Friday, August 28, 2009

Moving to Sweden – Finding a Job

Moving to Sweden – What to Bring
Moving to Sweden – The Swedish Language
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Place to Live
Moving to Sweden – The Metric System and You
Moving to Sweden – Getting a Cell Phone
Moving to Sweden – Getting from the Airport to Stockholm City
Moving to Sweden – The Weather
Moving to Sweden – Swedish Citizenship Test
Moving to Sweden – Public Holidays
Moving to Sweden – Culture Shock: It's the Little Things
Moving to Sweden – Making Friends
Moving to Sweden – Cost of Living
Moving to Sweden – The Laundry Room
Moving to Sweden – Marijuana
Moving to Sweden – Most Common Jobs and Salaries

The unemployment rate in Sweden tends to hover around five or six percent. Similar to the natural rate of unemployment in the US. This year has been a bit rougher. In July of 2009, according to SCB, the government agency that keeps track of absolutely everything in Sweden, the unemployment rate in Sweden was 7.9% for ages 15-74. It’s not the stuff of the Great Depression, but it’s not good.

Of course, for people between the ages of 15-24 which is the age group I recently left half a year ago the unemployment rate was 20.7%. That’s a lot of young people who are out of work and looking for jobs.

It is not easy. It’s never easy to get a job. But now it’s really not easy. And moving from a different country to Sweden just adds to the challenge.

I have been here nearly two years now. I have had three different employers. Two full-time and one part-time. I moved here with no job. I had some possibilities and managed to get myself an interview after just a week or two in the country. It even led to a job offer.

And I shot them down. Because I am picky. Never before had I felt so dirty after walking out of an interview. It was a job with a large telesales company here in Stockholm. The interviewer was your classic slimy salesman. Slicked back hair. Skinny black tie. A slight air of superiority. Strangely enough, I think I just described your average Stureplan guy. Take that for what it’s worth.

Anyway, he described their sales strategy, how they worked, earnings potential, all of that good stuff that makes an unemployed person see the cash flowing in. I walked out needing a shower. And not because I am a nervous sweaty person. I felt dirty.

I got a phone call the next day. They wanted to offer me the job. I told them I would get back to them. And I did get back to them. And said no. I still remember the response: “When I go to an interview, I already know I want the job.” Of course, he failed to remember that the employment process goes both ways. I was interviewing them in my own quiet and observant way. They failed. Just a few weeks later I had found myself a part-time job that was a hell of a lot more fun.

And a couple months after that I was employed full-time. And here’s how I did it.

I applied to every job that was remotely interesting to me and that I was remotely qualified for. I was that guy. It was the shotgun approach. Some people might not suggest this technique. Some people might say it was a waste of time. But I was unemployed. I had nothing but time.

In the end though, I took various approaches. I used the internet. A lot. I used the newspapers. A little bit. I used contacts. With varying success. And I was aggressive. With great success.

In one sense though, I had it easy. I didn’t need to apply for a residence permit. Or work permit. My Swedish passport came in handy. Recent immigration reform has made it a little bit easier to get work in Sweden. Chances are though if you are moving to Sweden from the US or really anywhere that isn’t Europe, you’ll need to apply for permits before entering the country. This is where the immigration office, Migrationsverket, earns its keep. And, despite my dislike for the actual office, Arbetsförmedligen has some good information on their website. But paperwork is overrated. And getting yourself a job offer makes it a bit easier to convince the country to let you in.

Despite the unemployment rate, the language, the moving to a different country, there are jobs out there. You just need to know where to look.

Websites:
After lots of searching, I managed to put together a list of websites that always displayed a solid number of jobs that interested me. A rotation if you will:

http://www.monster.se/ – They have a Swedish division.
http://www.manpower.se/ – One of Sweden’s larger employment websites with about 9000 jobs available as I write this.
http://www.thelocal.se/ – Just a glorious site for so many different reasons. But check out the jobs section for a wonderful listing of English speaking jobs.
http://www.workey.se/ – A job aggregator that pulls job vacancies from all over the Swedish internet.
http://www.academicwork.se/ – A site that focuses more on work for students. Often times a lot of part-time or contract work.
http://www.arbetsformedlingen.se/ – The Swedish employment agency. They list a lot of jobs. Everything from full-time positions to au pair positions.

