Please sign in to post.

My Expat Experience in Sweden (so far)

Well it's been about a week since I moved to Sweden from Los Angeles. Currently based out of small town of Skovde. It's been a surreal experience so far, very different from anywhere else in my life having been born/raised in Barcelona and recently living in California for a few years. I thought it might be interesting to share some of my initial impressions of life in Sweden, especially since it is constantly named one of the best places to live.

My picture album - https://photos.app.goo.gl/NqKU7Vrvx7zdZbXYA

Impressions so far:

In many ways, Swedes live up to my stereotypes, most are blonde blue-eyed, “beautiful people”, dressing stylishly. The language still gets me all the time, I feel like I’m listening to the Swedish chef from The Muppet Show lol! I think it's the inflections, very sing song compared to Norwegian.

Swedish people are incredibly friendly and eager to please and help. Maybe the most nice people I have ever met. This is so different from Spanish people to the point where I was quite suspicious the first few times I encountered Swedish friendliness.

Ikea is quite difficult to find in Sweden, I thought the country would be full of them but this is not the case. I had to drive 1:30 hr to a neighboring region to get to Ikea to buy furniture for my new apartment.

The Swedish countryside is quite similar to parts of the USA in particular it reminds me of images I’ve seen of rural Pennsylvania or upstate New York, typical red farmhouses, forests, and rolling farmland.

Outside the big cities, Sweden feels very isolated and primeval, the drive from Malmo to Jonkoping was basically one giant forest for 2 hours with not much in terms of towns or settlements. I’ve only felt this same sense of isolation in the US South West and the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

Roads are extremely well maintained, with almost no potholes. It was almost impossible to know that there had been heavy rains here only a week ago, if the same thing happened in California the roads would be Swiss cheese. Also, drivers are very courteous and patient in Sweden, unlike in Poland who are quite aggressive!

Not everyone speaks perfect English as I was led to believe lol! Most native Swedes speak very good English, however a significant chunk of the population of Sweden are non-native immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, even outside major cities they make up a good portion of the service sector, and they appear to have a lower level of English spoken, if at all. I guess this is because of not growing up with the Swedish school system where they start learning English from a young age.

Most of the signage, menus, and information is only in Swedish, so one uses the google translate app all the time.

There seems to be some kind of segregation in the big cities of Sweden, in the older parts there are more immigrants from Africa and the Middle East while in the new modern parts of town, it seems to be more native born Swedes.

In the Malmo airport police seemingly outnumbered passengers arriving, I must have walked by 50 heavily armed police with dogs. I am guessing this is because of contraband or the recent travel alerts about a potential terrorist attack in Sweden.

In general, the food in Sweden is very sophisticated and multicultural, which reminds me of the food in Los Angeles. From Spanish pork cheek, to Lebanese falafel, to Italian gelato, to Japanese Poke, and Argentine steaks. I’m afraid I have not had much opportunity to try traditional Swedish food, actually quite difficult to find, though I did have the shrimp sandwich which was quite good.

The most surprising thing to me is how consistently salty all the food is in Sweden! To the point of being almost inedible a few times. My understanding is that in Sweden salt is used liberally as a flavor-enhancing additive, like sugar in the USA.

Posted by
406 posts

Hello Carlos, this is so interesting, thanks for posting all your observations. What an adventure. I will say I missed your lead up to your big switch if you have posted it. I’ve read your input on Barcelona and Spain in other posts. Are you thinking you will be in Sweden permanently or is this a short term relocation? Will you be enrolling in language classes? My one and only exposure to Swedish food was an overnight ferry from Germany to Goteborg to pick up a Volvo in 1984! Lots of pickled fish but I liked it as I remember.

Are you in a small town or large? Lots of bicycles? Tell all😄!

Posted by
3896 posts

Hi Lyndash, well this move was a bit out of the blue, only have planned it for the past few months. I work in the film industry in LA and when work came to a screeching halt due to the ongoing strikes in Hollywood I decided to look for other opportunities. Because I am a Spanish citizen I am able to work anywhere in the EU so I found this work study program for video games in Sweden, which has a major video game industry. It's only for one year but with the possibility to extend. I might move back to the US if the work climate in Hollywood has changed or I might stay in Sweden longer.

I'm currently based in Skovde in Westgothia, which is a relatively small town/city compared to US standards, around 50k population. It's your stereotypical central European university town, new and old buildings, main market square, old church, very charming with 0% tourists. There is a youthful ambiance because of the local Uni, lots of students with bikes. There is also a big military presence as it's the main HQ for the Swedish Army. The main square is very nice, yesterday I watched the Sweden v Spain woman's world cup semis at the main square, it was packed with families all sporting Sweden, let's just say I was the only one who left the square with a smile on their face that day. I am planning to enroll in Swedish classes in the local Uni here too, but so far I've been ok with English and google translate.

Posted by
6350 posts

Welcome to Sweden! But I have to admit I am a bit curious about how you ended up in Skövde of all places. It's a rather new town that has formed around the railway station, mostly famous for a large military base and a Volvo factory.

Ikea is quite difficult to find in Sweden, I thought the country would
be full of them but this is not the case. I had to drive 1:30 hr to a
neighboring region to get to Ikea to buy furniture for my new
apartment.

They are not found in every street corner, so I assume you went to Jönköping?

Outside the big cities, Sweden feels very isolated and primeval, the
drive from Malmo to Jonkoping was basically one giant forest for 2
hours with not much in terms of towns or settlements. I’ve only felt
this same sense of isolation in the US South West and the Amazon
rainforest in Brazil.

The Southern highlands, they are not densely populated so yes there are a lot of trees. And very different from the Västgöta-plains around Skövde.

In the Malmo airport police seemingly outnumbered passengers arriving,
I must have walked by 50 heavily armed police with dogs. I am guessing
this is because of contraband or the recent travel alerts about a
potential terrorist attack in Sweden.

Must have been some temporary thing. I've been to Malmö airport twice and never saw any police there. The big question that pops up in my head though is what you were doing at Malmö airport? If you're going to Skövde, Malmö airport would not be my first suggestion to fly into. Neither my second, third, fourth or fifth suggestion.

I’m afraid I have not had much opportunity to try traditional Swedish
food, actually quite difficult to find, though I did have the shrimp
sandwich which was quite good.

You can stop by Den lilla krogen on Rådhusgatan 9. They serve Swedish food, although a bit more modern and high end. For lunch, Helensgården on Hertig Johans gata 19 offers traditional dishes like kalops, pytt i panna, kålpudding, raggmunk and many more options.

Posted by
3948 posts

Thanks for giving impressions of your recent relocation. We have a young friend who recently moved from the US to Sweden to work for a video game company too. I’ve been trying to imagine what this relocation is like for him although he is in Stockholm.

Posted by
6350 posts

I'm currently based in Skovde in Westgothia, which is a relatively
small town/city compared to US standards, around 50k population. It's
your stereotypical central European university town, new and old
buildings, main market square, old church, very charming with 0%
tourists. There is a youthful ambiance because of the local Uni, lots
of students with bikes.

While Skövde was founded officially in the 15th century, the town really expanded in the late 19th century when a station on the Stockholm-Gothenburg railway was built here. And while it has a small University college (not a proper university) I wouldn't call it a university town, it is still very much an industrial and military town.

There is also a big military presence as it's the main HQ for the
Swedish Army.

Last time I checked, the Army HQ was located in Enköping. But Skövde has as mentioned a large Army base.

Lycka till med språkstudierna! Kom ihåg att övning ger färdighet!

Posted by
20043 posts

Sweden feels very isolated and primeval, the drive from Malmo to Jonkoping was basically one giant forest

That is because you traveled through Småland and it as depopulated 125 years ago by a mass exodus to North America. My grandmother was one of them.

Posted by
4083 posts

Are you used to cold climates? I'm curious for an update in January.

I haven't been to Sweden but my stereotypical image would be Lego and Ikea stores all over. But I'm currently reading a murder mystery set in a remote town where the closest Ikea is in Finland and there are enough murders and guns to rival an American ghetto.

Posted by
6350 posts

Are you used to child climates?

Are they any different from adult climates? 😀

I haven't been to Sweden but my stereotypical image would be Lego and
Ikea stores all over.

You can find Lego stores, but Lego is Danish…

But I'm currently reading a murder mystery set in a remote town where
the closest Ikea is in Finland and there are enough murders and guns
to rival an American ghetto.

What is the book called? Sounds interesting? But yes, northern Sweden and Finland probably have the largest amounts of guns per capita in the EU.

Posted by
3896 posts

Finally able to check back in, was at a folk rock concert at this old 19th century farmhouse next to my apartment. The event was free and featured a few local bands, the audience were all Swedes but me I think. The interesting bit was that the songs were all in American English they were about things like "Sweet South Carolina" and "Chevrolet Trucks", very surreal.

@Badger - Thank you! The work/study program is through Skovde uni collaborating with local video game companies, apparently Skovde is a major centre for video game development in Sweden. The Volvo factory is about the size of the town itself lol! The locals had a kick when I first tried to pronounce Skovde as a latin speaker, it's actually pronounced (hoof-da), would have never guess haha.

I went through Malmo first because I first went to Krakow from Barcelona for a few days to visit friends, then there were good connections to Malmo from Katowice airport. I spent a few days in Malmo, they had a huge festival there when I went. I quite liked Malmo, especially the new town, very modern and sleek, had an excellent meal at the local gourmet food market. From Malmo I made the 4 hr drive to Skovde.

Thank you for the restaurant recommendation too! Tusen tack!

@Mona - I'm sure our experiences will be vastly different even within Sweden as he will be in the big city, and I'm here in the back country haha.

@Sam - wow did not know that! My knowledge of Swedish history is limited to their 17th century wars.

@Allan - I'm afraid not! I've only lived in Mediterranean climates, last time I touched snow was back in 2018 haha. Let's see if I last until January, it's already rainy and cold and we are only in the middle of August :-(

Another interesting observation is that Swedes really love their candy! There are aisles in super markets only dedicated to candy here in Sweden.

Posted by
4083 posts

Are you used to child climates?

Are they any different from adult climates? 😀

Stupid spell check. Are you used to cold climates?

What is the book called? Sounds interesting? But yes, northern Sweden
and Finland probably have the largest amounts of guns per capita in
the EU.

Cry Wolf by Hans Rosenfeldt, set in Haparanda, Sweden.

Posted by
5512 posts

Another interesting observation is that Swedes really love their candy! There are aisles in super markets only dedicated to candy here in Sweden.

Lördagsgodis (Saturday candy) - a Swedish tradition where kids are treated to candy on Saturday. Keep your eyes open when you go shopping on Saturday and you will notice all the candy shopping. I think a lot of adults continue the tradition.

I visited Skövde once on a business trip. Several of my coworkers gave me advice as it seemed they had all done their military service there. They didn’t seem too enamored with the town (probably because they associated with their service), but I rather enjoyed my day there.

By the way, if you think the ”skö” sound is difficult to pronounce, wait until you try the ”sj” sound. I still feel anxiety when I try to say the number seven (”sju”) … I have yet to master the pronunciation and probably never will.

Enjoy your stay in Sweden. I was an expat in Stockholm for a couple years and loved living there (except didn’t love the dark winters).

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks Laura. I'm definitely not looking forward to the winter! I can see why Scandinavians love to visit my country ;-)

Posted by
27072 posts

At some point you should try to see the emigration museum (Emigration House) in Vaxjo. The glass museum is good, too.

Posted by
6350 posts

@Badger - Thank you! The work/study program is through Skovde uni
collaborating with local video game companies, apparently Skovde is a
major centre for video game development in Sweden.

That explains it. There is a bit of game development in Skövde.

I went through Malmo first because I first went to Krakow from
Barcelona for a few days to visit friends, then there were good
connections to Malmo from Katowice airport. I spent a few days in
Malmo, they had a huge festival there when I went. I quite liked
Malmo, especially the new town, very modern and sleek, had an
excellent meal at the local gourmet food market. From Malmo I made the
4 hr drive to Skovde.

Nice to hear that you enjoyed Malmö. There are some nice areas there. But driving would not be my first choice to get from Malmö to Skövde. It's an easy train trip with one change in Gothenburg, compared to a long, and as you discovered, rather boing drive.

Thank you for the restaurant recommendation too! Tusen tack!

Let me know if you found any favourites! I saw that Helensgården serves pea soup and pancakes for lunch today. A traditional meal, for some reason often eaten on thursdays. Add some punsch and you have a great meal!

@Sam - wow did not know that! My knowledge of Swedish history is
limited to their 17th century wars.

I'm not sure if I'd use the word depopulated. The area has never really been densely populated as the land is really not suitable for farming. But a lot of people left from Småland to North America in the late 19th century.

@Allan - I'm afraid not! I've only lived in Mediterranean climates,
last time I touched snow was back in 2018 haha. Let's see if I last
until January, it's already rainy and cold and we are only in the
middle of August :-(

The advantage Skövde has is that is a bit inland and not as wet in winter as the coastal areas.

Skövde might be in "the back country", but it is pretty well connected. Gothenburg is only an hour away by train and it is around two hours to Stockholm.

Cry Wolf by Hans Rosenfeldt, set in Haparanda, Sweden.

Then he must have used a bit of artistic freedom, or you might have misunderstood it a bit. Haparanda boasts the northernmost Ikea in the world since 2006 if I'm not mistaken.

By the way, if you think the ”skö” sound is difficult to pronounce,
wait until you try the ”sj” sound. I still feel anxiety when I try to
say the number seven (”sju”) … I have yet to master the pronunciation
and probably never will.

In standard Swedish it's the same sound in sju and Skövde, but there is significant dialectal variation.

Posted by
3896 posts

Swedish comfort food, a hit or a miss?

Tried Helensgården today for lunch, definitely an authentic Swedish experience. Walked in and the guy taking the orders was the Swedish Chef in real life, with the same hat and all. I looked around and I was the only person under 70 and a non native Swedish, except the cooks who were young guys from sub-Saharan Africa.

I ordered the pork loin with applesauce and and potatoes, it was the most popular dish they said. I must say it was food from another time and for other more "local" tastes. I think I still need to be won over on the traditional Swedish food lol!

Posted by
3896 posts

Sighting of a wild American tourist off the beaten path!

Also had my first sighting of tourists today in Skovde. They were actually Americans, it was at the local hamburger restaurant, they had a big map on the table, I think they were talking about some kind of genealogical trip they were on. They seemed very much the model Rick Steves customers. Good for them though, I'm afraid I don't really know my family history more than my grandparents. I think that's the case for many Europeans. I'm always very surprised when Americans can name off their relatives even hundreds of years later.

Posted by
1418 posts

Thank you again. What is the cost of housing like? What about the general cost of living? I am thinking of moving to Europe when I retire. I have applied for Portugal's Golden Visa.

Posted by
1362 posts

Thanks Carlos! I'm enjoying reading about your experience. For about 2 years my neighbor flew to Sweden every few months for work. He'd bring back the best coffee. I'm sad the contract ended.

Regarding the climate, you can dress for the weather but how about the long nights? I think that would get to me more than the cold - but then again I grew up outside of Chicago and grew accustomed to the lake affect snow and wind.

Posted by
3896 posts

Cost of living in Sweden

The cost of living at least in my corner of Sweden is not too bad, it's honestly more expensive in California. A very nice one to two person apartment in the center of town is about a thousand dollars a month, that comes partially furnished and but does not include utilities. But they do include a very nice big American style fridge, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer which is not too common in Europe, especially the dryer.

