Sunday, October 26, 2014



It's been a while since I last blogged (almost 2 months ago!) but I've been busy since I landed in California. I spent the first three weeks helping my parents move houses and spent the last four weeks starting off my third year at UCSB! While everything has been very exciting, I haven't had the time to sit down and write my last few blog posts. It might take a while, but my goal is to get at least 1-2 more blog posts out by the new year!

Since Gothenburg is on the southern west coast of Sweden, a bus ride to Copenhagen only takes four hours - making it perfect for a day trip! So Alex, my fellow intern, and I decided to go on August 30th (ages ago) and spent a slightly rainy, sometimes sunny, day in Copenhagen.

One of the first things we saw in Copenhagen was people swimming in this canal. I'm still not sure what the race was for, but we saw well over a hundred swimmers. It is really cool to see so many canals/rivers/public water spaces in the Scandinavia that are clean enough for people to swim in, even in capitol cities like Stockholm and Copenhagen! 

Then we accidentally ended up in front of the Royal Palace in Copenhagen. It was huge! While things in America are often bigger, we don't have any official palaces to compete with those I saw across Europe.

After seeing the palace, we walked through the shopping district of the city and even saw a Disney Store! It was really cool seeing so many brands that I recognized, but I had to stop myself from shopping since I had a weight limit for my luggage on the trip back to the states. 

This little cafe had the best chicken sandwich I've ever had! The chicken was cooked perfectly and the sauce on top was slightly creamy and absolutely delicious. I can't remember what the name of the cafe was - but part of the fun of traveling is finding new places to eat, even if they are good or bad. 

I had a random mission when I was in Copenhagen - I have a teacher from high school who collects Rice Krispie boxes from other countries. I knew she already had a box from Sweden and Norway, so I decided to get her a box from Denmark. I went to three grocery stores before I found it and then put the box in my backpack. Trouble was that it rained a bit later that day and the box was a little water-damaged when I got back to Sweden. Luckily it made for a good story, and it turns out that my teacher was in Copenhagen that same summer and went to three grocery stores, and still didn't end up finding a box of Rice Krispies! 

It turns out there was a Gay Pride festival in Copenhagen the weekend we visited. Below are some pictures from the Gay Pride parade. It was so cool so see so much support for the LGBTQ community and people in the parade looked like they were having so much fun! People on the floats were tossing out fliers and other random stuff and each float had their own theme and music playing. 

Our next stop was to visit Old Town Carlsberg where we got to see the Elephant Gate! The Carlsberg Brewery was founded in 1847 which was the same year this gate was completed. There was a lot of cool artistic looking buildings on this part of the city. 

Our last stop before catching the bus home was Trivoli Gardens! This enchanting park is the world's second oldest amusement park and its surprisingly close to the train station, making it the perfect last stop!  

Trivoli Gardens is known for it's amazing restaurants. We decided to visit Wagamama where I had this delicious spicy curry. I would definitely recommend the food here since everything is made fresh to order and delivered to to you as soon as it's made!  

This park was just magical! It was really cool to see some amusement park rides mixed in with some old style restaurants and carnival booths. I actually went on the spinning ride (pictured 3 pictures above) and got a great view of the city! When I saw this palace lit up at the end of the night, I really wished I was a fairy tale princess so I could live in a place this pretty! 

The day trip to Copenhagen was really fun, but it's crazy to realize it's been about two months since I've left Europe. I have plans for most likely two more blog posts - one about Gothenburg (one of the best cities everrr) and one about my life back in California post-Sweden (I presented some of the research I did in Sweden at a conference last weekend!). So I have some really exciting things I want to talk about, but I'll just have to post them when I can squeeze in some free time between classes and work! 

Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Let's Talk Swedish Culture

Hej hej!

I leave Sweden in 4 days - that's less than a week! Being the procrastinator that I am, a have jammed a lot of things to do this week and therefore won't have the proper time to write blog posts about the adventures I've had over the past two weeks. Never fear - I promise I will write them when I land in sunny California!

For now, I'd like to talk about some cultural differences I've noticed between Sweden and America. Please note that these are entirely based on my experiences and do not reflect how everyone in Sweden or America acts!

1) Differences in English
Alright, to be fair, the majority of Swedish people learn Swedish first and then learn English at school, I believe starting at 10 years old. However, most kids learn English before that because American cartoons and TV shows are popular (to be honest, that is one of the ways I picked up English when I was younger).