Of course, there are plenty of other options to choose from. Some are job agencies that will try to place you. There are the newspapers websites like Dagens Nyheter (http://www.dn.se/) or Svenska Dagbladet (http://www.svd.se/) where you can look for jobs.

If your Swedish struggles but you’re determined to find a job, you’re going to be starting from behind the eight ball. A bad place to start. Especially because some of these sites might not have an English version. So a quick tip. If you don’t speak Swedish you need to play up the languages you do know. Type in “English” into the search bar to get all kinds of jobs that value English skills.

And if you’re really feeling old school you can look in a physical newspaper. Since you’re unemployed, check Metro, the free newspaper on Tuesdays and Thursdays for job listings.

Arbetsförmedligen:
Arbetsförmedligen is essentially the Swedish unemployment agency. You might think it would be a good place to go if you’re unemployed. It’s not something I really like to reminisce over. Mostly because the first, and only, time I went there I was disgusted by the attitude and level of service. My understanding, before moving to Sweden, was that Arbetsförmedligen was there to help people find a job. Turns out I was wrong.

I traipsed on over there just a few days after landing in Sweden. I filled in my contact information, my CV, the usual. Then I had a question. So I went asked the lovely middle aged woman if she could help me. She answered my question with a question of her own. Which Coach Smith always hated. And now I always notice. What made it worse was her question was so disheartening. She asked if I would be applying for unemployment money. No. No, I wanted a job. Her response, just go to the website. Everything is online. Unless you need money, the actual Arbetsförmedligen office won’t be of much use.

All that being said, I have heard a good story. Once.

Their website does have some good information on getting jobs in Sweden and have plenty of jobs offered.

I tried other techniques though.

Contacts:
I talked to everyone I knew. Which, considering I had just moved to the country, didn’t take too long. I was networking if you will. Everyone says networking is the way to go. Contacts are the ones who get you a job. And sometimes this is true. I’ve been on the receiving end of networked jobs. Just not in Sweden.

That’s not to say it won’t work. There’s the classic networking approach. Family. Friends. Ex-co-workers. Current employers that may have an office in Sweden. Ex-pats.

Then there are the social networks. Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Facebook has grown exponentially since I moved here just two years ago. Twitter is blowing up. And more and more people are joining the Swedish network on LinkedIn. There’s even a new networking site called SwedenInTouch at www.swedenintouch.se/.

Cold Applications:
Finally, the most effective technique. I looked for companies and organizations I was interested in. Then I scoured their website for contact information to individuals. Preferably whoever was in charge of hiring or marketing. And I e-mailed them. I went the aggressive route. I sent over my CV and cover letter immediately. The cold call approach to job hunting.

Here’s the deal with this though, you need to be damn specific. You need to have some idea as to what you can offer them. And if it’s something that a lot of people might not be able to offer, even better. Scour their website. Google news alert the company.

This is how I ended up with a part-time job just after having landed in the country. It’s how I ended up with a full-time job just a few months later. It works. But it takes a lot of work. Luckily, you don’t have any other work to do.

In the end, searching for a job is probably one of the worst processes out there. Followed closely by a swift kick to the groin. Usually I didn’t get any response. Not even an automated receipt of application. Nothing. I was angry. Depressed. Bored. It’s not fun. But if you have something to offer, whether it is an advanced degree or the ability to swallow swords in front of a crowd, there is a job out there. Somewhere.

Welcome to Sweden. And the job hunt.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sailing and an Inadvertent Swimming in Skärgården

I am not a sailor. A seaman if you will. Not because I don’t enjoy water, I do, but because I do not own a sail boat. It’s really that simple. Of course, this weekend would suggest that maybe that is for the better.

