300 yen, more than twice the price you can get them for in the summer), I decided to go for other things too. The cake ended up consisting of one layer of mashed bananas, one layer of mashed raspberries and then three slices of cake topped with whipped cream (whipped by me, quite boring work). Strawberries were used for decoration. A classical Swedish whipped cream cake. (Oh, and by the way, the day for "Jonas" is March 29.)

Semla (20060411)

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About the same time of the year as the waffles above, it is a Swedish tradition to eat "semlor", the cake shown above. They consist of cake, whipped cream and something similar to marzipan in the middle.

More garbage (20060413)

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This is the garbage disposal where I live, very close to the door of the apartment. 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, you can throw away anything you like (unless it will hurt people taking care of the garbage). There is no need to wash your garbage before throwing it away. Very nice.

Pink Thursday (20060413)

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Today is the start of the Easter holidays in Sweden, which consist of the pink Thursday (usually half day off), the long Friday (stores are closed), Easter Eve, Easter day and the Second Day of Easter (also a day off). Today kids dress up like witches and go around handing out cards in return for candy.

Easter cake (20060415)

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Mom made an Easter cake today. Chocolate cake, chocolate topping and chickens made of marzipan.

Runes (20060415)

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Since people have been living in the Stockholm area for quite a while you can find very old things here. These are rune stones, messages carved in stone to commemorate special occasions. These two are quite recent rune stones (which can be seen from the Christian cross featured, older stones often feature the hammer of Thor), roughly one thousand years old. You can also find older stones from the before Christianity came to Sweden. While the text is written in Swedish, it uses the old runic script, which people nowadays never use and hence normally cannot read.

Sun crazy (20060415)

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As soon as the snow melts and you can finally see the sun again (Swedish winter is dark and somewhat cold), people go nuts. Today it was almost 10 degrees Celsius, so trying to get a tan in your bikini seems to be the thing to do. In Sweden being very pale is considered somewhat bad from an esthetic point of view, so many people spend a lot of time in the sun to get a darker complexion.

Sand (20060424)

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Today I saw someone (finally) removing a lot of the sand that was spread out during the snowy (slippery) time of the year. There seemed to be some problems with the traffic signs though.

Tasty (20060426)

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In Sweden people eat licorice (and salmiak, which looks and tastes more or less the same). This is considered disgusting by many people I know who were not raised in Scandinavia. In Sweden you can also find many other things that have the same taste, such as in this photo where you can see (salty) licorice ice cream.

Subway (20060428)

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In Sweden there are three subway lines. All three are located in Stockholm, the capital and largest city of Sweden. For 300 yen you get a one hour "ride as much as you like" ticket, which can also be used on buses, local trains and some boats. I usually buy a 30 day ride as much as you like ticket (which you can share with other people, though only one person at at time can use it). When it comes to the three subway lines, they are color coded. We have the green line, the blue line and the red line. Both the place I live and the university I work at are placed on the red line, which is convenient. Note: it may be a bad idea to say that you use the red line every day when speaking Japanese, since red line means red light district in Japanese.

The king turns 60 (20060430)

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Today is the birthday of the king of Sweden. Since he turns 60 today, there was a parade. At first, all you could see were endless rows of soldiers, horse shit and a pigeon. Later the king and the queen (in orange clothes) passed by in a chariot. Next came another chariot with their kids. I then took a short cut to where they were going and met them again. Then they entered a building where I actually have worked (we did a presentation of historical fencing there once).

Architecture in Stockholm (20060430)

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I snapped a few photos of some buildings in Stockholm on my way back from the king's parade.

Swedish hats (20060430)

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Most people in Sweden wear hats with a propeller on.

Walpurgis (20060430)

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Tonight is also Walpurgis night (Walpurgis, which is originally the name of a woman, is called Valborg in Sweden, though). The traditional Swedish way of celebrating Walpurgis is to have students sing songs (related to it now being spring) and light bonfires. Like most traditions in Sweden, it is now a Christian thing (Walpurgis is a Christian saint) that took over earlier pagan celebrations that used to occur at this time of year (i.e. celebrating the coming of spring with fertility rites). This was deemed a good idea when Christianity took over the country, since everyone could keep celebrating things as usual, only now it was considered Christian instead of pagan. If you are around 15 or 16 years old, it is also traditional to drink too much alcohol and pass out in a ditch or other place of nature. Most people outgrow this custom by age 18 or so (when it becomes legal to buy alcohol, at least in bars (if you want to bring it with you from the store you have to be 20). Since it is considered rude to put pictures of passed out drunks, especially minors, on the web, I only show the bonfire (and a small one at that, since I was too lazy to get to a larger one and simply took the closest I could find). In Sweden the first of May is a public holiday. While the left wing political parties make speeches and some people parade through towns to support workers on this day, the actual reason for this day being a holiday is the heavy drinking on Walpurgis. Since no one is in a working shape anyway, it was declared a day off.

