Swedish culture

Tomten By Viktor Rydberg

by Keith Turner on December 6, 2013

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The last post was about the tomte.  This famous Swedish poem seen below is called Tomten by Viktor Rydberg.  It was first published in 1881. I found an English translation by Steven Michelsen.  (If you live in America or Canada and want to purchase tomten items you can check out his web-store.  He also sells a tomten poster.)  Below you will find a video of the poem being read in Swedish.

Midvinternattens köld är hård,
stjärnorna gnistra och glimma.
Alla sova i enslig gård
djupt under midnattstimma.
Månen vandrar sin tysta ban,
snön lyser vit på fur och gran,
snön lyser vit på taken.
Endast tomten är vaken

 

Deep in the grip of the midwinter cold
The stars glitter and sparkle.
All are asleep on this lonely farm,
Deep in the winter night.
The pale white moon is a wanderer,
snow gleams white on pine and fir,
snow gleams white on the roofs.
The tomte alone is awake.

 

 

Står där så grå vid ladgårdsdörr,
grå mot den vita driva,
tittar, som många vintrar förr,
upp emot månens skiva,
tittar mot skogen, där gran och fur
drar kring gården sin dunkla mur,
grubblar, fast ej det lär båta,
över en underlig gåta.

 

 

Gray, he stands by the low barn door,
Gray by the drifted snow,
Gazing, as many winters he’s gazed,
Up at the moon’s chill glow,
Then at the forest where fir and pine
Circle the farm in a dusky line,
Mulling relentlessly
A riddle that has no key.

 

 

För sin hand genom skägg och hår,
skakar huvud och hätta —
»nej, den gåtan är alltför svår,
nej, jag gissar ej detta» —
slår, som han plägar, inom kort
slika spörjande tankar bort,
går att ordna och pyssla,
går att sköta sin syssla.

 

 

Rubs his hand through 
his beard and hair,
Shakes his head and his cap.
“No, that question is much too deep,
I cannot fathom that.”
Then making his mind up in a hurry,
He shrugs away the annoying worry;
Turns at his own command,
Turns to the task at hand.

 

 

Går till visthus och redskapshus,
känner på alla låsen —
korna drömma vid månens ljus
sommardrömmar i båsen;
glömsk av sele och pisk och töm
Pålle i stallet har ock en dröm:
krubban han lutar över
fylls av doftande klöver; —

 

 

Goes to the storehouse and toolshop
doors,
Checking the locks of all,
While the cows dream on 
in the cold moon’s light,
Summer dreams in each stall.
And free of harness and whip and rein,
Even Old Pålle dreams again.
The manger he’s drowsing over
Brims with fragrant clover.

 

 

Går till stängslet för lamm och får,
ser, hur de sova där inne;
går till hönsen, där tuppen står
stolt på sin högsta pinne;
Karo i hundbots halm mår gott,
vaknar och viftar svansen smått,
Karo sin tomte känner,
de äro gode vänner.

 

 

The tomte glances at sheep and lambs
Cuddled in quiet rest.
The chickens are next, 
where the rooster roosts
High above straw filled nests.
Burrowed in straw, hearty and hale,
Karo wakens and wags his tail
As if to say, “Old friend, 
“Partners we are to the end.”

 

 

Tomten smyger sig sist att se
husbondfolket det kära,
länge och väl han märkt, att de
hålla hans flit i ära;
barnens kammar han sen på tå
nalkas att se de söta små,
ingen må det förtycka:
det är hans största lycka.

 

 

At last the tomte tiptoes in
To see how the housefolk fare.
He knows full well the strong esteem
They feel for his faithful care.
He tiptoes into the children’s beds,
Silently peers at their tousled heads.
There is no mistaking his pleasure:
These are his greatest treasure.

 

 

Så har han sett dem, far och son,
ren genom många leder
slumra som barn; men varifrån
kommo de väl hit neder?
Släkte följde på släkte snart,
blomstrade, åldrades, gick — men vart?
Gåtan, som icke låter
gissa sig, kom så åter!