Day-to-day prices are about 3/4 that of in California. Yesterday I got a very nice salmon poke bowl for only $12, and that was the price I paid no need to tip. The same thing would have cost me $18 including tip in Los Angeles.

One kind of annoying thing about Sweden is that you need a personal swedish ID number to sign contracts and do many things, however you can only get this ID number if you're here longer than a year. In order to sign for my apartment and utilities I had to use a dummy swedish ID number that companies use here as a workaround.

Right now I'm very much enjoying the long days, but I'm a little bit worried about the long nights.

Posted by
531 posts

This was so much fun to read and you satisfied my curiosity about Ikea over there haha. It sounds like a lovely place overall and I can't wait to hear more! I'm hoping to move to Europe at some point, I'm just not 100% sure where yet.

Btw, the Swedish Chef is one of my favorite Muppets, along with Beaker and the two judges. 😉

Posted by
2721 posts

Thank you Carlos for sharing your experience. 54 years ago, I stayed with a family in Märsta just north of Stockholm for a few days while on a tour. The son and I still keep in touch. He lives in Lyckeby in southern Sweden. I want to go back to visit him and his family but life and other trips keep getting in the way.

Posted by
3896 posts

Safety in Sweden?

Big news today in Sweden is that the terrorist alert has been raised. They're expecting some kind of imminent terrorist attack in retaliation for quran burnings in Stockholm. That explains the extremely heavy police presence at Malmo airport I saw earlier in the week. Is this normal for Sweden? Might reconsider my day trip to Gothenburg this weekend until things blow over.

Posted by
3896 posts

Alcohol is not expensive in Sweden!

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol isn't expensive in Sweden, I'd even dare to say it's slightly cheaper than in the USA. Today I stopped by local wine and liquor shop and picked up a nice Argentine Malbec for $7 and an excellent Riesling from Alsace for $11. Whiskey and Gin etc also normal price.

Posted by
3896 posts

Swedes love their classic American cars

I've seen hot rods, muscle cars, mustangs, Chevrolets, Chryslers Corvettes from the '50s '60s '70s cruising the quaint streets of Skovde from the past week. Not sure if there's some kind of event, or if this is a bigger trend in Sweden. Quite jarring when you're walking down a cobblestone street in small town Sweden to see a 1960s black Lincoln Continental cruise past you 👀

Edit: looks like it's definitely a thing https://www.wired.com/2017/03/axel-oberg-swedish-greasers-power-big-meet/#:~:text=American%20culture%20came%20to%20Sweden,there%20as%20they%20were%20here.

Posted by
6350 posts

I ordered the pork loin with applesauce and and potatoes, it was the
most popular dish they said. I must say it was food from another time
and for other more "local" tastes. I think I still need to be won over
on the traditional Swedish food lol!

There are many other dishes to try. If you're brave, the season for Surströmming has just started. As well as crayfish season.

Right now I'm very much enjoying the long days, but I'm a little bit
worried about the long nights.

As it gets darker, a bit of advice is to make sure you enjoy the daylight. take a lunchtime walk to make sure you get to see the sun a bit. But once the snow arrives it gets a lot brighter.

Is this normal for Sweden?

No. But here is a statement from Säpo: https://sakerhetspolisen.se/ovriga-sidor/other-languages/english-engelska/press-room/news/news/2023-08-17-terrorist-threat-level-raised-to-high.html I'm not worring that much about it.

Alcohol is not expensive in Sweden!

It depends very much on whether you buy it at Systembolaget or at a bar.

Swedes love their classic American cars

Some do. There is a subculture and they tend to be very visible when they show up. And there are those that spend a lot of time and money on their cars, making sure they are as good as new. And then there are those only spend enough on maintenance to keep the car running…

Posted by
124 posts

Carlos, Thank you for updating us on your latest adventure. The strike is definitely frustrating and it doesn't look like the end is near. My cousin finally got his big break and is a screenwriter for "Interview with a Vampire" including being signed do to the 2nd season so I try to do nice things for him since this is a trying time for the industry. You also are missing Hurricane Hillary that is set to hit Southern California this weekend. It is the first time in history that they have declared Tropical Storm warnings for San Diego.

Good luck with the video game work-study program and enjoy all that Scandanavia has to offer. I think you are right about classic American cars because when we visited Kalmar in 2018, we kept on running into car parades and car shows. I didn't think I would be running into the "General Lee" in Sweden.

If you have the time, I suggest visiting Oslo and doing "Norway in a Nutshell". We had gone to Easter Island previously so the Kon Tiki Museum was a good way to tie in the experience. The countryside was just beautiful when we drove from Flam to other destinations including going on the road at the high attitude (I can't remember the name). It looked like a lunar landscape.

Posted by
3896 posts

@Badger - Thanks again for demystifying Sweden for me haha!

@itsv - Wow congrats to your cousin, breaking into the entertainment industry is super difficult! The duel WGA and SAG strikes are really taking a toll on all sides, especially those who are not directly involved in creative (interns, assistants, PR, marketing, BUS, producers etc) and don't have a big union to help them survive, many layoffs now. I had a job lined up in LA with a well known entertainment company starting this summer but in light of the strikes they rescinded the offer due to a hiring freeze for that department. That's what led me to look for opportunities back home in Europe, like this work study program in Sweden.

Wow crazy what's happening in San Diego with that Hurricane! I guess climate change strikes again. I love San Diego, it reminds me a lot of Spain especially the area from La Jolla to San Clemente.

Posted by
3896 posts

I suggest visiting Oslo and doing "Norway in a Nutshell".

Thanks for the tip, I actually did that back in 2016, loved Norway! I spent 3 nights in Oslo and 3 nights in Bergen. I took the typical train between the two cities. While I liked Oslo, it felt very livable, for me Bergen was really fantastic! I think I was lucky as it was one of the few weeks without constant rain ;-)

Once in Bergen, I rented a car drove all the way to Flam, but the long way, along the Fjords, it took a few hrs. From Flam I took the Flam Railway up to Myrdal (is this the lunar landscape you mentioned or was it Jotunheimen?). Back in Flam I went on a Fjord Safari recommended by RS himself. We hopped on a speed boat and jetted through the Fjords, that was really incredible, speeding past all the sheer cliffs and really getting up close, my best memory from the trip.

I also enjoyed exploring Bergen itself, between the castle, old merchants' quarter, harbourfront, museums, funicular, and general exploring there was a good deal to see. I recall I ate at two very good restaurants - Bryggeloftet & Stuene (very traditional Norwegian fare, liked the Bergensk fiskesuppe) and Dr. Wiesener (neighbourhood hangout with great local seafood).

Here's my photos from the trip - https://photos.app.goo.gl/9p3Buqfvo5bVbyV66

In some ways the Norwegians and the Swedes are similar but in many ways they are quite different. If you're familiar with Spain, I'd say the Swedes are like Catalans while the Norwegians are like Basques.

Posted by
406 posts

Carlos, what are you doing for transportation? Is there more of a car culture or use mass transit where you are living?

Will there be continual snow on the ground after winter starts? My daughter lives in Fairbanks and the snow does at least help reflect the light after the long nights set in. Winter can still seem to last forever…..

Thanks for sharing what the non tourist experience is like.

Posted by
3207 posts

Thank you for this Carlos! I am recalling all I love about Sweden. I used to have a visit back to Ångermanland Province, where my grandmother's maternal line lived, on my list to experience the December light. I think I might add it back on... I found Sweden very much like New England of the past. I felt more at home there than anywhere I'd ever visited.

Posted by
3896 posts

Transportation in Sweden

Lyndash, regarding transportation, I have initially rented out a car for a couple weeks until I get settled into the apartment, as it still needs to be furnished. In my corner of Sweden, foot/bike/mopeds are used for short distance, cars are used for medium distance, then trains are used for long distance.

For example a few days ago, I needed my car to drive to the neighboring province to go to Ikea to buy some home goods, then used the car to haul stuff back to my apartment, the bigger stuff bed/couch are being delivered next week.

Today I did not need the car. I walked from my apartment in the town center to the local supermarket, to buy groceries and cleaning supplies (about a 5 minute walk). On the way back I stopped by the main square where they had a farmer's market and bought some wild strawberries and fresh chanterelle mushrooms, then walked back to my apartment. This is the lifestyle that I miss the most about living in Europe compared to the USA. Every day I am getting 10,000+ steps with ease. I feel I have already lost some weight in the short time I have been here.

One of these weekends I plan to make a day trip to Gothenburg and Stockholm using the X2 high speed train, it's about 2 hrs to Stockholm and 1 hr to Gothenburg. The Skovde train station is about a 5 minute walk from my apartment too.

As for short/medium distance public transportation they do not seem prevalent in my neck of the woods, have yet to see any buses or trams in my town. Have not felt the need for them so far.

Posted by
2252 posts

Thank you, Carlos (and all those who have posted replies) for this wonderful Saturday morning education. I love living in other countries vicariously and since I have never spent any time in Sweden outside of Stockholm, I am truly enjoying this. I am happy you have made those lemons you were unexpectedly presented with into lemonade you can enjoy.

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks for the kind words andi!

There's definitely been a few issues settling in, but that's the normal when moving to a new country, overall it's been a great experience so far.

Posted by
3896 posts

Throwing out trash is a chore in Sweden

Perhaps I'm too accustomed to the American model of taking out the trash, where you just put recyclables in the blue bin and all the rest in the gray bin. 2 seconds and you're done.

But in Sweden it's a lot more complicated. There are like six different bins to throw away all your trash, and you have to sort through all your trash and make sure you're throwing away the right trash for the right bin. Paper, household items, plastic, food waste etc all have to be separated and sorted. It took me 10 to 15 minutes the first time to throw up my trash. Still haven't found out where I throw away my bottles and aluminum cans so they've been collecting in my apartment haha!

Posted by
6350 posts

@Badger - Thanks again for demystifying Sweden for me haha!

Don't mention it. I know a thing or two about how Sweden works and I don't mind sharing that knowledge.

And regarding Swedish food, I hope you have managed to explore the fika culture. An important part of Swedish culture. Stop by a café and have some coffee or tea and a pastry. Try Henrys bageri or Rådhuscaféet on Hertig Johans torg. Just avoid Espresso house and other chains.

In some ways the Norwegians and the Swedes are similar but in many
ways they are quite different. If you're familiar with Spain, I'd say
the Swedes are like Catalans while the Norwegians are like Basques.

I'm not that familiar with Spain to understand that analogy. But Swedes and Norwegians are very similar. We have a lot of shared history, similar culture and speak (almost) the same language. But during the winter sport season there is a big rivalry, especially in biathlon and cross country skiing. But not in ice hockey, there the big rivalry is between Sweden and Finland.

As for short/medium distance public transportation they do not seem
prevalent in my neck of the woods, have yet to see any buses or trams
in my town.

Look a bit closer. Here is a map of the local town buses: https://www.vasttrafik.se/globalassets/media/kartor/linjenatskartor/stadsbussar/stadsbussar-dec-2021/adr_2_402396_skovde_a3_150ex.pdf There are also regional buses to surrounding town. If you want to try them out, Mariestad, Skara, Karlsborg and Hjo are good options for day trips.

But in Sweden it's a lot more complicated. There are like six
different bins to throw away all your trash, and you have to sort
through all your trash and make sure you're throwing away the right
trash for the right bin. Paper, household items, plastic, food waste
etc all have to be separated and sorted. It took me 10 to 15 minutes
the first time to throw up my trash.

You'll get the hang of it in a while!

Still haven't found out where I throw away my bottles and aluminum
cans so they've been collecting in my apartment haha!

If they are bottles or can with a deposit on (denoted by the pant-symbol, http://markesguiden.se/pantsymbolen/ ) you take them back to the store and put them in a machine to get a bit of money back.

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks Badger once again!

In a nutshell I think that like Catalans, Swedes are more collectivist, consensus driven. Norwegians are like Basques as they're more individualistic and wild 😜

Posted by
9420 posts

Carlos, reading all you’ve written and the comments has been so enjoyable, thank you. You have a really good attitude and you’re very brave to uproot yourself so quickly and move to a whole new culture, one that’s so different from Spain/Southern Cal… big kudos to you!!

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks Susan! I'm a relatively young guy so my roots don't go too deep yet, the stars seem to aligned on this one and all came together relatively quickly. My dad always said when something negative happened "you never know when they're doing you a favor". I think in the US you guys say something similar, take the lemons and make lemonade haha!

Posted by
420 posts

Carlos, I am thoroughly enjoying this thread! It is so interesting to hear your perspective as a Spaniard who has lived in the United States, now living in Sweden.

Posted by
1478 posts

I visited Sweden in 2017 and absolutely loved it. I used to say that I would move there in a heartbeat if they would let me work. My job title there requires Swedish language proficiency. I really couldn't leave family (parent, children) behind, but it was a nice fantasy. I haven't found anyplace else that I would want to live. I think I will go back to Paris over and over, but wouldn't want to live there.

Posted by
9420 posts

Carlos, my Millennial son is like you. Ah to be young again… Enjoy it! And Sweden, lol.

Posted by
4152 posts

I'm loving this too, Carlos.

Having been born and raised in San Antonio and preferring hot climates in general, I was surprised by the pull I felt in Scandinavia, especially Norway. I'd been there and in Denmark before, but was in Sweden for the 1st time in 2018. I felt at home there, but in a different way.

I guess I come by it naturally. Typical American here, since then my Ancestry.com DNA was updated with this info:  Sweden & Denmark 16%. Norway 7%. I don’t know why Sweden & Denmark are combined.

One of the unique (to me) things I ate in Sweden was the sautéed cucumber slices at our first RS tour meal in Stockholm. At least I think it was cucumbers. I'm also a fan of lingonberries any way you can eat them, thanks to IKEA. The first one I shopped in was in Nuremberg when setting up my apartment there in the early 1980's. The absolute favorite meat of this unrepentant carnivore is reindeer. I had it at a restaurant we went to in Oslo, but I'd think that you could get it in Sweden, too.

BTW, I had an uncle who actually was a Swedish chef. He worked in a hospital in Wichita, Kansas and was married to my mother's sister. His name was Faber Sjogren. They always pronounced it like "sugerin." My aunt and mother called him Swede, so I called him ... Uncle Swede.

I'm looking forward to your future posts about this new phase of your life.

Posted by
6350 posts

Regarding snow cover, Skövde is probably in an area where it comes and goes during the winter. SMHI (the national weather agency) has a map of the snow depth: https://www.smhi.se/vader/observationer/snodjup/ In Swedish, but pretty easy to understand. Select a season in the drop down menu above the map, and then use the slider in the bottom to select a certain date.

My job title there requires Swedish language proficiency.

That can be solved. https://www.duolingo.com/course/sv/en/Learn-Swedish

One of the unique (to me) things I ate in Sweden was the sautéed
cucumber slices at our first RS tour meal in Stockholm.

Are you sure they weren't pickled? I've never heard of sautéed cucumber but pickled cucumber is very common.

Posted by
3896 posts

Supermarkets in Sweden

Yesterday I walked to my local supermarket, Hemköp, about five min from my apartment. The supermarkets in Sweden are definitely different from what I'm used to. First off this one is actually also open on Sunday, which is not the norm in Spain. Second the super had an interesting layout where one started at one end and are funneled in a zig zag through the entire store until you reach the end which was a cashier. Needless to say I had to do a lot of backtracking as I was unfamiliar with what was where. In the US and Spain supermarkets are more open concept where you can browse through different aisles and go your own way, in Sweden everyone follows the same pre outlined path.

