I just came home from the bakeries – I had to go to 2 out of the 3 bakeries in town to get what my mother had asked me to buy – a smörkrans (how to translate this? It’s a sweet, buttery bread shaped as a crown, a bit like the French/Swiss couronne or brioche but even sweeter) and rolls for Friday lunch/fika. I am very pleased because I managed to get some of the local favourites, tvebackar which are only made in Bagareboden, one of the bakeries – they are flat, quite greasy rolls – very yummy and remind me of my childhood visits to my grandparents!
What struck me about my tour of the bakeries is that they are both (I don’t know about the third) run by immigrants! So are the numerous pizzerias, cafés and corner shops in my hometown of 20,000 inhabitants. What would this town be like without the immigrants? It would probably be completely dead with lots of empty commercial spaces in the centre and everybody would have to buy their bread in the supermarkets, as well as their [frozen] pizzas. The difference between Swedes and the immigrants (I am aware that I am generalising completely here) is that we don’t have the entreprenurial drive as many immigrants have, I think that they are more willing to take risks than Swedes.
Other observations after having spent 2 weeks at home:
- In Swedish homes you can see straight in – no net curtains covering the windows! If there are net curtains, you can be pretty sure that there is an immigrant living in the apartment/house. It’s quite fun actually to go for a walk in the evening and you can spy on people and to see how their homes look like. It usually looks really cosy, lots of plants and small lamps in the windows, people getting on with their lives inside. In a month’s time, the windows will all be filled with stars and fake candles that lit up – for christmas, it’s usually not done in a tacky way – just simple white lights.
- Old people ride bikes! I have just left a city where you don’t see a lot of people at all on bikes, Brussels… I think in this respect Brussels is very much like southern Europe where cycling is a sport, not a means of transport, unlike northern Europe (The Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia) where people will take the bike to work, drop off their kids on their way etc. I can’t even imagining O’s mother riding a bike! Unfortunately my mother is not cycling anymore, since she was hit by a car when cycling to work just before last christmas and broke her leg very badly. In Sweden you will even see old people cycling – they might not go very fast but they do it!
- Ikea is full on a Tuesday evening – I was surprised! In Belgium Ikea is packed with people on Saturdays (closed on Sundays), but if you go after work during the week you will be almost the only customer.
- Fathers having lunch with their babies in a shopping centre – paternal leave rocks!!
- Swedish fast food chain Sibylla has a Special – hamburger/hot dog with two scoops of mashed potatoes and two scoops of what I thought looked like ice cream, but it was räksallad (prawn salad)! (I have never actually tried it)
- Both parents attend the föräldramöte (parents’ meeting with teacher) in school, not just the mother…
- The big bookshop in Lund (Gleerups/Akademibokhandeln) sells marmelade, tea and lots of cool design items (trays, mugs, towels) which they are displaying in between the books.
- People still have morning papers, even students! The morning paper arrives to your mail box between 04-06 (it had arrived when I came home from the airport at 04 in the morning almost two weeks ago). There is nothing more cosy than reading the morning paper over breakfast!
- I have mentioned it before, but there is a surprisingly big amount of dog shit on the pavements! Not at all to the extent in Brussels or France, but really, have people stopped picking up after their dogs??
- The radio was playing Last christmas by Wham the other day!! It’s only October…
- It’s cheaper to fly to Stockholm than to take the X2000 high speed train to the capital (4,5 hours) – and you can’t take a sloooow trains anymore (if you don’t take the night train which takes 6,5 hours and it’s not cheaper than the high speed train!). It’s ridiculous, it should be cheaper to travel by train, full stop!
I was quite surprised or even shocked today in the second bakery when I was trying to open the door while holding my purchases in my two hands – the man behind me almost flew to the door and asked “can I help you?”. A Swedish man offering to open the door for a woman?!! Wow, I didn’t expect that!