Saturday morning in Stockholm saw a lot of rain. Not the steady drizzle that so often mars the Swedish fall, but actual rain. The kind that leaves you wet and chilled to the bone. I was supposed to go sailing for the first time in the Stockholm archipelago. (On a side note, being a native English speaker it pains me to ask this, but, is it arch as in architect or arch as in arch?) Waking up to see the rain I called my cousin whose friend it was we were going to be sailing with. Sailing was on.

I scrambled to find waterproof gear. Looking through my closet reminded me what kind of outdoorsman I am. The kind that sticks to snow. My gear was all snowproof. Deciding that snow and water are basically siblings, I grabbed an outer shell of a ski jacket and was ready for my day.

The rain continued as we drove to Skärgården. And continued as we parked. And continued as we debated on what to do. And continued as we walked to the boat. And continued as we headed out of the harbor. And continued as we sailed. For hours on end it rained. Despite the rain life was good. The archipelago is an impressive landscape. Or seascape. Or both.

Soon it was time for lunch and the rain had started to clear. Which worked well because I love lunch. We headed to an island where we could park the boat. (I’m not sure whether you park a boat or dock a boat or what you do with a boat. Sailing terminology eludes me in both Swedish and English.) I was asked to jump out first and tie the boat down after the anchor had been thrown overboard.

The first area was deemed too steep even for my agility to navigate. So we moved along finding what looked to be a good place for me to jump ashore. And so I jumped. Only to remember that it had been raining for hours on end. And rocks rounded and smoothed by the ice age tend to become a bit slippery when wet. My feet touched down and suddenly I was clawing at whatever I could find in hopes of maintaining some semblance of dryness. I did not maintain any semblance of dryness. I slid into the water. Fully clothed. Including my jacket. And wallet. And cell phone. And camera.

It took me a couple of minutes to drag myself out of the water. Turns out that sea grass is also slippery and it was covering the rocks just below the surface of the water. Finally I pulled myself out of the water. The others made it ashore. We all laughed. Ha ha ha.

I pulled out my cell phone, took it apart, and laid it out to dry. I checked my camera. The case I use when I take it skiing seemed to have kept it dry. All in all, not too bad. And anyway, I was hungry.

Lunch was had. Conversation was had. The sun came out and started to dry what few pieces of clothing I removed without making myself completely indecent. And that’s when it happened. My cousin walked along the rocks and was suddenly screaming out in surprise. Because she was sliding. And sliding. Into the water she went. I laughed. Then realized she had slid quite a ways and I should probably check to see if she was ok. She was. So I laughed some more.

The Swedish language has a glorious word, skadeglädje, it can be found in German too, schadenfreude. Essentially taking pleasure in the pain of others. And while I wasn’t necessarily taking pleasure in the pain, I was taking pleasure in the embarrassment of others. Because now I wasn’t the only one to slide into the water.

We took some more time to try to dry off then headed back. The remainder of the trip was me shivering while trying not to look uncomfortable and ungrateful. I was a guest and we were on a boat. There just wasn’t much to be done so I tried to place myself in the sun as often as possible.

I made it home to a warm shower and some very wet personal items. I once again took my cell phone apart. I laid everything in my wallet out to dry. I even put my cell phone battery in some rice which is apparently supposed to suck out the moisture from the battery.

This morning I woke up and decided that I would check my camera for damages. Just in case. So I tried the power button. Nothing. Fair enough, the batteries were starting to get old, maybe they had just run out. So I took out the batteries. Only to notice condensation. The kind that actually drops water onto your fingers. Damn it.

Sailing was fun. Having two newly christened metal paperweights is less fun. Today all I can think of is that I should never own a sail boat. Ever.

Before I started writing this blog I never really kept track of my life. Obviously there are pictures and memories but nothing as detailed and permanent as the writing. I used to think I was a normal person. I knew I did stupid things but no more than the average person. Now I have a record of the situations I find myself in and I’m starting to wonder.

Welcome to Sweden. And inadvertent swimming.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Swedes Wear Tights. I Don’t.