 

 

Long generations has he watched
Father to son to son
Sleeping as babes. But where, he asks,
From where, from where have 
they come?
Families came, families went,
Blossomed and aged, a lifetime spent,
Then-Where? That riddle again
Unanswered in his brain!

 

 

Tomten vandrar till ladans loft:
där har han bo och fäste
högt på skullen i höets doft,
nära vid svalans näste;
nu är väl svalans boning tom,
men till våren med blad och blom
kommer hon nog tillbaka,
följd av sin näpna maka.

 

 

Slowly he turns to the barnyard loft,
His fortress, his home and rest,
High in the mow, in the fragrant hay
Near to the swallow’s nest.
The nest is empty, but in the spring
When birds mid leaves 
and blossoms sing,
And come with her tiny mate.

 

 

Då har hon alltid att kvittra om
månget ett färdeminne,
intet likväl om gåtan, som
rör sig i tomtens sinne.
Genom en springa i ladans vägg
lyser månen på gubbens skägg,
strimman på skägget blänker,
tomten grubblar och tänker.

 

 

Then will she talk of the journey tell.
Twittering to all who hear it,
But nary a hint for the question old
That stirs in the tomte’s spirit.
Now through cracks in the haymow wall
The moon lights tomte and hay and all,
Lights his beard through the chinks,
The tomte ponders and thinks.

 

 

Tyst är skogen och nejden all,
livet där ute är fruset,
blott från fjärran av forsens fall
höres helt sakta bruset.
Tomten lyssnar och, halvt i dröm,
tycker sig höra tidens ström,
undrar, varthän den skall fara,
undrar, var källan må vara.

 

 

Still is the forest and all the land,
Locked in this wintry year.
Only the distant waterfall
Whispers and sighs in his ear.
The tomte listens and, half in dream,
Thinks that he hears 
Time’s endless stream,
And wonders, where is it bound?
Where is its source to be found?

 

 

Midvinternattens köld är hård,
stjärnorna gnistra och glimma.
Alla sova i enslig gård
gott intill morgontimma.
Månen sänker sin tysta ban,
snön lyser vit på fur och gran,
snön lyser vit på taken.
Endast tomten är vaken.

 

 

Deep in the grip of the midwinter cold,
The stars glitter and sparkle.
All are asleep on this lonely farm,
Late in this winter night.
The pale white moon is a wanderer,
snow gleams white on pine and fir,
snow gleams white on the roofs.
The tomte alone is awake.

 

Tomten har kommit!

by Keith Turner on December 4, 2013

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Tomten have come.  Sweden has their own tradition of a being that brings gifts. In Swedish they are called tomte or tomten. Tomte comes from the word tomt which is a building lot or a homestead. Tomten are considered protectors of the homestead, farm animals, children, and the farm buildings. They are often described as being the size of a child but appearing as old men with beards. The tomte do not come through the chimney as Santa Clause does but enter through the front door bearing gifts. To please the tomte you must leave him a bowl of porridge with a pad of butter at Christmas eve.

Our tomte arrived last  Thursday. Usually when I come home for lunch I let Maggie and Seth out on the balcony where they hang out until I leave. Last Thursday when I opened the door to the balcony Maggie ran to the door and stopped right outside of the door. She crouched down, her fur stood up and she began to hiss. She than backed away slowly from the door and towards the bedrooms.  By Friday she determined the tomte was in the kitchen.  She still is afraid to go in the kitchen.  She was sure the tomte was hiding under the fridge or behind the kitchen door. Saturday night she determined the tomte was under our bed.

When Mona brought in the large tomte decoration (pictured above) into the house Friday night maggie had a complete meltdown.  She has since decided it is ok to walk past him. But for at least a day she would not pass him and thus avoided the living room and kitchen.  She is slowly calming down and making friends with the large tomte decoration. She has yet to make friends with the small tomte decoration (pictured to the left). Now I am sure that any number of logical reasons can be found for Maggie’s breakdown but I like the mythological.

