Tag Archives: Sweden

How to survive the Swedish winter?

Sweden. Country of quiet lakes, majestic forests and solidarity. I like it here, quite a lot. Time flies and it’s already my second winter up North. Last year I loved every little piece of winter. Lots of snow, ice to skate on, my super cool winter bike tires, and if you were lucky you might spot a sight of the Northern lights. Maybe it’s because it’s not new or maybe I haven’t taken my vitamine D pills regularly enough, but truth is that winter feels more like a struggle to me this time. And I’m not alone in this. Last winter I had several friends telling me they felt winter was kind of ‘heavy’ on them. I just did not understand – yet. To prevent you from being affected by the Winter-blues I’d like to share some piece of advice.

  • Go outside – no matter the temperature
    Sun is your best friend. However, Sun does not pay very long nor intense visits during winter in Uppsala. Therefore you should try to grab every opportunity there is to say hello to her. Don’t get intimidated by thermostats saying it’s minus ten degrees Celsius or something worse. How cold it truly feels depends on many things as humidity, wind speed and sun intensity. Try to go outside each day. There ain’t no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing! A good way to get your daily minimum of sunlight is to grab the bike to SLU. 
    Comic by Owlturd
  • Take vitamin D supplements seriously
    Because honestly, no matter how much time you spend on trying to reconnect with your old friend Sun, your relation will be a long-distance one and your body will long for more. Drinking is not going to fix your depression, but vitamin D may! You can find them in your nearest Apoteket, no prescription needed.
  • Share your suffering
    I am not saying you should complain about the weather or lack of daylight on a daily basis, but it might be relieving to hear you’re not the only one struggling. Good chances many of your friends and classmates feel a little ‘under the weather’ and could use some extra happiness as well. So don’t lock yourself up in your room waiting for Sun to come back, but go to the Nations for a drink or host a dinner and don’t avoid serious conversations if they pop up. Sharing is caring.

“In Uppsala the question is not if there’s something fun to do, but rather which cool activity to choose?”

  • Focus on things that make you happy
    It sounds a little cheesy, I know. Though you should think about it! As you will find yourself spending more time at home you may as well do something you always wanted to do, but never had the time for. Like playing guitar or improving your drawing skills. No inspiration? Go find a new hobby! There are numerous things to do or experience in Uppsala. Try out all the classes offered at your  local gym, learn a new game at a Nation‘s boardgame night or find out if you like latin dancing. In Uppsala the question is not if there’s something fun to do, but rather which cool activity to choose?
  • Invite your friends from outside Sweden
    Do you remember this feeling you get during your first days in a new place? Everything looks amazing and you’re out exploring new sights every day. Ideally you stay in love with your city forever, but at some point the honeymoon effect might disappear. No worries! Just invite some friends over and show them around and do all the touristy things you had forgotten about. I bet you that spending time wandering around Uppsala’s Domkyrka, Slott and Fyrisån will bring back the magic. Especially since your friends will see all of it for the first time, their enthusiasm is going to be contagious, promised. Plus nothing warms the heart like seeing an old friend, so it will be a win-win.

I hope this list is helpful to you. If you have any additional advice, questions or would like to share your own experiences you can always reply below. And please, don’t let the idea of a real winter keep you from studying here. It’s a great experience to walk through a winter wonderland or spend time on a frozen lake. And if you at some point find out you get affected by the Winter-blues, then keep in mind it’s all temporary. Spring is on the doorstep  🙂

Rosan

Winter wonderland

Admitted, I wasn’t too happy with the sudden arrival of Winter, but who can stay mad at something so wonderful?

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Me enjoying the snow, made a gif of photos by Oskar Westlin (spot him in the upper right)
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dsc_0391A rabbit was here!

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I do. We are now hoping for kärle’, meaning that the frost will reach into the ground and the snow will stay. Otherwise we will end up with all this nasty ‘slask’  (translation: snowmelt) that won’t make anybody happy. Let’s wait and see and in the meantime enjoy as much as we can 🙂

Rosan

Ps. Do you remember the post about Flogsta? Well this is Kvarnbo, a three week time difference only. Hard to believe, right?
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Kanelbullens dag

While all over the world the 4th of October is dedicated to animals, the Swedes have an extra celebration. The fourth of October is the day of the kanelbullar, which is the famous Swedish version of a cinnamon bun. Probably it is more correct to name it the ancestor of the cinnamon bun. ‘A national day dedicated to candy?’ I hear you think. Well – surprise, surprise – and this is not even the only national day for a pastry! Another typical Swedish treat called semla or sometimes fastlagsbulle has it’s own day somewhere in spring. In other countries this day is also called ‘shrove tuesday’  or ‘mardi gras’ as it’s the last day before the fasting period starts for some religions.

