Monday, June 20, 2011

On Sweden's Top 10 most Perplexing Quirks

If you really wanted to learn more about the Swedish culture in general, I’m sure you could find a hundred blogs and websites describing how Swedes are humble (in fact, according to their rule jantelagen it is shameful to think you are better than other people), how their companies are flat and managers take suggestions, and how reserved and cold they are. In reality though, I think they’re no colder than Canadians- actually they’re pretty friendly if you breach the barrier and just start chattering.

But anyway! I am not here to talk to you about these useful observations! I am here today to present my observations of the top 10 (so far) most perplexing and/or just plain entertaining Swedish oddities and trends that I've noticed, from a Canadian perspective.

Starting with number 10:

10. Roll-on Deodorant
Everyone uses roll on deodorant here! In Canada I think you can only buy that from your grandmother’s mail order catalogues. It’s sticky and gross and doesn’t work. I’m not a fan, Sweden!

9. Happy socks
Probably the cutest trend in Sweden. It’s dying out a little now, but these happy socks were big, and you can still catch glimpses of pink and purple polka dotted socks beneath the well pressed suit trousers of business people here in Stockholm. I can just imagine how happy my feet would be. But at SEK 72-100 (maybe $15 CAD), my wallet would be sad.

8. Obsession with sun tanning
Swedes are completely, utterly obsessed with suntanning. To be white is considered really aesthetically unappealing (unfortunately for me). The moment any sun shines people flock to open fields in their bikinis and shorts and lay around for hours. No matter if it’s 10˚, they’re out there determined to get a tan or freeze trying. I’ve heard that there are more tanning salons per capita in Sweden than in any other country. The problem is that most people go overboard, and it seems like certain parts of the city are populated by oompaloompas. Like Kissie, the famous Swedish blogger, seen here....
I'm embarrassed for you too Kissie...
7.  Name Days
This isn’t just a Swedish thing- it’s more of a European thing in general. But it’s here too so I’ll include it. Every day of the year has a corresponding first name- The 9th of December is for Anna. Sometimes you’ll get a present from your loved ones, or a cake, but it’s celebrated less often than it used to be. I’ve been asked when my name day is though, which left me seriously confused. If you want to check out the Swedish nameday calendar, go here.

6. Salty candy
WHY? WHY SWEDEN?? These are really awful. Black liquorice candy covered in salt. I don’t mind black liquorice at the right moment, but why, why would I want salty black liquorice? Every time I look at these candies I think “they’ll be better this time. They’re so traditional, I’ve got to learn to like them”. And then afterward I always swear never again.

5. Suspenders
These are pretty insanely popular. And not just among hipsters. I’m inclined to think they are awesome.

4. Strip Clubs
Don’t brag about going to a strip club in Sweden. People think they are shady and shameful, and nobody ever admits having been there. Hence the big problem that the king is in right now (did he go to one? Is he lying? Why do we care?). Anyway, for a country that seems pretty European when it comes to anti-prudishness (oh I’ve seen my share of streakers here), they’re pretty against showing skin for money.

3.  Fika
Actually this is not perplexing, but fantastic. Fika is the national religion here. It is just the two syllables of kaffi (an early version of the word for coffee in Swedish) switched around, and it means coffee break, usually along with something sweet. Swedes are 4th in the world for coffee consumption, following Finland (12 kg/person a year?!?!), Norway and Iceland, and my coworkers drink at least 6 cups a day. The coffee break is holy J

2. Dinner and Champagne Etiquette
I can’t promise this will be accurate, because frankly I don’t understand the Swedish formal dinner etiquette myself. From what I’ve gathered, when you toast you toast with your chest facing your hostess, who must be sitting in a certain place, you look everyone in the eye, then you set your glass down by descending age order. There must be a man to your left (or is that to your right?), when a woman leaves the table every man must stand, clap their hands and do a jig (no not really, but maybe it would fit in?). My theory is that all this evolved from hundreds of years of insufficient dinner entertainment. 500 years ago in Canada I’m pretty sure the entertainment was catching dinner.

2b.  Edit: This was #1 but I simply realised there was something even more shocking.

Number 2.b is that...... THERE’S NO PEANUT BUTTER ANYWHERE!

Why do you think it’s gross? Why? Yes it is pretty much just a fat spread, but so is Nutella! I never realised how much I would miss peanut butter when it was completely gone!

1. but the #1 most perplexing Swedish oddity is....

Swedish caviar in tubes!
This “delicious” pink grainy, salty paste is made of fish eggs, salt… and chemicals I guess. It’s eaten by Everybody, for breakfast on cracker bread.  Fish eggs in a tube are not on my breakfast menu!

Edwin Goei

And that sums up my completely useless list! See you later folks!


  1. This is the best blog ever! I love it! Looking forward to read more of your fantastic posts!

    God damn, I LOVE YOU!

  2. I totally agree with you. This is by far the most interesting blog I've stumbled upon on the internet. The mix between personality and pure facts are astonishing, nowhere else have I ever found such an inspiring blog.

    The time moves so slow whilst I wait for the updates from Visuelation.

  3. Carl, I know this is you!!

  4. Greetings.

    I am deeply concerned by this misleading accusation. Even though it is a pretty pleasant waste of time reading your blog.

    Due to this unfriendly interaction with the writer of the blog I am seriously considering stop reading.

    Not because the content of the blog is bad, but it is written clear in the sky on my behalf that the writer is not really caring about her readers.

    Actually I am outrageous.

    Have a nice life whilst i'll rioting.

  5. Well, I would love a answer to my last addition. Some sort of apology at least.

  6. Carl, whilst you have been so outrageous, I was getting work done!
    good luck with you football team :)

  7. Nice blog Anna. Please post more pictures of Kissie. Woooo hooooooo hoooooooooo!

  8. Okay.. So how much of a Swede am I?

    10. Roll-on deodorant? Of course I use it. It works and it isn't gross at all.

    9. Happy socks? No, not my cup of tea. They are cute, on girls!

    8. Obsession with sun tanning? I'm not obsessed with it, but I prefer to have a minor tan.

    7. Name days? No one cares about name days in Sundsvall, northern Sweden. As you say, this is important in some parts of Sweden. I don't know my own name day.

    6.Salty candy? I hate this as well. Give me some chocolate, please...

    5.Suspenders? Only with my tuxedo.

    4.Strip Clubs? No comments. I guess that makes me a swede...

    3.Fika? I love to Fika. Hmmm.. It reminds me of something. I need another coffee.

    2.Dinner etiquette. There are plenty of rules, I don't know all of them.

    2b. There is one peanut butter brand (Skippy) in our stores! You just need to look at the right place.

    1.Swedish caviar in tubes. Yup, you will find it in my refrigerator..


  9. I like that I have a few Swedish sources to confirm the things I notice :)
    Your name day is the 21st of December Thomas!