161 years old today!

If Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf was alive today, she would be celebrating her 161st birthday.

Born 20 November 1858, Selma Lagerlöf was a Swedish author, publishing her first novel, ‘Gösta Berling’s Saga’, at the age of 33. She is considered to be one of Sweden’s most significant writers throughout history.

She was a woman of firsts. She was the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, which she was awarded in 1909.

Additionally, she was the first female to be granted a membership in The Swedish Academy in 1914 – the famous literary committee that selects the Nobel prize laureate amongst other things.

She wrote prolifically – mostly novels, religious texts and short stories. Other than ‘Gösta Björlings Saga’, her most famous works are probably ‘Jerusalem’, ‘The Treasure’ and ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgersson’. The latter has been translated into over 30 languages.

Selma was a politically active woman – involved as a speaker for the Swedish Suffragette movement, and herself living in a controversial same sex relationship. She was also a vocal anti-nazi.

The house where Selma Lagerlöf was born on 20 Nov 1958, grew up and later lived is today open to the public as a museum. If you’d like to visit, it’s in the county of Värmland and can be checked out at Mårbacka

20 Swedish words for rain

It feels like it has rained for ever in Stockholm. We awaken to rain, we walk in the rain, we come home in the rain, and we go to bed to the sound of the rain.

I guess the wetness is positive as it is replenishing the water magazines that have dried out, and soaking the forest beds to extinguish any lingering embers from the forest fires.

But it is so boring and a bit depressing. In English, we have lots of words for rain, with some fun ones such as drizzle, mizzle, sleet, spit and ‘ache and pain’.

So I became curious about how many Swedish words there are. Here are 20 that I found:

  1. Regn – rain
  2. Duggregn – a light rain, spit
  3. Dusk – drizzle
  4. Snöblandad regn – rain mixed with snow, sleet
  5. Hällregn – heavy rain, pouring down
  6. Ösregn – torrential rain
  7. Skyfall – sudden heavy rain, a cloud burst
  8. Skur – shower
  9. Störtregn – heavy rain, a downpour
  10. Skval – constant, uninterrupted rain
  11. Sommarregn – light, summer rain
  12. Regnby – rain shower
  13. Slagregn – heavy rain, a deluge
  14. Glopp – rain with large snow flakes in
  15. Arlaregn – refreshing morning rain
  16. Strilregn – steady rain
  17. Nederbörd – precipitation
  18. Dagsregn – precipitation
  19. Regndroppe – rain drop
  20. Rotblöta – a large amount of rain, usually in the summer

So the next time, look out of the window and see what word best describes the rain outside. It might at least give you a few seconds of distraction in this November drudge.

Sweden’s most common surnames

Surprisingly there are 9 people in Sweden who have the same surname as me. I’m very curious to know who they are.

According to the Swedish Statistics Bureau, which surnames are then the most common in Sweden? Any guesses?

Here is the latest top 10 list from 2018:

  1. Andersson
  2. Johansson
  3. Karlsson
  4. Nilsson
  5. Eriksson
  6. Larsson
  7. Olsson
  8. Persson
  9. Svensson
  10. Gustafsson

Notice a pattern?! In fact, the first name that doesn’t end in the patronymic ‘son’ is the name Lindberg which lands in 17th position.

Interestingly there are a few more ‘sons’ after that and then Lindström, Lindqvist and Lindgren are the next ones. So ‘Lind’, which is a small tree, is also very common.

The first ‘non-Swedish’ name on the list is Ali, which lands in 44th position.

If you’re interesting in knowing about your name, go to scb and check it out under ‘namnstatistik’.

What does it mean to be Swedish?

SWEDEN

I was born in the UK and I am proud to live in Sweden and I am proud, and fortunate, to have received Swedish citizenship. This is a country that, in my mind, builds on equality and solidarity. This a country that tries to do the best for its people. This is a country that stands up and does the humane thing, even in difficult circumstances. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

I try to look at the world with open eyes. Sweden, like all other countries, has its problems: an ageing population and an expensive welfare state, challenges of integration and inclusion, social problems, unrest and crime. Of course this exists. To claim these didn’t exist would be naive. And of course crime should be fought. But I truly believe that Sweden can solve these issues. And I truly believe that the way forward is the continued path of openness and solidarity. Not fear and defensiveness. Not nationalism. And not lies.