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After you’ve rolled the dough flat you spread the good stuff all over

Both semlar and kanelbullar are typical pastries one could have for fika. Nothing one could love more about Sweden than it’s typical tradition called fika. Translating it into ‘coffee break’  would do this cultural habit no justice. It is a break from work, a moment to be social with colleagues or friends and should preferably be accompanied by some… pastries! Traditionally kanelbullar, but nowadays you will be having a hard time to choose from all the delicacies when going to a fikaplace. And trust me, they are very good in baking over here.

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Then you carefully make it into a tight roll, from which you slice off the bullar-to-be

Swedes really love their candy. I think it was the first thing my parents were totally surprised about when they moved me to Sweden. My mum could not believe seeing all these candy stores, while my father felt very tempted by all the godis that is excessively displayed in every supermarket. However the average Swede does not at all look as if they visit these candystores that often. That is actually the whole point. As a Swedish child you grow up learning that there is one day for candy; lördagsgodis. Which translates into candy saturday. No idea how these candystores survive during the rest of the week!

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Bake them briefly…

To celebrate that it is(or ehm, actually was already yesterday) the official day of kanelbullar, I will place here the link to my favourite recipe of this Swedish goodness. If you have a hard time figuring out the Swedish language, google translate is your best friend. One very important tip I got from several Swedes: Double the amount of the cinnamon filling, so they become super smudgy. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to bake yesterday, but made the photos a few months ago.

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…and enjoy! (this is me being very happy with my first attempt)

Rosan

The Sami perspective

There are always a lot of interesting things going on in Uppsala. Sometimes there are other lectures organized that seem just too interesting to miss, even though you already have had a full week of lectures. I absolutely love lectures – and always have – but even I have a limit, haha. Therefore I actually skipped my afternoon horse class(the guilt, it feels terrible!) to be able to be fresh again to join another lecture in the afternoon. This lecture was organized by CEMUS, which stands for the Centre for Environment and Development Studies(I guess CEDS didn’t sound as catchy?). CEMUS is a collaboration between Uppsala University and SLU, it’s student-initiated, trans-disciplinary and aims to contribute to a more just and sustainable world. I know, that’s a lot of fancy words all together, but they actually do a lot of pretty great things and if you have some time, definitely check out their webpage.

The lecture I attended was called ‘Ignored History: The Sami Perspective’, and the main speaker was Josefina Skerk, who happens to be the Vice-President of the Sami Parliament, even though she is only a few years older than me. Impressive. But that was not the main reason I wanted to go. The thing is, I have lived for about a year now here in Sweden. I have the feeling I got to to know quite a bit about Swedish everyday life, culture, habits and some history. There’s viking hills on several places around Uppsala, our campus used to be a viking settlement, the university proudly gives away necklaces with a little horse pendant – a replica found on the grounds of Ultuna. Yet I haven’t heard a thing about the Sami people. Maybe it’s my own fault, I don’t know, but I wondered why. Are there no Sami roots in Uppsala? Are people not proud to be Sami? Or are there no Sami people left in Sweden? So yes, the announcement of this lecture caught my attention, especially the article by Josefina Sterk that was posted along with it, which you can read here.

One part from this article caught my attention specifically. Josefina writes “But as the lands are becoming more and more scattered and poisoned by mines and other destructive industries, we are rapidly losing the possibility to adapt to changes. Sweden is now officially aiming to become the mining center of Europe. There is simply very little regard for our ties to the land, our human rights, and for sustainability.” Wait! What? This does not sound as the Sweden as I got to know it. Isn’t Sweden the country that aims to become climate sustainable? Wasn’t it all over my facebook a few months ago that Sweden attempts to be the first fossil-free country of the World? Something before 2020? This sounded extremely contradictory. Even my Swedish roommate Oskar, who usually has an answer or opinion ready on almost everything, seemed surprised. So in the end I wasn’t going alone to the lecture, Oskar was joining too.


Sami: One people in four countries. Map of Sápmi in 2007.
Click to enlarge. Copyright Nordiska Museet.

In my opinion the lecture was really, really great. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know before, to me Josefina’s presentation was not only educative but also personal, informative and sometimes slightly shocking. Of course I won’t be able to write about everything she told. The good news is that if you are EXTREMELY interested, the whole lecture was filmed and is accessible to anyone. Therefore I’ve included it into my post, you will find it if you scroll all the way down. The other good news is that I did take a lot of notes, so in case you don’t feel like watching the whole lecture, but made it this far reading, you can just keep reading a little more about it.

“We are not stuck in the 1800’s. We don’t like to be treated as if we’re stuck in the 1800’s.”