Traditional architecture (20060507)

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Today I went to Skansen, where you can find traditional Swedish buildings, as well as lots of animals. Unfortunately, the weather was great. This meant that there were hordes of other people in my way.

Swedish wildlife (20060507)

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Here are some animals I saw today. They all exist in the wild in Sweden, though I have not seen all of the in the wild personally (wolves are scarce, for instance). The animals shown are: wolf (which are quite rare in Sweden), wolverine (a cool word), lynx (larger than one thinks, but smaller than tigers), bear, elk (very common in Sweden), reindeer, seal, otter (funny), polecat (?), boar (huge) and a visent (sort of a bison). Traditional interaction with these animals is generally limited to hitting elks with your car and eating reindeer. Once per year there is also a big event when many people go into the woods and shoot lots of elks. This saves many cars, I guess.

Cherry blossoms (20060507)

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We have blossoming cherry trees in Sweden too. Can be combined with playing chess in a very large format. These photos are from downtown Stockholm.

Painful (20060507)

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Since Swedes like to be out in the sun (if you are pale you will be considered either sick or a nerd that never leaves the house), people often get a bad sun burn. Especially since there is more or less no sun light available for half the year, so everyone look like ghosts when the sunny season starts. Also, we tend to have an ozone hole here, which makes the sun burn even less healthy. This is a photo of a funny commercial that you can see all over Stockholm.

Suburbs (20060507)

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Since they are closing down my subway line for repairs for two months starting tomorrow, I took a picture from the train. This is the suburb where I live. I live on the far side of all these houses.

Traditional clothes (20060507)

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This is an example of traditional Swedish clothing. No one wears this anymore.

Students (200605xx)

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Studying in Sweden is usually free. Studying at a university is free, as is all levels below. It is also free for exchange students from other countries, though there has been discussions about this. Actually, not only is it free, students receive money from the government every month, so as to make it possible for anyone (i.e. also poor people) to get a good education. This is one of the best things we get out of our high taxes, in my opinion. Of course, this makes many students spoiled and lazy. Here are some photos from my university, where we can see students relaxing in the grass instead of going to lectures, staff drinking beer and playing with toys during as usual.

Fridge (20060518)

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This is my fridge, the upper half is about plus 6 degrees (and we use Celsius in Sweden, since Mr. Celsius was a Swede) and the lower half is about -18 degrees (so in winter, you can climb in there and warm up a little on the cold days when it is -40 outside...). It is way larger than I need for my single person household, but quite small by Swedish standards.

Food (20060519)

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The first picture is a very Swedish dish, meat balls, brown sauce, lingon berry jam and mashed potatoes. Tastes good. The second picture is some Swedish sushi. I saw many strange types of sushi in Japan, but never one with avocado.

Celebrating Christ again (20060525)

40 days after Easter, there is the public holiday of "The day that Christ flew to heaven". It is a holiday, so you don't have to work, other than that it is not celebrated very much as far as I know. Of course, I was in Italy and had to work despite it being a holiday.

High school graduation (20060102)

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When graduating from high school, it is customary to be driven home from school in some spectacular fashion. Recently, the most popular thing seems to be gathering a bunch of graduating kids and putting them on the back of a truck, together with some very loud music and some birch tree parts. Every year someone falls down from one of these and breaks an arm or something.

The price of rice (20060103)

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Something that surprised me when I was living in Japan was the price of rice. In Sweden, which is normally more expensive than Japan by quite a large margin, you can buy two kilos of vaguely Japanese rice for 17 Swedish kronor, or roughly 250 yen. Buying other types of rice is usually cheaper, as cheap as half this price.

Balloon (20060604)

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Depending on where you live and which way the wind blows, it is quite common to see balloons flying past. It is a good way of seeing Stockholm, or so I hear. I have never flown in one, but my dad has. The wind changed when they were up, so they ended up on the other side of Stockholm compared to predicted. This made getting home somewhat less simple, since cars and stuff where in the wrong place.

