30 August, 2009

Working for the man...

...albeit, a very little man.

These are the kids I am working as a nanny with, here in Stockholm.

Kind of like American kids, in how they totally zone out in front of Dora the Explorer.

The big one is 6 and in school. The little girl is 3 1/2, and the baby is a little more than a year, and they both go to daycare (which is free in Sweden.) They all speak great English, and I'm learning a little more Swedish through them, too. Mostly when they start crying in Swedish because they are hungry, which is supremely pathetic and adorable.

27 August, 2009

Banking in Sweden

Its meant for Swedes. They don't have English translations of anything banking related. Its confusing.
We opened a bank account a few days after receiving our personnummers (that took about a week and a half, after first being rejected for putting the wrong address on the paperwork!)
We went first to Handelsbank, which is a block from our new apt. They didn't want to open an account for us, even though we had all of the paperwork they said they required, because we did not have a Swedish ID card. The ironic thing is that it has been the Swedish banks that issue ID cards for the longest time. We were even told that we could probably get one at Handels! Whatever. No arguing, we left.
And opened an account at Nordea, a half block further down. They had no problem with our paperwork or American IDs, and we got all our stuff on the spot! Including the wierdest little card reader ever:

(I blurred out my card numbers because I don't know who really reads this blog. Välj funktion just means choose a function)

It is how you make online transactions with Nordea. You slide your card in, type in the website's unique code for your session, then your PIN, then it spits out another unique code that you type into your bank's website. THEN you can see your balances, pay bills, transfer funds, etc. Every time you bank online.
Anyway, we haven't gotten hit with any fees yet, but I have been told you get charged a monthly fee for having a debit card, for paying bills online, for existing as a customer basically. Great. Oddly, our account is called a "CheckIn" account, which confused me the first time I heard it. This country (maybe every European country?) does not do checks.

Now I just need to fill this account up! Ha. We have to pay a few thousand kronor to get our stuff through customs and delivered to our new apt (yay!!) so it'll all be eaten up soon enough.

Pics from our trip to the archipelago

Stu getting artsy with the water

Pretty sea

This is where everyone else jumped in, after boiling in the sauna for a while. I didn't.
Call me chicken.


Stuga in the background, SSE students in the foreground.

24 August, 2009

Mascara is expensive

The exchange rate is in the toilet. At least as far as we are concerned, considering we are living off of our American savings. When we first started planning our move to Stockholm back in April, the rate was about 8.5 kronor per dollar. It meant the rent for our bigger, better Swedish apartment in a great neighborhood was the same as the mortgage on our DC condo. Fine by us! But the exchange rate has fallen steadily since its height in March, and is now hovering at 7 kronor per US dollar. It doesn't sound like that catastrophic of a fall, but it means that our rent is about $200 more per month than we were planning, just 5 months ago.

Aside from the exchange rate fluctuations, Stockholm doesn't seem all that much more expensive than DC.
Aside from the alcohol.
And cosmetics.
I was reading the Metro paper the other day (the free fluffy newspaper that they give out free on the subway, like the DC Express paper) and saw several ads from stores that sell cosmetics. They all advertised mascaras that ranged from 95:- to 165:-, and that is on sale (FYI, in Swedish, its "på rea". I learned that one real quick!) The Maybelline mascara I just tossed out was about 115 kronor...that's $16!! I am cheap, so I probably paid less than $5 for it at a CVS. Had I read the ad before getting rid of the tube, I might have kept it longer! And mascara is one of the few things I am anal about keeping fresh...they say toss it after 2 or 3 months of use, which I do. With always having contact lenses and sensitive eyes, and even more since having lasik in May, it's been important in preventing eye infections. Especially since moving, as we get free health care, but eye care and dental are NOT covered by the Swedish government (which makes me think I should stop eating all this Swedish candy soon. Probably.) But I can't afford to buy $16 mascara every few months being a broke student!

I'll miss using mascara. My eyes won't look the same. And we haven't been here long enough for me to miss all that much. American chunky peanut butter, affordable beer, friends, fam.
That's where you guys come in, friends and family. Several handfuls of you have said you will come visit us in Stockholm. And we WANT you to come visit! Come stay on our couch or blow-up bed (when we get it from the other side of the country, that is.) We'll play tour guide and make you Swedish food and entertain you. And when you come, bring a jar of chunky peanut butter, a bottle of scotch (at Stus request), and a tube or two of cheap Maybelline mascara (preferably not the waterproof kind...I would have to shell out for equally expensive eye make-up remover for that stuff!)


