So we moved here in January and since March I have been learning Swedish.
It is a wonderful opportunity to learn a new language but what I didn’t realise is that Swedish would break my typing. What on earth do I mean? Well, I pride myself in not making many typos. If I do I spot them, sometimes ‘feel them’ as I type knowing I have made a mistake in the sentence I am on and know to go back and change ‘hte’ to ‘the’ again. (A common typo for me pre-swedish.)
Now, however I have three extra vowels to fit into that qwerty keyboard. It is not like in French or German (correct me if I am wrong) where there are still 26 letters in the alphabet and some have accents, umlauts etc added to the letter. No, here in Sweden, there are three extra vowels, making the Swedish alphabet 29 letters long with 9 vowels. (They sneak ‘y’ into the vowel category.) in a Swedish dictionary after ‘z’ there are three more letters – å, ä and ö.
On a keyboard it means squeezing those three vowels in just to the left of the usual letters. Look…
So what impact does this have? Well it means that my natural home position for my fingers now has to move to the left very slightly and my right little finger now has lots more work to do. And my touch-typing is knackered. Everything I type has to be corrected. I have tried switching back to the normal keyboard and that doesn’t help either as my brain knows I have to move my hands a little.
I am assuming, over time, I will re-learn but untoö then I will continue to male mistaked all over the place on the slightly narrower kets.
Today Orla and I ran (walked) a 5k where people willingly threw huge amounts of colour bombs (cornflower plus dyes) at us. It was amazing.
You don’t really need me to tell you much about it as the pictures will tell you all you need to know.
Pre-race – look how clean we are:
Clean before the race
Before the race started the DJ turned up the music, threw out some colour bombs and the colouring began:
It all begins
Who can I pink next?
Yay – I can make a cloud of pink
Ready to race:
Throughout the race there were colour station where you were bombarded with just one colour. By the time we reached purple we were on our own and Orla, being a little ahead, had a station to herself and had a personal bombing. Fortunately Martin was also there and captured a lot of it:
Reaching the finish line was a great feeling, knowing we had done it.
Afterwards there was more colour bombing and lots of photo taking. And to finish things off a cold beer.
All in all a fabulous day and I can’t wait until the next one. Which is in August – who is coming?
It seems to me that most cities have an ‘old town’ of sorts and Stockholm is no exception.
I love Stockholm’s old town. Situated on its own island there is no denying which part of the city it is. Like any capital city it is also a huge tourist-magnet. Much like Edinburgh’s Royal Mile it is stuffed full with tourist shops selling tourist tat. There are also a lovely mix of craft and specialist shops and wonderful places to eat. Smack bang in the middle is the Noble Museum which I have yet to visit – waiting for an excuse to go! And right at the edge, overlooking the water is the wonderful Palace where you can watch the changing of the guard.
A few weeks ago I had a rare free day and went for a mooch. I wandered around looking at all the beautiful buildings and peering into all the wonderful shop windows. I could easily spend a fortune there, if I had a fortune to spend 😉
I took a load of photos and thought I would share them with you so you too can get a taste of Gamla Stan.
So first up – one of my passions – knitting. There is a lot of knitwear for sale in Gamla Stan, both mass-produced tat and beautifully hand-crafted artisan pieces. Prices naturally reflect the quality of the work:
Some of the knitwear available in Gamla Stan
Beautiful knitwear and woollen goods available in Gamla Stan.
Child’s knitted jumper
This shop was stuffed full of handknits
Woolly hats and jumpers
The Science Fiction Bokhandeln is in Gamla Stan. For science fiction fans it is heaven. There are manga books, memorabilia, comics, games, Warhammer and even a full size alien.
There’s an alien above you!
Shelves stuffed full of Manga books
A selection of wands to ensure you get the correct one.
Gamla Stan is full of beautiful craft shops. Especially jewellery shops, I could spend hours drooling in the windows..
Love this window display
More beautiful jewellery
The tourist shops are full of ‘traditional’ goods for you to buy – some more authentic than others:
Printed tea towels and a red horse
Printing and candlesticks
Fabulous print based on Gamla Stan
Traditional Swedish dress
Felted shoes and clogs and trolls oh my!
There is a wealth of clothing available. Oh how I would love to be able to afford some of the clothes in the shops, maybe if I sold a kidney…
Beautiful designer coats.
Stunning work on that jacket
Just look at those boots!
Some odd bits and pieces..
The Swedish are rather good at sweets and chocolate
Semla – divine lent cakes
Balls or light shades?
Glowing Squirrel anyone?
And finally some of the buildings. Glimpses up alleyways, a taste of Gamla Stan.
It is almost two weeks now since I started learning Swedish. I thought I should tell you a little about it as it really is an amazing experience.
Basically anyone who lives in Sweden can start on the SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) course. You go along to the office, once you have been allocated your personnelnummer and say I want to learn Swedish please. They give you a very quick interview, mine took about 5 minutes, to assess your need and location. Basically you are asked what education you already have had, where you live and what your current situation/availability is.
Off the back of that I was assigned a morning class at a college 10 minutes bus ride from my house. I study from 8:15-12:00 Mon-Fri – so 17.5 hours a week. Martin is also studying but he goes to evening class twice a week (7 hours).
