Friday, November 30, 2012

Surviving in Sweden Advent Ask-All

OK - so I know I am not the most reliable blogger - I am terrible at keeping to all sorts of things - but I am going to try for one more

In celebration of my two years as a blogger here! (Can you believe it? 2 years?) I am going to do a Surviving in Sweden advent calendar - that means one post a day, every day - for all of advent!

If you have any questions you have been dying to ask -- if there is anything you want my opinion on---send me an email or ask in the comments and I will try to make it a topic of the day. I'm going to need a few things to talk about --- and while I have some ideas, I'd love some more. So if you have anything you have been pondering lately, let me know!

Anyways 2 years of blogging has been fun! I have managed to meet some GREAT people. I have had almost 300,000 people read and almost 1000 comments! I've gotten all kinds of strange offers for advertising, and got to help out in the FVAP program.

Mostly I have just had fun finding a place to vent and think about all things Sweden, and get great feedback from people. While I certainly love when people agree with me, I learn a lot from the dissent as well --- and always enjoy a good debate (is that American of me?).

You can also vote for me to win best expat blog HERE on the expatsblog site. Or see the badge in the sidebar.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Swedish toy catalog – boys and girls CAN play with the same toys!

(Photos from Swedish Toys R Us catalog)

When I was about 9, my 7 year old brother got this crazy GI Joe helicopter toy you could send flying down the hallway hanging on a string you suctioned to the wall. GI Joe hung from the bottom and the propeller spun and made mad crazy sounds. My Barbie came with two pairs of shoes. Yeah, I was jealous. And yeah, Barbie took a few rides hanging from said helicopter, too. But, sadly, she was just too damn fat (Ok probably due to the fact that she had 6 inches on Joe, but that is not the point).

This year, Toys R Us released its Swedish kids catalogue with pictures of kids playing with reverse gender toys. Consider this the Swedish response to the Ikea catalog in the middle east controversy. Girls playing with guns, boys playing with dolls. Welcome to Sweden in 2012!

Except one thing. Little Swede and I have been thumbing through all of the catalogues that came in the mail this year. Looking at the toys. Talking about what we like. Little Swede is still 3 so doesn’t really ask for much and doesn’t get that side of things. Just enjoys looking at the toys. And what do you think our response was to this big change?

I didn’t notice.


Girl carrying a gun? Boy with a doll? Then I read about it in the paper 2 weeks later and went back to check. Yes. It was true.

See? I have been living in Sweden too long.

The American media has run with this a little bit and people are like ‘Whatevs, girls like girl toys and boys like boy toys.” Yeah. Sometimes. I really wanted Barbie dolls while at the same time coveting the GI Joe helicopter. But things aren’t so black and white. Especially not in the early years. And even in the later years for a lot of kids.

So, yes my Little Swede can wear a bright pink tutu while driving cars off of the table and laughing as they crash. And throw the baby out of the bright pink stroller and take off with it running around a friend’s apartment like it is F1 racing. Because things aren’t so black and white. And commercials don’t have to be either.

I truly believe in buying kids what they want. But do deny that they are often greatly influenced by advertisements and peer pressure and only pushed by gender drive is silly. Yes I am surprised that despite our attempts to buy mostly gender neutral toys in the beginning we definitely saw Little Swede’s preferences for certain toys that fit gender stereotypes. And so we bought what Little Swede wanted. But that doesn’t mean that just because you are born one sex, you have to prefer cars or dolls.

So good on you Toys R Us Sweden for trying something a little bit different. I don’t think it will change the world, but it certainly keeps things interesting. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Surviving SAD

It's that time of year when things are getting darker. But even worse it is just grey, grey, grey. If you get five minutes of sun it is a lifesaver.

Every year at around this time I start feeling a bit low. And then I start wondering what is going on. And I realize it is SAD. Yes, that cleverly named, silly illness otherwise known as Seasonal Affect Depression – or something – because I am too lazy to look it up (and I apologize if this is a repeat of an earlier theme -- again I'm going with blaming SAD)

Unless you have been in Sweden, or somewhere else a bit north, for any length of time,  you have no real concept of how dark the days get, or how light the summers get. And seriously, before I moved here, I did not know that NYC is on the same latitude as Madrid. I mean, it isn’t a commonly repeated factoid there.

But it is dark here. Really dark.

Here are some ways to help fight SAD. But really, the best cure? It’s the spring! If you have any thing that worked for you, let me know! I am pretty sure that most of these are just placebo effects, but every little bit helps.

1) Vitamin D – I usually take extra vitamin D during the winter, but am trying not to over do it being pregnant and all. But usually I just take massive doses and it helps a bit.

2) Fake sunlight – I tried the idea of one of those sunlamps that lights up slowly in the morning, simulating sunrise early in the morning, and it was actually quite helpful. But with the combination of strange work hours, a three year old and Pregsomnia there is really no hope that I will ever awaken by the light of the lamp. But if you don’t have such constraints, this is a nice little device.

3) Go for a walk outside – People swear by this. And I truly do feel better when I am outside. But when I come in, about 30 minutes later, the cloud of ‘meh’ comes back. This could be because we live in an apartment heated by a communal heat source, which means that our house is not that much cooler than a sauna.

4) Hibernate – This is the solution I would like to try, but sadly life gets in the way. But I guess it is just a symptom of SAD that I get the feeling that if I could just split my time between the bathtub and under the covers, I would be perfectly happy.

5) Get ready for Christmas! – OK this is one of those things that does cheer me up. Getting all the candles, lights, tree, ornaments and fanfare ready for Christmas. While it doesn’t lighten up the place, it does keep things warm and cozy. And it is fun.

Any thing I am missing?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sweden reacts to Obama victory

Needless to say Sweden was pretty happy about Obama’s win --- even the right wing Moderates expressed their joy with the selection. I overheard the following exchange on my commute to work.

3 ten year old boys sat engrossed in their smartphones discussing the virtues of Instragram, when one says:

“Hey, did you see that Obama won in the US”

“Yeah, Yeah, good huh?”

“Yeah good.”

“If it were the whole world voting he would have one easy don’t you think?”

“Yeah, that other guy wouldn’t stand a chance.”


“I have like 300 followers on Instagram…..”

And I think this conversation sums up the general reaction to the elections around here.

After Obama won the first time I remember on of my Swedish colleagues telling me “You know, for a minute there, I think even I kind of believed in the American dream. No way a minority Swede with an Arabic name could be voted into power as Prime Minister here in Sweden.”

This time the reaction was a bit more low key, but the American election is by far the only other election in the world that garners the front page of every major newspaper in Sweden. I don’t think even Denmark, Norway or Finland would have that honor.

I did get pissed listening to one morning radio that decalared “I think we should get to vote in the American election, I mean WE know more about what is going on in the US election than your average elction . .. .” Oh really? You think this is the case?

Because many Swedes think Obama is staunchly anti-death penalty and anti-gun and everything else they are anti. But in reality? Not so much. So while I am glad Swedes are knowledgable and have an opinion about the election, that doesn’t make you eligible to vote (although the US would look a lot different if you did – maybe for the better).