Sing in Christmas with Europe’s oldest gay choir

Did you know that Sweden has a very large number of choirs? Singing in a choir is in fact one of Swedish people’s favorite pursuits. That means that there are lots of choirs to meet various needs and interests: gospel choirs, political choirs, church choirs, integration choirs, indie choirs.

So, it’s not surprising then that the first gay choir to be established in Europe came out in Stockholm. 35 years ago to be exact, just a short time before London’s Gay Men’s chorus was founded.

As a conclusion of their 35 years’ celebrations, Stockholm’s Gay Choir is holding two Christmas concerts on Sunday 17th December at Playhouse Theater in Stockholm. Tickets can be bought via this link biljettkiosken.se/itschristmas or in the foyer an hour before the concert. Or find the choir on Facebook or their website.

Buy a ticket, support a good cause and contribute to Sweden’s diversity. And get a bit of Christmas gaiety at the same time! See you there!

100 years of Swedish actresses who conquered Hollywood

alicia and greta

It can hardly have escaped anyone’s attention that Swedish actress Alicia Wikander is currently the sweetheart of Hollywood. Receiving an Oscar, marrying film star Michael Fassbender, coupled with fantastic acting ability, grace and poise, has positioned her firmly as the actress of her generation.

As I read about Alicia, I became curious about other Swedish actresses who have conquered Hollywood. To my surprise, she is the latest in a list of Swedish actresses stretching back 100 years. I found that there was at least one Swedish actress who broke through per decade (with questionable exception of the 90’s) and who made the Transatlantic step from Nordic success to international recognition and fame.

Here’s the list,

  • 2010s – Alicia Wikander
  • 2000s – Noomi Rapace
  • 1990s – Urma Thurman (pushing it I know – she has roots in Trelleborg)
  • 1980’s – Lena Olin
  • 1970’s – Maud Adams
  • 1960’s – Ann Margret
  • 1950s – Anita Ekberg
  • 1940’s – Ingrid Bergman
  • 1930’s/20’s – Greta Garbo (dominated the 20’s and 30’s)
  • 1920’s – Sigrid Holmquist
  • 1910’s – Anna Q Nilsson 

Other internationally-famous Swedish actresses, past and present

  • Rebecca Ferguson (2010’s)
  • Sofia Helin (2010’s)
  • Malin Åkerman (2000’s)
  • Britt Ekland (1960’s)
  • Viveca Lindfors (1950’s)
  • Zarah Leander (1940’s – Europe, refused to relocate to USA)

Maybe you have a favourite that I have missed out? If so, who?

All Saints’ Day – the Swedish way 

Dressing up as witches, vampires and other ghoulish things has become increasing popular in Sweden. However, the traditional way of celebrating this time of year is much more serene and romantic. 

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 the pitch black November Nordic darkness, it is a peaceful reminder of those who have gone before us. If you happen to be in Stockholm, head for the Forest graveyard (Skogskyrkogården) for a specifically spectacular experience. 

Why are there so many gay nannies in Sweden? 

Photo: Johan Bävman 

Today was a rare Thursday. In the early afternoon, I got a moment to grab a coffee and sit in a cafe. Munching on my cardamom bun and sipping my latte, I looked around the room. Rather a large space with lots of seats. High ceilings. Modern Swedish design. And packed with people. 

A greater analysis of the demographic wasn’t really required. It was obvious from first glance that the majority of the guests were parental-leave parents – the armada of pushchairs being the biggest giveaway. 

About 50 percent of these guests were men. Bearded, beany-hatted, tattooed chillaxed dads. Trendy Swedish pappor. Taking advantage of the generous Swedish parental leave laws, these dads were enjoying their pesto pancake salads and bonding with their newborn infants. 

As I sat there I was reminded of a comment made to me some years ago by a friend visiting from Austria. After a couple of days in Sweden, observing the Swedes, she made an interesting reflection. 

She thought it was fantastic that there were so many gay nannies sitting in the cafes and patrolling the streets. 

Sweden truly is an amazing place! 

A Swedish thing, or a generational thing? 

Sitting in a restaurant yesterday beside two Swedish women in their mid 20’s. Eavesdropping on their conversation. They were talking about their employment situation. As I sat listening, I was caught between the emotions of affection and horror. 

One said ‘I don’t think employers should be able to place demands on us employees. If they keep placing demands on us, don’t they get that we won’t be happy. Then they’ll have a hard time finding staff’ 

The second woman nodded in agreement. And added ‘yeah, what if we decide we want to do something else like go to Thailand for three months? I want to be able to just go tomorrow if I feel like it.’ 

A Swedish thing, or a generational thing? 

Swedish pizza – with cabbage! 


If you want a cultural food experience in Sweden – order a pizza. When you do, you will also experience a very strange bedfellow. In Sweden, pizza is served with complimentary salad, in both restaurants and take aways. This salad is called creatively –  ‘pizza salad’ and is made of cabbage. It is a kind of coleslaw with white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and oil. It’s fresh, crispy and a bit weird. 

This odd combination is as far as I know only offered in the Nordic countries and its origin is a bit unclear. One theory is that when the first pizzerias opened in Sweden, the traditional tomato salad wasn’t an option due to the climate in the winter. So, subsequently they decided to use a more available, local vegetable – the cabbage – inspired by the Croatian salad ‘kupus salata’. 

Whatever it’s origin, the pizza salad is so ingrained in the Swedish mentality, it’s become a cultural ‘classic’.  In fact, it’s hard to imagine a pizza without cabbage salad in Sweden. 

How Swedes indoctrinate their children

tittamaxgrav

A friend of mine was visiting at the weekend with her small child, and she forgot one of her books when she left. I looked through it and was struck by how the story book reflected Swedish society and lifestyle: a picture book designed to groom children in the Swedish way.

The book is called ‘Titta Max grav’‘Look, Max’s grave!‘ – and it was first published in 1991 and written by Barbro Lindgren and Eva Eriksson. The book is a fascinating account of the life of a little boy called Max from the cradle to the grave. He is born, learns to walk and talk, gets a dog, goes to school, becomes a banker, finds a woman (unclear if they are married), has a child. But then it all goes downhill for Max. He watches too much television, so his woman gets sick of him and leaves. He gets sick, wants to consume Swedish ‘snus’ (snuff), gets sicker and eventually dies alone. And the final picture – look, Max’s grave.

The ‘simple’ story promotes many Swedish values which guide Swedish society: all children receive an education, men and women don’t have to be married to have children, women are empowered to leave useless men, everybody receives healthcare, many people die alone.

There’s nothing specifically unique about this particular book. All cultures pass on their values to their children via stories. Sometimes these are verbal stories told by grandparents as they entertain their grandchildren. Sometimes these are communicated via tv or other screens to curious minds.

Very often they are transmitted via ‘simple’ books full of pictures and easy words by parents at bedtime. But these books are actually not simple at all: they are cultural mechanisms designed to pass on values and ethics and indoctrinate children into the prevailing sense of morality.

So those of you with small children. Have you refelcted over what the stories are teaching your children? How are you indoctrinating them?