On day one you turn up at 9am for an introduction. At this point you are all put together, regardless of your education or experience. For the first two weeks you remain together and then are put into other groups.
In my class there are 15-20 people – I haven’t counted. There is a range of nationalities with about half of arabic origin. So in my class the people have come from Syria (about 8), Lithuania, Afghanistan, Chile, Thailand, Morocco, Eritrea and Ethiopia. I think I have forgotten a few. English is the common language but I am the only native-English speaker. Everyone else speaks at least two languages and in some cases many more.
The ages range from 19 up to late 50s. Some have families, some don’t. Some are refugees, some have married Swedes, some are here because of work.
We are approaching the end of the two-week block and in that time we have learnt a huge amount. Grammar, phrases, vocabulary. It really is incredible. I don’t yet have the confidence to go out and speak fluently to a Swede but I have noticed that my ear is tuning in much more in spoken language. I can hear where the sentences start and end and where the verbs and nouns are. A huge leap from two weeks ago when it really did sound like this:
The same is true when I am looking at Swedish text. I can see the sentence structure and although I may not understand some of the words I am starting to recognise, and read, much more.
Did you know there are two types of snow? Swedish snow and snowman-building snow. (That’s what we reckon anyway)
In the UK the snow tends to be wet. It is rain that has fallen and frozen as it falls. When it melts, which it does in the warmer days, it forms slush which then freezes at night when it gets cold again. This gives you that horrible slush and ice that is just a nightmare. Roads and pavements quickly become treacherous, black ice is common and the whole system grinds to a halt.
In Sweden, however, there is another type of snow – rarely seen in the UK (in my experience – yours may differ). Because the air temperature is so cold in the winter *any* moisture in the air is frozen. What this does is gives you the weird experience of sunny days, blue skies and snow falling. That is any moisture instantly freezing and falling as snow. The texture of the snow is weird to us Brits. It is dry snow. Think of a powder between icing sugar and caster sugar. It is super-dry. This means that it does not really stick and is really easy to deal with. It is simply swept to the side of the road by the snow ploughs. Any snow left on the road has the consistency of sand. It really is strange. It is also useless for making snowmen with as it has no moisture so won’t stick together – look – here is me showing you…
Oh how I hate hearing my own voice. Did you notice the ice-skater behind me on the lake? That is Lake Mälaren, which I think we have mentioned before. They were testing the thickness of the ice. We suspect that as a result of these tests the annual race was cancelled.
The Viking Race (Vikingarännet), the largest skating race in the world, was scheduled to take place on February 16th, but organizers pulled the plug after forecasts of more mild weather and temperatures above zero.
“This means that solid ice along the track will thin out and the surface will soften. This could result in conditions that put the skaters at risk, resulting in falls and injuries. In addition, the snow ploughs cannot move freely on the ice,” they said.
Around 3,000 ice skaters take to Lake Mälaren each year for the race, which follows an old Viking transportation route southwards from Uppsala to Stockholm, a distance of roughly 80 kilometres.
It has been interesting seeing how the Swedish deal with the snow. Admittedly we happen to have moved in a very mild winter. Everyone has been telling us how unusual it is. I found an interesting site showing averages of weather – this is Stockholm.
The cold season lasts from December 3 to March 6 with an average daily high temperature below 3°C. The coldest day of the year is February 14, with an average low of -8°C and high of -1°C.
Firstly the Swedish deal with the snow. The snow ploughs and gritters are out throughout the day. School paths are gritted, footpaths are gritted, the roads are gritted. You can frequently see piles of grit in residential areas that you can help yourself to to grit your path/drive.
Everyone owns a snow shovel and deals with their own snow.
On our street there is this sign:
Basically it means do not park on the road on a Friday during the Winter months. Why? Because the whole road is going to be ploughed. Any car left on the road will end up covered with/surrounded by snow. Like this one which had been left on the road just round the corner from our house. Whoops!
Secondly the Swedish dress for the snow. Children are dressed head to toe in warm, waterproof clothes. We are talking boots, gloves/mittens, coat, hat, goggles, over-trousers – the works. At school they strip off and get on with their day. There is a wet area at school where they take their boots off. No mess inside thank-you. Then they strip the other layers off near their classroom. There is plenty of space to hang everything. When 3-4 months of the year are under snow you have to be prepared. I can only imagine what it is like further north. It is just a part of life here. No panic.
Adults wear boots, warm clothes, hats, gloves, big coats and gently steam on the T-Bana. The elderly can be seen using Nordic Poles. Everyone has good boots. Solid boots. If not then there are over-shoes you can use – not the rubber crampons I have seen in the UK but an actual rubber grippy shoe thing.
Finally, and most importantly, the Swedish are damn good at warming up. And no, I don’t mean like that… I mean like this…
I finally made it along to IKEA and bought all the things. My lovely colleagues back in Scotland had given me an IKEA voucher as a leaving gift and it was time to spend it. I would have loved to have bought one amazing thing and say that that was what I bought but actually we needed lots of little things.