A few unique products stood out to me in Swedish supermarkets which took up a lot of retail space with lots of options to choose from. These were many kinds of caviar spread in tubes, jars and jars of bearnaise sauce (for some reason), a lot of regional cheeses with different regions listed, and an entire aisle of gummy candies. Very different from Spain, where olive oil, wine, and Jamon take up a lot of retail space. Frozen food options were very minimal in Sweden, which is quite different from the USA where most of the food products are frozen.

Prices in Sweden overall were 3/4th that of California, and very slightly more than Spain.

Posted by
406 posts

An aisle of gummy candies, how fun but a little amazing. Do they have the deli and bakery areas so common in our grocery stores? I’m surprised the prices are reasonable as I was under the impression that cost of living was so much higher.

Posted by
3896 posts

I don't recall any deli or bakery areas in the supermarket, I think most meats/cheese and breads were pre packaged, there may be separate bakeries and delis like in Spain for fresh bread and deli stuff.

Yes I am surprised too at how inexpensive Sweden is, though I'm not living in Stockholm but in a small town in the center of the country, so that may skew the data. I looked online and Sweden is about on par with France in terms of cost of living.

Posted by
5202 posts

Carlos,

This thread is fascinating, thanks for sharing your experiences as an expat in Sweden.

I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments, and have learned so much, especially from Badger.

Wow, what an experience for you!
I hope all goes well with your work study program.

I imagine that learning Swedish would be difficult but it will be easier for you now that you’re living there.

Regarding the layout of the supermarket:

Second the super had an interesting layout where one started at one end and are funneled in a zig zag through the entire store until you reach the end which was a cashier. Needless to say I had to do a lot of backtracking as I was unfamiliar with what was where.

Did the IKEA you visited had a similar layout?

I remember going to an IKEA store here, many years ago, and the layout was very different than most other stores. One had to take an escalator to the top floor, then one was “funneled” around and around to the lower floors until reaching the cashiers at the ground level.

Looking forward to reading about your future experiences!

Thanks for the wonderful photos, it looks like a beautiful place!

Posted by
4152 posts

"Are you sure they weren't pickled? I've never heard of sautéed cucumber but pickled cucumber is very common."

Except the lingonberries, everything on the plate was hot. I was surprised by the hot cucumber slices which were very thin and sautéed in what I assumed to be butter because they tasted so good. We were eating at the restaurant which was used for the bar scene in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I took a picture of the plate and posted it on my FB page. I can't link to it here, but this is what I wrote to describe the food in the picture, "The main course was preceded by an appetizer that included pickled herring. I ate around the herring, but I ate all I could hold of this. You got your Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes with gravy on the right. The cucumbers were sautéed and hot. Delish. And I'm always a fan of lingonberries."

The restaurant is the Kvarnen and this is the meal. The cukes may have been pickled, but I don’t remember them as tasting like they had a lot of vinegar. We had fewer meat balls, more cucumber, more lingonberries and generally prettier plates.

Posted by
3896 posts

Did the IKEA you visited had a similar layout?

Yes that's a great point! I didn't think of that, but the Ikea had the same funnel type layout as the super market. It must be a swedish design 😂

Posted by
6350 posts

Second the super had an interesting layout where one started at one
end and are funneled in a zig zag through the entire store until you
reach the end which was a cashier.

It varies. In general smaller stores tend to use "the Ikea layout" while larger are often more open. But there is large variation.

A few unique products stood out to me in Swedish supermarkets which
took up a lot of retail space with lots of options to choose from.
These were many kinds of caviar spread in tubes, jars and jars of
bearnaise sauce (for some reason), a lot of regional cheeses with
different regions listed, and an entire aisle of gummy candies.

I also assume there a larger selection of Knäckebröd compared to Spain?

Do they have the deli and bakery areas so common in our grocery
stores?

Again, it varies. Some do, some don't. But for bread and pastries it is usually a better idea to visit a proper bakery.

The restaurant is the Kvarnen and this is the meal. The cukes may have
been pickled, but I don’t remember them as tasting like they had a lot
of vinegar.

That looks very much like pressgurka (pickled cucumbers). And when looking at their menu it clearly says "Köttbullar, gräddsås, rårörda lingon, pressgurka & potatispuré".

Posted by
4597 posts

Today I did not need the car.

Oh that just sounds so nice! I wish that I could walk to markets and squares and leave the car at home. Although I chuckle because yesterday, in Vilnius, I walked a mile to a museum. I would never consider walking less than that to my grocery store at home!

Posted by
158 posts

This thread has been wonderful to read!

Thanks Carlos and everyone who has contributed to it 🤩

I wish you only the best on this new experience in your life, Carlos!

Posted by
9420 posts

Your photos are wonderful Carlos, really enjoyed them. Gave me a real sense of being there.

Posted by
1943 posts

Recycling-Swedes have nothing on the Germans. So many recycling bins and even glass goes into different bins based on the type.

That is one thing I do miss about my European travels is being so close to a supermarket or market. Also being able to hop on a train or bus and go on a hike in nature trails. In America you need a car to get from the city to any nature park or hiking trail.

Posted by
3896 posts

The Swedish Workplace

Now that I have had a couple of days since the start of my program, there is some striking cultural differences between working in Spain/USA vs Sweden. First off the workplace is very informal, everyone refers to everyone by their first name, even if they just got to know them, no last names and no titles used. I guess this stems from the Swedish collectivist philosophy. very different from other parts of Europe that are still very formal when using titles and names like Germany or France. I guess it is more like in the USA.

Also everyone is very upbeat and cheerful, saying "Hej Hej" with a big smile! This reminds me more of the USA workplace as well. Eye contact is very important and the good handshake too, like in the USA. Also we have some kind of mandated 30 min coffee break in the morning and at the afternoon called "Fika". Not sure if I'm a fan of this since I'm not big on pastries or drinking coffee so much. I think I'd rather skip the Fika and get off work an hour early, but the workplace shuts down for this Fika thing.

Thankfully there is a dual citizen Swedish American girl from New York also in the program who is helping demystify the Swedish culture for me haha. Today she was telling me about all the different kinds of milk in Sweden, there is like 6 kinds, there is even fermented milk that is popular!

Posted by
406 posts

Aren’t the Swedes one of the biggest coffee consumers per capita? How great everyone is so friendly. Fermented milk I’m not so sure of….maybe like liquid sour cream or yogurt.

Coffee and pastry twice a day and yet they stay slim? All the walking and extra steps pay off. What floor are you living on? I always thought all flights of stairs in Europe add up too.

Posted by
3896 posts

I'm on the 4th floor, but our apartment block has a lift. Most buildings in Sweden have some kind of lift I've noticed.

Posted by
6350 posts

First off the workplace is very informal, everyone refers to everyone
by their first name, even if they just got to know them, no last names
and no titles used. I guess this stems from the Swedish collectivist
philosophy.

This stems from a language revolution in the 1960s and 70s. Sweden used to be very formal and with strict rules on how to adress others. This led to a widespread use of the passive voice and odd linguistical construction simply to avoid having to adress other. And instead of asking someone Would you like some coffee?, you would say something like Is coffee desired? That was a bit silly so the Swedes sort of decided in the 70s to become more informal to simplify things.

100 years ago, it would have a bit more complicated.

Aren’t the Swedes one of the biggest coffee consumers per capita?

The Nordics usually are in top of such lists.

Fermented milk I’m not so sure of….maybe like liquid sour cream or
yogurt.

Probably refers to filmjölk, which is similar to yogurt, also a kind of fermented milk.

Posted by
9420 posts

Sounds to me like filmjölk is kefir?
Kefir is drinkable yogurt which i’m addicted to, lol.

Posted by
3896 posts

Looks like it's in a league of its own

There is no single accepted English term for fil or filmjölk. Fil and/or filmjölk has been translated to English as sour milk,[11] soured milk,[11][12] acidulated milk,[13] fermented milk,[14] and curdled milk,[15] all of which are nearly synonymous and describe filmjölk but do not differentiate filmjölk from other types of soured/fermented milk. Filmjölk has also been described as viscous fermented milk[16] and viscous mesophilic fermented milk,.[16]

Posted by
6350 posts

Sounds to me like filmjölk is kefir?

No, they are different products.

Posted by
3896 posts

Woes of living in Sweden, no personal number no service!

I must say that the bureaucracy of trying to live in Sweden short-term is starting to get to me. In order to sign contracts, open bank account, securing insurance, getting utilities, even arrange WiFi for the apartment you need a Swedish personal number that's granted to citizens and long-term residents.

Because my work study program is less than 13 months I don't have access to this Swedish Personal number. so these last weeks it's been a struggle to get even the most basic things for my apartment, I can't get any companies to provide me internet for my apartment, everyone requires of Swedish personal number. Everything basically has to be paid through Western Union, and takes 3 days for the transfer, as I don't have a Swedish bank account.

Just today I received a delivery of a sofa bed from IKEA. Turns out putting together IKEA products is physically impossible to do by yourself. So now even trying to contract a handyman to come and build the sofa for me they ask me for a personal number and I don't have one.

It's frustrating, as a European citizen I can technically live and work in Sweden but practically it's almost impossible. The country is not designed for people living short-term.

Posted by
6350 posts

Because my work study program is less than 13 months I don't have
access to this Swedish Personal number. so these last two weeks it's
been a struggle to get even the most basic things for my apartment,

How long are you staying? You should be able to get a samordningsnummer, a temporary number, to allow you to navigate Sweden a bit earlier.

Posted by
321 posts

Thank you, Carlos- this was full of interesting and informative tidbits. Your pictures were great, too! I wish you luck and success, sounds like a real ADVENTURE.

Posted by
1767 posts

It's fun getting your impressions. I'm wondering if the honeymoon phase wears off before your time there is done. It's interesting to hear about the frustrations of expatriation and travel as much as the glories.

Wow crazy what's happening in San Diego with that Hurricane! I guess
climate change strikes again. I love San Diego, it reminds me a lot of
Spain especially the area from La Jolla to San Clemente.

I grew up in Del Mar, and from what was reported to me it wasn't too bad, rained but not an enormous amount on the coast.

It's interesting growing up in a place as generically desirable as the North San Diego County coast. It's really expensive in relation to wages in the area. I'm glad I left to seek broader horizons. It's a great place, but it's also kind of a cul-de-sac where the residents only look towards the dead end and declare there is no greater place in the world. Nearly all my friends in relatives I grew up with who stayed have sacrificed all kinds of income and personal growth to greater or lesser extents.

I would go back probably though, nothing at all bad about that life when you've already made it for yourself. I still get granted local status when I paddle out where I surfed as a young man, the place definitely still feels like home :)

My understanding is that Norwegians tend to do a lot of frozen foods, even fish, which, given their proximity to the sea and robust fishing industry, you would think would be abundantly available fresh in supermarkets like it is here in Seattle. I see a higher proportion of frozen foods in North Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark. I wonder if Sweden is similar? Or do they have big fresh fish and meat counters in the supermarkets like in the US?

Posted by
3896 posts

Hi Badger, the plan is to stay 10 months, with the potential to extend. Thank you about the tip for the Samordningsnummer, I'll reach out to the program admin to see about it.

Posted by
3896 posts

Hi Hank, that's an interesting insight. I feel the same way about my hometown of Barcelona. Everyone says they love Barcelona, but living there is another story.

Although I wouldn't mind living in the San Diego area, seems like the dream fantasy we all have of living in California.

As for frozen food in Sweden, my local supermarket mainly has prepackaged meat and a little bit of seafood, but honestly not a lot of options compared to seafood in Spain, I guess most of what they catch is probably exported. Is mostly a lot of different kind of meat. Frozen food makes up a very small amount, I think only a 3-4 freezers in the entire supermarket.

Posted by
6350 posts

Thank you about the tip for the Samordningsnummer, I'll reach out to
the program admin to see about it.

Or you can just call the tax agency and ask them, 0771-567 567.

Posted by
1307 posts

So interesting, Carlos!
Thank you for such an compelling report and lovely photos.
I'll enjoy looking for updates as they get posted.
I'm another American whose ancestors (my 5X great grandfather and mother) came to the US from Sweden in 1861. While I'm not sure, I think that they came from the general vicinity of Skovde.

Posted by
3896 posts

The Skovde "Summer" Festival

Today in my town we had an end of summer festival, with food stalls, live music, fresh produce and other goodies you can buy. The only issue was that it was rainy and cold, so much for the "summer" festival haha, it could have very well been winter in Spain or California.

Overall it was quite fun, I went with a few friends from work. The main old town area was all filled with tents, rides, food trucks, and stages for concert. The old Lutheran church was opened and they were singing some kind of choir music.

I went for a wild boar sausage with potato salad, later a fancy cheesecake. And then I bought some homemade apple juice and locally sourced honey from the farmers market at the festival to bring back to the apartment.

It was a very local affair, I think everyone else there was Swedish, it was multigenerational to with both young and old enjoying the festivities, and many families too. There was a heightened police presence which was appreciated considering the terrorist alert in Sweden at the moment.

Another interesting observation is how quiet the whole festival was, like it was so different from a festival in Spain, where people are shouting, singing, playing different instruments, on the street everyone's talking. Here in Sweden even though there is a lot of people at the festival, you could still talk to one another without having to shout, it is very surreal experience even the concert was not very loud, kind of like low key blues/jazz.

I updated the photo album with some pictures of the festival -

https://photos.app.goo.gl/NqKU7Vrvx7zdZbXYA

Posted by
11167 posts

Next time someone asks if sneakers are 'OK' in Europe, Carlos photo album should be posted as a response. Where feet are visible, a lot of what look like locals are wearing sneakers.

Posted by
3896 posts

Yes I saw a lot of tennis shoes and running shoes, I assume to be comfortable during the festival. The typical brands Nike and Adidas. I was wearing my Adidas Stan Smiths.

I've seen this topic of not wearing tennis shoes in Europe on the forum before, but honestly have no idea where that comes from 😂

Posted by
6350 posts

Another interesting observation is how quiet the whole festival was,
like it was so different from a festival in Spain, where people are
shouting, singing, playing different instruments, on the street
everyone's talking. Here in Sweden even though there is a lot of
people at the festival, you could still talk to one another without
having to shout, it is very surreal experience even the concert was
not very loud, kind of like low key blues/jazz.

My prejudice tells me that you've just spotted a big difference between the catholic and protestant parts of Europe

Posted by
3896 posts

My prejudice tells me that you've just spotted a big difference between the catholic and protestant parts of Europe

Interesting, in that case I think I prefer the festivals we have down south of the Alps. For me the Skovde festival was nice, had a lot of cool things to see and try, but lacked the warmth, merriment, jubilation I typically associate with festivities, felt a bit more "businesslike" and "transactional", if that makes any sense. I am sure there are many people who prefer this more low key ambiance and chill atmosphere of the Swedish style of festivals and that's perfectly fine.

Posted by
3896 posts

The rain in Sweden stays mainly everywhere

Today is the first day in my life where I've had the entire day raining without pause. A week ago they had a hurricane in southern California and even then my friends over there told me it only rained part of the day.

I assume that August was still going to be moderately good weather in Sweden, but it's been raining all day today and yesterday and the next 10 days don't look any better. There is also a bitter cold wind. Is it all downhill from here? What do Swedes do when the weather is bad, which I assume is often? Do they go to the movies or something, or just sit home like me haha. I guess I'm just used to 280+ days of sunshine per year 😅

Where I'm from, people just cancel plans if it starts drizzling lol I guess we are wimps when it comes to even moderately bad weather.

Posted by
4597 posts

I'm not sure I trust someone from Barcelona and California to be a good judge of "a bitter cold wind." Does that mean you had to put a sweater on? 🤣🤣

(I say that as someone who now lives in California and thinks my home town in Denver is "freezing" in the winter.)