23 August, 2009

A quick trip out to the countryside

So we've had a busy week. I'm all set at school now. Gotten to meet a whole bunch of interesting people from around the globe while attending a whirlwind of lectures and meetings. Loving it. And tomorrow we dive into the actual classes "for real".

In the mean time, we were able to take a break off to the archipelago outside of Stockholm. Anne came too, but unfortunately the first half of the weekend was a bit rainy. Once that cleared up, it was quite lovely. The weather and look of the landscape was strongly reminiscent of Maine.

Sweden has beautiful, clear/clean water. It's a great place to be.

My schedule's pretty full. Might have my head down in a book most of the time through September. Then things get fun with the move into the new place. Oh yeah. Remember our boxes that we're having shipped to Stockholm? Some how they're being shipped to Goteborg which is on the other side of the country. We'll work it out so that it actually shows up here, but it just goes to show you that a heart attack can always be around a corner. Even when you thought you had a contract that said Stockholm. Which we do. Nevertheless, I'm sure it will work out fine, once the time change and the business cycle let the Powers That Be communicate.

In the long run, not a big deal? Yes, but right now it's our burr in the shoe.

Hope your day's smoother.

19 August, 2009

Back to schoooool!

Stu starts up his program in about an hour...he is out getting a haircut (gotta look respectable for business school, and we have been in scruffy vacation mode for a month now!!)

The first week or so will be nuts, and I probably won't see him much myself. While he will have a full Monday-Friday morning schedule all semester, this first week and a half is all-day orientations, lectures, meetings, and events. Tonight, he has a banquet with the other master's students and employers. Tomorrow, after class, some cocktail & mingling time with classmates. Friday, its some scavenger hunt and class. And Saturday, we are leaving to spend the weekend out on the archipelago, camping (I think? Or it could be a cottage/stuga?)

And school starts up for me on Monday! I just found out that a space opened up in the program I applied to at Stockholm University, in the Curating Art master's programme. Stu & I had a field trip out to SU this week, and its HUGE. 50,000 students, so much bigger than University of MD, and I won't even mention tiny Mary Wash. And I was pleased to see that the Art History department shares the building with the campus library.
I have a much less busy semester schedule, with only 2 classes per week, for only 2 hours. Much more like the grad school schedule I am used to! I had a heart attack when I saw the hours in class that Stu had to commit to in business school! And for the mean time, I am working in the afternoons as a nanny with 3 kids, so we'll see how it goes. I learned yesterday that couscous is "blehbleh" (thats 1-year-old speak for icky) and that the 4-year-old wanted pasta with ketchup for dinner. Gourmet, for sure.

Swedes sunbathing outside of Handelshögskolan, Stu's new digs!

16 August, 2009

Getting in touch with a little family history

Uppsala is an old and renowned Swedish city, not far from Stockholm. It boasts the oldest university in Scandinavia (Uppsala Universitet, 1477,) the largest cathedral in Scandinavia (Uppsala domkyrka, 13th c.,) and its where my mom was born (she would probably kill me if I noted her dates.)

We took the train early in the morning on Saturday, and the only plan was 1) see the cathedral 2) see Gamla Uppsala (I betcha Stu will post about this in more detail, but in short: Gamla means Old; its an ancient site just north of the city where it is said the Norse gods lived and sacrifices took place.)

The city is very small, and good for wandering. And it was gorgeous weather. The cathedral is pretty amazing...it holds the relics of St. Birgitta and of St. Erik (who was said to have been killed after church services, and where his decapitated head rolled, a spring of water spouted.) It also holds the remains of Gustav Vasa (huge royal here!), Carolus Linnaeus, and the Swedenborg guy.

My mom (the littler one, with her sister Susanne) was baptized in the church when she was a baby, and it was fortuitous to see a baptism taking place while we were visiting. (Yes, I am slightly creepy and took a picture of it. But don't worry, it didn't come out very well.) I can only imagine how proud my mormor & morfar must have felt during the service...it is such a regal church. I don't know why the family moved from Stockholm to Uppsala. Maybe for work? My morfar was a paper chemist when they settled in the US. My grandparents have both passed away in the last few years, and mom does not remember, as she was too little. My aunt also passed away very recently, and if I were to ask my uncle, it could take 6 hours to get the whole answer out of him. And that is it for family. Aside from a great aunt living in Alingsås, Sweden. But even though I don't have the whole story, spending the day in Uppsala it felt like following my roots a little bit.

