Culture Shocks & Christmas Shopping

Since my last post I have encountered a few bizarre Swedish things I feel I should share.

For starters, the Jam .. it comes in plastic bags (as shown in the photo below). I could not resist taking a photo of these strange jello tubes. I am assuming they are refills for jam jars? But surely having glass jars is more eco friendly than buying plastic bagged jam?

Jam in a plastic bag …. So many questions

Strange swimming/gym etiquette

Secondly I joined a local Swimming pool with a gym (now contemplating a fitness blog …) The gym is great! It has everything HPNZ (High Performance New Zealand) requires for an off ice workout. However, after the gym I went to use the showers…

As a disclaimer Kiwis are conservative people in some things, like showers… unlike Europeans! I turned the corner and BAM, I was not expecting open showers with ladies not in swimsuits! In NZ we have our own little cubicles or if its an open shower space we wear swimsuits (unless you’re that 70year old hippie who has decided to be an advocate for the free the nipple movement)

Interestingly in Scandinavia (and probably all of Europe) you are required to shower prior to swimming. We don’t have that rule in NZ (which might gross out any Europeans reading this) I can understand it because it keeps pools cleaner but it also seems a little over the top …

I have also discovered the wonderful Bastu – Sauna post my gym workouts (I now sauna 6x a week! #BecomingARealSwed) You can have a dry sauna or a steamy one and my gym happens to have both available. The sauna works by heating up coals in a small wooden space, if you want a steamy sauna water is regularly poured over the coals to create steam.

I remember being in Finland and being told Scandinavian’s believed if you couldn’t be healed by a sauna or a bottle of vodka you were a dead man. Saunas are a huge part of Scandinavian culture. My host family even has one in their home. There are many health benefits associated to saunas and it can also be a very social thing to do.

But beware none European friends, these Scandinavian saunas like the showers require nothing but a towel to sit on; once you get over the shock of that, you will enjoy the experience of being steamed like salmon and dried out like herbs. It’s a wonderful way to warm up before heading out into the cold, dark day. Just don’t try and out sauna someone else if you feel you are reaching prune state don’t remain longer just because sally was there when you arrived and you don’t want to look weak by leaving before her! Trust me it doesn’t end well!

It Snowed !!!

I have also experienced the first proper dumping of snow! I love snow but New Zealand weather reports have also proven to be so inaccurate in predicting snowfall in Dunedin, I no longer get my hopes up that it will snow. I was over the moon to wake up to a proper blanket of snow last week!

I didn’t realise how much the darkness had effected me until it snowed and I felt a million times better and more awake! The white reflecting a much need light and inducing beautiful sunrises.

My host families dog Lexie (as pictured above) loves the snow even more than I do! So much so that she spent the majority of our walk shoving her face into snow mounds. I had taken a ball for her to play with but discovered it had become too cold for her to hold in her mouth, she would beg for the ball only to drop it in shock of the coldness of it.

Since it has become colder here I have learned I can’t just leave the house when I want to catch a train. The car gets covered in a layer of ice/snow and requires at least 10mins to defrost enough before a safe sized hole can be scrapped into the window, so you can drive. I wish I had a video of this but it was so cold the other day that not only was the car door frozen shut but the inside of the windscreen had a layer of ice on it! We had to use those special little scrappers to remove the ice!

Christmas Markets

Last Sunday I found myself at the Old-Town Christmas Market filled with people examining unique gifts and tasting Swedish delicacies. I wasn’t expecting it to be rows of little wooden huts with people selling their goods but it makes sense as its far too cold to just have tables under marquees, like we do at the farmers markets in NZ.

I tired glögg Swedish mulled wine (NZ up your game!) I have tried mulled wine before and really didn’t like it but Swedish mulled wine is amazing! Maybe its because you’re freezing and it’s Christmas time so it fits the vibe unlike in NZ when its summer and the last thing you want is some hot wine!

Along with the glögg I tried Gebrannte Mandeln (German cinnamon sugar almonds) These little things taste amazing! They are so good that I’m linking you a recipe I found so you can make them at home

Other delicious things I taste tested whilst preusing the markets were; cheeses, pickled fish in various flavours, cracker bread and jams. If I could have, I would have bought a jar of each thing they all tasted wonderful.

In one of the many huts there was a candle stick maker (I am sure there was also a butcher and a baker in other huts) Candles are a big deal here. Anything that produces light in these dark times is enjoyed immensely. The advent candle (shown above) is lit every day leading up to Christmas. However, you need to be careful that you don’t melt through more than one day at a time! Another popular candle tradition is to light an advent candle every Sunday of December until Christmas.

These adorable little gnome like decorations are called Nisse/Tomt. It is believed that if treated well these little people will watch over the home and bring good fortune. However, much like the elf on the shelf these gnomes are short tempered and if offended they will play tricks on the family.

After the Christmas Market we found ourselves at the Kings Gardens (located in Stockholm central). During winter they turn a section of the park into a free (if you have skates or you can pay to rent them) ice skating rink. It’s lovely to be outside skating between the beautiful old buildings. I discovered it has been such a long time since I put on skates (I gave skating up when I discovered curling). I felt so incredibly uncoordinated for the first few minutes until I figured out how to move properly and distribute my weight on each blade.

Visiting a European Christmas Market and skating outside in a central park is definitely something that should be on your travel bucket list! I’m currently creating a big bucket list for my remaining time in Sweden. I would love to know of any places or things I should do. Comment or flick me a message if you have some ideas!

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