I’ve been going to the gym for a few months now. While I won’t be taking advantage of the parenting benefits offered when working in Sweden, I do take advantage of the gym card I get for being a full time employee. It allows me to tone my obviously chiseled physique. Or something like that.

The gym is always an interesting place to be. I worked as a janitor at a gym back in high school. I was a Master of the Custodial Arts for three years. I know gyms. I know how nasty the showers are and how well they are cleaned. This is why I do not shower in the locker room. I go home to do that.

I also know that old men like to be naked. And Swedish old men are no exception. The difference is that since I no longer work at a gym I can leave the locker room whenever I want. As a Master of the Custodial Arts in high school though, I found myself cleaning locker rooms a lot. While old men were in various stages of undress. And when I say various stages I mean the stage where they are sitting bare ass on a bench with only a shirt on. After which they put socks on. Followed by sauntering over to the counter and mirrored area in order to throw their leg up on the counter to lotion up. No one likes scaly legs. With their moisturization needs taken care of, pants are finally put on. I think I’ve written about this before. Clearly, it has scarred me for life.

But I digress. Enough about old naked Swedish men.

I’d rather discuss inappropriately dressed Swedish people. I appreciate people working out. Making an effort. Losing weight. Getting in shape. Toning. Whatever the hell you want to call it. Well done.

However, I do not appreciate tights. We’re indoors. It’s not cold. It’s not raining. It’s not windy. You’re sure as hell not trying to shave a tenth of a second off of your 100 meter time. The bulging gut would suggest you won’t be challenging Usain Bolt anytime soon. There is no reason for the tights.

I know Nike has some of the best marketing campaigns the world has ever seen. Just do it. I know. But just because world class athletes who have spent the majority of their life training look good in tights, doesn’t mean you will. In fact, you don’t. Hell, despite my aforementioned chiseled physique, I don’t. I know this for a fact. I once dressed up as Mr. Incredible for Halloween and wore red tights. It is not an attractive look.

If anything you are making me less likely to return to the gym. Unless this is some sort of reverse psychological marketing campaign. Maybe SATS is paying you to wear tights to make me want to work out so I don’t have a gut. Whatever it is though, they aren’t paying you enough. Put on a pair of shorts. Camel toe. Moose knuckle. I don’t want to see it.

Welcome to Sweden. And tights.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

100,000 Swedish Condoms in the Town, 100,000 Swedish Condoms…

Swedes like sex. And condoms. It’s a good combination then really. Much better than unwanted babies. Or syphilis. Sweden actually sent me a condom when I turned 24. And right now there is a campaign giving out free condoms in Stockholm. Each one has an individual number. A tracking number if you will. I first overheard someone talking about this campaign a couple of weekends ago. At the Pride Parade of all places.

The campaign can be found at kondom08.nu. Kondom08.se not because they are confused and think we are still in 2008 but because Stockholmers like to refer to themselves as 08ers (in a bastardized English translation) because of the telephone code being 08 for Stockholm. It’s cute really.

Despite what I might think to be a kind of lame URL address, I quite like the campaign idea. “Vart tar 100 000 kondomer vägen i sommar?” Each person is asked to go onto the website and register their condom’s story. And there are a lot of stories. I don’t have the patience, or desire, to read through thousands of Swedish sex stories. In Swedish. Some people do. But I did glance through a few. And found a favorite. In 20 words the author (author makes it sound so much more legitimate) was able to give a whole lot of information without actually saying anything. And I loved it. So, if you’re feeling Swedish make sure to read about Kondom nummer 97079.

It doesn’t seem like there are any rules about the actual use of the condom. For example, maybe you want to make a water condom and throw it at your roommate. Or perhaps you’d like to make condom animals. I’m pretty good at making snakes. Maybe you need a bag to take your lunch cucumber to work. All reasonable uses of a numbered condom.

If you want a numbered condom you need to hustle. They are being given out at Eriksdalsbadet on the 28th and 29th. Then you only have a couple of days to use it and write your story. Stories stop being accepted on the 31st of August.