 

Ny Gallerian i Kristianstad – (New Mall)

by Keith Turner on October 29, 2013

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I friday ny gallerian open i Kristianstad.  Det fanns en fest att fira.  Många guld, svarta och vita ballonger var befriat ochså guld konfetti.  

Last friday (phase one of) a new mall opened in Kristianstad.  There was a party to celebrate.  Many gold, black and white balloons were released, also gold confetti.

Kristianstad is a relatively small town that the mall opening was a big deal.  There was enough people wanted to check out the new mall that they had to limit the amount of people entering the mall.  It was more exciting for me to see all the people than it was the new mall. I enjoy watching people.  Watching people here is Sweden is even more enjoyable because I am also trying to better understand Swedish culture.

The first floor of the mall had a really interesting wood floor.  It looked like they had cut a few inches off the ends off of 2×4 lumber to use as flooring.  It is something I have never seen before.  The last couple of pictures are of the floor.  When I think of wood floors I think of the planks that you can buy in the store.  There was not pre-made wooden planks to use for flooring in the past and people used what was available. Seeing the wood floor in the mall got me to thinking that there is so many different ways that wood can be used for flooring and we are only limited by our imagination.  In the mall my favorite part was the wooden floor in the mall.

Mall Floor

Skräp och Återvinna – PANT

by Keith Turner on October 2, 2013

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The Swedish word PANT can be translated a pledge.  It is a pledge of money that is paid when purchasing beverages that are packaged in aluminum or plastic, excluding dairy and juice.  Aluminum cans and small plastic bottles 1 liter and under are 1KR PANT while plastic bottles larger than 1 litter are 2 KR PANT. 1KR is about $.16 U.S.D. and 2KR is about $.31 U.S.D. according to currency exchange rate for today.

In 1984 a deposit system for cans was launched and in 1994 for plastic bottles as a way to deal with little. In 2006 it became required of all importers and bottlers to comply with the deposit system. Each bottle’s or can’s bar code is recorded for tracking purposes. When a store receives the bottles or the cans they pay the PANT to Returpack. When you or I buy a beverage we pay the PANT to the the store.

The stores have special machines where the bottles and cans are returned to. The bottles or cans are placed in the hole.  The bar code is read and if it is one of the codes recorded by Returpack than it is accepted and the amount of pant to be returned shows up on the screen. If it is not a recorded bar code the can or the bottle is If I bought a can or bottle of soda in Copenhagen and brought it with me back to Kristianstad I would not be able to return it for pant or the deposit. On the other hand if I purchase a beverage that was bottled in Copenhagen and then imported into Sweden the bar code has been recorded and it can be returned for pant. 

After you have deposited all your bottles and cans you push either the green or the yellow button.  If you push the green button a receipt is printed out with the amount of money you are owed.  If you push the yellow button the money is sent to a charity.The movie below is from Returnpack that gives a more detailed explanation of the recycling process that the cans and the bottles involved in the deposit system go though.  The web site for Returnpack is http://www.pantamera.nu/en/. There is also a website dedicated to promoting deposit laws for bottles and cans.  It also has lots of facts if you would like to know more you can go to http://www.bottlebill.org/ and specifically about Sweden you can go to http://www.bottlebill.org/legislation/world/sweden.htm.

 

Skräp och Återvinna – Trash and Recycle

by Keith Turner on October 1, 2013

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So how is trash and recycling handled here in Sweden? That question has now been put to me a couple of time from Americans since I moved here. When I first arrived it all seemed rather confusing which is why I have waited so long to do this post. I would often remark that you need a P.H.D. in order to know how to deal with the trash. At first I had to ask about every thing. For the most part now I can successfully navigate around what to do with each piece of trash.