"restroom" vs. "toilet" - I remember when I was on the train on my very first day and asked if they had a bathroom, the conductor looked at me and was like "we have a toilet". Not too crazy, but took a while for my ears to get used to since in America we tend to avoid using the word "toilet".

knock knock jokes gone wrong - Today at lunch someone reminded me of one of my first few weeks here. We were all sitting in the fika room exchanging jokes and I decided to do a classic knock knock joke.

Me: knock knock
My mentor: Who's there?
Me: Boo
My mentor: Who's Boo?

I simply lost it - I was laughing so hard because I couldn't finish the already corny joke just because he answered me incorrectly. So when I explained it, he said "Boo who?" and I said "Don't cry, it's just a joke" and we all had a half-hearted laugh. When my co-worker reminded me of this at work today, it took me a while to remember how the joke had gone wrong, and I was laughing so hard at the memory. I then had to explain the joke to the rest of my co-workers which was just precious. I really am going to miss working at Chalmers.

A Mixture of British and American English - What happens when a country learns British English at schools, watches American TV shows, and speak Swedish as their native tongue? They speak this adorable combination of Swedish English which I really enjoy - the accent is light enough to understand and the mixture of British and American English keeps things interesting.

I'm going to miss being the resident expert on the English language. It was cool to explain some grammar rules that took me years to learn to other people who were struggling with them as well.

2) Expenses
People warned me, Europe is expensive. But I'll be honest, I never realized how cheap things are in America compared to European countries! We really take for granted how inexpensive clothing and food is in our fine nation. Groceries haven't been too much more expensive, but eating out here is significantly more costly in Sweden (and Europe in general). In Sweden, a cup of coffee costs about twice what I am used to paying in Starbucks and it is because employees get paid more here. It works out because everyone can afford to live here (maybe not super extravagantly), if they have a full-time job (from what I understand). Anyways, I've been fortunate enough to have a great internship through UCSB's MRL program (details here) that covered housing, flight, and gave me a stipend for living expenses. The stipend was enough to cover groceries and other needs, but I did pay quite a bit to be able to travel around Europe while I got the chance.

3) Giving Compliments and Swedish Shyness
To people living in the states, I'm fairly sure we have all heard at some point "cool shirt", "cute shoes!", "That is so pretty! Where did you get that?" by not only our friends, but strangers we meet waiting in line for groceries, walking in the park, anywhere really.

I took this for granted - I didn't realize that this quality is fairly unique to Americans, or at least isn't common in Sweden. Swedes are a bit of a shy bunch, and they wouldn't want to "make anyone uncomfortable" by complimenting them, but will comment among their close friends and say "Oh that girl had such a cute dress" or something of the sort, after the person wearing the dress has already left. Now I don't mean to say I haven't received a single compliment here, I did get compliments from some of my co-workers, but it was after we had gotten to know one another a bit.

I also missed being able to talk to random people, as crazy as that sounds. I missed standing in lines and just chatting about the weather or some sports game or anything really. It was a difficult adjustment for me to get accustomed to a much more reserved society.

4) Environmentalism
Sweden has been like living in a nation where everyone is part of the "Environmental Club" in high school. Everyone sorts their trash here into combustibles, compostables, metals, glass, papers, and plastics. This means that Swedes either recycle, compost, or burn the rest of the trash for heating. Nothing is wasted. Here is the huge trash bin divider located all over the Chalmers campus.

Also, many people bike or take public transportation to work. This has in part to do with the high gas and high taxes in purchasing a car here, but also due to making less of a carbon footprint. In grocery stores here, most people have their own reusable bags, or they have to purchase plastic or paper bags. I know California is moving towards this, which is really cool.

5) Weather
I'll admit, I'm a California girl. More specifically, I've lived in the Central Valley the majority of my life, so I'm used to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) summers. I was lucky enough to be in Sweden during one of the warmest summers they have had, but it was funny to hear people complain when it was 90 degrees F (32 degrees C), about how impossibly hot it was. In general, Swedes like to complain about the weather. If its warm, it's not windy enough. If it's cloudy, the sun should be out. It has been really nice to experience a full Swedish summer with some cold, gloomy, rainy, and windy days along with really warm, sunny days as well.