Welcome to Sweden. Where there are only 16 360 (and counting down) numbered condoms left.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

An Eventful Swedish Weekend

I have seen country music in Sweden. And it is glorious. As the immortal Alan Jackson pointed out in Eskilstuna, there are small towns everywhere in the world. And where there are small towns, country music lives strong.

It’s been a while since I saw that much flannel. That many cowboy hats. That many farm boys. It was wonderful. But not as glorious as the guy walking around with a case of Norrlands Guld, leather chaps, and a belt buckle the size of a small child. Turns out rednecks can be found the world over. Rödanackar if you will.

Last night was Midnattsloppet. A 10 kilometer run through Södermalm with over 21,000 participants. You would think that Midnattsloppet would be run at midnight. You would be wrong. Because the race started around 10 and the only people still running at midnight were the stragglers. Of course, I wasn’t running at all. I haven’t run a single step since my half marathon. And I feel surprisingly good about myself.

In fact, instead of running, I headed over to a friend's and watched a bit of the race from the comfort of their apartment. It was an impressive showing of people crossing as thousands of green t-shirts congregated just past the finish line. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought I was at an opposition rally in Iran (as the horribly blurry picture can attest to). But I was not.
Trying to be a responsible young man and get home at a halfway decent time I left just after midnight. I wanted to catch my bus home. But first, to further contrast the athletic endeavor that I had just borne witness to, I stopped at McDonalds. I wanted a caramel sundae. Obviously. With my caramel sundae in hand I headed to my bus stop.

The busses I take to get home have a bit of a gap in the schedule later in the evening. I’m still learning the bus schedule but have a decent idea as to when everything leaves. But decent only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Or something like that. Because I arrived at my bus stop to see that I had 45 minutes until my bus left. It seems that I had landed right in the bus schedule gap. Awesome.

There is another bus stop near my apartment if I am willing to walk. And at 12:30 in the morning I am willing to walk a bit if it saves me 45 minutes. So off to the other bus stop. This one was leaving in half an hour. Awesome. Again.

I am an impatient person. Instead of sitting at the bus stop having my nose assaulted by the smell of beer and urine I started walking. There was no way I was going to make it home faster than the bus, but I could at least move up a couple of bus stops. Despite the rain I had convinced myself that this was a good idea. Despite me wearing shorts. Despite me only having a hoody on.

So I started walking. Plenty of Swedish sidewalks are set up so that rather than the bike lane being on the street with the cars, they are on the sidewalk with the walking lane away from the street and the bike lane closest to the street. So I parked myself in the walking lane, because I was walking. I was as far away from the street as I could be. And then a taxi went flying by driving the opposite direction of me. Suddenly, I tasted the mix of motor oil, dirt, and fresh rain water. Which is not a pleasant flavor. My face was covered in water. The right side of my body was dripping wet. I had been splashed. Clearly patience is, in fact, a virtue.

So on I went, shaking my head in amusement. I was walking home at 1 in the morning. Sober. In the rain. Having just been splashed by a taxi. Taxi Stockholm in case you were wondering. Please tell me these things happen to other people.

Welcome to Sweden. And weekend adventures.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mean People Read Liza Marklund

Today I was on the blue line headed away from Stockholm. In general the blue line heading away from town is somewhat immigrant heavy. Rinkeby is on the blue line for example.

I tell you this only to set the scene. I am, for all intents and purposes, an immigrant to this country. However I blend in a bit better. Sometimes at least. Today I had a light blue collared shirt on and halfway tight jeans. So I’m basically a local. And I’m white. In certain suburbs of Stockholm this becomes very noticeable.

I was sitting on the subway lost in the wonderful world of American sports brought to me by my podcasts. The girl kitty corner to me, in her early twenties, was lost in a Liza Marklund book. Because I judge you by the books you read I take notice of this sort of thing. On a completely unrelated note, she did not have any sort of earphones in. This is important.

A tall, slim, black man walked over to my area. He did not have a light blue collared shirt on nor was he wearing halfway tight jeans. So he didn’t fit in. And he wasn’t white. I may have mentioned that.