Posted by
7261 posts

Carlos, this post is so interesting! I’ve always wondered how it would feel to be living in another country & culture for a year or two instead of just taking a vacation to the location. At our age, we won’t be doing it, so it is great to read about your topics of experience. Also, I love seeing how the locals on our forum have been so helpful to you and also explaining specifics for us.

Posted by
3896 posts

@CWsocial - I had to put a sweater and then a windbreaker jacket on top lol! I'll admit I traveled here with my clothes I had back in California so I'm soon finding out that most of what I have is not much good out here 😅

@Jean - Yes badger has been a lifesaver here, unfortunately my work study program admin have been less than helpful. They just shrug their shoulder regarding my lack of personal number issue and say "I know it's unfair but that's just the way it is", I've heard some variation on that answer every time I try to contract some kind of service that often requires a personal number, which I don't have.

Usually the people in the work study program stay on campus so all their needs are seem to by the University, but I wanted to stay in town, among the locals, which is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be!

Posted by
5512 posts

What do Swedes do when the weather is bad, which I assume is often? Do they go to the movies or something, or just sit home like me haha.

I think the Swedes are very much of the mindset, ”There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

One of the things that impressed me the most when I lived in Sweden was that people were out and about in all kinds of weather. In the daycares, kids would be out playing while wearing rubber boots and waterproof rain pants and coats. Swedish kids have the best and cutest raingear. Parents push their kids around in buggies and strollers that look like they have insulation and snow tires. I went skating on one of the frozen lakes one winter and there were whole families out skating, some pulling toddlers on sleds.

Get yourself a good raincoat with a hood if you don’t already have one. I wore hiking boots often in the winter when I was running errands to keep my feet warm and dry.

As to the festival being sedate, wait until Midsommar. There will be singing.

I sympathize with you not having a personnummer. I think they have changed the rules since when I lived there. My company took me to the tax office on one of the very first days I was there to apply and it would have been terribly difficult to do things without the number and a Swedish ID card. Can you even open a bank account without one or are you having to use your Spanish bank?

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks for your insights Laura! Today I braved the rain to go grocery shopping and noticed all the Swedes has various articles of waterproof clothing and footwear. I will have to go on a clothing shopping trip soon. I was hoping what I already had would last me through the Autumn, but the weather is worse here than I had initially anticipated. I did a road trip through southern Norway during the summer a few years ago, and the weather was much more temperate than Sweden.

As for the Personal Number debacle, not sure if there is a way to grease the wheels of bureaucracy here like in Spain, but since I'm technically here for less that 12 months I'm not able to get the Personal Number. I'm trying to see if I can get this temporary Coordination Number instead, but the tax office told me it could take 8-14 weeks to process. Right now in Sweden, without Personal Number it's nearly impossible to:

Opening a bank account
Applying for loans or credit cards
Setting up direct deposits and electronic payments (have to pay my rent through Western Union)
Registering for healthcare services
Booking doctors' appointments
Filling prescriptions
Registering children in school
Setting up utilities like electricity, gas, and water
Registering a vehicle
Applying for a driver's license
Accessing social welfare programs
Signing a phone contract
Setting up internet services
Getting a Swedish ID card
Picking up a package from a post office (sometimes)
Joining a gym or community center

As you can see without a Personal Number life in Sweden is going to be quite the pain! Hope I can resolve this sooner rather than later 😉

Posted by
6350 posts

For me the Skovde festival was nice, had a lot of cool things to see
and try, but lacked the warmth, merriment, jubilation I typically
associate with festivities, felt a bit more "businesslike" and
"transactional", if that makes any sense.

I can understand that. And while you can find festivals with more singing and shouting, it might not be up to Spanish standards.

What do Swedes do when the weather is bad, which I assume is often? Do
they go to the movies or something, or just sit home like me haha.

As mentioned above, there is no such thing as bad weather. Wear a rainproof jacket or bring an umbrella and do what you had planned.

As for the Personal Number debacle, not sure if there is a way to
grease the wheels of bureaucracy here like in Spain, but since I'm
technically here for less that 12 months I'm not able to get the
Personal Number.

Not really, although explaining your problems in person might help. That might make it easier to help you navigate the system. There is an office at Torggatan 15, open on weekdays 10-16. I think you should be able to get a temporary number (samordningsnummer) pretty easy, even it might take a while to process. Bring your passport and any documents you have related to the work study program. But I'll admit that this is far from my area of expertise.

Posted by
3896 posts

Hi Badger, thanks once again for your help! I checked the tax service office on Torggatan 15 last week but is closed down, with minimal services available. I Think I have to go to a larger neighboring town, it's on my to do list haha

Posted by
3948 posts

This is a clue for one Swedish family’s dealing with cold, dark rainy weather I think. We were negotiating a one month house exchange with a family with 3 pre teen children. In pictures and descriptions they had of their beautiful, light, spacious house, they also told about the lower level which included of a 100” TV, rock climbing wall and sauna. This was about 8-10 years ago and the size of the tv shown in their family room was massive. Those were clues to us for how you would deal with active children in harsh weather.

Posted by
1943 posts

I will also add that board games are incredibly popular in Scandinavia and Germany. Just the thing for cold winter nights.

Posted by
3896 posts

Skaraborg daytrip: Sweden's Historic Lake District

This past Sunday was actually sunny weather (although quite windy) here in central Sweden, so I decided to take advantage and make a daytrip with my car to take in the charms of rural Sweden. I wanted to explore the wider region of Skaraborg, which my town of Skovde is a part of.

Skaraborg is an isthmus located between Sweden's two largest lakes Vättern and Vänern. The landscape of Skaraborg is diverse, featuring a mixture of towering pine forests, deep lakes, limestone mesas, vast moorlands and dotted with picturesque colorful farmsteads painted red/yellow/and white. It's also quite historic because of its strategically important location and has many important castles, churches, and ancient ruins.

You can follow along with my pictures (towards the bottom) - https://photos.app.goo.gl/NqKU7Vrvx7zdZbXYA

Here was how my trip turned out:

Part 1 - Varnhem Abbey
My first stop was only 15 min from Skovde. Founded around 1040 AD by Cistercian monks, Varnhem abbey is one of the oldest churches in Sweden and was a center for the Christianization of Sweden. The christian cemetery is much older, having been used as early as the late 800s AD, including the first Viking Christian burials. Additionally, Varnhem Abbey is the final resting place of several medieval Swedish Kings and a very important fellow called Birger Jarl, the statesman responsible for the founding of Stockholm and the Swedish conquest of Finland.

When I arrived there was maybe 30 tourists in the entire complex all Swedish except for me. The information plaques were only in Swedish too so google translate was a lifesaver! The abbey is surrounded by many picturesque 19th cent farms. When I arrived they were having holy communion and singing very nicely a group of maybe 15 local residents. Outside you can wander the ruins of the old Cistercian abbey and the graveyard which was still in use, several tombstones were from the 1600s. There was also a plaque commemorating the past pastors all the way back to 1352 until the present.

Part 2 - Skara Cathedral
Skara is a small town with a mighty cathedral! Originally in the Romanesque style built in the 10th century, it is the oldest cathedral in the country. Its current appearance in the Gothic style originated in the 13th century. One can enter the medieval crypt and see the Cathedral's original Romanesque foundations. The interior is quite simple and took me maybe 30 minutes to see it all. If I had to pick between the two I choose to see Varnhem Abbey. Though the town is very picturesque with these typical 19th cent wooden villas in pastel colors.

Part 3 - Spiken and Lunch
Next stop was 1 hr away at the small fishing village of Spiken located on the eastern shore of Lake Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden and the third-largest lake in Europe! It really felt like I was at the seaside more than a lake. Spiken has been an important freshwater fishing town for 400 years, and now is one of the largest freshwater commercial fishing ports in Europe. I had lunch at Restaurang Sjöboden (http://www.sjoboden.se/) a elegant seafood restaurant serving the local catch of the day, I had a creamy seafood chowder with local shrimp, pike, and perch.

Continue below

Posted by
3896 posts

Part 4 - Läckö Castle and Dinner
My last stop was Läckö Castle 15 min away from Spiken on the shores of Lake Vänern. Originally built as a fortified bishop's residence in the late 13th century, the castle underwent various transformations and expansions over the years, most notably in the 17th century when it was given its baroque makeover. Count Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, a prominent Swedish statesman, was responsible for much of the castle's baroque architecture and interior decorations, turning it into a lavish residence filled with intricate carvings, ornate frescoes, and opulent furnishings, all of which survive to this day in a remarkable state of preservation!

My favorite room is the Kings Hall, which is a giant ballroom with frescos of all the major Swedish victories of the 30 Years War, the centerpiece is a painting of the death of Gustavus Adolphus. I took a panoramic photo of the Kings Hall here, just tap on the arrow in the middle to drag the image and explore in 3d. I had most of the castle to myself except for a group of German pensioners who were on a bus tour. I will admit hearing a deep German voice occasionally echo throughout the vast castle gave me the creeps haha, but I was mostly by myself.

I ate dinner at a next door restaurant called Naturum, serving New Nordic cuisine, the view from the restaurant of the lake was incredible! For starters I had cured herring with micro vegetables grown in the castle garden, and the main course was Zander fish caught that day in the lake with local foraged mushrooms in a delicate blue cheese sauce, very tasty.

Overall an excellent time sightseeing in a totally undiscovered part of Sweden that rivals what you can do in Italy, France, or Spain with hardly any foreign tourists, even in the height of the summer season.

Here are my photos again - https://photos.app.goo.gl/NqKU7Vrvx7zdZbXYA

Posted by
6350 posts

Sounds like you had a great day! There is certainly a lot to see in the area, and Läckö slott is a great place to visit.

A small correction though: The restaurant was not called Naturum. A Naturum is a visitor centre in areas with interesting nature. The brand is owned and managed by the Swedish Environmental Agency but the individual Naturums are usually operated by towns, county boards or foundations. Read more: https://www.naturvardsverket.se/amnesomraden/skyddad-natur/sa-forvaltas-skyddade-omraden/hitta-till-naturum/ (In Swedish only, use translation service of your choice.

Posted by
406 posts

Carlos, what a great day you had and your pictures are beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing it. How are you researching where to go? Do you have a tour book you consult?

Posted by
3896 posts

Hi Badger, thanks for the clarification, I guess this Naturum was a bit different as it also had a New Nordic restaurant and even a sleek modern hotel attached. Though "Naturum" is a good name for a New Nordic restaurant I must say :)

Lyndash, thanks! These days I use the internet for travel research, I found this website which gave good info on what to see in the region - https://www.swedentips.se/vastergotland/skaraborg/

Posted by
4597 posts

you could still talk to one another without having to shout

I just realized it's the same here in Tallinn. There are hundreds of people in the square, dining, chatting, hanging out with friends. And it's a very quiet chatter, almost muted. Even the teenagers.

Like you said, it's kind of surreal.

Posted by
3896 posts

@CWsocial - isn't that interesting, it must be a nordic thing... one would think countries with less population density would speak louder :)

Posted by
6350 posts

Hi Badger, thanks for the clarification, I guess this Naturum was a
bit different as it also had a New Nordic restaurant and even a sleek
modern hotel attached. Though "Naturum" is a good name for a New
Nordic restaurant I must say :)

Since they are run by different organisations, they are all a bit different. But are in general worth a visit.

And if you're looking to do more trips to nearby places, don't miss Mariestad! It also has a cathedral, even if it isn't a cathedral anymore. As well as a charming old towncentre. With frequent buses from Skövde.

you could still talk to one another without having to shout I just
realized it's the same here in Tallinn. There are hundreds of people
in the square, dining, chatting, hanging out with friends. And it's a
very quiet chatter, almost muted.

From a Swedish point of view: It's about having respect for others and not make too much noise.

Posted by
4597 posts

From a Swedish point of view: It's about having respect for others and not make too much noise

Well the Swedish code of conduct may have rubbed off on the Estonians. It's very relaxing.

Posted by
10179 posts

Carlos, I haven't read through all 98 posts, so I don't know if any of these have been suggested. For banking, have you looked at Wise for a work around? I know a lot of American expats who can't get local bank accounts use it for paying daily bills. Wise has a card of some type, too, either credit or debit. The US FATCA laws are impeding Americans from being able to open accounts in other countries. So even if you get your number, if you have US citizenship, you might have to go to many banks before they'll agree to open an account. Tip: if you have an account in Spain, don't close it!

Your US license should be good for a year. Do you need an official translation?

Your Spanish healthcare service should be able to issue a European Healthcare Card for you. That covers you for some time.

Your Spanish ID card and your California driver's license will and whatever passports you have should cover for a Swedish ID card.

Phone, internet, and registering children (if you have any with you) for school are major problems.

When we moved back to France, although we're citizens, already had bank accounts and medical numbers, we had many moments we wanted to tear our hair out. One day I started crying in the hardware store. My husband got angry at the banker. LOL. It's tough, but if you can find a few work-arounds, it will be ok.

Have you joined any FB groups for newbies to Sweden, to your city, expats in your city? I'm sure there are thousands of posts about the Swedish number. I haven't looked but there should also be three other groups: Strictly Legal, Strictly Fiscal, and Strictly Health. We've found that there is a group for everything, even for restoring old farmhouses, getting a driving license, applying for visas, on and on. If you go to FB groups and start using key words, you'll find a lot of groups of people who are facing what you are facing.

Good luck!

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks for the tips Bets, very helpful!

Posted by
3896 posts

The Swedish Bed
In Sweden beds are very different from the rest of the world, they all have this thing called a "Bäddmadrass" basically a mattress topper, it's standard for every single bed in Sweden. The problem is this mattress topper which is very thin is always sliding off during the night and one has always readjust it in the morning. One has to use this mattress topper because the beds themselves are very uncomfortable without them and are all designed to be used with a mattress topper 😐

Posted by
3896 posts

The robots have invaded Sweden! 🤖

Yesterday while walking back from work to my apartment I stumbled across an apartment complex who's vast lawns were being trimmed by little robot gardeners, in the shape of mini cars, they operated a bit like a Roomba. There were about 5 of them working on the lawn and they were also super quiet too, as I assumed they were electric powered, really cool to see! Something I didn't like about the US was how loud all the landscaping was every morning lol!

Here's a video I took of the cute little robot, it's also added to my larger Sweden photo album - https://photos.app.goo.gl/1Su8jxcqw1siX6ud6

Posted by
6350 posts

Are they rare in other parts of the world? From my point of view, robot lawn mowers are nothing strange. They have existed for a while and are now pretty cheap and common. And since they are electric, they are also very quiet as you noticed.

Posted by
3896 posts

Yes at least in LA, all the landscaping is done by private companies hiring out cheap labour from Latino immigrants, they all use very loud gasoline powered handheld leaf blowers, lawn mowers, weed wackers, it's a very distinctive buzzing sound you hear of all these machines in the morning in Southern California, maybe in the rest of the US too.

In Barcelona no one really has a lawn haha

Posted by
11167 posts

in the shape of mini cars, they operated a bit like a Roomba.

Did it have a Volvo logo?

Saw the blue Volvo in your album; reminded me of the car my neighbor had when I was kid. Had a truly distinctive exhaust tone, so always knew when she was going or coming home.

Any progress on getting your "magic number" ?

Posted by
3896 posts

I don't think it was Volvo haha, had some other kind of logo.