6) Vacation and Taxes
Taxes in Sweden are ranked among some of the highest in the world, but they receive a lot of social benefits because of these taxes. All Swedes are covered by health care and only pay about $15 for a standard visit to the doctor, and have spending caps on how much they pay for medication or doctor's visits before they become free. Also, the Swedish unemployment benefits are up to 80% of the previous job's income which protects those trying to find a new job. Also, Swedes receive both maternity and paternity leave that is at least a year (I believe on 80% pay) and can be longer if you decide to decrease the percentage of money you receive each month. Lastly, Swedes get anywhere from 5-7 weeks paid vacation a year. This is on top of national holidays. I can't imagine having that much time off (well besides summer vacation I suppose), but it also explains why many Swedes have seen a lot of the world through traveling. So while taxes may be a bit high, Swedes receive a lot of benefits for what they pay. It isn't a perfect system by any means, but most people seem happy with it.

Alrighty, I promise the next blog post will have more pictures!

Bye for now,

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Gothenburg Culture Festival

Hej hej!

Last week was the Gothenburg Culture Festival that is a week long event with workshops, museum exhibits, and concerts that are free to all! It started off as a week long drinking festival but in recent years they have added the culture component and made it kid-friendly as well. It was like a fair but without the barn yard animals or the dangerous looking carnival rides.

On Tuesday I went to support my house mom at her Ju-Jitsu group's presentation. After several martial art groups gave a small show, they had a "try-it-yourself" session. What I pictured below was part of their warm up routine.
That night we decided to have festival food for dinner - as posted on my food blog, this is a langos. Deep fried bread with sour cream, onions, and LOTS of cheese. It was really fatty and very filling but quite good.

On Saturday I visited the festival again starting at this cute little chocolate shop at a "Make Your Own Chocolate" workshop. I'm glad I went to this workshop because the shop was in this little plaza that reminded me of Rome (minus the statues).

Step one: Roll the fudge into a ball. I used this muscovado sugar fudge which tasted really yummy.
Step two: Dunk the fudge in chocolate.
Step three: WAIT for the fudge to dry, that's the hardest part.
Step four: Put melted chocolate on the bottom of the chocolate and add toppings. I went with sprinkles, cinnamon, and walnuts.
Step 5: Enjoy! The fudge was amazing because it just melted in your mouth when you took a bite. Very yummy chocolate.

After the chocolate workshop, I really didn't have any plans but just wanted to explore the festival.
To the left is is one of the kids activity/food stations.
Below is the Citroen booth which I learned is a French car company that is quite popular in Europe. The Citroen employee seemed surprised that I didn't know about the brand, but I just googled it, and they do not sell Citroen cars in the states. The car had plastic "air bubbles" on the doors which are supposed to prevent scratching the car in parking lots. In my opinion, it really takes away from the appearance of the car.

This is one of the many "Native Swedish" booths. The dream catchers and music made me think of Native American products back home.

Since there was free entry to some museums, I decided to check them out. I started off at the Röhsska Museet which had 6 rooms that displayed products from the 1800s-2000s in Sweden. It was a really cool exhibit and interesting to move a few decades at a time through history. I noticed that Sweden picked up some of the same "retro" styles we had in the states during the 1900s.

At the top floor of the museum was this metal collection. I thought this child riding a reindeer was really unique but I think they mislabeled this as a "Drinking Cup". I'm not quite sure how you could drink out of that.

I then visited the City Museum of Gothenburg which was really cool. I only had 45 minutes so I missed a lot of the museum, but here are some of the highlights.
This was a "Where are you from" exhibit. Basically, there were about two rooms filled with pictures, videos, and other displays of people describing either their home town or their favorite place. I wish I knew Swedish so that I could have enjoyed the exhibit more!

To the right is the remains of an old Viking ship. They also had really cool exhibits on the Norse Gods so I got to learn about Oden, Thor, and Freyja. I wonder if Norse mythology had as much relationship drama as Greek mythology (I mean Zeus had A LOT of kids).

Below are just a few pictures of this amazing exhibit called "Gothenburg from Above" by Lars Bgydenmark. It was such a cool way to look at the city! The first picture was presented in this dark room so the light from the picture seemed so real. People who can use photography as an effective form of art always impress me, so this exhibit was my favorite.

Lastly, I visited the "All World Market" to grab some dinner. There were about 20-30 booths selling fresh food, packaged food (teas, meats, jams, ect.), plants, and even British tea cup set. I decided to go with this spicy Polish (I believe) sausage which was delicious. Again, the hot dogs here never seem to have a bun big enough to fit the meat. 

I still have a lot of Gothenburg left to explore, but I can't believe I only have two weeks left in Europe. Once I finish exploring the city a bit more, I think I'll be more than ready to go home and back to UCSB!

Bye for now,