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Could it be? Has it finally come true?
It is, dear blog readers! I promised you a surprise, and I am going to deliver it today!
So what was in France but isn’t from there? What hasn’t been in America and was very busy?
*Pause for dramatic effect*
*Put in 'read more' gadget to make you get really excited*
How about my friend, Lina!
That’s right, folks! You can thank your surprise on a special friend of mine, Lina! Lina lives in Sweden, and for those of you who aren’t sure where that is, it’s in Europe next to Finland, Norway and above Denmark. You can look it up on the map. Lina has graciously agreed to do a joint blog post with me, and today we are going to be discussing Swedish and American cultures, differences and similarities. But first, Lina, I’d like you to tell a bit about yourself!
Lina: First of all I would really like to thank you, Emily, for this opportunity. I love reading and writing and I’ve also been considering to start my own blog. However I’ve never really had the courage to do it. But in this way I could have a taste of it, and perhaps I’ll start my own blog some day.
Other than reading and writing I enjoy skiing and to play video games during my spare time. I’m also interested in technology which I am currently studying at the Gymnasium. The Swedish school system differ a bit from the American, but the Gymnasium is for youths/adolescents between the age of 16-19. I’m 17 so I’ve just finished my first year and have two more to go!
As earlier mentioned, I live in Sweden together with my parents and my older sister. Our city is not that big but it isn’t small either. I suppose it’s “lagom” as we say it here, not too little and not too much.
Emily: Alrighty, thank you so much for telling us about yourself! Skiing is one of my favorite winter sports, too. :) So let’s get these questions started!
Question One: As you know, our national day, or our Independence Day, just passed. In America we celebrate this with fireworks, barbecues, everyone gets their flags out, we invite lots of friends over and it’s just overall a grand time. We honor our forefathers who founded this country and our military who have defended us. Sweden’s national day is June sixth, what do people in Sweden do to celebrate their country’s birthday?
Lina: June sixth is actually not a big event for us Swedes. June sixth was the day when Gustav Vasa was elected in 1523, but it wasn’t celebrated until 1916.
During the National day everyone is off from work. There are usually choirs to go and listen to and Swedish flags are handed out to people who visit the town. Some people gather to have a barbecue, but it’s mostly because they have the day off and it’s usually warm and good weather.
Question Two: This sort of leads into the next question, about a holiday we know next to nothing about. Tell us about your Midsummer festival. Here we have no such celebration, which is a bummer because it sounds so much fun! Why is this day so important in Sweden, what exactly do you do for it, and what is the historical significance of the outfits, the songs, etc?
Lina: Midsummer is probably the biggest event here in Sweden. We celebrate it because it’s the longest day of the year, so the sun is up for almost the whole night and even in some places in the north the sun doesn’t even go down.
During this day we also have a bunch of traditions. During the day people gather at the fields where there is an “Midsommar stång”. A Midsommar stång is like a pole we make and decorate with flowers and flower crowns. We also wear flower crowns on our heads as we dance around the midsommar stång.
When we dance around the pole we sing traditional songs for this day called “Små grodorna” (little frogs), “Räven raskar över isen” (The fox walks over the ice) and “Vi äro musikanter” (We are musicians). To all these songs there are special dance moves which everybody does together.
Traditionally the evening is spent with friends and family who are gathered to have dinner and eat traditional Swedish dishes. Swedish meatballs, dill potato, crisp bread and different types of herring are some of the main courses. Some also eat the very special Swedish delicacy “surströmming”.
We usually stay up the whole night, since the sun never goes down, and play games, drink the Swedish “nubbe” and sing “nubbe” songs.
The traditional outfits were used back in the days. Each area has it’s own colours and style and today people wear them during this day for fun and for the tradition.
Emily: Oooo so pretty! I think I remember reading about this in one of our American girl books!
Question Three: Okay, let’s switch topics here for a bit. Another important thing to everyone around the world: food. Tell us some traditional Swedish dishes and which ones are your favorite! Here in the US it varies a lot from family to family, and to be quite frank, other than corn on the cob, apple pie and hotdogs or hamburgers, Americans don’t have too much in the way of traditional food. Other than barbecues. We love our barbecues. Those are the ones off the top of my head, I’m sure there are more American dishes I’m not thinking of, but in short, just like everything else, America is a mixed culture so a lot of our cuisine comes from other countries. Tell us about Swedish dishes and what makes them uniquely Swedish.
Lina: Swedish Meatballs! Haha, but really they are the best. I love to make homemade meatballs with potatoes, brown sauce and lingonberries. It’s just perfect!
There are a bunch of traditional dishes that are very common here. Those dishes we categorise as “Svensk husmanskost”, Swedish home cooking. In that category we have, of course, meatballs but also raggmunk, kroppkaka, pannbiff, fish and cloudberry waffles. There is plenty of side dishes!
Raggmunk is like a pancake made of grated potato mixed with flour and milk. Which is then fried in a pan with oil or butter, served with jam. Traditionally it is served with lingonberry and pork, but in the school’s it’s more common with jam.