Not so dark nights (20060604)

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This picture is not taken in the middle of the night, but quite late. It doesn't get much darker than this now. Although you can see the moon in this picture, it is not the moonlight that makes the nights bright.

National day (20060606)

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In Sweden we have a national day (since the middle of the 80-ties), which used to be the day of the Swedish flag. Since last year, it is also a holiday (mainly because no one celebrated it when it was just a regular day, so in the hope that we will have a crazy national day celebration tradition like Norway, it was made a holiday). Since there is no traditional way to celebrate it, I celebrated it by being beaten up by a guy in a pink dress for five hours. It still hurts. Since we were to be paid 10,000 Swedish kronor for this event, we spent it on silly looking costumes. Wearing historical clothes means you are wearing stockings, not trousers. This also means that all the children in the audience get excited when you fall or are thrown (which is most of the time), as they can see the underwear you are (hopefully) wearing. More than 3,200 persons passed by, which is a high percentage of the population of Sweden. Some of them were foreigners, though. Apart from beating each other up, we also let people try out medieval fighting techniques. Nothing feels quite as useful as teaching four year olds how to best stab other people with long knives...

For people who enjoy text in Swedish or just want to look at more pictures of this, there is another text about the National day happenings available.

Lilac (20060608)

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This is my mothers lilac. In Swedish the color purple is called "lila", since the flowers of lilacs have this color. Lilacs are however not called thusly. They are called syren.

My neighborhood (20060611)

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I saw a photo on a Japanese blog that showed the amazement experienced by seeing Swedish garbage cans. They are evidently considered very large, though since I live here I consider them normal sized. There is also currently so many trees and similar things blossoming that you can hardly see the houses. And my allergies are becoming very annoying.

My dissertation (20060614)

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While perhaps not the most common thing to do in Sweden, I spent today defending my Ph.D. thesis. In some countries (and some disciplines here in Sweden too), this is a very formal affair. To look really formal, I showed up in long trousers and a shirt. I even had to put on a jacket later on... This was probably the toughest part of the day, since it was way too hot for me. Other than that, as can be seen in the later photo, I had some problems staying awake, mostly because my kind neighbors woke me up at six in the morning. Everything turned out more or less well in the end, though. My brother pointed out that since I am now a doctor, and has been known to be called Hato, I should now be called doctor Hato. Which sounds like a Bond-movie villain. Which is excellent.

Dissertation dinner (20060614)

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After you get your Ph.D. you are expected to treat a lot of people (mainly colleagues relatives and friends) to dinner. Since it is now summer vacation in Sweden, many people were away in other parts of the world. This, combined with the fact that I have no friends as an acquaintance so kindly pointed out, made the whole affair quite cheap for me. My colleague who took his Ph.D. the day after me had thrice my number of guests, and spent more per person too. I ended up with a nice dinner in a 400 year old room, eating boar, moose and other tasty animals.

Sports madness (20060615)

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Sweden scored their first goal in the soccer world cup today, which made many people go nuts. On my way home from my colleague's Ph.D. party I ran in to these people. Here are some people taking a midnight swim in the fountain near the central station in Stockholm.

End of the school year (20060616)

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Today was the official end of the school year (normally from approximately August to May) at my department. We had free food and a rope pulling game. Last year the Ph.D. student team beat the professor team by using better tactics. This year the rules had been simplified to avoid this. There was however a lack of professors, so there was one team of grad students and one team of "doctor or better" people. Being a doctor since two days back, I ended up in the latter, and we won.

Still sun crazy (20060617)

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Swedes are still crazy for sunlight. Just outside my bedroom window, there is almost always some people trying to change their skin to a darker color.

Midsummer (20060623)

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Today saw the celebration of Midsummer. This traditionally involves people in funny clothes (traditional Swedish clothes) raising a giant May pole and then dancing around it. It is also customary to put flowers in your hair, especially in the form of a wreath. Midsummer is always celebrated on the first Friday after the summer equinox (the longest day of the year). As usual, this holiday too is celebrated by drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Usually, this would make the day after a public holiday, but for Midsummer this is not the case. But since it always occurs on a Friday and no one works on Saturdays, it turns out ok anyway. Midsummer is the worst time of the year when it comes to traffic accidents, with many people dying every year. It is also a time of increase of other alcohol related crime, mainly people beating other people up.

