Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T ~ Teeth/Braces = Tandställning #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

I remember my cousin coming to visit from Sweden when I was in junior high.  She remarked (and I'll translate for you) "Wow, a LOT of kids wear braces here."  Totally true. Braces aren't as common in Sweden - not the rite of passage most American kids endure.

I never had braces.  My teeth are, if I may say so myself, well it's my blog you can't really stop me...perfectly aligned.  Neither of my boys will need braces.  The Engineer never had them either.  He has a really great smile...

There are a lot of factors that could account for this difference though, and The Swede told me to get a hold of a Swedish dentist...thanks, very let's explore this ourselves since I don't know any Swedish dentists.

Do fewer Swedish kids have braces because their teeth don't need them?

Is it because fewer Swedes put as much emphasis on having a perfect appearance as American society pushes us to have?

Are there fewer orthodontists?  Is dental care part of the socialized medicine, or is it private and therefore just as ridiculously expensive as here in America?

What do you think?  Did you have braces?
I'd also like to know what the incidence of braces is like in your country.  Yes, I'm demanding...

~Tina, who never had braces but I think the two root canals (and crowns) made up for me not contributing to orthodontia, the oral surgeons got my $$$ instead...

P.S Alex J. Cavanaugh gets the Gold Medal from yesterday's post for remembering the that summer cottage is "stuga".  Way to go Alex!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S ~ Summer Vacations #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

I find it rather ironic that on the day that I've planned to write about how Swedes, and Europeans in general, are much better at just plain taking time off for family and relaxing, I've done everything but that. 

For fact checking this time around, I wanted a more varied Scandinavian perspective.  I turned to to my blogging buddy, CA Heaven, for the Norwegian scoop.   He confirmed what I remembered: The standard vacation time for the Norwegian work force is 5 weeks per year. Many people can spend their vacation when they want to, more or less.  In addition to the vacation, we have the national holidays off, such as Christmas (3 days), New Years day, Easter (3 days), workers day, 1st of May, ascension of Christ, and constitution day (17 May). I think its pretty much the same in Sweden, but the Swedes have one day less in Easter, and their constitution day is in June, as you know, svenska flaggans dag.

What I remember from visiting Sweden so many summers of my childhood, is that life really slows down in the summer.  Many Swedes take their vacations in July, and a lot of them to their summer cottage.  (Quick quiz: if you were around in 2012 learning Swedish, name the word for cottage.) (Or search for matter...there's a gold medal at stake people!)

I think we could take a lesson from Europe. Your life needs to take a time out.  Relax. Take enough time that you really decompress.  Your family needs you. 

What are vacation norms in your country? Do you use all your vacation, or do they make you take it or lose it?

~Tina, who needs a vacation, but when your job is your family and free-lance writing, um how? 

Monday, April 21, 2014

R ~ Rum Bar Cafe #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

As I've been writing this series, I've had a lot of time to contemplate the differences in Swedish and English, as languages. OK, not true.  I haven't HAD time.  I've USED time...Swedish is much more precise, as in there are more words to choose from when trying to express an idea, and therefore one has a better chance of being understood completely.

I'm dividing the "missing in English" words into two categories. One is words we don't need because those "things" don't exist in the US.

Lutefisk is one of those words.  

Well, it's debatable whether lutefisk is really needed anywhere...

There's also filmjölk (a kefir like dairy product that tastes more like buttermilk), smörgåstårta (sandwich cake, you saw one in D ~ Dill), rutkaka:

(a special cake that I've never seen anywhere in the US, it's not a pie at all).

Jantelagen, (don't think more highly of yourself than you ought), allemansrätten, (the right to go anywhere you want in Sweden), are other words which apply to Swedish but not American culture.

Then there are the words in Swedish that can't be translated into English because we don't have a word for that concept -but words that we sure could use, like lagom, which means "just about right". There's also annandags jul, which the Brits call Boxing Day, but Americans don't celebrate it.

Of course there are many more examples, but I've been told my posts are too long...

Then there are the dangerous words.  The "false friends."  I think a story is called for here:

When I was born, lo these many (48) years ago, my Amazing Aunt Risky (see nickname tab above for info about her) traveled to Sweden for the first time to help her big sister with her first baby.  She was 16.