He glanced over at me, took note of my earphones and instead turned to the girl reading. Remember, no earphones. He said excuse me. In impeccable English. No response. He said it again. No response. At all. Instead it was the nervous look straight ahead and concentrate really hard and maybe he will go away. If I can’t see his eyes he can’t see me. If I don’t move he won’t know I’m here. I’m pretty sure that only works with a T-Rex.

There were really only two options as to why this girl would have completely ignored a perfectly reasonable and understandable question. The girl was deaf and had horrible peripheral vision meaning that she neither heard the man nor saw him out of the corner of her eye. Or she was just incredibly rude.

After the second excuse me I took my earphones out and asked him if I could help him. This is not necessarily because I am a nice guy, although I am, but because I have some semblance of politeness. And the ability to maneuver myself through a social interaction every now and again. I blame my parents completely for this.

Turns out the guy was a bit turned around. He knew where he wanted to go and which stop he was supposed to get off at, but wasn’t sure which stop we had just passed. It was a simple question to answer, especially with the help of a handy subway map posted on the inside of the subway cars.

At this point I had walked up to the guy and pointed out the previous station on the map. Always good to add some visuals when giving directions. When I got up I noticed that suddenly the Liza Marklund fan seemed very intent on listening in. Which would suggest she was not, in fact, deaf. Having eliminated her deafness, the peripheral vision just wasn’t important anymore. This led me to only one logical conclusion. She was mean.

After an interaction that lasted maybe 30 seconds, the man thanked me and returned to his seat explaining to his buddy on the way that they only had one more stop left. It was that easy.

I have written about the shy nature of Swedes. I have written about immigration in Sweden. I have written about the latent racism which I sometimes see pop up in Sweden. They tend to be off the cuff observations based on my experiences and the stories of others. Any evidence that I have would be anecdotal at best. But that’s the beauty of the blog really.

I don’t know if this had anything to do with any of those topics. It was an isolated incident. I know that. But that kind of coldness, whether it be shyness, fear, racism, or just a mean individual, frustrates me to no end. Smile at the person on the subway. When someone asks you a question respond. It doesn’t need to be in the affirmative but at least acknowledge their existence. It really is that easy sometimes.

Welcome to Sweden. Where mean people read Liza Marklund.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sunburns in Stockholm

It’s been a glorious weekend. One that has left me sunburned. The first time I have managed to sunburn myself in Sweden in a long while. It takes me approximately 137 seconds to burn myself back in Colorado. Whenever I leave Colorado I tend to be a bit cocky. I figure that the extra 5,000 feet away from the sun makes all the difference and I don’t need sunscreen. That’s just not true.

Yesterday, I discovered a beach in my area. And of course by beach I mean a small swath of sand the size of a basketball court. But the water was cold and the sun was shining. So I snagged a good book and lay down. The problem was the book was really good. And I didn’t put any sunscreen on, leaving me looking a nice shade of Valentine’s Day pink.

The day progressed with me sitting in Kungsträdgården watching two men play chess. For 45 minutes. This was boring beyond all words. And I know a lot of words. I can’t explain why I did it. I don’t even know how to play chess. Actually, from the pace of the game, neither did these two men. Perhaps I was suffering from a bit of sunstroke. I have no excuses otherwise. Learn from my mistakes. Never do this.

Luckily, the afternoon was saved by my stumbling upon a flash mob at Sergels torg. I am fascinated by flash mobs after having seen Stockholm Central Station freeze for April Fool’s Day in 2008 (which was much better than what I saw yesterday so you should probably click on the link. Do it. Seriously.). Some people worry about being exposed to assassins in big open spaces. Like Sergels torg. I look for a flash mob. And yesterday I found what I was looking for. Luckily no assassins.

video

In the evening I had dinner with two of my former Scandinavian Studies professors. They kindly put up with my neurotic questions and need for some semblance of control in my decisions. This was appreciated beyond all words. Again, I know a lot of words. I am constantly amazed at the kindness and generosity of my former professors. A rousing endorsement for the University of Oregon if nothing else.

