Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First I'd like to thank the academy....

First off I want to thank Saltistjejen for giving me my first ever blog award. It's the Liebster award for blogs with under 200 followers. Thanks so much!

If you understand Swedish you should check her blog out - it's all about a Swede settling in NYC. It's fun to see her cultural observations from the other side of things. Reading her blog makes me homesick and reminds me of why I love New York City so much.

I hope you don't think I am a spoiled sport by not following the Liebster rule and passing the award on to 5 blogs. I was that little girl who was always totally disappointed when I sent my chain letter out to my friends and never received 300 postcards in return. After too many burns, I gave up on forwarding these types of things.

Although I know this isn't really that kind of thing, I'm going to hold on to my award because I love it and don't want to share!

Even if I don't share my award I do recommend you check out these blogs if you have a chance:

Antropologa - A blog about an American woman settling in Sweden. She just had her second child and she blogs about raising her family here.

Swedishfreak -  She is currently stranded in America, but hopes to get back to Sweden, which she calls home, shortly. Send her a bit of support!

Lost in Stockholm - A great site, with the classic guide to Swedish Men which cannot be missed. - She lives in the small town of Weed and blogs about her life as a Swede in the US. It's in Swedish but Google translate helps.

Megalagom is new to the blogging about Sweden game - so pop over and say Hi!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Vabbing It - or Sucking on the Teat of the Nanny State Again

Today I had a long list of things to do for work, but last night Little Swede woke up about 10 times and he only does that when he doesn't feel well. Sure enough, when I took him down to breakfast, he was a wreck. The snot was everywhere. And he insisted on having peanut butter (See that American in him?) until he went blue in the face, instead of his musli and yogurt. I know you are probably thinking - its just a toddler phase, but really Little Swede is generally pretty relaxed and easy going, a mood like this means he is not feeling well.

For the past week Little Swede has been fighting a cold, but he's also been chanting 'Play Play Play' so we have taken him to school. But today he is home.

And I am taking VAB out for a test drive.

What is VAB? Vab is when the Swedish government pays you to stay home with your sick kid. Seriously. I get 80% of my salary today for playing 'bilencar' which involves looking at pictures of cars and shouting their names, and eating popcorn while watching the Life series Mammal episode and fast forwarding through the violent bits.

My American friends usually take one of their own sick days when their kids are sick (most full-time employees have about 10-14 sick days per year with full pay, which they can take as they wish) or they call a family member in desperation. Here you call the State Insurance and report that you are staying home today with your Little One. I am not sure, but will soon find out, if you still have to also include a signed letter from the daycare center saying your child has not attended. 

Strangly enough, it can be more beneficial to an employee to have a sick kid than to be sick themselves. If you are sick, you have to take one day without pay before you can collect sick benefits.  But with VAB you get your money from day one. 

That said, now that Little Swede is napping I'm trying my damndest to give myself a break and not dive into the mountain of things waiting for me. I am, after all, being paid to watch my son, not to work. And this is where that American/Swedish internal conflict roars its evil head. Am I supposed to just sit here and do nothing? Well there is always laundry/dishes/etc to do....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Swedes – Hard at work or hardly working?

It's a sentiment I hear a lot from people who have just moved to Sweden, or gotten their first Swedish job – 'Between the coffee breaks, the meetings, and leaving by 5 every day, how does anything get done?'

And that is when they put it nicely. Other words like lazy, uninterested, and slow have come up in certain conversations with unhappy expats.

So what's the deal? Is Sweden a country of not-so-hard workers? Is that why the hospitals close for the summer? Why most pharmacies shut down by 6 (Duane Reade where ARE you)? Even some companies shut down their entire production line for weeks due to employee vacations?

As someone who is very not-a-type-A personality, even I struggle with the 'take it easy – you shouldn't stress' attitude. My retired neighbor always yells at me to 'slow down' as I am racing out the door to meet a client. I would LOVE to slow down, but if I am meeting with a Senior Manager at a large company, I don't want to be late.

So what is the truth about the situation? Are Swedes lazy? Is work just a way to pass the time before they get to hang out at home?

Most Swedes will tell you they are far more effective during the 8 hours they are at work than any American could possibly be after 10 hours at the office. No one could possibly work well on little sleep, being stuck in a cubicle all day, and working non-stop.

Sometimes I have a hard time swallowing this argument. I know a lot of people that work damn hard and get a lot done in their 10 – 12 hour workdays. But I do wonder if these companies might benefit more if people did slow down and go home at 5, even if the work wasn't done. Happy, healthy employees who like the company they work for are an asset for the long-term.

But considering the amount of flack unionized automakers are getting in the current economic climate, workers with padded benefits like longer vacations, dental plans and great health insurance, I don't think we will see a change there soon.

On the other side of things, more and more Swedish white collar workers are taking their jobs home with them, answering emails and making phone calls after hours, catching up while on the commute to work. Things are changing, you just have to look for the subtleties. But I really hope Sweden doesn't become much more like America when it comes to work habits.

I have gotten a bit spoiled. I mean, really, if you had a choice, which one would you opt for, non-stop work and little time for a life or a comfortable work-life balance?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Keep the Christ in Oh For Christ's Sake

I know I've been an absent blogger, but I had to make a last minute trip to the wild lands of New Jersey, just after Christmas. But now I am back in business.

So as I was driving around the beautifully bountiful suburbs I noticed signs on lawns and bumper stickers on cars (both the ultimate American suburban form of self-expression offline) adorned with 'Keep the Christ in Christmas.'

Now, while I do understand that sometimes Christmas feels like Santamas, the anger this year seem to be aimed at all of those well-wishers who say 'Happy Holidays,' instead of Merry Christmas. If you are in Sweden this might seem new to you, but when you are from a culturally diverse area such as the suburbs of New Jersey, sometimes it is a lot easier to say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year. (I would LOVE to be able to just say 'Good continuation...' but we don't have that sentiment).

Anyways, apparently some people don't take too kindly to being wished a Happy Holiday. This is some how insulting to their sense of Christ, since we all know Happy Holiday is PC code for Merry Christmas.

Whatever. Maybe I was just wishing you a Happy Holiday. Maybe I couldn't read your ethnicity. Seriously, if you believe in Christ and celebrate his birthday, why does it matter what I say or do not say to you. I DO NOT GET IT!

Now let us look at Sweden. Sweden is where most of the people I know self-identify as card carrying atheists and non-believers. Sweden is where I went to a church children's group because it was the only music class that wasn't full in town where the clergywoman told us that the virgin birth story was crazy talk and the resurrection, well, it wasn't really a miracle it could probably be explained by physics.

Here, in this peoplehaveforsakenGod land, everyone and their mother will wish you a Merry Christmas. God Jul is hung from all the signs in the shops. Your boss will wish you one as will your neighbors. Ok it is true, Swedes took the Christ out of Christmas centuries ago by calling it Jul instead of Christmas, but God Jul is still the same sentiment isn't it? Or are Europeans automatically damned due to linguistics. Should we be saying God Christjul or Joyeux Nochristel?