Out for a drive, she noticed a windmill with a sign. "Rum Bar Cafe".  She probably said something along the lines of, "Oh how cool, they have a rum-bar in an old windmill!"  Of course, that's not what it meant.

Rum, pronounced with "um" from photo albUM, instead of "um" from dumb. The word means ROOM, not rum, the alcoholic beverage.  So instead of there being a bar which specialized in rum, it was a bed and breakfast where you could get a room, go to the (completely regular) bar and/or the restaurant. Cafe means casual restaurant just like it does in English, but pronounced slightly differently, however, you only have to endure one pronunciation lesson today.

So my Amazing Aunt Risky didn't get her rum, but she did pick up a few Swedish phrases while she was there that she still uses today.  "Tack för maten" - thanks for the food. "Du är så duktig!" - you're so clever/good at.  Note that it took me three English words to convey the meaning of "duktig".

How is your language structured?  Do you have a lot of specific words?  Are any of your words part of English?

~Tina, the word-nerd

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Photo credit: Lukefisk 
Photo credit: rutkaka

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q ~ Quiet! Slow Down and Relax #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

My plan for today was to write about the quiet pace of life in Sweden, versus the go-go-go over-scheduled, Day-Timer (or iPhone reminder...) needing, each kid has two sports, an instrument, three practices, two games hectic pace of life we have more of here.

However, I've been fighting with myself most of the afternoon about whether I'm going to admit that I probably have the stomach bug that The Transporter has had for five, long days...let's just say for now that I have a killer headache, my stomach feels not so happy, and I probably have a fever.

So unless I start to feel better and update this later this evening, Q will be for Quiet Please, sick blogger.

~Tina, hoping it's just exhaustion, but kinda losing the ability to keep up that charade...

Friday, April 18, 2014

P ~ Public Transportation #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

Is the public transportation in Sweden so convenient and easy to use because it needs to be, since fewer people have cars, or do fewer people have cars because there's really no need, with such a convenient, inexpensive alternative?  That's the chicken/egg question and though The Nutritionist and I discussed this at length, we didn't come to a conclusion.

What I remember most vividly about the convenience of Swedish public transportation was the ease with which I traveled from Farmor's apartment in Göteborg, to a little day-use only island in the archipelago just off the coast.

It was one system of payment, by this time reloadable, magnetic strip cards that you ran through a reader while boarding, whether you were getting on the bus outside the apartment complex, 

then a streetcar to the central bus station, 

then on another bus to the harbor, 

and finally, onto the boat to the island.

Here I am, haven't been to Sweden since the 80s, it's now 1996, and I'm no longer traveling with Farmor as my guide.  No problem.  My friend had told me where to end up, and at what time. Got myself a map the day before, figured out the best route, and off I went.

The bus ride to the harbor and the boat to the island was one fare, so as I got off the bus, I was handed a transfer slip, which I showed when I got on the boat, and there she was, saving me a seat.

Another example of the convenience of it all was the evening I went out on the town at night.  There I was, married, 31, and had never been out at night in Sweden.  Caught a bus to the same friend's house, we had dinner, then we all headed downtown to a bar with outdoor, sidewalk seating, and had one of the most pleasant evenings of my life.

Ironically, the entire conversation consisted of, wait for it, the cultural differences between the US and Sweden!  My friend's boyfriend, and their other friends, a couple, who joined us, were very interested in hearing about US culture, and since I hadn't been to Sweden as an adult, I found it wonderful to be able to talk to peers about my perceptions.

The last bus for Farmor's apartment complex left at 12:45 am, and the stop was across the street from the bar.  I actually saw the sun go down that night, as the pleasant breeze caressed our conversation, the beer flowed freely, and then my designated-driver bus took me safely home.

I would not have been able to accomplish either of those journeys here in America without spending a LOT more money, and going home a LOT earlier from the bar.  Our bus lines are hard to coordinate, there's a lot of wait if you need to transfer, and though the buses run on schedule, they sure don't run as often as the Swedish buses.  Then there's the part that I couldn't have gotten myself to a gorgeous island since Colorado is rather short on those.