Each house hold probably has their own system but the trash is separated. We separate the trash into six different categories as follows, Burnable, food waste, plastic, newspaper, pant, and all others including other paper, batteries, lightbulbs metal etc. Burnables is really anything that does not fit into a recyclable category.  In order to not make this a long post and still provide information I am going to do a couple of blog post about trash and recycling.  Today I will focus on food waste.

All food waste is put into a small paper bag. In the housing complex where I currently live there is a large palate of paper bags for the residents to use. I have also seen the paper bags for sale at the grocery stores. If you clean out your fridge the food that you are throwing out goes into the paper bag. Or the scrap food left over on your plate after dinner also go into the paper bag. Also things like coffee grounds are placed in the paper bag. When the paper bag is full it goes into a special trash can for food waste.  The waste food is taken to the biofuel plant where it is turned into biofuel.  The biofuel is then used to power the electric/heating plant or to be used as a fuel for the public transportation busses.  There is an article in the New York Times specifically about Kristianstad titled Using Waste, Swedish City Cuts Its Fossil Fuel Use.  The Youtube video embedded below goes into greater detail about the turning the waste into biofuel.

According to Wired Sweden only sends four percent of its trash to landfills because of the efficiency of recycling.  They have managed to turn what once once an expensive problem and still is for many parts of the world into a creative solution to both protect the environment and and continue to provide services to their residents.  In a Wikipedia article on food waste a study referred to estimated that in North America that we waste 650 pounds (295 kg) of food per person per year.  Food waste thrown into landfills adds methane to the atmosphere.

Just imagine if all food waste in the United States was turned into biofuel and converted into electricity? How many coal power plants could be eliminated? The world of a greener future is before us if only our governments make that commitment to finance and build the infrastructure needed to support this greener alternative. The city of Kristianstad has already made that commitment. Stay tuned for more about trash and recycling.

Frostjättarna Kom Idag

by Keith Turner on September 27, 2013

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The Frost Giants came last night.  The only thing I knew about Frostjättarna (Frost Giants) before today was the world envisioned in Marvel comics and the movie Thor.  When I woke up today Vanim told me that the Frost Giants had come to visit last night.  In America we would say that Jack Frost has come to visit.  So today I decided to so some research about Frostjärttarna and the Nordic Mythology.
Ymir is the first giant created from the union of fire and ice.  From Ymir’s armpits were born a son and a daughter and from Ymir’s feet were born a six headed monster.  It is from these giants that the Frostjärttarna descend from.  Ymir was later killed by Odin.  Odin then used the body of Ymir to create the earth.
Jack Frost is very much a newer tradition than the Frostjärttarna.  Jack Frost seems to me to be very much part of the United States evolving mythic culture with possible roots in Russia’s father frost or possible in the Norse mythology itself.  Though Jack Frost is often seen as an elf which is quite distinct from giants also sometimes called trolls.
Vanim’s comment this morning in and of itself is not a big deal.  It is just an expression  conveying the idea that it got really cold last night.  In the United States we do something similar by referring to Jack Frost.  Though that little interaction brought to my attention that I am now living in a culture with a different mythology.  When I refer to mythology I am coming from the view that mythology is the stories that a culture tells to express its values and morality.  I see the cultural mythologies as sign post to help uncover the unspoken assumptions that make up the construction of a particular culture.
The culture mythology in America would also include the stories of our founding fathers along with Santa Clause.  How we tell them and the specific stories we choose to repeat say much about how and what we value in our democratic republic.  Sweden has its own sets of mythology.  This includes the Norse mythology along with its more current mythology connected with its socialist leaning democracy.  Knowing the Sweden’s mythologies helps me to better understand my new adopted Swedish culture.

Grattis På Födelsedagen – Happy Birthday

by Keith Turner on September 23, 2013

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Yesterday was Vanim’s birthday party.  It was a very traditional Swedish birthday party.  The party started at 5:00 p.m. so all the guest arrived by 5.  In Sweden being on time is important. It is considered rude to show up late.  I have been living in a culture, at least in Utah, where people are often late.  It is  not uncommon when having a party to have the majority of the guest show up an hour or later after the party starts.  Since moving to Sweden I better understand why Vanim is so insistent about arrive on time.

