Four foreigners were asked by dn.se what they felt was “typiskt svenskt.” Their joint answer was: tea lights, flower bouquets and “tack, tack, tack.”
“Swedes are always on time,” said Audrey Lebioda from France. Doris Jinwen Li from China said: “Swedes are cold somehow.” And Alexandros Varelopoulos from Greece felt that what was typical for Sweden was “how clean everything is.” Said Colin Moon from Great Britain, “Nobody else would wipe themselves with the flag but the Swedes.” Colin continues: “The worst thing about working with Swedes is that they can never make decisions, every decision has to be supported, everyone has to have their say and it all must be democratic. Compare this with the American way where everything is 'time is money.' In Sweden things can take a long time, as long as the result is good.” Colin has positive things to say about Sweden, too; he loves fläsklägg och rotmos, and he admires the way Swedes take care of their children. But the fact that Swedish napkins sometimes have the pattern of the Swedish flag he finds utterly amusing: “Imagine an American wiping his mouth with the Stars and Stripes!” Audrey Leboida from France misses the French cheeses but has, after ten years of living with a Swedish man in Sweden, learned how to live life “à la Suedois”: “Swedes care about each other in a way French people don’t. I find it amusing that if somebody finds a glove, for instance, they put it up in a nearby tree so that the person who lost it might find it easier. You’d never go back to look for a glove in France. I also find Swedes a bit naïve - there are a lot of bikes everywhere, and often Swedes don’t lock their bikes, and yet they are so disappointed when their bikes are stolen. Swedes are also afraid of conflicts and don’t want to hurt each other. For years I said “heller hur” until somebody, with a great deal of exaggerated care, told me it was called “eller hur.” Nobody had dared to tell me before that. Also the fact that Swedes always bring a gift when they’re visiting another – we’d never do that in France, unless it’s somebody’s birthday. The food here’s also a bit … strange. Lingonsylt to meat? And Swedes say thank you a lot, they say thank you if someone else says thank you, they say ‘tack för senast,’ they say thank you after eating…. That’s something I always have to remember. Swedes also complain a lot and always expect somebody else to do something about the problem.”
Mormor’s sugar cake.
You know the song “Tea for two” where the woman promises to bake a sugar cake for her beau to take “for all the boys to see?” Perhaps that was Mormor? Here is a quick recipe for Grandma’s juicy sugar cake with “honungssirap” that has a taste of passion fruit, lemon and honey. The recipe is courtesy of alltommat.se. Ingredients: 1 cup flour, 1.5 teaspoons baking powder, 3.5 Tablespoons butter, 3 oz milk, 2 eggs, 7 oz sugar, butter and bread crumbs for the pan. Berries for decoration. Ingredients for the “honungssirap”: 3 Tablespoons honey, 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, 3 passion fruits. Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the flour with the baking powder. Melt the butter in a small pot and pour in the milk. Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until fluffy. Add the warm butter-milk mixture and stir in the flour. Pour the batter in a buttered and breaded pan. Put the pan in the lower part of the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Let cool before taking it out of the pan. Then put it on a pretty plate. Melt the honey in a pot. Mix in the lemon juice and the pulp of the passion fruits. Pour the “honungssirap” over the cake and decorate with berries.
I scream for ice cream!
Swedes are famous for their appetite for ice cream. Nine out of ten Swedes (that’s 90%) eat ice cream once every six months. But it’s most common to eat ice cream once a month, which 47% of the population does. A third (33%) eats ice cream every week and 2% eat it once a week. Most Swedes (64%) prefer ice cream made out of cream (rather than water or milk), and ranking second is soft ice cream, which is especially popular among men (34%). Third on the list is sorbet, which is more popular among the young and especially among women. When it comes to flavors, the most popular is vanilla (46%), followed by chocolate (26%), other flavor (18%) and strawberry (12%). When asked how Swedes feel when they eat ice cream, 30% said “relaxed” and 21% said “happy,” and 15% said “peaceful.” For such ice cream-loving people, it’s always exciting to see what new ice cream varieties are introduced, and for spring/summer 2009 there are several ice cream novelties. One favorite is “Lemon Age,” a lemon ice cream with a core of creamy lemon sorbet and toffee.
A better sex life. Dagens Nyheter polled its readers asking whether they would rather have a brand new kitchen or a better sex life. 64% said they’d rather have a better sex life, 29% would rather have a brand new kitchen, and 7% couldn’t make up their minds.
Stressed out babies.
“I have a three week old baby, and we’re ready for action.” This is not a joke. It’s Sweden 2009. There used to be a time when babyhood was babyhood and very little was required besides a bottle, a rattle and a blanket for napping. Today Swedish babies are busy with baby yoga, baby swimming, baby theater, and a slew of other activities. Although most young children say that their favorite thing to do is to just be with their family or play with a friend, today there are more theater plays than ever for the very young (Suzanne Osten was first with her “Babydrama”), and activities such as baby yoga, which was unheard of just a couple of years ago, is pretty standard. “This trend is a sign of status,” says Marie Söderqvist, CEO at United Minds, a Stockholm-based business-intelligence consulting company that specializes in the analysis of current issues. “You want to be a good parent and you show that by engaging in your children in such a way that everybody can see it.” Söderqvist says that activities where you have to buy equipment - such as hockey- and dance outfits - rank high on the list. Barnombudsmannen (the Children’s Ombudsman) Fredrik Malmberg says the issue is much more complex than that. “Playing freely is very important for a child. Organized activity is something for adults. Children from homes with a lot of money end up having very tight schedules and miss out on the time when they have ‘nothing to do.’ Meanwhile children from other social groups never get the privilege to practice what they’re interested in. There are large social gaps there.” Psychologist Hanna Thermaenius adds: “Today is different form the 1970’s when many children were at home with their mother, and when the extra hour of Skogsmulle was needed in order to meet other children. Today’s children, most of whom are at daycare, need no other activities, perhaps only swimming school. They just need to be with their parents.”
Eat right – live longer.
It’s almost March and what happened to our New Year’s Resolution about a healthier more active life in 2009? Seems so long ago already, doesn’t it? Well, it’s never too late to pick it up. Doctor Helena Nyblom at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Göteborg, has written a book called “Livskraft” (Life power). “It’s all about aging in a healthy way,” she says. “It’s preventive care really. It’s all about taking it slow, eating healthy and sleeping well.” Her best anti-stress tip is to take little “micro breaks”: “Just close your eyes for a couple of minutes, that will activate your melatonin and you’ll feel much more relaxed.” Nyblom recommends having oatmeal and fruit and flaxseed for breakfast, “wait with fat and protein until dinner,” she says. She also says to make sure you sleep 8 hours (people who sleep 8 hours live longer than those who sleep only 6 hours according to a study), and to try practicing mediation, which also releases melatonin, making you more relaxed. She also recommends Omega 3-fatty acids that not only can help with depression, but also make your skin better. And don’t forget to consume super antioxidants like blueberries, broccoli and pomegranates.
Mormor's sugar cake with a taste of honey and decorated with berries.
Typiskt svenskt. Who but the Swedes would wipe their mouths with a napkin featuring the flag? Colin Moon, originally from Great Britain, muses over what's typically Swedish. "The way Swedes always have to show their guests their entire house when they come visit. It means they always have to clean before they invite people."