Other holidays we have include:

The pattern is thus: celebrate by drinking too much; since no one can work perform any useful work anyway, make the following day a holiday.

Future preparations (20060629)

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I got a very very secret letter from Japan today. It contained such informative things as a book describing the rules for scissors-paper-stone in Japan, how to read a persons future in their hand, how to make onigiri and other necessary information.

Strawberries (20060630)

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In Sweden we eat large amounts of strawberries in the summer. Before midsummers they can be quite expensive, afterwards it is cheap. 2 Euro for a kilo is not uncommon.

West coast vacation (20060702)

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Like many Swedes, I went to the family summer house on the west coast (though most people don't go to our summer house). The things you can do there mainly include, boating, fishing and bathing. This is where our house is placed.

Boating (20060704)

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Here is a boat. Not mine, though.

Bathing (20060707)

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Swimming is possible. This year it was almost 20 degrees in the sea, which is warmer than usual. Here is a dog who likes to swim, and me.

Fishing (20060702)

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This is me fishing. Mainly, you sit in a boat and wait for fish. Then you eat them. These are mackerel, outsmarted by me.

Vacation spots (20060704)

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This is one of the hot vacation spots in Sweden. Many post cards show these boat houses.

View (20060705)

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This is the view from the top of a small hill. There are distance measurements to other cities here. Such as Tokyo.

Sun (20060707)

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The sun almost never sets in southern Sweden in the summer. In the northern parts we have the midnight sun, the sun never sets at all. Here is a photo from 22.30 in the south.

Gothenburg (20060706)

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Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden. Here you can watch the old sea god Poseidon and buy glasses (from my uncle).

Explanations (20060709)

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I found an explanation of the somewhat strangely named (and strangely green) "vacuum cleaner" cake we have in Sweden. It was invented 70 years ago by a baker vacuuming the shop and then adding some flavor to the vacuumed crumbs to recycle and make a new cake. Strangely enough it was a success and is still popular.

Commuting problems 1: language (20060718)

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Today I noticed that Swedish buses are using buttons with the word "stop". In Swedish "stop" is a word meaning something that you drink something, such as beer, from. No matter how much you press the button, this is not what you get on the bus though. Presumably this is actually the English word, which in Swedish is called "stopp".

Commuting problems 2: commuter trains still suck (20060718)

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Up until five years ago I used to take commuter trains to get for instance to the university. They had a horrible track record, if there was one day in a week when there was no problem with your trips you would be pleasantly surprised. In the official reports on late trains trains that are "only" five minutes late are counted as on time (though if you are planning to catch the bus that matches your train, you will still miss it, which is why i rode a bicycle). Currently I use the subway, which works much much better. Today I was going to visit my parents who were bribing me with cake, and just like 90% of all trips to them with commuter train, it was a pain. Today the train was 20 minutes late when I got on, which meant it had twice the normal amount of people. We only got halfway to my destination, then the train, by now 40 minutes late, completely broke down (which is why the platform is full of people and the train empty). The next train was another 20 minutes behind this one, and since the schedule says there should be 6 trains per hour at this time of day, it would likely be quite crowded if it finally got there. I got picked up at this station by car instead. This commuter train experience was slightly worse than expected, but not by much. Recommendation: use subway, very few things are available along the train lines that are worth a trip on the Stockholm commuter trains.

The King of Peace (20060718)

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Today was the day to celebrate people named The King of Peace. Since this is one of my names my parents bribed me with a cake. People have remarked on how peaceful I am, which must of course be because my names are The King of Peace and Dove (in the Symbol of Peace sense).

Stuff to do in the Stockholm archipelago 1: art (20060723)

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Stockholm is itself placed on islands, bordering the third largest lake in Sweden and the sea. On the seaside there are many small islands, which are popular summer trip destinations. There are plenty of boats leaving central Stockholm headed out there. Then you can for instance watch art or buy strange things.

Stuff to do in the Stockholm archipelago 2: animals (20060723)

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You can also watch animals and other parts of nature. Here are some swans (we had one die of bird flu in Stockholm a while ago) and other birds, the heads of large pike fish and a not very shy seagull landing half a meter from my food.