The presents are open as the guest arrive.  It is done in a manner that I would describe as rather humble in comparison to what I am accustom to.  Neither the giver nor the receiver make a big deal about the gift.   The exchange of words would be equivalent to thank you from the receiver of the gift and it is not a big deal from the giver of the gift. To me this fits very well into the Swedish character not to make a big deal over thing or to be better than others.

Dinner was served shortly after all the guests arrived.  For dinner we had köttfärsrulle and salad.  köttfärsrulle is basically seasoned hamburger rolled up in a basic pancake made of eggs, butter, milk and a few other ingredients.  If you click on the link it will take you to one of many recipes.  It is in Swedish but with the help of Google Translate you should be able to make sense of it.  It was a delicious meal made by Mona, Vanim’s mother.  My Swedish is improving but not enough to understand a recipe yet.

The first birthday party I went to smörgåstårta or sandwich cake was served for dinner.  The Huffington Post had this to say about Swedish sandwich cake: “At first, a sandwich cake looks like a regular cake, but after closer inspection you realixe that it’s not garnished with frosting, but smoked salmon, shrimp and crudite.  Reading through a recipe reveals that the frosting is not buttercream, but a mixture of creamsheese, mayonnaise and sour cream.”  The article also has picture of different sandwich cakes.

After dinner it is followed by cake and coffee.  The Swedes love their coffee.  I can not emphasize that enough, THEY LOVE THEIR COFFEE!  Vanim made a basic three layer gluten free cake he dyed black with a pink cream cheese berry frosting.  I stayed out of the kitchen when he made the cake since I tend to be a bossy back seat cook.  He did a great job without me.

A birthday party is just a birthday party, celebrating someones life.  There was not major difference between an American birthday parties that I am familiar with and a Swedish birthday parties of which I have only been to three.  The small differences though show the variances in the Swedish culture and the American culture.  As I better understand the Swedish culture it makes it easier for me to not make social mistakes by accident.

Happy Birthday Vanim!!!!!!!!!

 

Sweden Is 5th Happiest Nation

by Keith Turner on September 17, 2013

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The second world happiness report from the United Nations General Assembly was recently released.  The first report was released last year.  This year Sweden ranked number five overall in happiness.  From the introduction to this years report,”The word ‘happiness’ is not used lightly. Happiness is an aspiration of every human being, and can also be a measure of social progress. America’s founding fathers declared the inalienable right to pursue happiness. Yet are Americans, or citizens of other countries, happy? If they are not, what if anything can be done about it?” The report looked at happiness as both an emotion (how do you feel) and as an evaluation (are you happy with your life).  I think that these two reports from the United Nations show a movement away from Gross National Product as the only measure of human satisfaction.
In chapter four of the report the effects of subjective well-being were looked at in greater detail. “In doing so, we complement the evidence on the determinants of well-being by showing that human well-being also affects outcomes of interest such as health, income, and social behavior. Generally, we observe a dynamic relationship between happiness and other important aspects of our lives, with influence running in both directions.”  A growing body of research suggests that happiness has direct tangible benefits to society at large.  Happy people in general are healthier, live longer, make more money, have better social cohesion, and the list continues.
Chapter five explores this idea of “What makes people happy? Economists typically claim that the answer is higher income and consumption. Sociologists emphasize the quality of social support such as one’s network of family and friends (“social capital”). Psychologists stress the importance of personality, mental health, and an individual’s state of mind (e.g. “positive psychology” or “mindfulness”). Many moral philosophers and religious leaders have suggested that virtue is the key to happiness, an approach sometimes called virtue ethics. Of these factors, it is the ethical dimension that is most often overlooked in current discussions of well-being, and one that I explore in this highly speculative essay”.
In the chapter five essay the author brings up the point that we are often told by our governments that more economic growth will bring greater happiness and contrasts that to older philosophers who said that living a good life brought happiness.  Different moral philosophies are presented and then the author suggests four moral principles that he recommends as part of global economic ethics.  They are 1) non-violence and respect for life, 2) Justice and Solidarity, 3)Honesty and tolerance 4) Mutual esteem and partnership.
Reports like this I believe are timely and important as the world recovered from the great crash of 2008 where the economic pursuit of happiness may have gone to far at the expense of social, physiological and ethical pursuits of happiness.  Last year I just read about the report in the news papers with no thought to what it meant in practical terms.  This year I decided to actually read the report to see what it really means to be ranked 5th for Sweden or ranked 17th for the United States. A ranking is only good as a point of comparison and a starting place to make improvements.  If the happiness report becomes a “we are better than you” measure than it looses it meaning.  There are a lot of usefulness and thought provoking ideas in the report for ways to move forward to a more happy society.  I found it worth my time to take a look at it.