Kroppkaka is a potato based dough filled with pork and onion served with lingonberry jam. Personally it’s not one of my favourite dishes since it does not always look so appetizing, but a lot of people like it.
Pannbiff however is one of my favourite traditional dishes. Pannbiff is almost like a hamburger but a bit thicker and with more onion. It’s served with mashed or boiled potatoes, sometimes pickled cucumber, brown sauce and as always, lingonberries! A good pannbiff is often made out of beef or elk meat.
Swedes also eat a lot of fish. At Christmas, Easter and midsummer herring is very popular. Salmon and cod however is eaten the year around and is also a part of the swedish “husmanskost”.
However it would be a pity to not mention the swedish “fika”. Fika is not food but it’s a big part in the Swedish culture, and something that we are very proud of. Fika is having a break with coffee and a sweet treat. It has it’s origin from back in the days when the farmers were working hard at the fields. Fika was an excuse for taking a small break with coffee and a treat to rest and get some new energy. Today fika pauses, or “ fika rast” as we say it here, are scheduled at workplaces where the workers gather in the fika room to have coffee and something to eat.
My favourite fika is cinnamon buns. They are very popular and traditional here, and we also have a special day for this treat. The cinnamon bun day!
Emily: Goodness, wow! A scheduled fika everyday? How cool is that! And those cinnamon buns look soooo good! Hmm I think this tradition should be carried on into our work places, I know a lot of work areas that could use a coffee room. ;D
Question Four: We are almost done with these questions, thank you for being so patient with us, Lina! We have lots we want to know. :) We are very curious. Alright, so here’s a random one: how would you describe the average Swedish personality? For example, when you and I talked about this previously we discussed how Americans are very open and talk to strangers freely while Swedes are more reserved and quiet. That said, Americans tend to be a bit harder to get to know, despite their outward friendliness, because while we are friendly to all we meet we often take a long time to cultivate relationships and get to know people. With that as your guide, could you describe what the norm is for Swedes and a generalized personality?
Lina: In my opinion Swedes are not very outgoing and we mostly keep to ourselves. For example if you are taking the bus there is an unwritten rule, and that is that you don’t sit down beside another person if there are other empty seats. I don’t really know why it is that way but if there is an almost empty bus and you sit down beside another person, people will look at you strange or be irritated.
On the other hand Swedish people are very friendly and do not like to fight. It’s very rare to see Swedes have an open fight or argument in public. We never want to make a scene or something big so we usually just talk about it. So I guess we are friendly peacemakers but not very talkative people.
Question Five: Alright, a bit more about yourself. What are some of your favorite activities to engage in? What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? Furthermore, what are some things Swedes in general love to do? For example, as I’m sure most of my blog readers would agree, most of us enjoy hiking, walking, getting every chance we can around horses (I’m pretty sure all of you readers love horses!), and most of us are writers and avid readers. We also love spending time with our families, siblings and friends. What about you, and Swedes in general?
Lina: I believe a lot of people enjoy outdoor activities and hiking to since we have the “allemansrätten” which allow people to go and camp almost everywhere.
In my spare time I love to spend time in the nature. To run and swim is two of my favourite activities. I also love skiing and since we usually have a lot of snow here during the winter I’m allowed to do it at least once a year.
Swedish people are in general very active and enjoy being outdoors, but to go to the gym and practise is also very popular.
Spending time with family and friends I think is also a part of the Swedish lifestyle. Most of my relatives live here in my town which allows us to gather and meet quite often.
Emily: Ohhh that’s so nice to live close to your relatives! I know for myself, personally, my relatives are spread out quite far apart, so I don’t often get to see them. Sounds like Swedes really know how to live an active lifestyle!
Question Seven: Last one, Lina! And actually this one may be entirely for myself, since I love languages: could you teach us some common phrases in Swedish and how one would say them? For example, if I were to teach someone how to say “hi” in Russian, first I’d write “privyet”, which is how it’s spelled, and then write how it was pronounced: priv-ye-it.
Any chance you could teach us some Swedish today? :)
Lina: Of course, I’d be happy to!
So first of all some basics could be useful;
Hello - Hej “hay”
Goodbye - Hejdå “hay-doh”
Yes - Ja “ya”
No - Nej “neigh”
How are you? - Hur mår du? “å” is pronounced almost as “oh”.
I’m good! - Jag mår bra!
Emily: Oh I’ve always wondered about that “å”, I could never figure out how it was pronounced! Thank you so much!
Alright, everyone, I think that wraps it up. Thank you sooo much, Lina, for joining us today! I can’t thank you enough for doing this with me. Readers, I hope you leave some nice comments for our guest writer. She’s done a fabulous job. I hope everyone learned something today about Sweden, and perhaps found that, even though we’re from entirely different countries from different time zones and climates, we often have a lot of similarities we share with people no matter where they are from.
Special blessing for Lina, for being brave and doing this with me, and the Lord bless you all, readers! Thanks for reading! Enjoy your week. :)