There are a lot of prejudice about Sami people, such as every Sami being a reindeer herder. However, only 10% of the Swedish Sami are active as reindeer herders. Another issue Josefina adressed was the following: “We are not stuck in the 1800’s. We don’t like to be treated as if we’re stuck in the 1800’s.” Fair point well made, I believe. Let’s jump to some facts. There are currently between 20.000 and 60.000 Sami people living in Sweden. About 75% of them are still able to live in their traditional areas. Note: Traditional land is really important to the Sami people, they have very strong personal and cultural ties to the lands, that go back many generations. The Sami are one people divided over four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. They used to live much further South in Sweden, but have been pushed North. When it comes to land rights, according to this presentation, the Sami are not in a great position. The Sami people have no right to decide and/or exercise influence over land, water and natural resources. The Sami Parliament – which represents the Sami people – is not considered and affected party(only reindeer herding districts). The Sami people have no right to a part of the profit earned by companies exploiting traditional Sami land.

“We want to fight climate change. But we want to do it together.”

Sweden has a lot of sustainable ambitions. One of them includes building a lot of windmills as part of becoming fossil free. However, many of these windmills are built in the Sami lands. Without the Sami having any say in where they will be built. The Sami people want to have input in these matters, the Sami Parliament wants the Swedish government to talk to each other about such things. Josefina put it nicely together, saying “We want to fight climate change. But we want to do it together.” One issue she does not know whether talk will be able to result in a solution is the mining. Mining in Sweden is mainly done for iron ore(I had some trouble realizing what this translates to in my own language, but maybe you remember it also from the Settlers game?) and takes place in large numbers. Sweden is responsible for 98% of the iron ore exports from Europe. The problems are that the lifespan of these mines is about eight years only and it really destroys the land. Furthermore it is very expensive to clean-up these mines afterwards and it seems that some dirty financial tricks are being played by large companies, leaving the lands ruined behind.

I could keep talking(erhm, writing) about more issues concerning the Sami for a long time, but I think this post has already kind of made my records when it comes to length. I just want to briefly summarize that what the Sami people want, or at least what the Sami parliament wants, is more responsibility when it comes to land and issues. Plus that it is really strange that Sweden isn’t teaching anything about Sami in school. Josefina sometimes encounters facing people working in the government who have sincerely no idea of who Sami are. Shame on you Sweden. I am very curious to your opinion on the matter. After all I do have the feeling I kind of heard only one side of the story. But it was a strong story, one I think deserves more attention.

Rosan

ps. For the die-hards that made it all the way down, hereby the whole presentation!

Smultronställe

Yesterday my roommate Oskar asked me if I wanted to go pick mushrooms with him. To me this is such a Swedish thing. Like, I don’t think any of my friends at home has ever asked me to go pick mushrooms together – nor do I think that any of them would be able to identify the edible ones. However going out into the forest to pick berries and mushrooms is a popular thing to do here and totally legal thanks to the ‘allemansrätten‘. This ‘every man’s rights’ gives every person the freedom to access any land as long as you don’t disturb or do any damage. You can even put your tent up wherever you fancy, but for one night only.

So yes, into the woods we went! Well prepared with a straw basket, some food and water, rain clothes and camera we made our way into the forest. The typical thing about picking mushrooms – or berries – is that you don’t want to stay on the tracks. The further you go off track, the higher your chances nobody has already picked away before you. I wasn’t too fond of this idea in the beginning, but it all worked out well and I guess getting lost is quite hard nowadays as long as you have internet connection 😉

It was stunningly beautiful. Summer is coming to an end and the mosses are having all different colours. There are still a lot of berries which brighten the lower layers up with their pretty blue and red colours. And there were so many mushrooms! In all shapes, sizes and colours. I felt very grateful to be with an experienced picker as honestly it took me a while to get the hang of not mixing the poisonous and edible species. Kind of important. Turns out most of the species aren’t edible at all, or we weren’t sure enough to take them. But still really pretty to look at.

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Finding the good ‘shrooms’ needs a trained eye. You often only see a tip of a shroom. Then you start to carefully dig away the mosses around it, which often gives view on a lot more of shroom! It’s like opening a present or finding treasure – extremely satisfying. And once you find one shroom there’s almost guaranteed to be many more around you, though maybe still hidden under the moss. You have to be a bit lucky as well of course but it was really often that we shouted at each other ‘oh, look, here, even more!’ – again and again. Swedes even have a word in their language that does not translate into anything in English, but kind of means ‘secret spot’. For example a well hidden place in the forest one person likes to come back too, for example to pick mushrooms. This is called smultronställe, and happens to be the favourite Swedish word of my friend Caitlin.

When we had collected a satisfying harvest we decided on making a small fire. Building a fire is something I find pretty challenging anyway, but in a wet forest I would have had zero chances on my own. However Oskar knew several tricks and with the help of some special oily bark we soon had a cosy fireplace. We warmed some french bread and marshmallows while enjoying the beautiful spot we picked. At some point there were a lot of birds chirping around making the moment even more cheerful. After making sure the fire was out for real we started to head back. We went first to Oskar’s mother where we had a little fika while cleaning our harvest, which was really lovely.

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All together it has been a wonderful day and I think it’s a great thing about Sweden that you are so close to nature. You really can’t go far without running into a forest, haha!

Rosan