It wasn’t until I had filled my belly with delicious food that I realized just how badly I had managed to sunburn myself. The itch started setting in. I have had enough sunburns to know what the itch means. The itch means that my Valentine’s Day pink had turned to Valentine’s Day red. Valentine’s Day red is not a becoming color on pale skin. Trust me.

So being the responsible and intelligent young man that I am, I decided to go for a hike and a swim today. Without sunscreen. Because what better way to treat a sunburn than with even more UV rays?

Welcome to Sweden. And melanoma.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Further Proof That My Idiocy Knows No Borders

I struggle. A lot. Sometimes more than others, but today was just not my day.

I’ve been attacked by insomnia. Having spent a lot of time in Sweden during the summers, the insomnia wasn’t horribly new to me. But it usually happens early on and fades. It’s getting darker now. Sleep should be easy.

So I’m grumpy to start with. Then I have to wake up to some sort of earthy smell in my apartment. I don’t live outside. I don’t live on a farm. Hell, I struggle to keep cacti alive. Dirt and I don’t really have a close relationship.

But that hasn’t stopped this smell. It’s been there since I moved in and it’s just getting worse. I don’t know what it is. Imagine shoving your head into a pot of soil. And sniffing. For all eternity. That’s what it’s like. Some people say they like the smell of fresh soil. Those people haven’t been forced to sniff it every waking moment in their apartment. I can’t isolate the source. I’ve scrubbed things, cleaned things, emptied things. Instead the smell just lingers.

Of course, when I bit into my peanut butter and jelly sandwich (toasted of course) and realized the bread was moldy, I thought I had solved the problem. Mold tends to stink. I had found the culprit. I had not. Instead, I had just eaten mold. Which is almost as good. This of course followed my ramen noodles exploding out the wrong end of the package and covering my floor in mini bits of noodle. You’ll notice that despite having lived in Sweden for over two years and actually having a full time white collar job, I eat like an American college student. A Swedish college student eats noodles with ketchup. Duh.

But in the end, these were just minor annoyances. Just like the old man on his motorized scooter in the bike lane honking at everyone at the bus stop because damn it they had better move. Minor annoyances. Today after work I had a less minor annoyance. Because I am an idiot.

I walked in through the door, cursing the smell I threw my stuff down in disgust in hopes of once and for all figuring out why it smelled so bad. I even sniffed the few plants I haven’t yet killed. That’s when I saw it. My fridge door was open. Suddenly the smell took a back seat to my idiocy. Who leaves the door to the fridge open for 11 hours? Me. Awesome. I wasn’t even in a hurry this morning. As a general rule I don’t close the bag of chips. I don’t close the bread sack. I do close the fridge though.

At some point I thought I would get old enough that I would be able to take care of myself. You know, not eat mold, not leave the fridge open. This is what you do when you’re five. Or 85. Not 25.

Now I have a fridge full of dairy products and condiments that will probably destroy my gut for the next few days. Because I’ll be damned if I throw anything away. If it doesn’t stink or look moldy I’ll eat it. And it turns out I’ll even eat it if it is moldy. Albeit not on purpose.

Welcome to Sweden. And learning to be an adult. At the age of 25.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Stockholm’s Pride Parade

I’m pretty sure plenty of my fellow Republican Party members would not have been watching the Pride Parade on Saturday. But remember, I am a Swedish-American Republican who votes for John McCain and gay marriage rights. Basically I’m an enigma wrapped in a mystery. A hairy mystery, but a mystery none the less.

So, after an invitation from a friend who happens to live on the parade route, I headed over and watched the Pride Parade from the fourth floor of an apartment in Söder. And it was glorious.

I saw men. Women. Men dressed as women. More topless girls than a summer’s day at a hippie commune. And while all of this obviously caught my attention, there were a few floats that stood out.

Like the military section walking through town in full uniform. And not for any sort of protection. They were participants in the parade. A bit of a change from the Clinton policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and one that I quite appreciated. Of course, in a country that still has mandatory military service (for those called); it might be a bit harder to pull a stunt like that.