15 August, 2009

This country has freak hailstorms?

This is Stu on a bridge downtown (admittedly not the best picture of him, but I had to show how blue the sky was and how sunny and lovely it was!)

This is a lovely statue outside an entrance to Östermalmtorget T-bana. Still beautiful blue sky. As we were sitting outside for a long cafe lunch, Stu was actually getting a little sunburned.

Then these clouds start rolling in, as we lunched on the terrace of the Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern with a new friend. It was a really nice little lunch. And they were truly impressive clouds. Like Good vs. Evil kind of clouds.

Then there was this wooshing chill and a heavy rain. I had just thought, my it's cold. And this is the hail that swooped in after the clouds. These were peanut M&M-sized hail.

After about ten minutes or so of roaring & pouring, it just turned back into rain. Then even that softened up. The suddenness was one to almost leave you second guessing. Did I really see that? But we had evidence, and assured each other that we had seen it. I imagine it would've been weird for someone coming out from the indoors just seeing the ice without seeing the show. Oh, and it's high of 68, low of 52. On August 13th. Sorry for those of you sweltering in the heat, but just think of the implications for winter...

Today it's back up to 71.

13 August, 2009

The Homeland

So, yesterday we went to the Mother of All IKEAs. Yup.

The flagship store in Kungens Kurva, Skärholmen. It's massive.

We'd been warned:Never Go To IKEA on Saturday. It's apparently a very bad idea. So heeding that advice we went early on Wednesday to stand inline at the tax office. Ha! It wasn't that long this time around, so we got cocky and chatted with a friend in a cafe, for two hours. By the time we got to the bus it was no longer "early".

Now, a cultural note for those of you playing at home, Swedes are renowned for their ability to wait patiently in line. It's the national sport. Like running marathons for Kenya. You can't out-wait a Swede. You take your paper ticket and you wait. We've now waited two different times at the tax office which is never "fun" dealing with bureaucracy. But at least it's more efficient. It's like the DMV... in IKEA. It's weird. All this is to say, the one time I haven't seen an orderly line was getting on to the FREE BUS to IKEA. Then it was every Swede for themselves, I can't say I blame them. But I couldn't keep a hold of Anne's hand with the pushing. I managed to get us one seat. I wouldn't say I was shoved exactly, but as Ron Burgundy would say "I had to keep my head on a swivel" There might have been a trident, I really couldn't say...

It was only about 18km outside of town. So a quick 20 minute ride. But a quick ride with Anne sitting on my lap and crammed into the very back of the bus. Plus, I wasn't sure if it was the jostling of the back of the busy, or the heat, or the Little Mexican I picked up the McD's that had me feeling as though I might lose my lunch. (*The Little Mexican is a small cheese burger with picante sauce. Tastes like taco bell in a hamburger bun. It's the special, limited-edition European McD offering you don't get in the US. Yeah, I can tell you're jealous...)

In any case, we got there and I just wanted to sit down... if only there was a couch. Holy Moses were there couches. After an enjoyable meal at the cafe (I had the salmon, Anne kept it real with the Swedish Meatballs) stomachs were settled and we tried out a few of the rooms. The main show room is a 4 story column, about the size Hirshhorn but with a solid middle section as well. It's big.

And it was incredible. Really, they're brilliant. Did you know IKEA had clothes? Not a lot mind you. And toothbrushes? Soap. Books on design. Don't even get me started on the closet organization. We managed to get out with only spending a hundred bucks. But it took some doing. And of course we'll be back. We'll bide our time. Once we're in the new place. It's all just a matter of time. But the first bus ride's free. (and the next, and the next) It's gonna be dangerous.

Oh, and we stood at the very front of the bus. Much better option.

12 August, 2009

Eat this!

Kaffe och princesstårta. Go find this (Ikea has got to have them) and eat them. So friggin good.

11 August, 2009

By the Hammer of Thor!

So. I love being in the land of the vikings. Hauling a very Norwegian last name around all my life kind of required that I own it. In fact, when I was a silly teenager, Nordic was code for my particular brand of Thor-foolery.

Anyway, strangely enough. I was also from a young age very interested in mythology. (My mom's story is that a 3rd grade teacher of mine didn't even know that 3rd graders knew the word mythology. But my other interest at the library was psychology... In third grade, true story.)