Still working on getting my personal number or something similar, it's an involved process that can take up to a few months. Think of it like a social security number in the USA, except you basically need it to do anything (other than buying food lol)

Surprised my work study program hadn't factored that in. I guess they assumed that everyone would have stayed on campus and not needed one.

Posted by
5512 posts

The US FATCA laws are impeding Americans from being able to open accounts in other countries. So even if you get your number, if you have US citizenship, you might have to go to many banks before they'll agree to open an account.

If you need to open an account, try SEB once you are registered. They handled FATCA for existing customers, although I don’t know how they handle new customers. My account was opened before FATCA, but they provided a bunch of forms to me to fill out after FATCA went into effect.

Posted by
4064 posts

Carlos, I remember seeing my first robo mower in Ireland in 2019 out on a hillside just mowing away. I was so intrigues. I till have not seen any in person in the U.S. (although I did look them up online when I got home, so they are at least available somewhere). 🤣

Posted by
6350 posts

I don't think it was Volvo haha, had some other kind of logo.

Husqvarna perhaps? Another large Swedish company that today mostly makes gardening equipment.

Posted by
3896 posts

The flying monsters of Sweden! 🦟

Another thing I was not prepared for in Sweden are the huge number of nasty flying insects everywhere especially mosquitoes and wasps. Dining alfresco is almost impossible in the evening, I already have several mosquito bites to show for my troubles haha. And the wasps are super aggressive especially if you're eating outside too.

I went for a run this morning through our local park and had to stop to tie my shoes and within a millisecond a huge fat mosquito was landing on my ankle ready to bite, thankfully I squashed it just in time. No wonder locals always wear long pants here even if it's a bright warm sunny day like it was this morning.

Posted by
6350 posts

True, although it's been a bit extreme this summer. We've had quite a lot of rain, which has benefited the mosquitos.

Posted by
3896 posts

An unorthodox Swedish crawfish party 🦐

Today I had a spur of the moment idea to hold a little Swedish crawfish party with some friends from my work study program. I'll admit we were all foreigners so the end result is probably comical for Swedish people, but in the end we enjoyed it.

We found some frozen Swedish crawfish at the local lidl, then we try to read up on how to cook them traditionally but it turns out you needed to cook them the day before, and then leave them overnight in the boiling liquid. We decided to adjust the recipe because we wanted to eat it today not wait until tomorrow lol.

We opted to do more of a New England clambake type thing, we put the crawfish with corn on the cob, potatoes, onions, and some local Swedish sausages in a pot of boiling water, with plenty of dill butter and sea salt. Then we laid all of it on top of a frying pan I had, the end result was actually quite good and fun. Though I'll admit the crawfish are a lot of work for little reward haha. I'm sorry both New England and Swedish people for butchering your food culture 😅

You can see how it all came out in the latest two photos of my album - https://photos.app.goo.gl/NqKU7Vrvx7zdZbXYA

Posted by
6350 posts

Thanks for sharing your experience, that was without a doubt the most unorthodox crayfish party I've ever seen.

The most important part of a crayfish party is not surprisingly crayfish (Astacus astacus or Pacifastacus leniusculus). You bought langoustines (Nephrops norvegicus).

Also, the ones you buy in the store are usually precooked and ready to be eaten.

Posted by
3896 posts

Swedish healthcare... all it's cracked up to be?

For me, the healthcare in Sweden is different than what I expected. During my time in the USA, many pundits put the Swedish health system on a pedestal as a shining example of socialized health care that is free and accessible to all, the reality is different on the ground.

The Swedish health system is really only designed for citizens or long term residents with a personal number (personnummer), which is the key component for accessing various public services, including healthcare. Without a personnummer, you generally won't qualify for subsidized healthcare. Many healthcare systems require a personnummer for booking appointments. Without a personnummer, it is impossible to have a continuous care relationship with a healthcare provider, including getting follow-up appointments and referrals. Having a personnummer gives you access to digital platforms where you can easily review your medical records, make appointments, and communicate with healthcare providers. Without one, you do not have access to such platforms.

This week I had a skin infection under my arm that was getting worse so had to go see a doctor to get it checked out and potentially get some antibiotics, I went to the Vardcentralen, the first point of contact like a local primary care center. They told me I needed to make an appointment first before being seen so I made an appointment in person then a few days later came back for my appointment at the Vardcentralen. After waiting 3 hours I saw a nurse, not a doctor, who looked at my infection but did not prescribe any antibiotics or anything at all, they said in Sweden they only prescribe antibiotics for the most serious cases. They sent me packing without anything telling me to just buy some vinegar at the store to disinfect. Oh and I had to pay the full price for the nurse's 15 min "consultation" around 800 SEK. I have limited insurance via the University as an EU citizen, but this only covers serious issues, not day to day expenses.

On the way back I decided to stop by our local pharmacy to get some medications that I was running low on. Turns out that in Sweden none of the supplements I took back in the US are available due to government regulations, I could not even get melatonin or aspirin as they are considered prescription drugs in Sweden. Imagine needing a prescription for aspirin! Good luck trying to get that without a GP since I don't have a personnummer 🙄

This is just my personal experience with healthcare in Sweden, so don't take it as the final word on how things work here. Your experience could be totally different, especially depending on who you are.

Posted by
3948 posts

RE opening a bank account. Yesterday we checked our granddaughter into a private college on the east coast. They had tables set up at a resource fair for students and families. I picked up some information for her at a bank’s table as she needs her first credit card and has been unable to get one. The bank people handed me several handouts which included a detailed 2 paged one on how their international students can open a bank account. A lot of ID and documentation was needed but at least it could be done. Sorry about your elusive nersonalnummer Carlos.

Posted by
3896 posts

That sounds like a dream Mona, here in Sweden regulations are a major roadblock, I wouldn't mind paperwork as long as I can get things moving in the right direction.

Posted by
3948 posts

RE healthcare and antibiotics. We found out the hard way too that you needed a prescription for antibiotic cream while traveling in NZ. It took more than half of one of our precious sightseeing days to make an appointment and be seen by a doctor but at least she did prescribe the topical antibiotic cream. Then we had to go wait at a pharmacy for the prescription to be filled. I almost alway travel with a tube of Neosporin or generic but someone had taken it out of my little medical kit right before our trip. This is another reminder to take those little, familiar medicines we are used to at home. Aspirin, yikes I didn’t realize a prescription would be necessary in some countries.

Good information Carlos!

Posted by
1943 posts

@Carlos- I thought the Swedish system would be comparable to the Spanish system no? And I thought that EU citizens were covered by health insurance through the EU?

I have a friend in Germany and one of the most frustrating things for her is that German doctors won't prescribe antibiotics except for the worse cases. Many times they will just tell them to take aspirin/Tylenol pain relievers. I guess in Europe there is more stigma in giving out antibiotics.

Glad to hear you are learning more about Sweden.

Posted by
3896 posts

Good questions heather!

I thought the Swedish system would be comparable to the Spanish system no?

Healthcare systems in Sweden and Spain have similarities, as they are both based on the principle of universal healthcare funded through taxation. However, there are also differences in how they operate and what they offer, particularly to non-citizens. In Spain a substantial private healthcare sector exists alongside the public system. Many people opt for private insurance to bypass waiting times and regulations in the public system.

And I thought that EU citizens were covered by health insurance through the EU?

In theory EU citizens can use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for necessary care in other EU countries. However, in order to qualify for the health insurance card in Spain, I have to also be resident of Spain, it does not matter if I'm a EU citizen or not. Even though I'm a Spanish citizen I've been a non-resident for the last couple of years and don't qualify.

Posted by
32719 posts

German doctors won't prescribe antibiotics except for the worse cases

Europeans including UK understand the relationship between use of antibiotics and and the establishment of antibiotics resistant bacteria, and the uselessness of taking antibiotics for viruses against which they do nothing.

So, yes, antibiotics are only given in specific cases and saving their usefulness for when they will really help.

Posted by
3948 posts

Nigel I agree 100% with limiting the use of oral antibiotics. I didn’t think there was an abuse of a topical antibiotic cream for small wounds when redness develops but a doctor’s visit doesn’t seem warranted. I need to do some more reading.

Posted by
6350 posts

During my time in the USA, many pundits put the Swedish health system
on a pedestal as a shining example of socialized health care that is
free and accessible to all, the reality is different on the ground.

While it's not a shining example on a pedestal, it is pretty good. But you are in tricky situation.

Without a personnummer, you generally won't qualify for subsidized
healthcare.

You should qualify for subsidized healthcare if you have registered as a resident. But that might also be tricky to do without a personnummer.

They told me I needed to make an appointment first before being seen
so I made an appointment in person then a few days later came back for
my appointment at the Vardcentralen.

Healthcare is a regional responsibility in Sweden. I don't know how it works in Västra Götaland, but in some cases there might be "Drop in"-times available. In general a good start for health problems is to call 1177, a national number for health service where you can talk to a nurse and get advice.

After waiting 3 hours I saw a nurse, not a doctor, who looked at my
infection but did not prescribe any antibiotics or anything at all,
they said in Sweden they only prescribe antibiotics for the most
serious cases.

Antibiotic resistance is a major problem. So doctors will not prescribe antibiotics to anyone that asks for it, whether they need it or not. As Nigel mentioned, the more antibiotics is used the more resistant strains will evolve.

On the way back I decided to stop by our local pharmacy to get some
medications that I was running low on. Turns out that in Sweden none
of the supplements I took back in the US are available due to
government regulations, I could not even get melatonin or aspirin as
they are considered prescription drugs in Sweden.

Strange, aspirin and melatonin are not prescription drugs as far as I know. While I'm not 100% sure about melatonin, you can buy aspirin over the counter at any pharmacy and often at major supermarkets as well. Could it have been a language issue and some misunderstanding?

I almost alway travel with a tube of Neosporin or generic

You do realise that it's illegal to bring prescription drugs without a prescription?

I didn’t think there was an abuse of a topical antibiotic cream for
small wounds when redness develops but a doctor’s visit doesn’t seem
warranted.

There is. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3310646/ And you really don't need antibiotics for small wounds.

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks for the info once again badger, I think it may have been an misunderstanding, but I'm pretty sure the guy at the pharmacy said that I had to have a prescription for aspirin. They had ibuprofen and paracetamol available over the counter though.

This sheds some light on the Aspirin mystery https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7317648/#:~:text=In%20Sweden%2C%20low%2Ddose%20aspirin,be%20purchased%20over%20the%20counter.

In Sweden, low-dose aspirin (75 mg or 160 mg), rather than higher-dose aspirin, is recommended for primary cardiovascular prevention or secondary risk reduction; low-dose aspirin is available only by prescription and cannot be purchased over the counter.

I can try it a different pharmacy another day, see if maybe it was just a misunderstanding or that pharmacy just was no good, it had pretty bad reviews on Google maps.

I might have to resort to Amazon see if they have what I need there, I think Amazon only enter the Swedish market a few short years ago back in 2020.

Posted by
6350 posts

In Sweden, low-dose aspirin (75 mg or 160 mg), rather than higher-dose
aspirin, is recommended for primary cardiovascular prevention or
secondary risk reduction; low-dose aspirin is available only by
prescription and cannot be purchased over the counter.

Maybe it's a dose issue. This is not my area of expertise, but acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) is available in my local pharmacy. Most common is 500 mg tablets.

I think Amazon only enter the Swedish market a few short years ago
back in 2020.

Correct, they are very new in Sweden. They have tried for a long time but the domain was owned by a Volvo fan that wasn't too interested in selling it.

Posted by
10179 posts

Amazon: careful that all mail order items come from within the EU. Depending on the country, import duty can be very high. My family knows not to send gifts from the US. I'm constantly reading posts by Brits going through withdrawal shock who now have to pay duty on items they used to receive without duty.

I think you've been in the US for a while and have forgotten how many more guardrails exist here to keep situations nicely framed. Each country has its regulations and then add in the EU regulations.

Posted by
3896 posts

forgotten how many more guardrails exist here to keep situations nicely framed. Each country has its regulations and then add in the EU regulations.

Yes, some much more than others I'm discovering... I think I still prefer Spain's system, giving equal access to non-citizens even undocumented migrants plus more options for both private and public health care.

Everywhere is different, and it's good to travel and experience those differences to appreciate what you have and don't have.

Posted by
3896 posts

Inaugural Paella party in Sweden! 🥘

There is a Spanish tradition that one does not truly move into a new home without making the first paella of the home, a baptism by paella so to speak. It's very important for Spaniards, we'll have at least one paella pan in our homes, no matter where in the world we are.

Thankfully now paella pans are pretty ubiquitous throughout Europe, I was able to pick one up here in Sweden. I invited a few friends from work over and we had a traditional paella Sunday lunch. The main issues with cooking paella in Sweden are the lack of proper ingredients, especially quality seafood like the shrimps and squid I found here were quite small and basically disintegrated while cooking. The second is that all the stove tops here are electric, so is really difficult to control the heat and really get the authentic paella taste without an open fire. Back in the US, I was able to find a supplier of Spanish ingredients in LA and I used a outdoor grill to simulate the open flame of cooking a paella authentically.

However here one needs more ingenuity, but I think I was able to pull off a fairly okay first paella in Sweden. I'm sure as time goes by and I get to know where to get better ingredients and maybe get small outdoor grill it will get better and better which each paella made, buen provecho!

You can see how my "Swedish Paella" turned out at the end of my photo album - https://photos.app.goo.gl/NqKU7Vrvx7zdZbXYA

Posted by
6350 posts

Looks pretty good in my opinion! But, I'm not an expert on paella so you probably should not trust my opinion…

Outdoor grills are easy to find, and they can be very cheap this time of the year as the stores try to get rid of all summer things they have left.

Squid is not eaten in Sweden traditionally, so it's not that easy to find in stores.

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks badger! I'll look into the grill options, I have a balcony with the apartment so should be a good place to make paella haha

Posted by
406 posts

Looked really tasty, Carlos. I loved your prep/cooking photo. Ingredients, check, cutting board, check, and the glass of wine while you work, double check! 😉

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks 👍 it was a Wachau Riesling, surprisingly beer and wine in Sweden is quite affordable if you buy it directly from the government run liquor stores.

Posted by
3896 posts

Swedish University experience

This week I had my first Swedish language class at the local university here at Skovde. There was a lot of students from different programs in the university, so it was great to see so much diversity. There is a hundred of us in a lecture hall. Our Swedish professor is actually Croatian! She was born in Croatia grew up in Italy, went to school in France, and now is working in Sweden, she also speaks seven languages.

In class we downloaded an app to our phones so that we could follow along the presentation on our phones or laptops, and also answer digitally quizzes and questions posed by the professor. It was a great way of maintaining some level of interaction between the students and the teacher.

We did a few polls at the beginning to see where everyone was from. Mainly Germans, Indians, and a smattering of other European countries, like French Spanish or Italian, one Canadian and no Americans. We also did a poll on how many languages we knew, and it seems like for the vast majority of us we knew at least 3 languages or more.

Overall Swedish is a very intuitive language to learn and read, it's very similar to English grammatically, the main difficulty is pronunciation, there seems to be a lot of rules with pronunciation and different pronunciations of a similar word can mean different things. For example Gothenburg is actually pronounced "yotybory", many times you read a word in Swedish and you think you know how to pronounce it and it's actually something totally out of left field haha.

Posted by
6350 posts

Overall Swedish is a very intuitive language to learn and read, it's
very similar to English grammatically, the main difficulty is
pronunciation, there seems to be a lot of rules with pronunciation and
different pronunciations of a similar word can mean different things.

They are bot Germanic languages after all, so the basic structure of the language is more or less the same. Although the concept of grammatical gender is often hard to understand for English speakers, but as a Spanish speaker I assume it will not be a problem for you.