Svenska Kyrkans Val – Swedish Church Elections

by Keith Turner on September 16, 2013

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Sunday was the elections for the local parish council, diocese council and general synod council that direct the affairs of the Swedish church.  From the Swedish Church web site “Each of the thirteen dioceses are led by a bishop closely working together with a democratically elected diocesan board.  The Archbishop of Uppsala represents the Church of Sweden on a national an international level for the Bishops’ meeting.”  According to an article on The Local (Swedish news in English) three of the political parties participated in the elections.  In order to vote in the elections you need to be a member of the Church of Sweden, be at least 16 and living in Sweden.

 

Grocery Stores – Mataffär

by Keith Turner on September 2, 2013

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Once you get past the language differences going shopping at a grocery store in Sweden is not too different then ones in America though there are some differences.  This is not a comprehensive list of all the differences but it is some of the ones that stick out to me.

The price listed is the price you pay.  There is a tax that is paid but that is part of the price listed.  The tax is called moms which is an abbreviation for Mervärdesskatt which stands for value added tax.  In Swedish they have lots of words that in English become more than one word.  In this case that literal translation is more value tax. The current mervärdesskatt in Sweden is 25 percent.  When you look at the prices in the picture on the left you need to take into account that $1 U.S. dollar is worth about 6.5kr (Swedish Kronas).  Also the vegetables are normally sold by the kilogram with is equal to about 2.2 pounds. So the tomatoes (tomat) in the bottom right corner of the picture that are selling for 49,90 a kilogram would be cost about $3.45 a pound (that is assuming I did my math correctly)

There are two different methods for self check out.  The first one is similar to American stores where you scan your items at the register.  The other way is to pick up a scanner at the front of the store.  You can see what a typical scanner looks like in the picture on the left.  In order to have the hand held self scanner you have to have a store card.  You have to have the store card in order to get the savings I believe which is like grocery stores in the U.S. as well.  There is a bank of scanners at the front of the store.  You run your card through the reader and one of the scanners lights up.  As you buy something you scan it.  You can see exactly you have spend as it keeps a running total at the bottom of the screen.



If you buy fruit or vegetables that are sold by the kilogram then you just bring it over to the scales, select the correct item and it prints up a bar code sticker with the price that you can scann

    Eggs are not sold from a refrigerator but just places on a shelf.
In American a lot of items are packages in cans but here in Sweden a lot of items are packaged in wax lines boxes.  The pictures on either side are packages of “canned” tomatoes.  These boxes then are recycled which is a completely different post  coming in the near future.
Swedes love their caviar.  It comes it metal tubes.  When it is squeezed out it is like a paste.  To date I have tried the plain caviar and the caviar with egg and cheese.  It is a distinct flavor and you just have to try it.  I happen to like it.  I like it on a piece of buttered bread and a slice of cheese.
It is fun to see the differences.