I am proud to be Swedish and live in Sweden. And I am patriotic. But being a Swede is not about eating meatballs, or herring, or chocolate balls, or flying the flag or singing the national anthem. And it is not about being blonde or blue-eyed.

What does it mean to be Swedish then (to me)?

  • Swedes take in thousands of people in their direst need
  • Swedes help people survive war and starvation
  • Swedes lead the way  in social and humanitarian issues
  • Swedes do not criminalize poverty
  • Swedes flourish in a diverse and multicultural society
  • Swedes stand up for human rights and equality between men and women
  • Swedes believe in self-fulfillment –  you can be whoever you want to be
  • Swedes respect children
  • Swedes believe in self expression and the right of free speech
  • Swedes understand the work life balance
  • Swedes cherish the environment

In my mind, this is what it is to be Swedish. These are the very things that brought me to Sweden and made me fall in love with the country and its residents.

This is my call to action. Do not buy into the lies and falsehoods that are spread about this country. Do not buy into the fearmongering of power-hungry conservative politicians. Do not buy into the nationalistic rhetoric.

On social media, on the streets and in your life, question the source of all information. Challenge racism. Do not just swallow the bullshit. And whenever you disagree, stand up and be a proud Swede!

Have no fear – the Swede is here!

November in Sweden

Probably the least fun month of the year, what do you associate with month of November? I think of:

  • Darkness
  • Cold
  • Wind
  • Netflix
  • Intense work schedule
  • Darkness
  • Take away food
  • Red wine
  • Darkness
  • Tiredness
  • Rain
  • Candles
  • Jumper
  • Bad skin
  • Thick jackets
  • Warm shoes
  • Anticipation (for the festive season)

Oh….did I mention darkness?

What do you associate with November?

Why Gothenburg is better than Stockholm

I’m currently in Sweden’s second city – Gothenburg – on the country’s west coast.

Home to 600,000 people, Gothenburg isn’t huge but the rivalry towards Stockholm seems to be. So out of curiosity I googled ‘what’s so good about Gothenburg‘ and I stumbled upon an article entitled ‘10 reasons why you should visit Gothenburg over Stockholm.

These are the reasons it cited. What do you think? Is there truth in it? Is Gothenburg better?

  • It’s cheaper
  • It’s less crowded
  • It’s closer to the continent
  • Better seafood
  • A better theme park
  • Better independent cafes
  • Better football
  • The music scene
  • The Way Out West festival
  • The people are nicer

If you’d like to read the article, here’s the link:

10 reasons to visit Gothenburg over Stockholm

Swedish Saints, Souls and shimmering cemeteries

Swiping through social media channels, it’s clear to see that dressing up as witches, vampires and other ghoulish things has become increasing popular in Sweden. Halloween parties are scheduled, not just on the 31st October, but at any time over the few weeks at the end of October and beginning of November.

I’m casting no shade over the masquerade, but personally I am much more enchanted by the traditional Swedish way of celebrating this time of year – it is so serene and reflective.

In Sweden, the first Saturday in November is All Saints’ Day – not necessarily November 1st as in most other countries. In 1983, the Sunday after All Saints’ Day was given the official name All Souls’ Day to separate between the saints and the dead.

Since the 1800’s Swedes have, during this weekend, made pilgrimage to graveyards up and down the country to decorate the graves with candle light.

It is a beautiful experience to walk through the churchyards this weekend. In pitch black November, it is a shimmering reminder of those who have gone before us. Individual graves blink in the Nordic darkness, and memory groves blaze with the collective light of hundreds of flames.

If you are in Sweden today, go to a cemetery. If you happen to be in Stockholm, head for the Forest graveyard (Skogskyrkogården) for a specifically spectacular experience.