For example Gothenburg is actually pronounced "yotybory", many times
you read a word in Swedish and you think you know how to pronounce it
and it's actually something totally out of left field haha.

Some letters have different pronounciation depends on their neighbours. E.g. G is pronounced soft before e, i, y, ä or ö and hard before a, o, u or å. And SK is pronounced SK (as in school) before a, o, u or å, but becomes the sj-sound before e, i, y, ä or ö .

But there is significant dialectal variation when it comes to pronounciation. And some sounds that are very odd to foreigners.

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks for the context Badger! That's a very interesting video you shared haha, we have something similar in Spain on the island of La Gomera, where descendants of the indigenous Guanche people using a "whistling language" to communicate, this has been adapted over time to convey most of the Spanish language. It is historically used by the islanders to communicate across the steep ravines and valleys that make up the geography of the island. It's actually taught in schools on La Gomera, and there are ongoing efforts to preserve it - https://youtu.be/TfGwFM9-wFk?si=LSttxMHsXqlr60-p

Posted by
5512 posts

Badger, that video with the sucking in sound was interesting. When I first started working on a project for a Swedish company, I was sitting with one of my clients showing her how to use some sotware. She kept making that sucking sound each time I showed her something and I thought she had some sort of respiratory problem. In time, I came to understand it was something unique to Swedish.

Posted by
6350 posts

we have something similar in Spain on the island of La Gomera, where
descendants of the indigenous Guanche people using a "whistling
language" to communicate

Thanks for the link, it was very interesting to see!

When I first started working on a project for a Swedish company, I was
sitting with one of my clients showing her how to use some sotware.
She kept making that sucking sound each time I showed her something
and I thought she had some sort of respiratory problem. In time, I
came to understand it was something unique to Swedish.

I can understand the confusion!

Posted by
4064 posts

Just popping in to say that this thread is part of my regular entertainment. Thanks to all!

Posted by
3896 posts

@TexasTravelmom - Thanks! I am worried people now might find this stuff kinda boring now that I've mostly settled in this last month. I'll try to post some more but moving to a new country is a full time job haha!

Posted by
3828 posts

We’re here and reading a Carlos. I wasn’t posting cause I didn’t want to make the post even longer than it is with no real question.

Posted by
406 posts

Ditto, I don’t want to add unnecessary clutter but I really enjoy everything you have been sharing. I loved the description of all the diverse students in the lecture hall being taught Swedish by a Croatian. Wow. Of course I am one of those mono lingual people from the USA.

Posted by
3896 posts

Historical European Martial Arts in Sweden

This past sunday when I was walking through a park in Skovde I came upon an interesting sight, a group of maybe 8-10 middle aged men and women practicing fencing but with real swords! I've been a fencer myself for several years, mainly epee with a little sabre, but this is the modern Olympic style of fencing in the white suits with helmets hooked up to an electric piste.

These guys in the park had less gear but mixed with historical costume and their swords were not the Olympic kind but looked real. I introduced myself and mentioned I was a fencer, they explained they were the local Historical European martial arts (HEMA) group, which is a modern revival of the martial techniques and combat systems that were practiced in Europe during various periods of history, typically focusing on the medieval and Renaissance eras. Intrigued, I decided to stick around and watch them practice.

Their movements were not too dissimilar from the fencing styles I was used to. They were doing drills that included not just swords but also grappling, dagger work, and even some techniques with polearms. It was as if I had stepped back in time and was watching a group of knights preparing for a medieval battle. They practiced various types of fencing like the German longsword, Italian rapier, and Swedish sabre.

I couldn't resist asking if I could handle some of the weapons, and they happily obliged. They showed me a longsword and the sabre. Though the basic principles of distance, timing, and footwork were similar to what I knew, the weight and balance of the weapon (twice as heavy as fencing swords), as well as the various guards and stances, were completely new to me. They also showed me some of their practice sabres that were over 150 years old and were Swedish army practice sabres that they actually used in the 19th century. They also showed me copies of old European fencing manuals, treatises, and illustrated manuscripts from the middle ages and early modern period that they use to help teach all of their fighting techniques.

After the practice session, we all sat down on the grass and chatted. I learned that many of them had been practicing HEMA for years and came from various backgrounds. Some were former fencers like myself, while others had backgrounds in other martial arts or were complete newcomers attracted by the historical aspects. They all shared a deep respect for the historical techniques and a dedication to researching and preserving these "cultural arts" as they called it.

They told me that HEMA in Sweden has been growing in popularity over the past few years, though it is most popular in central and eastern Europe. This is part of a larger global movement to revive these European martial arts, often fueled by historical research and an increasing availability of translated primary sources. Sweden has its own HEMA federation, and there are tournaments, workshops, and seminars held throughout the year.

For those interested here is a youtube video on HEMA weapons used - https://youtu.be/3mxbD3lRE6o?si=-EzDu6xo3sF2Qavf

Posted by
3896 posts

PostNord - surprising Scandinavian inefficiency

I didn't think there was another postal service that could match the incompetence of the Spanish postal service, but surprisingly I find it in Sweden the land of Lutheran efficiency and work ethic.

I ordered a package from the UK a few weeks ago, it was supposed to show up here in Sweden early last week but the package has basically disappeared, the tracking says that it's on its way, but that's been the same thing since day one. Almost all postal service in Sweden is done through PostNord who have a near Monopoly on the postal industry in Sweden. Contacting PostNord customer service, after waiting several days, they just told me they don't know where it is and to wait. On the Royal Mail tracking site for the UK it says it's left the UK already like 2 weeks ago, kind of strange it hasn't shown up yet since it's only a 3-hour flight Sweden.

Looking on online forums for living in Sweden, it seems like incompetence is the typical thing for Postnord, swedes themselves on these forums have described Postnord as the devil incarnate, the bane of my existence, and worse than Hitler and Stalin put together. Apparently it can take several months for a parcel from the UK to make it to your residence in Sweden, remember even though it's only a 3-hour flight. I never had issues with shipping things to and from Europe in the US, I must say their postal service is quite good, and all the options make healthy competition which keeps them on their toes forcing them to be accountable and keep prices competitive. Apparently that accountability does not exist in Sweden for PostNord, which continues to have systemic problems.

This experience has been one of the more shocking ones of Sweden, I really didn't expect it of the country.

Posted by
6350 posts

Postnord can really be terribly slow.

But, what did you order? It might just be a short flight, but the package might be stuck in customs.

Posted by
3896 posts

Supplements that I could not find in Sweden, there is an English store that has the brand I use. The whole order was about 100 pounds. Vat and duties were included in the shipping.

Might be stuck in customs, but not sure what I can do about it.

Posted by
10179 posts

Once you get the package, could you post the amount of the duty. In France, we get hit with high duty bills--40€ for a gift worth 40, 10€ for a card with a cheap gift inside the card.

Posted by
6350 posts

What kind of supplements? I'm a bit surprised you can't find them closer.

Posted by
3896 posts

Once you get the package, could you post the amount of the duty. In France, we get hit with high duty bills--40€ for a gift worth 40, 10€ for a card with a cheap gift inside the card.

The package was finally located in customs yesterday, was released today, apparently I had to officially appoint PostNord as my customs agent via the Swedish customs website before they released the package, however they failed to notify me of that haha, thank god for reddit! Tracking says its on its way now from Stockholm. But I think joe32F's explanation is probably closer to the truth 😉

I ended up not having to pay any additional duties or vat, it was included in the shiping from the UK, which was around 15 £, not sure what's going on in France, but sounds like highway robbery to me lol :)

Moral of the story is if you're residing in the EU, look real hard if you can find what you're looking for within the EU, I've ordered a few things from Poland and Germany, no issues and got here within a workweek.

Posted by
5202 posts

Thanks! I am worried people now might find this stuff kinda boring now that I've mostly settled in this last month. I'll try to post some more but moving to a new country is a full time job haha!

I’ve enjoyed reading about your experiences and will continue reading as you post.

I do hope you get your “personnummer” somehow, and that your package arrives sooner than later.

Your “Swedish Paella” looks amazing!
Would you be willing to share your recipe?

Hasta luego!

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks Priscilla!

For the Paella having the right ingredients (except for the rice) are not too important, more important is the cooking method and the paella pan, honestly I don't have a "recipe" for my paella per say, I was taught how to cook paella by my father, kinda like muscle memory instinct, you just know what to do.

Firstly you need to get yourself a real Paella pan, preferably of iron, not a non stick saute pan it won't work.

Have all your ingredients cut and ready to go

Put lots of olive oil in the pan and fry your meat or shellfish

Remove the shrimp then add aromatics

Then fry vegetables like peppers and green beans

Then add seasoning like saffron, fried tomato sauce, paprika to make a sofrito

Then add Caldo of meat or seafood

then add rice (Arroz Bomba or Arroz Calasparra very important) into the liquid

then fry on med-high so you see small bubbles until most liquid is gone

When liquid is mostly gone add shipms back on top

Family secret is at the end to put on low heat add a few sprigs of rosemary and drizzled with olive oil so that a Socarrat is formed on the bottom, the olive oil will help to fry on the bottom.

Many foreigners make the mistake of adding too many ingredients into a paella so it gets too full, looks pretty on Instagram, but the star of the show is the rice and you don't want to over crowd the paella pan else the rice boils and not frys.

Like pizza in Italy, in Spain every family has their own way of making Paella the general process is the same but there are little variations. If you have a big open fire, like a grill that makes the world of difference.

Here's a good video (in Spanish) of how to make a basic Paella de marisco called Paella del Señorito - https://youtu.be/EXLA9VUpxks?si=ZlfJbxnnOVwrLi9U

Posted by
5202 posts

honestly I don't have a "recipe" for my paella per say, I was taught how to cook paella by my father, kinda like muscle memory instinct, you just know what to do.

I know what you mean. This is how I learned to cook too!

Wow! Thanks for the recipe and the video.
I didn’t realize one needs such a large open flame for making paella.
So most Spaniards have a large open flame device (stove or grill) like the one in the video?

When you make it, what’s the rice to liquid ratio?
I suppose this depends on the flame, right?

On the video. the chef adds saffron in liquid form, interesting. I suppose one can make a tea out of the saffron and that way the saffron threads won’t get stuck in one’s teeth, hahaha!

Thank you, thank you, for sharing your recipe!

Posted by
6350 posts

Glad to hear that the package arrived eventually!

And yes, ordering things from outside the EU is just more complicated and often expensive. As well as slower. So if I where you I'd try to see if I can order the supplements from somewhere in the EU.

Posted by
3896 posts

Priscilla, not too much rice, maybe 1.5-2 cups for 3-4 people, much more caldo, so all the ingredients are just barely submerged.

Depending on the region many people will have an outdoor area to cook Paella and use a kind of "tripod fire stand" that is specifically designed for Paella, but many also can only cook inside like in the big city. Here's a good video of how a Paella party typically looks in Spain - https://youtu.be/xrAb7PMJ0PE?si=a0Mltg6cdtU2n6UY

Usually just one guy cooks the Paella while the guests sit around and chat, drink wine/beer and wait for the Paella to be cooked.

Posted by
9554 posts

Indeed, shipping from the UK to EU-member countries got much more difficult and expensive since Brexit went fully into effect. Some UK vendors have simply decided not to ship to EU countries any more (I can't order from Fortnum & Mason any more, for example).

In fact, I’ve taken to ordering from British sites and having sent to my hotel if I’m going, for example, to Scotland. It’s just toons expensive and difficult to order directly these days.

Your beef isn’t with the Swedish postal service, it's with the UK and Brexit.

Posted by
3896 posts

Your beef isn’t with the Swedish postal service, it's with the UK and Brexit.

Speaking of beef, meat is really expensive here in Sweden even at the grocery store, I've had to cut back on beef and pork and now am eating more chicken lol, still quite amazed how little seafood options there are here, mostly just frozen stuff from Norway.

Posted by
6350 posts

The lack of seafood options is probably at least partly explained by Skövde being pretty far from the sea. Visit a supermarket in Gothenburg and you will have more options.

Posted by
3896 posts

The lack of seafood options is probably at least partly explained by Skövde being pretty far from the sea.

Well I'm not sure about that, Madrid has the second largest fish market in the world, and is hundreds of km from the nearest sea.

Skövde is right in the middle of four large bodies of water, Atlantic to the west, the Baltic to the east, to the north the Vänern lake and south Vättern lake, the largest lakes in Europe I think. One would think the markets here would be overflowing with fish, but it's the complete opposite. Perhaps it's more local taste and preferences, I've actually met quite a few Swedes here that say they don't like fish.

I was talking to a local Swedish colleague at work, and he chalks it up to overfishing.

Posted by
6350 posts

Madrid is also a bit bigger than Skövde. And being the capital I assume it has seen a large immigration from the more coastal parts of Spain.

Historically fish has not been on the menu a lot in the area. There might be large lakes nearby, but Skövde is also surrounded by great farmland so fishing has not been a priority. So if you grew up in the area there probably wasn't a lot of fish served, apart from herring. And that can lead to not liking fish as an adult, and not serving your children fish. And so on.

Posted by
3896 posts

Gang War in Sweden?

Today I woke up to some very surprising news of bombings and shootings across Sweden, apparently there is a war heating up between two rival gangs, with innocent bystanders increasingly being caught up in violence across the country. The Prime Minister had to come out to make a rare televised address saying they are calling in the Swedish Army to hunt down the gangs and destroy them... Wow! This is not the image I had of Sweden, and feels more of what I heard happening in Tijuana.

Posted by
6350 posts

Today I woke up to some very surprising news of bombings and shootings
across Sweden, apparently there is a war heating up between two rival
gangs, with innocent bystanders increasingly being caught up in
violence across the country.

Unfortunately there has been a gang conflict for a few years now, and innocent bystanders have been killed.

The Prime Minister had to come out to make a rare televised address
saying they are calling in the Swedish Army to hunt down the gangs and
destroy them...

What he said was that he will talk with the Supreme Commander about how the armed forces can assist the police and other agencies. We will not see attack helicopters destroying gang leader's cars anytime soon…

Wow! This is not the image I had of Sweden, and feels more of what I
heard happening in Tijuana.

While the problem is quite serious by Swedish standards, we should also not overstate it. Despite the recent uptick, the murder rate per capita in Sweden is still pretty average by European standards. Higher than in Norway, but lower than in Finland. And much lower than the US and far behind Mexico.

Posted by
1943 posts

Carlos-

Maybe because I watch foreign news like DW but I had heard about gangs getting worse in Sweden. Unfortunately, most of these gangs are immigrants/second generation and of course is part of the anger that many Swedes have for recent emigres. While it is not on the level of the US or Mexico, it is happening in areas that were "safe" 20 years ago. All of which leads to more ghettoization of cities.

As a foreigner, I don't have the answers but given the climate crisis war and economic stability, I don't see anything changing.

Still hope you are having fun and ready for the Swedish winter.

Posted by
6350 posts

All of which leads to more ghettoization of cities.

I can't say I've seen any signs of cities or towns becoming ghettoized. Although there has been some tendencies in certain suburbs. There is too much going on to explain in a forum post, but if you interested in the issue and have 17 minutes and 49 seconds to spare I can recommend this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzeb92-rPwI

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks heather and badger for the extra context, for me the most surprising was the televised address by the Prime Minister about this issue and that the Swedish army is stepping in to tackle the recent surge in gang killings in Sweden, so far this month 12 people have been killed in gang violence throughout the country. I guess it just challenged some preconceived notions I had of Sweden. We were talking about the gang violence situation at work yesterday, lot's of passionate opinions on causes and potential solutions of the gang violence from local Swedes here. The town I live in, Skovde, has been pretty quiet but I have noticed increased police presence these past few days.