So, being a kid with a fascination for mythology I some how particularly loved Norse Sagas. And here I was looking up at a statue of Thor. He's the badass of Norse mythology. Kind of the Heracles of the North. But with lightning. Very heavy metal, I'm sure.

What's in a name? I heard a psychology report that two kids were named Winner & Loser. Yeah. As first names. And sure enough Winner went on to succeed in life, and well, Loser struggled. (*not true, I got the association backwards, see the link & comments)

How sad! So, I've got a little bit of Thor in my name, and a lot of Norwegian. For an American, who's a mis-mash mutt anyway, why would that matter more than English, or German... Is it more interesting? More defineing, like the Scottish? They say we need to think well of our fore-bearers. And American's forebearers are farther removed...

Anyway, I liked the statue. And we'll travel to where Anne's mom was born this week. I'll let you know if I recieve a flash from above.

Vasa museet

We did our first touristy activity yesterday, in going to the Vasa Museum. Its on the little island of Djurgården (which has a ton of museums and green space...really very cute!)

The boat was built to be the biggest, most expensive / extravagant, most heavily armed ship in the kings fleet in 1628. Much like the Titanic, it sunk on its maiden voyage. Unlike the Titanic, which got pretty far out there before ramming that iceberg, the Vasa sunk before even getting out of the Stockholm Harbor. August 10, 1628.
Apparently, it was a big embarrassment, and people tried to forget about it. Until they pulled it up in the 1960s. The museum really did a great job of integrating so many aspects of the ship and Swedens history in thoughtful and attractive exhibit areas. We spent almost 3 hours in there, but could have spent several more (if we hadnt been starving!)

Those are teeny people down there, so you can see the scale.

10 August, 2009


That literally translates to child girl, or nanny. And I think I might be one soon.
I have been sending my CV to any library or archives or museum job in Stockholm that I am remotely qualified for, since May! I also didn't think I had a work permit (and said so on my applications) but at the Skatteverket last week, I was told I can work!

I have a better advantage now that I am IN Stockholm, and have a local address (and today, will have a local phone number.) I have also been applying to jobs that require English, since my Swedish is on the level of a 4 year old. If even.

I had a "job interview" yesterday to work with a Swedish family as the nanny. And I can start next week, if I decide to take it! They have 3 cute kids, a toddler, a 4 year old (who speaks more languages than I do) and a 6 year old. Its not many hours...just part-time, 16 hours a week. And its not much money (but hey, its kroner, and the exchange rate keeps getting worse for us!)

It'd be a great gig if I got into school. It'd be a great part-time job to do while I looked for other work. But if I didn't get into school, and I was offered a job in a museum or library, I would feel terrible leaving the family in a lurch. Should I take it?

08 August, 2009


So, we went by the Stockholm City Library the other day. It's fantastic of course. You don't need us to do the architectural review, it's known.

But it's really, really impressive!

(Oops, this is Stu, not Anne)

One of the things that was most striking was how the open floor plan really did invite the participation in reading the books. You just want to pour through the stacks and stacks of shelved texts.

Also, the Swedes have developed their own classification system. You could easily see where you were going and what you would find there. Yes, yes. There are fancy computers to do your searching, but I'm a browser. (I'm the same way about shopping at the grocery store. No lists for me. And the thought of internet grocery delivery... repulsive.)

Anyway, I liked it. And I live around the corner, so I can see it being a new home of sorts. And I checked out Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on E's recommendation. It's a thriller set in and around Stockholm. A little light reading before the heavy load.

Some pictures of our walk last night....

06 August, 2009


We have 4 boxes of milk in our narrow little Swedish fridge right now. We didn't plan to have 4 open boxes of dairy products within 3 days of moving here (after all, it is the "rötmånad," so everything is bound to go bad.) Its just that all their dairy products seem to be packaged and labeled in the same way, as to confuse poor, uneducated foreigners like us.

We thought we were buying whole milk for coffee. We bought a box of yogurt, and a box of Mellanfil, as it seemed like it was right in the middle, and looked like all the other dairy boxes (all the milk products are in boxes like parmalat, but they are refrigerated.) Wednesday morning, I poured it in my coffee, and managed to drink one swig of the clumpy, sour crap before really noticing. Holy crap, it was gross! It might not be so bad if dressed up somehow, but it seems to be some whole milk, sour yogurt combo, like a sour kefir or something. Either way, disgusting in coffee.