So thank you guys, you helped me buy… Slats for DD’s bed, a coat hanging thing for DD, a clothes hanging for Martin, a duvet cover for DD, a sheet for DD, an angle-poise desklamp, a new light fitting for the office, door signs for DS2, lovely glasses and mugs, straws, paper, pens, scissors and of course the essential tea lights. We still have some things left to buy, mainly big things (a bed, a sofa-bed and some bookcases) but I think we are almost there.
We are still waiting for delivery of our containers, so we are living minimally. It is mostly okay until you think where is… and realise it is somewhere between Scotland and Sweden. Very frustrating. I arrived with two skirts and one pair of jeans. Manageable I thought.. But I simply cannot find the jeans. They have vanished. So I have had to go to H&M to stock up on clothes to accommodate my ever expanding waist line. (More on that another time.)
Today we took the kids out of school for the day and visited the tax office. Forms were filled in, boxes ticked, passports, marriage certificate, employment contract and birth certificates copied. This is all so we can get our personnelnummers. This number is key to Swedish life. It is a bit of a cross between your NHS number and your NI number and it used for everything… Opening bank accounts, applying for a travel pass, applying for child allowance, health care, dental care, buying a mobile phone, applying for membership of the library or the local sports club, getting an IKEA family card… Seriously this number is used all of the time. We still have another 3-4 week wait before we finally get them. Then Martin and I can apply for ID cards so we won’t need our passports on us.
After that we went to the shop to stock up on food and milk. We seem to be going through gallons at the moment. Considering getting a cow! Home for lunch. After lunch I explored the chimney and found the evasive flap and its handle. It is extremely stiff though so will have to get Martin to look at it. I can totally see how the house filled with smoke. The hole is tiny without the flap being open!
Then, while I was on a roll, I looked at the downstairs TV. It claims to have two HDMI inputs but in reality it only has one. So I have unplugged the Apple TV, for now, and plugged in the XBox. Cue, happy boys!
The other thing that happened today is I picked up a parcel containing 15 UK to EU plug converters. We had two with us and I looked at them at the airport and they were £25 each! I bought some off UK Ebay for about that for 15 including shipping. So now we can plug in all the things.
Things still to achieve
Register with midwife (did I tell you that bit?)
Get DS1 into school – ongoing….
Test the sauna – although I will only be able to watch
Find a good knit night – I have three to test next week 😉
Our first Sunday in Sweden as a family. We decided to shake off the cobwebs and go out and explore.
We all wrapped up well with hats, scarves, gloves, coats and boots and off we set. We decided to head for the lake. Stockholm stands on Lake Mälaren, the third largest lake in Sweden. It is very close to our house and we soon found our way down to it.
Such beauty is hard to describe. The way the water dripping off the rocks was forming ice stalactites and icicles was gorgeous. The partially frozen lake allowed ducks to walk right up to the boardwalk we were heading along leaving their frozen duck prints across the ice. The tall reeds had balls of translucent ice just above where they grew out of the water. The sky was clear, yet it snowed. Peering over the boardwalk we could see icicles hanging below the boards and under the low branches of bushes and trees.
I would share photos with you only it was so cold I think my iPhone has frozen! We are still waiting for it to defrost.
As we headed around the lake we came to a large, stately house called Riddersviks Gård. Every Sunday there is a cafe open there serving tea, coffee, steaming hot chocolate and a selection of gorgeous fresh cakes. Two hot chocolates, three glasses of milk and a selection of cakes later we headed back out into the snow taking the short route back to the house.
Once home Martin and I heaved furniture around and swapped DD’s bedroom with the office. Lots of reasons for this move and I think she is pleased with the change. We are certainly pleased with the new look office.
Martin then decided to give the log fire a go. Oh dear. The house filled with smoke and we ended up having to open doors and windows to get rid of the eye-watering smoke. We are not sure what we have done wrong so have emailed the landlord to hopefully find out.
Once we had got rid of the smoke we settled down with pizza and ciabatta and watched a film together. All in all a great family day, now just to get them to bed… Continue reading Family Sunday→
It is Friday and I emigrated to Sweden on Monday. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster since then with the children leading the way as we find our feet in the local area and in the school system. We still have a huge way to go in finding our place but for now I am thrilled with how far we have come.
It has been interesting, however, and I have definitely learned some things about Swedish life. So now for your viewing pleasure, some of my observations:
It is illegal to park on the wrong side of the street. I.e. Facing the traffic. You must face the same way if stopping at the edge of a road.
The Swedes leave their Christmas lights up until the end of January. It makes the streets really pretty. All those lovely lights reflecting on the snow.
Christmas lights are all white/pale yellow. None of this brightly coloured trashy nonsense the UK seems to have developed. So much prettier.
Children play out in the snow, every day. Back in Scotland a snowy day was deemed to be unsuitable for outdoor play in case the children should slip and hurt themselves. Bless. What nonsense.
Your rubbish gets weighed.
The majority of Swedes speak beautiful English. It is embarrassing really.
All children ice-skate. DD starts next week! They are using the local football pitch which has been soaked in water and left to freeze. Awesome.
On our street you are not allowed to park your car on the road on a Friday as that is the day the gritter/snow plough comes down.