For those interested in reading more on the subject - https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-66964723

Posted by
3896 posts

Autumn has come to Skovde + hiking in a mystical Swedish forest

The colors of the trees around here have started to turn golden to dark red, a bitter cold wind has picked up, night has started to fall earlier, these are the sure signs that Autumn has come to my corner of Sweden. Yesterday was a relatively decent day weather-wise (for Sweden lol), so I decided to do some hiking in the next door Billingen "mountains" (they are only 300 meters elevation), which are some of the few places of elevation in southern Sweden. The town I live in Skovde, is built on the base of Billingen, which is covered with mossy forests, limestone formations, and sparkling lakes giving it an almost fairytale atmosphere. The best part of Sweden so far is the wonderful nature and how accessible it is from urban centers.

During my hike I noticed very many delicious wild mushrooms, which if this was Poland, would have been forged by locals long ago. In fact, I ran into two Polish or Ukrainian women who were actually mushroom hunting in the forests with their plastic Lidl bags, I guess if the local Swedes aren't putting them to use someone will lol! The forest was quite beautiful I also came across an overlook of the entire surrounding region showing just how flat the area was. I also reached a very beautiful lake where a few locals were fishing, it seemed like mountain biking was also a very popular pastime for all ages here. On the way back I ran across a huge wooden structure, (see in my photo album with kid in front for scale) which looked like a hockey or ice skating ring.

I then had a late lunch at MAX Burger, Sweden's home grown fast food chain. I was happy to see that it was holding its own against the American multinationals like MacDonald's and Burger King, not many of those around. I must say that MAX Burger is the best fast food chain I've ever had. I went for the double San Francisco burger which actually looked like the burger in the marketing photo (a miracle haha), and was just as good as In-n-Out i've had back in California, maybe even better (which is sacrilegious in the USA lol). The facilities were also very clean and orderly. The only weird part was throwing away the trash, it was like rocket science, you had 8 different receptacles for every kind of category of recyclable lol! I have included a photo of the process to throw away trash in MAX burger.

Here is my updated album (scroll to the bottom) with photos of the hike in the Swedish forest plus MAX Burger antics - https://photos.app.goo.gl/NqKU7Vrvx7zdZbXYA

Posted by
6350 posts

Yesterday was a relatively decent day weather-wise (for Sweden lol),
so I decided to do some hiking in the next door Billingen "mountains"
(they are only 300 meters elevation), which are some of the few places
of elevation in southern Sweden.

There is actually a bit of elevation in many places in southern Sweden. But Västergötland is more or less flat as a pancake as you've noticed, so the local hills are usually called mountains, even if it sounds a bit silly to be honest.

During my hike I noticed very many delicious wild mushrooms, which if
this was Poland, would have been forged by locals long ago. In fact, I
ran into two Polish or Ukrainian women who were actually mushroom
hunting in the forests with their plastic Lidl bags, I guess if the
local Swedes aren't putting them to use someone will lol!

We've had a very rainy summer, so there are a lot of mushrooms in the forest. Just make sure you know what you're looking for if planning any foraging. There are those that are delicious and those than can kill you.

On the way back I ran across a huge wooden structure, (see in my photo
album with kid in front for scale) which looked like a hockey or ice
skating ring.

Close, it's the local bandy field. While Skövde's local team is not in the top, you're in bandy territory. Not far away is Lidköping, home to Villa Lidköping, one of the most successful bandy teams in Sweden. Vänersborg and Trollhättan also both have teams in the top league. But you have to look a bit further to find successful hockey teams, the closest ones being Frölunda (Gothenburg), HV71 (Jönköping) and Färjestad (Karlstad).

I then had a late lunch at MAX Burger, Sweden's home grown fast food
chain. I was happy to see that it was holding its own against the
American multinationals like MacDonald's and Burger King, not many of
those around. I must say that MAX Burger is the best fast food chain
I've ever had.

There is a reason McDonald's and Burger King are struggling in Sweden, it's been hard for them to compete with MAX.

Posted by
406 posts

Ah, it’s always a happy morning when there’s another update from Carlos! Hiking, mushrooms and Sweden’s superior fast food. And also I learned there is a sport called bandy! That is a seriously large piece of ice!

Posted by
6350 posts

For those who are curious about bandy, it resembles a larger version of ice hockey. The field is much larger, you can fit three hockey rinks on a bandy field and still have room to spare, there are 11 players from each team on the ice and the goal is larger. A few other differences is that it is played with a ball instead of a puck, the goalkeeper has no stick, and no physical contact between players are allowed. The latter means that good bandy players are agile and nimble, making it in general a more fast paced game compared to hockey.

And while it is mostly played in northern Europe, the US national team participated in group A in the world championship earlier this year. Although they finished last, after losing all four games, so will play in group B next year.

If you want to see what it looks like, someone has uploaded this year's final from the top league in Sweden to youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHz77LAdnEo

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks Lyndash and Badger! I'm happy to provide some insight into living in Sweden, it's fun to share with you guys :)

Badger that's an interesting game, thanks for the vid a kind of like hockey but a little bit of football mixed in.

I've also noticed that horse racing in these kind of midget carriages, looks like the Amish ones, is very popular in Sweden too I see it on the TV all the time.

Posted by
6350 posts

I'm happy to provide some insight into living in Sweden, it's fun to
share with you guys :)

And I'm happy that you do it, it's interesting to see Sweden from another perspective.

I've also noticed that horse racing in these kind of midget carriages,
looks like the Amish ones, is very popular in Sweden too I see it on
the TV all the time.

It kind of is popular. But I'm not sure if it is becuse of an interest in the sport or because of people betting on the winners.

Another sport that is very popular in Sweden, but not so much outside northern and central Europe, is orienteering. And technological advancements means that is has become a TV-sport as well. For those who are interested here are the relays from the world championship this year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxABg9sC58I (Full races with commentary in English).

And soon the winter is here with all kind of winter sports, cross country skiing, biathlon and more…

Posted by
3896 posts

Already below freezing in southern Sweden!

Wow last night it was -2 degrees here in Skovde, after a very rainy summer I was hoping mother nature would give us a break in Autumn but I guess winter comes early here haha. I feel like I am constantly sick too, thankfully not covid, I guess my Mediterranean upbringing is really not doing me any favours here 😂

Though I must say the lighting here is beautiful especially for photography, between the storm clouds that is. I've uploaded some more photos in my album showing off this really cool street here in Skovde lined with turn of the century bourgeois villas, all of them very well maintained and lived in, some of the larger ones have been converted to multi-family apartment blocks - https://photos.app.goo.gl/NqKU7Vrvx7zdZbXYA

Thanks heather, photography here is quite fun, lighting is great in the afternoon!

Posted by
234 posts

"I've also noticed that horse racing in these kind of midget carriages,
looks like the Amish ones, is very popular in Sweden too I see it on
the TV all the time."

"Harness racing" is what that kind of racing is called. It's found in the U.S. as well. Like other horse racing it is mostly about the betting.

Posted by
5202 posts

Hi Carlos,

Thanks for the update and for sharing your beautiful photos.

My goodness, it’s cold there! ☃️
I hope you’ve got a bunch of layers to keep you warm.

Badger,
Thanks for your comments. It’s interesting to learn about your culture!

Wow, Bandy looks like fun, and I like the fact that there’s no physical contact allowed between players.

My boys played roller hockey for a couple of years, when they were much younger, and I always enjoyed watching them play but also worried about possible injuries.

Please keep posting about your life in Sweden, and stay warm!

Posted by
4676 posts

Badger, thanks for the Bandy video, that is fascinating to watch, and that ice rink is so big!

Posted by
3896 posts

UPDATE - First snowfall plus uni exams in Sweden

It's been awhile since I last updated, been busy with the work study program but thought I'd post a quick update. Today we changed from summer CET to winter CET and as if on cue we got our first dusting of snow here in Southern Sweden. It snowed all night and it's currently snowing as I write this morning. I must say I am surprised by how bad the weather has been, between a wet and breezy Summer and now a frigid and snowy Autumn I was hoping mother nature would give us a break. A number of local Swedish friends of mine have even said this is worse weather than usual, I assume it's from the El Niño effect on global climate.

Yesterday, Saturday at 9 am sharp I had my final written exam for my Swedish language class at the Skovde University, can you imagine having an exam on a Saturday morning, do Swedes have nothing better to do than engage in a little "recreational bureaucracy" on their weekends haha. Uni exams in Sweden are an interesting cultural experience. For one exams in Sweden are conducted by the State not the University, our professor was not allowed in the same room as us.

We had to register in advance and bring our passports to confirm our identity (since we were all foreigners). The state examiners were native Swedish pensioners who could barely speak English, interesting choice considering we were all foreigners who could only manage basic Swedish. They actually had our professor on call via phone to answer our questions as the state examiners weren't familiar with the exam contents. On top we had to use one piece of separate standardized paper per question, although almost all the questions only needed a few lines, felt like a lot of waste, good thing Sweden has a lot of trees haha. They told us we would get back our exam scores in about 25 business days 🙄

I have the feeling that in Sweden, the cultural philosophy does not trust the individual to do the right thing on their own. For example not letting our Swedish professor conduct their own exams, or having to request a packet of saffron from the cashier directly as they are not stocked in the spices aisle. Even needing to scan your grocery receipt in order to leave the supermarket via automatic doors. It's been very interesting to observe the different philosophies when it comes to individualism vs collectivism from living in the USA to Sweden (Spain sits somewhere in the middle).

Posted by
6350 posts

Nice to hear about your adventures again! Predicting the weather is always hard, but winters can often get harsher during El Niño years. Another important phenomena that influences the weather is the arctic oscillation.

I'm not sure how it's done at university colleges, but the (proper) universities I've studied at handles the exams on their own. And how it's done varies a lot between different universities and often within universities as well.

I'd say the cultural philosophy is that you need a bit bureaucracy to make sure everything works as it is supposed to, Sweden is a Germanic country after all… Although regarding saffron, that is simply to prevent people stealing it. It's not the most expensive thing in the store, but no one will able to see if you have 20 g of saffron in your pocket.

Posted by
3896 posts

Hi Badger, yes the adventure continues! I'm now learning that "Hogskola" is a uniquely Scandinavian institution that does not have a direct translation. I've seen it referred to as university college, government college, state university, or just plain "university" which is how Hogskolan Skovde is depicted as on their English language website, it's actually called "University of Skovde". I guess they went for clarity instead of accuracy and feel it's a bit misleading for foreigner students.

The whole "behind the counter" Saffron thing is unique to Sweden I think, I've yet to see that same thing even in Spain or from my time living in the US. The saffron in Sweden is pretty bog standard stuff not expensive at all, it's all the just imported from Iran, not sure why anyone would steal that. Maybe there is a racket for blackmarket saffron in Sweden 😂

Posted by
3896 posts

Yeah I think here in Skovde, were about the same latitude as Irkutsk in Russian Siberia and Juneau in Alaska lol!

Posted by
6350 posts

The "official" translation of Högskola is University college, but what is used in reality varies. And while Universitet is a protected term in Sweden, University is not. So you will se many högskolor simply call themself University in English. The relation between universities and högskolor has also varied. In the 1960s and 70s there were six university regions in Sweden and the then six Swedish universities were acting as "mentors" for the högskolor in their region. And all current Swedish universities were founded as a högskola, except Uppsala and Lund.

I have no idea if there is a large black market for saffron. Maybe there is a huge demand for cheap paella somewhere so thieves target it? Or it's just one of those "we have always done it this way"-things?

Posted by
3896 posts

Christmas has come to Sweden!

The snow is falling, the days are shorter, lights are being strung up all over the old town square. It's undeniable the holiday season has come to Skovde, however it's celebrated a bit differently here.

Firstly, I was quite shocked when I first came across advertisements for male genitals shaped doughnuts at the local convenience store chain, apparently they are based on a traditional Christmas treat in Sweden called Lussebullar (St Lucia's buns), but these are coined "Lusseballar" (St Lucia's balls), I know Sweden is a very atheistic country but even this seems a bit to far for good taste.

Other than that rather shocking thing, Christmas time in Sweden has been very pleasant, although quite. Maybe it's too early but I was hoping for a Christmas market. The main square just has some lights.

It's been snowing pretty regularly now, around -5 to -8 every day so quite cold. One has to be careful walking around because it's quite easy to slip and fall with all this compacted snow The sky and lighting are very beautiful though like nothing I've ever seen. I've posted some pics of Skovde in the winter time.

With the season comes more hearty seasonal foods. I had an excellent reindeer meatballs with root vegetables and mushroom sauce and topped with some kind of red berries, very good.

The other curious thing is I am seeing a lot of lit candles in menorahs in people's windows here in Skovde. At first I thought there was a surprising number of Jews living here but later a Swedish colleague explained that they have to do with the Swedish Protestant celebration of Advent.

Excited to what else Sweden has in store for the holiday season (minus the Lusseballar)!

You can find the new photos at the bottom of my album - https://photos.app.goo.gl/NqKU7Vrvx7zdZbXYA

Posted by
3828 posts

Can’t wait to read more about Christmas in Sweden. The risqué donut reminds me of the caganer statues in Spain. And people think Americans have strange traditions. As we say, to each his own.

Posted by
3896 posts

The risqué donut reminds me of the caganer statues in Spain.

Yeah well I'm not a fan of both of them lol, and im from Catalonia (where those statues originate from)!

In Catalonia we also have a tradition of a cute log that children hit with big sticks while singing until it poops candy haha. Not sure why but our region has a thing for feces and the holidays, which I'll admit is kind of weird 😭

Posted by
6350 posts

Firstly, I was quite shocked when I first came across advertisements
for male genitals shaped doughnuts at the local convenience store
chain,

It was an ad campaign from Pressbyrån trying to raise awareness about prostate cancer. And the shape is actually traditional, even if it is a bit exaggerated. Saffron buns are traditionally eaten around Christmas, and come in many different shapes: https://sarabakar.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/c3355-lussevarianter_5193.jpg (just a selection, there are many more varieties). While the most common you find in cafés and stores is the S-shaped (nr 6), it is by far not the only one.

Other than that rather shocking thing, Christmas time in Sweden has
been very pleasant, although quite. Maybe it's too early but I was
hoping for a Christmas market. The main square just has some lights.

What you've seen so far is Christmas creep, traditionally Christmas decorations go up on Advent sunday in Sweden. And they stay up until Saint Knut's Day. Christmas markets have been held in Sweden for a long time, but it's not uncommon for them to only be a single day or a weekend, especially in smaller towns. Google tells me that there will be a Christmas market in Skövde on the 9th.

It's been snowing pretty regularly now, around -5 to -8 every day so
quite cold.

I guess we all have our definition of quite cold… What I think was the last big football game of the season was played today on a field in western Stockholm, in -7°C.

With the season comes more hearty seasonal foods. I had an excellent
reindeer meatballs with root vegetables and mushroom sauce and topped
with some kind of red berries, very good.

Lingonberries, they are delicious and served with many traditional Swedish (as well as Norwegian and Finnish) dishes. And those reindeer meatballs looked great!

The other curious thing is I am seeing a lot of lit candles in
menorahs in people's windows here in Skovde.

I guess you mean these: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a8/Advent_Candles_%286507433539%29.jpg This is not my area of expertise, but aren't the candles usually on the same level in the jewish version?