We stopped by the store on the way home to buy milk that evening to replace it. Fil mjölk (full milk? Like whole milk? thats what I thought, anyway.) Stu did the same to his this morning. I just drank mine black. I had terrible jetlag anyway and couldn't get to sleep until 4am, so I needed the straight caffeine.

And on the way home tonight, we bought the most plain Mjölk look-alike we could find, no extra words or anything. I'm hoping tomorrow will go better. I've read that the Swedes have a thing for milk products, but jesus. We are eating only meusli at home for breakfast so that we don't waste all the wierd half-milk, half-yogurt things we bought.

05 August, 2009

Busy, checking out the new city!

SO, here we are.

After all this time planning for August 3rd, it's come and gone. And now we get to start experiencing life in Stockholm instead of imagining it. Reading blogs and travel tips has been interesting but nothing replaces directly seeing it for ourselves. Imagining has been like thinking a ship will sail off the end of the Earth...

We got in on the 4th. Got our bearings then went out to explore. Actually, all the reading had helped. We were able to walk from Södermalm to Gamla Stan pretty easily. And once in Gamla Stan (the Old Town) we recognized some sights!

One of the first things that took my breath away was the light. As we came upon a view of the water I could see why Stockholm vies for the name Venice of the North (sorry Amsterdam, St. Petersburg...). And even though it seems silly, I was astonished that a month and a half after midsummer it still stays light for so long. How long you might ask? At 8 in the evening if you looked out over the water and held up your index finger to the horizon (pointing up), then the sun would be balanced on your fingertip. Still a long way to go.

And yes, my logic can do the reverse. It will be DARK in the winter. No need to remind me, I think they mentioned that in a blog or two. Fast facts about our new country: It has a land mass the size of California, a population the size of New York City, at a latitude of Anchorage, Alaska.

We don't think about how far down the US is until you really look across the map and compare Europe's climate and geography.

Why is DC so hot? Because it lines up with Sicily, it's supposed to be hot. But really Sweden is warmer than it should be. Most of Northern Europe would line up with Canada, yet living in Germany growing up the winters were more mild. It's as you go inland that your run out of Gulf Stream. Thanks to the wet and moderating currents from the Atlantic, Stockholm is said to experience milder winters than the farther south Moscow. Because Moscow's farther inland.

Will any of this matter when we're freezing cold? No, cold is cold. But for now, we're enjoying a beautiful couple of days in Sweden wearing flipflops.

So we went out to Sveavägan and found a 220V power cord for the laptops. Then we wandered... And before you know it, we were up by the school! It's a lot closer than it had looked on a map. Stockholm is a very walkable city, and the buildings are really fun to look at.

We had our fika (Swedish coffee break and staple of life) up at Kafe Himlavalvet (Sky Cafe, but literally "vault of heaven") next to the Observatory Museum and had a great view of the city.

The only thing I don't love is the price of beer, which is discouraging. And we will be living across from a British Pub which serves my favorite style ale. We found round trip flights to Berlin for $12 a person, but beers here can be $10+. So, it's cheaper to fly to Germany. As wide-eyed immigrant extraordinaire, Yakov Smirnov would say, "What a country!"

We're here...

We left DC in a bit of a rush, so we were exhausted by the time we landed. Our last day was just last minute getting stuff together, cleaning up our friends house, and having lunch with my dad. When we got back to N&Ts house, with about 45 mins until our cab was coming to pick us up, we noticed that Ts car window had been smashed! Theyre not getting back to DC until Thursday, so we reported it, taped up the window, and gave the keys to a friend to deal with. What crappy timing & luck! It didnt look like much was stolen, but having to replace a drivers side window sucks...hopefully insurance covers it.

After trains & planes & automobiles, we made it to our place for the next month in Stockholm. We are staying in the Södermalm neighborhood, in an adorable little apartment close to everything. Well, I get the feeling that everywhere in the city is close to everything.

We found our livsmedelsäffaren (grocery stores) and walked through Gamla Stan http://www.old-town-stockholm.com. Holy crap, its cute! We saw a demonstration for free elections in Iran (we saw one in Georgetown in DC a few weeks ago, so that was kind of cool.) We walked through lots of lovely little parks and saw amazing churches and buildings. And water! We now live on the water! Wow.

Today, we are getting the equivalent of a social security number...our personnummer from the tax office. Then we can receive health benefits, enroll in Swedish language classes, open a bank account, etc.

More to come...