The coffin marched through the streets with people in all black and duct tape over their mouth in honor of those who fought for gay rights, or just those that died because they were gay. A pretty sobering start to the parade.

Finally, the “Proud Parents” float was impressive as well. Not necessarily because of the size, or even because of the theme but because of the lack of men. It seemed that the proud parents float was more of a proud mothers float. Whether this means the dad’s weren’t proud, weren’t comfortable showing their pride, or just had something else to do, I don’t know. But the lack of fathers was impressive.

Luckily, these moments of realization were speckled with some serious spectacles. Some very stereotypical. Like YMCA being played by at least three different floats. Or a few older men in leather chaps with their beer belly hanging out. Or the impeccably toned men, apparently gym memberships are handed out to most gay men under the age of 40. And they use them. And who could forget the nearly nude girl being led around on a leash with a few perfectly placed pieces of leather covering sites better left seen in the bedroom? Not me. Unfortunately.

All in all, it was a pretty glorious day. Plenty of good food, some booze, and lots of gayness. In the old sense of the word. Obviously

For pictures head over to Sapphires blog, Lost in Stockholm. Because, well, I forgot my camera. And I'm just not much of a photographer. She on the other hand does damn good work and managed to pop out a post with the pictures titled Stockholm Pride Parade 2009: Photos. A fitting title for the post.

Welcome to Sweden. And gay pride.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

DN Galan and World Class Athletes in Stockholm Stadion

Last night I sat in a rainy and windblown Olympic stadium in Stockholm, Sweden and watched one of the fastest men in the world run one of the fastest 100 meter races ever. Tyson Gay, he of the glorious beard. One hundred meters in 9.79 seconds. Unfortunately, it didn’t count. At least it didn’t count for any official records. There was a 2.6 m/s tail wind. The maximum allowed is 2.0 m/s. Without the wind, he shattered the record at Stadion.
But I could care less. I was in Stadion, with thousands of other people, shivering in the cold watching an athletic performance like very few in history. And there was plenty more to see. I get into sports. Not in a very visible way. Instead I get nervous ticks. The legs start tapping, I lean forward, my heart rate rises. I wouldn’t be at all surprise if my pupils dilate. But, despite my boyish good looks, I try to avoid looking at mirrors while watching sports so I can’t verify this. Let’s just say though that the evening left me tapping my legs constantly, my neck sore from leaning forward straining for those few extra inches. And for what you may ask?

Well… I saw Peter Forsberg. From afar, but still. He is clearly the greatest hockey player to ever grace the world with his presence. And if you disagree, it’s obvious you eat baby seal for breakfast and I hate you anyway.

Not only did I see Peter Forsberg, but I watched him throw a hockey stick as a javelin. Which, for some reason, made me very nervous. I was afraid that he would plant and his foot would just explode, forever ending any hopes I have of the greatest hockey player heading back to Colorado and playing for the Avalanche. His foot did not explode.

I saw an American woman, Jennifer Barringer, win the 5000 meter race while wearing a Colorado track jersey, which made me pick her as my favorite if only because of the connection to Colorado.

I saw another American, Allyson Felix, break a stadium record and receive a diamond. Because that’s what they do at Stadion for DN Galan, any stadium record that is broken, you get a diamond. Ms. Felix had already broken one Stadion record a couple of years ago. This was old hat to her.

I saw an old University of Oregon athlete, Eric Mitchum, false start in the 110 meter hurdles, leaving me groaning over the entire stadium, only to watch him pull it together and finish in a respectable fourth place. Having seen him run at UO and never losing to another NCAA athlete at Hayward Field, it was a bit of a surprise not to see him out in front. Turns out the competition has improved a bit.

I saw a Swedish favorite, Mustafa Mohamed, fall in the 3000 meter Steeplechase on the last lap as he was leading with the crowd cheering him, and him alone, on. I heard the groan. Very seldom have I experienced an entire stadium's despair at the exact same moment. Last night I did.

video

But in the end, none of that mattered. Because I saw Tyson Gay run 100 meters in 9.79 seconds.

Welcome to Sweden. And world class track and field.

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