Stuff to do in the Stockholm archipelago 3: skin cancer (20060723)

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Most people seem to go out mainly to get a browner skin tone though. Sometimes interrupted by a little swimming. In Sweden, if you are to pale, people will think you are a nerd spending all your time in a dark room, probably with a computer. Which is true in my case.

World record in discovering new elements (200607)

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Sweden is likely the nation with the record for discovering elements of the periodic table, credited with over 20 of the roughly 100 elements. There used to be several famous all round geniuses in Sweden that made contributions in this area, such as Jöns Jacob Berzelius and Carl Wilhelm Scheele. An interesting place from this perspective is the Ytterby mine in Stockholm (about 30 minutes by car from central Stockholm). The mine is now closed, but seven new elements were discovered from ore mined here. Many of these were named after the mine, so we have Erbium, Terbium, Ytterbium and Yttrium. Then there is also Holmium (from Stockholm) and Scandium (from Scandinavia). Later also Tantalum was discovered there, though not named after the place.

The place is a somewhat hard to find, there is a small sign a few meters off the side of the road, in the forest, indicating that the path you climb to the mine starts here. There is no place to for instance park a car (though there is a four car parking lot near the place they used to ship out the ore, Ytterby brygga) and there are no bus stops nearby. Then you climb a very steep path full of slippery gravel. Then you are greeted by another sign. The whole this is quite unexciting to watch, the mine has been closed up (so people will not fall down and die) so all you can see is what used to be a hole in the ground which is now filled with rocks. Still, if you like me are something of science geek, it is pretty cool to have seen it, and evidently the Nobel prize winners of physics and chemistry are sometimes taken here (though probably they get to use a nicer access route than the climb I used). The view from the top where the mine shaft is is also very nice.

Speaking of Swedish and names of elements, here is some trivia. The English (also used in many other languages, such as Japanese) word Tungsten comes from the Swedish (or possibly other Scandinavian language, but since we are the biggest country, let's pretend it certainly is Swedish) words tung (heavy) and sten (rock). Of course, we call it volfram (which apparently comes from Wolf and the foam at the mouth of angry wolves), which makes it easier to remember the symbol for tungsten, which is "W".

The road to Birka (20060805)

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Today I went to visit Birka (more below), which is quite close to Stockholm. You can go there by boat from central Stockholm, but I went by car to an island close to Bjrk where Birka lies. There you can catch a boat for the last leg, which takes about 15 minutes. This is however not a very high traffic route. There is one boat every day, and you have to navigate through this herd of cows to reach the boarding place of the boat, which can be seen in the background here. There are some nice things to see on the way, though. Not just animals either. There are ancient graves, some rune stones and other historical stuff.

Birka (20060805)

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Birka was once (viking era, about 750 - 950 A.D.) a very important and large town for trading. It is also of interest because it was abandoned and the area was then mostly used for farming. Digging here gives you a nice way to find out more about the viking era life. Nowadays there is not so much to actually see there, since the town is long gone and looks mostly like a big lawn. It is used for grazing sheep. There are many graves to see, most are just a mound of dirt though, so even these are not very spectacular. There is a quite nice museum there now, though, with a model of what the town of Birka looked like (it has been quite thoroughly dug out by archaeologists). There are also some event like things going on, you can watch people sleeping in a viking style tent, bake your own bread using ingredients and methods from the viking era etc.

Other things of interest is the huge cross from the late 18-hundreds. This was placed smack in the middle of an ancient monument, which would be completely unallowed nowadays. This one is old enough by now to have been classed as another ancient monument though. It was put there to celebrate the 1000 year anniversary of the priest Ansgar who came to Birka to bring the true faith of Christianity to the heathen people in Sweden. He did not have that much success in this, though he worked quite hard.

The last picture shows the sheep grazing on top of Birka, but also more interestingly some logs. These are placed where the old jetties were placed, i.e. the old waterline. This shows you the effects from the ice age. The whole of Sweden was covered by ice, and here we are talking glacier style ice, not just a few meters but over a kilometer thick, in the old days. This much ice is very heavy. Thus, it pressed down the ground, which is still rising. So every year the islands grow a little larger, though the speed is quite slow.

Sweden according to foreigners (20060811)

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There is currently a campaign from one of our newspapers, proclaiming roughly: "Do you view the world as the world views you? We give you accurate information from abroad." Most of these things I have experienced myself, for instance the Sweden - Switzerland difficulty. I am especially fond of the family eating meat balls with the Swedish flag and drinking Swedish vodka. Of course, it would be excellent if the first picture was actually a true representation of Sweden.