If you're an American, do you use our public transportation?  If you're from another country, what's the public transportation like there?  

~Tina, remembering 11:00 pm sunsets, island breezes, and a great visit to my homeland.

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Photo credit: Bus
Photo credit: Street car
Photo credit: boat

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O ~ "Open Space" vs. Allemansrätt #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

I had not heard of the concept of "open space" until we moved to Colorado in 1983. We lived on the East Coast where one city bleeds into another with no space in between. Trees line the roads so you can't see very far. The sky is hazy with humidity.  It feels crowded, only you don't know that until you move to CO and can see forever.

That was my first impression.  Wow, I can see.  There's nothing blocking my view.  I can see the horizon.  I can see THE MOUNTAINS. Oh my gosh, I live in a postcard.  It was browner and drier than I had expected, but the view went on forever, the sky was right there, and usually blue, maybe a few puffs of cloud.  Bliss.

As I became an adult, I noticed signs.  "This Open Space bought with..."  "This is a designated Open Space, no trespassing." Um, what does open mean? Closed I guess...

Compare this to Sweden, as well as other European countries where there's a law called allemansrätt which directly translates "everyman'sright".  In Sweden, you may go ANYWHERE, including private property.  You may pick your berries, or your mushrooms ("very Swedish" activities still today).  You may tarry.  You may set up your tent.

You may pull over to the side of the road ANYWHERE and have a picnic.  You don't have to look for a designated "picnic area" with the sign with the table.  Nor do you need to worry about the sign with the table and a big, red X over it.  Find a spot, lay out your blanket, or set up your folding table and chairs.  Enjoy.

If you'd like to stay there and camp, have at it.  None of those, "No overnight parking.  No camping.  Area closes at dusk" signs.

I remember Farfar telling me about this amazing right on a summer visit, and being just astounded. However, I remembered it as any public land.  When I did my research and talked to the Swede, it's much more than that.  It's "anywhere."  So you will not find a "No Trespassing" or  "Private Property Keep Out Sign" in Sweden.  I think that's wonderful.

Sounds rather welcoming, doesn't it?  What are the laws/norms in your country?  Ever heard of this? Does your state buy "open space" and not let you into it?

~Tina, really wondering about my adopted country's policies today...

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Photo credit: Amanda Lee of House Revivals

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N ~ Not Your Business #atozchallenge

All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

If you were a true Swede, you wouldn't have a blog like mine.  I'm not "Very Swedish..." when it comes to my online life.  I don't have an online persona.  Tina is my real name.  Doesn't take much to figure out my last name.  I've told you where I live.  I've shown you pictures of my family.  I've shared embarrassing stories, my faith, my struggles, my successes, MY LIFE.

I called The Swede and asked him to speak openly about the famous Swedish reserved personality.  (We both got a chuckle out of that oxymoron.)  Remember that we're talking generalities here, because I am not your average American, I am much more outgoing and let-it-all-hang-out than most people.  There's also that spectrum of course when it comes to Swedes.

In general though, they tend to be more reserved, and keep their thoughts, problems, etc. private, maybe sharing with a best friend, but certainly not "with the world at large" or a casual friend.

This trait isn't just Swedish, it's more a northern European quality, as The Nutritionist likes to say.  It's not that they're unfriendly - a clerk in a store is just as likely to engage you in a casual conversation as is an American clerk.

If you want a good example of reserved, there's this really wonderful, quirky movie called Kitchen Stories about Norwegian bachelor farmers being observed by researchers as to their cooking habits. The main character just stops using his kitchen, and cooks in a closet over the kitchen, cutting a hole in the floor to observe the lonely observer, who is sitting in the kitchen wondering what the farmer is eating, and where...I'd call that being private.

Since this is all about privacy, and being reserved, that's all you get today.  OK, truthfully, it's not about me all of a sudden changing my personality.  I'm just out of time!

Would you say you lean more toward the quiet, keep to yourself side, or are you more let it all hang out?  Is that a cultural trait would you say, or just YOUR personality?  It's just so fun to have such an international group of readers to learn from.  I'm SO enjoying your comments.

~Tina, who will continue to just blab away about anything and everything, again tomorrow ;-)

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