Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Swedish Rules – Mood lighting – or Who turned out the lights?

One of my current guests asked me today about the dim lighting in our house, and I realized just how acclimated to Sweden I have become.

Here in Sweden, natural light is king. Which is great for me, because typically I love natural light. I love candles and big windows and sunshine. What can be wrong with that? Well, where we live, especially this time of year, the sun shines for maybe one day a week. That makes for an awful lot of really really gray days.

With big open windows and a lot of natural light, I sometimes feel the grayness is seeping through and chipping away at my soul. Some days, I shut the blinds, turn up my fake lights, and dance around the house to some Grateful Dead to create an image of summer and green and blue skies.

If I don't have to look at the gray skies, maybe they just aren't there.

Last year at around this time, I was working out of a new office with a new set of colleagues. I walked into the kitchen for my coffeebreak (or fika). Three colleagues sat around a tiny table with one tea light in the center. The windows were letting in light, but it was gray gray gray, and it was December.

Without thinking, I switched on the light and went to get myself a glass of water.

Loud coughing from the table.

And then “Can you turn off the light, these fluorescent bulbs are terrible.”

Thus, I sat in the dark for that entire winter. Or I sat in my office, with the light on.

Because they might be terrible, but if I sat in the gray for too long, I would just doze off.

I mean, as I said before, if I lived in California, say, I'd be all about natural light all the time. But living in Sweden, I'll take my fluorescent sun lamp imitator any February day.


  1. Oh I totally know what you are talking about! Why are they always sitting around in the dark! This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I really can't stand going to someone's house and sitting around in the dark. Some of my relatives don't even HAVE any real lighting in their homes, just those little decorative window lamps! It feels so unwelcoming to me. Of course I know they feel our house is basically filled with spotlights.

    At parent night at the daycare they didn't put the lights on, just some tea candles. It was SO CREEPY to me. I felt like I was having a romantic dinner with strangers at those children's tables. So weird.

    Several years ago, in the summer, I was visiting here and we were having a big family dinner in the dining room. Every time I entered the room to set up, I turned on the light. Every time someone else stepped in, they automatically turned the light off. Every time. It was pretty funny actually.

  2. This is so interessting to hear. I just haven´t given it too much thought before but I think you are right about Swedes liking to sit in the dark. I love the natural light but I don´t spend the entire winter with only a few tea lights. I just think it is way too dark for too long here and way too much grey weather. Sure there is plenty of light in the summer but I would prefer a more even distribution of the natural light throuhout the year.

  3. This is really funny to me because right now my Swedish husband and I are living in California but in a super small studio apartment. At any time of day he will have every single light on and then I am turning them off to save on our electricity bill! He will also light the candles and leave the lights on, maybe growing up this bothered him too and now he can rebel all he wants!

  4. Interesting! Have never thought about Swedes loving the dark like that. You would think with those long, dark winter months that they would have any light they can. I don't remember having that behavior when I lived in Sweden. Something that is really odd here in the US (I think) is that Americans love to have their drapes and curtains in front of the windows so that they do not get any natural light inside. Very odd behavior I think.

  5. Too funny, the swede and I have an ongoing dispute about the drapes - I'm always closing them and he is always opening them. But sometimes I feel like I am living in a fish bowl.

  6. I loved reading this! I'm an ex-pat Swede, living in Australia with my Australian partner. He LOVES having the ceiling lights on and I HATE it. It's just not "mysigt". Everything gets so ugly in that lighting. I never ever have those lights on, ever. I especially hate it when dining, I really don't understand ppl who eat a nice dinner in a completely bright surrounding. It is a sure mood killer! I miss having candles here in Australia, there aren't many to buy and it's usually too hot anyway for tealights. I'd have 20 candles lit in any given time in my living room in Sweden!