Posted by
406 posts

Yay! A Carlos in Sweden update. I’m always happy when you check in , Carlos. And it being a ❄️ snow and Christmas 🎄 theme is even better. I love the pictures but I bet a lot more snow will be coming. Do you have enough winter gear to get through the season?

Posted by
10212 posts

Badger, you are correct about the candles being on the same level on a menorah. The exception is the Shamash, or middle candle, that is used to light the other candles.

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks Badger, will look forward to the Christmas market! I have seen this Christmas creep phenomenon here in Skovde and now I'm hearing it too! My local Hemkop is blasting not only American Christmas music but also New Years music all the time too.. a little early for Auld Lang's Eye to be playing, also gives a rather somber ambiance to the shopping lol.

Hi Lyndash, I hope I will be ready for more snow, if not we have a outdoor apparel shop just around the corner. I miss the days in California when I could wear roughly the same clothes all year long 😭

Posted by
3828 posts

If you just embrace winter and not fight it you will be fine. I find on a cold day if I take a few deep breaths it helps me relax and I am actually warmer. Good luck!

Posted by
6350 posts

And regarding Christmas traditions. A rather new one is the Air Force's Christmas flights. They usually do a couple of flights in "Christmas tree formation" over Sweden in December. F7, Skaraborg Air Force base, are planning a flight on the 12th which is scheduled to pass Skövde 13:49. So it might be worth looking up if you hear a noise. In case of bad weather, the flight might be moved to the 13th.

The 13th is also Lucia, a popular Swedish holiday, celebrated on what used to be the darkest time of the year (before Sweden adopted the Gregorian calendar). Even if you're not able to see it in person, you can usually find it on TV.

Posted by
3896 posts

Swedish Christmas markets, Spanish Churros, and American Mormons

This week I had some friends from Spain visiting me in Skovde. I had a fun time showing them around and they were equally flabbergasted by the lack of sun. We also explored the rather modest Christmas market in the main town square, it was charming with a few stalls, but nothing on the scale of what they have in Germany or even back home in Spain. We opted for some roasted castañas, which we were surprised to find here. They weren't too bad very nice on the cold night. They are actually quite popular in Spain as a Christmas snack. We also tried hot chocolate which was more hot water with some cocoa powder, nothing like what we have back in Spain that's more thick. For some reason I've seen here in Sweden that Spanish churros are quite a popular snack in the Christmas time. I guess it's good to hold on the go. We also opted for the churros from a stand in the Christmas market for a taste of back home and they actually weren't too bad they were made on the spot.

The next day I was shopping at the local mall here for some presents for my family back in Spain when I was approached by two young men who spoke to me in Swedish then English. They ended up actually being Americans who were Mormon missionaries I guess trying to convert the locals. We ended up talking for a good while because I mentioned I'd lived in the US for some years. Towards the end they started to get a bit weird with their conversation and it turned to asking for my contact info, I politely declined and excused myself before they could further their goals haha. I must say that was quite a surprising encounter that I did not expect in the middle of Sweden 😂

Our next stop is a few nights in Stockholm, before we all fly back to Spain for the holidays.

I've updated the photo album accordingly.

Posted by
2721 posts

Carlos, it has been so fun to read your adventures in Sweden. And Badger’s commentary.
Feliz Navidad and God Jul to all!!

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks horsewoofie! Hope to have more adventures to share very soon.

Posted by
4064 posts

I love reading these, but am wondering if it’s time for a new thread with the new semester. 🤣 It feels like it takes me about 5 minutes to get to the bottom. Lol. Have a wonderful Christmas back in Spain!

Posted by
3896 posts

TexasTravelmom - there should be a button that says jump to the bottom with an arrow pointing down at the top of the topic, that should jump you right to the most recent post

Laura - yes we did partake of the glogg, we enjoyed the Apple and cinnamon one, however we didn't much like the saffron flavored one.

Posted by
5512 posts

we enjoyed the Apple and cinnamon one, however we didn't much like the saffron flavored one.

I had no clue there were flavors (other than the standard red wine one with cinnamon, cardamom, and orange peel).

Posted by
4064 posts

LOL, Carlos! I have only been reading the forum for 12 years and had never noticed that button. 🤦🏻‍♀️ Something new every day!

Posted by
6350 posts

We also explored the rather modest Christmas market in the main town
square, it was charming with a few stalls, but nothing on the scale of
what they have in Germany or even back home in Spain.

Skövde isn't really a major city, so that is more or less to be expected. But I hope you enjoy Stockholm and I can recommend a visit to the Christmas market in Gamla stan. Not huge, it's limited by the size of the square, but worth a visit in my opinion.

And regarding Christmas drinks, have you tried some julmust?

I had no clue there were flavors (other than the standard red wine one
with cinnamon, cardamom, and orange peel).

Yes and no. If you want to be traditional, it's red wine, sugar or honey and spices. The spices might include dried bitter orange peel, but no regular oranges or fresh fruit, that is the main difference between glögg and glühwein. There is a however a big selection of different versions of glögg available in the stores and many make their own creative versions as well. Looking at Systembolaget's website, they have 91 different kinds of glögg this year.

Posted by
3896 posts

Christmas in Stockholm Mini Trip Report Part 1

Must have forgotten to check back in to report on how my trip to Stockholm fared, I guess with all the holidays and flight back to Spain it just slipped my mind. I'll try my best to recall it haha! Anyway we traveled from Skovde to Stockholm on Sweden's semi high speed trains (imported from Italy) the week before Christmas. The ride was smooth and punctual though the food on the train was really quite terrible. I opted to leave most of my Swedish meatballs which were stone cold, a friend of mine ended up eating her entire sandwich and was out of commission all the next day with a stomach ache. The lesson is to not eat the food on the trains in Sweden haha.

We arrived in Stockholm and kicked off our 3 nights there eating at what I'd describe as a "wannabe" Michelin star restaurant close by called Restaurant Tegelbacken, which has very good reviews. Unfortunately it was Michelin star prices without the quality. They only did small plates that had to be ordered individually, not a tasting menu like other restaurants of this kind of caliber. The only memorable thing was the price. Let's just say we had to eat on the cheaper side of things for the rest of the trip to offshoot this meal. Max Burger was a godsend for this.

The next day we visited the Medelhavsmuseet aka Mediterranean Museum, which is not very well known to foreigners. They had an excellent if condense collection of archaeological artifacts from Antiquity, mainly from Cyprus and Egypt. We basically had the entire museum to ourselves which was a dream for an ancient history buff like me. Their collection of votive artifacts excavated by a Swedish archeological dig in Cyprus was astounding, hundreds of statues all in one room, very impressive. Around mid day we started to see many local Swedes (seemed like Gov workers) start to trickle in to the museum, not to see the artifacts but to eat in the cafeteria which had the best meal deal in the government quarter. super inexpensive dish of the day (that day was Lasagna) with a jaw dropping view from the second floor dining area (Cafe Bagdad), which looks like it was from agatha christie's death on the nile. We decided to join the locals and eat at the Cafe Bagdad, excellent deal and food!

Later that day we walked to Gamla stan to see the the Royal Armoury, which was high on my list. The collection was superb and again barely any other tourists there. We saw arms and armour from various Swedish kings, including the horse that Gustavus Adolphus was riding when he was killed in battle during the 30 years war. There were also numerous treasure that had been stolen from Poland during Sweden's various invasions of the 17th century and had them on display, they included the Helmet of the King of Poland and a Polish drinking horn of the last aurochs of Europe. I found it interesting that the museum did not talk about how all these treasures from Poland came to be in Sweden. This was a trend I noticed in many Swedish history museums, a hesitancy to discuss some of the more unsavory topics of its past. Other highlights of the collection included the uniform that King Charles XII was wearing when he was killed and the attache briefcase of Napoleon Bonaparte, captured by the Swedish during the Battle of Leipzig. Overall a must visit site when in Stockholm!

We spent the rest of the evening wandering around Gamla stan, enjoying its narrow lanes and Christmas decorations. We stopped by the fairly compact Christmas market located in the center of the old town. There we found a lot of tourists but half the stalls were closed and didn't feel like buying anything. There were a good number of tourists in Stockholm but not overwhelming. They were also very diverse, I don't think we ran into the same nationality twice, almost all were solo travelers no big tour groups.

Part 2 coming soon! Check out my pics in the meantime https://photos.app.goo.gl/NqKU7Vrvx7zdZbXYA

Posted by
6350 posts

Nice to hear from you again and to see your photos from Stockholm!

Anyway we traveled from Skovde to Stockholm on Sweden's semi high
speed trains (imported from Italy) the week before Christmas.

If it was the train you posted a photo of, it's not imported from Italy. It was designed and built in Sweden, with construction taking place in Kalmar and Västerås

The ride was smooth and punctual though the food on the train was
really quite terrible. I opted to leave most of my Swedish meatballs
which were stone cold, a friend of mine ended up eating her entire
sandwich and was out of commission all the next day with a stomach
ache. The lesson is to not eat the food on the trains in Sweden haha.

Sorry to hear about that, I hope your friend is better now. It must have been something temporary, I've never had a problem with food on trains in Sweden. While SJ certainly won't get any Michelin stars, it's always the proper temperature and have given me food poisoning. You friend should report the incident.

The next day we visited the Medelhavsmuseet aka Mediterranean Museum,
which is not very well known to foreigners.

I agree, it's a "hidden gem" that deserves more attention. Nice to hear that you went there.

Around mid day we started to see many local Swedes (seemed like Gov
workers) start to trickle in to the museum, not to see the artifacts
but to eat in the cafeteria which had the best meal deal in the
government quarter.

I'm not surprised, the museum is located between the foreign office and the department of defense, and the parliament is just across the water.

Later that day we walked to Gamla stan to see the the Royal Armoury,
which was high on my list.

It's a great museum. If you want to practice your Swedish and use Facebook they are rather popular there for their rather special style. https://www.facebook.com/Livrustkammaren

We spent the rest of the evening wandering around Gamla stan, enjoying
its narrow lanes and Christmas decorations.

That's a great time to visit Gamla stan in my opinion, it's very beautiful with snow and Christmas decorations. And not as crowded as it can be in the summer.

Posted by
3896 posts

Christmas in Stockholm Mini Trip Report Part 2

The next day we visited the the famous Vasa Museum. This was of particular intrastent to me because in my work study program back in Skovde we are currently developing a mobile digital game for the Vasa Museum, mainly aimed at a teenage audience. The Vasa ship itself is extremely impressive and is actually bigger than I expected, which is saying something! Definitely was my favourite experience in Stockholm. One could get up close and see all the intricate detailing of the ship. I liked how they reconstructed the ship's detailing with the original colors, it shows just how colorful the ship must have been. One of the most interesting details from the ship was a wooden statue of a Stereotypical Polish nobleman bending his knees in submission located on the bow of the ship. (Sweden and Poland were at war at this time). I'd like to think that statue bending its knees forward was what in the end tipped the ship off balance, so the Poles got the last laugh in the end ha! Again in this museum, they did not really discuss the reason why the ship was built in the first place or the wider context of the ongoing Swedish invasions of Poland and how the Vasa fit in. We ate at the onsite cafeteria, which had great views, but again the food was kinda disappointing, my Swedish meatballs were quite cold and I could not ask them to heat it up cause there was a long line with only two exhausted attendants at the counter.

Later we walked to the Swedish History Museum, I was interested in their archaeological exposition of the Battle of Visby. I was surprised to learn that the Swedish History Museum was really not that well known with foreigners, in fact I think we were the only non Swedes there. I tried to use my Swedish student discount (Mecenat card), I was supersized to hear that the Swedish History Museum did not offer discounts to students, even Swedish ones... wow guess not too interested in sharing their history with the younger generation. That day the museum also had a special Christmas concert of the Stockholm police department I think so we had the kids of police officers running around and screaming through the museum like an amusement park, which was quite distracting. I was also disappointed that about half the information placards in the museum were only in Swedish and there was no reception or wifi so we could not use our Google translate. I was also quite surprised that there were sections of the museum that were just empty with some artifacts strewn about (see photo), there was no care to block off these empty sections of the museum. The battles of Visby section was very interesting (in English) as was a collection of exquisite and ornate religious altarpieces (only in Swedish) from the 14-15 centuries, which I assume were saved from destruction at the hands of the Protestant reformation. I also saw the oldest pipe organ in the world, from the island of Gotland I think from the 14th century, still with its original paint color, very nice.

The next day we visited the Stockholm City Hall, which was very impressive, to me it looked like one of these old Venetian palaces. The gold room was spectacular, my pictures can't convey how awe inspiring it was. There was also a mosaic of New York with the Statue of Liberty and the USA flag. The exterior of the City Hall was another story though, I was quite surprised by how shoddy the brickwork and cementing was, it looks like more a 500 year old brick building than a 100 year old one (see photos in my album). Overall Stockholm offered a nice city break, even in the winter, although there was quite a cold strong wind throughout our time there. I think I'd enjoy the city much more in the summertime. Ranking the sites we visited I'd say: 1. Vasa Museum, 2. Royal Armoury, 3. Mediterranean Museum, 4. Stockholm City Hall, 5. Swedish History Museum.

My pics again (scroll to bottom) - https://photos.app.goo.gl/NqKU7Vrvx7zdZbXYA

Posted by
5512 posts

Again in this museum, they did not really discuss the reason why the ship was built in the first place or the wider context of the ongoing Swedish invasions of Poland and how the Vasa fit in.

Did you take the English language tour at the Vasa Museum? They used to cover this info on that tour. I haven’t been to the museum recently so things may have changed.

Posted by
6350 posts

The exterior of the City Hall was another story though, I was quite
surprised by how shoddy the brickwork and cementing was, it looks like
more a 500 year old brick building than a 100 year old one (see photos
in my album).

That was actually done on purpose. The architect didn't like the standard bricks available so he had special bricks custom made, many of them hand made. He wanted the facade to look a bit "rough".

Posted by
3896 posts

Laura, we were unaware there was guided tours, there was no information or signage on site. It kind of felt like a free for all. Once you're through the gate you're free to explore on your own.

Badger, we did do the guided tour of the city hall, however they never mention anything about the exterior of the building. It was only after we left that we noticed all the crumbly looking bricks around the building.

Posted by
4064 posts

Loved the reports and pictures of your Stockholm weekend! I spent 5 days there a few years ago and am going back in August for a repeat. You went to a few places that will be new for me this time. :)

Badger, I also really enjoy your comments on Carlos’ impressions. We are getting a two-for-one tour!

Posted by
6350 posts

Badger, we did do the guided tour of the city hall, however they never
mention anything about the exterior of the building.

There is only so much information you can fit in a guided tour. But one thing I like about Ragnar Östberg (the architect) is his attention to detail.

Badger, I also really enjoy your comments on Carlos’ impressions.

Thank you! Happy to hear that.

Posted by
5512 posts

Laura, we were unaware there was guided tours, there was no information or signage on site. It kind of felt like a free for all. Once you're through the gate you're free to explore on your own.

If you go back, it is worth looking for the tour (the website lists the times). They usually run them pretty frequently. There isn’t much signage on the ship itself, but the guide provides a lot of info on its historical context, construction, its maiden (and only voyage), and the reasons why it sunk.

Posted by
3896 posts

Thanks Badger, TexasTravelmom and Laura!

Posted by
1767 posts

I hate feeling burned by pricey restaurants. Nowadays we can afford them just fine, but it still makes me crazy when I enjoy a $400 dinner for two less than an $80 dinner for two. To me the potential upside of a special culinary experience is not worth the risk of being chapped that I would have rather just going to some place that is good and reasonable.