Swedish clothes (20060811)

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Since Sweden is a cold country we wear clothes. Sometimes with English writing. Sometimes funny, such as this ironic t-shirt for girls.

Swedish vacation (200608xx)

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This summer I, like many Europeans, went abroad for a while. It costs less than 1 Euro to buy a plane ticket to Germany, sometimes. Then they add taxes up to about 10 Euro, but still it is quite cheap. So I went to see Germany for the first time. It turns out to (unsurprisingly) be pretty much like home. Except I do not understand very much of what people say. At least I got to take a picture of the famous Berlin wall. Which is less spectacular than one might be led to believe.

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I traveled in the company of some friends from Japan. Very impressive how a whole grown up human being can actually sleep comfortably in what is used by Germans to sit in... Also, when traveling with company, check if you have the same type of jet lag or you might not be awake at the same time.

Equality (200609xx)

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Seeing bearded (or not) dads lugging around their babies about town is common in Sweden. It surprised some foreign acquaintances of mine. Sweden is believed by many to be one of the more equal countries, we have over 40% women in the parliament etc. There is still a very vocal movement in Sweden complaining about remaining inequalities though, with for instance the whole subway and bus system in Stockholm being filled with slogans like "Men make so much more money than women, for the same work" recently. Which I guess is a good thing.

One reason for few updates(2006)

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I have not been updating this page recently. One reason are all the students that take up my time since I am now teaching full time. It turns out that when you are working full time you actually have to be at work quite a lot. While teaching is fun, working full time does not seem to suit me. Luckily, I will soon return to the life of a researcher (fairly low stress) and Japan (heaven of cheap food and excellent service). The main reason for no updates though is that nothing particularly interesting happens in Sweden in the autumn. The leaves change color and there is a lot of rain. That is about it.

Election (20060917)

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We had an election this year (happens every four years). The right wing (by Swedish standards, still left by many other standards) coalition won the parliament election. So we get a new government for the first time in 12 years. Elections are not terribly exciting events, you typically go to a school nearby, hide behind a piece of cloth and stick papers with the party name on in envelopes. Then these envelopes are put in boxes and you go home. This year the counting of votes was more exciting than usual, since the result was almost a draw. Different regions of the country also lean in different directions, so at first it looked like a comfortable win for the right, then it turned around and looked like a comfortable win for the left when other the votes from other regions had been counted. The final result was a very narrow win for the right.

Working environment (200610xx)

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Why does my colleague, who does research in computer science, have a huge bottle of gas in his room? Not even he knows.

Orbs (20061005)

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In Stockholm we have a huge roughly spherical building called "The Globe". In a quite geeky display of coolness, someone has made a solar system model based on this. Taking the "Globe" to be the sun, smaller spheres have been made (to scale) to represent the planets. These are placed an appropriate distance away from the sun model at different locations in Sweden. At my university, KTH (or RIOT as the students often abbreviate it in English, the Royal institute of technology), we have Venus. It is about the size of a football, so you can thus calculate how far my university is from the Globe, and how large the Globe is.

Home sweet home (20061006)

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I am soon moving out. So most of these old computer things will be thrown in the garbage (or more precisely, lugged to the recycling center). While this is sad, at least I wont have to cook any more.

Fashion (20061015)

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I found this excellent shirt today. Probably, this is the height of Swedish fashion. And by a strange coincidence, it also has precisely my name and title! What are the odds of that?

Swedish living conditions (20061025)

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This is how most apartments in Sweden are furnished.

Sports (20061026)

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A common sport in Sweden is fencing. This is what happens if you wear glasses while sporting.

Design (20061027)

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Swedish design. Now you can use pet bottles in a new and improved way.

Car safety (20061028)

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In Sweden we live pretty safe lives, so we mainly die of car accidents or heart problems. The government has long worked to reduce the deaths related to cars. So this is how a typical Swede looks in his car.

The end? (20061101)


Since Jonas arrived in Japan today, intending to stay for two years, a very large drop in updates is expected for this page. On the other hand, a very very large increase in updates is expected for the photos from Sapporo page. First installment here.

Complaints should likely be sent to Jonas. If you would like to have a high resolution copy of one of these images (or some other you suspect I have), please feel free to let me know.