Saturday, July 12, 2014

Swedish Summers

Summer Vacationers

They're not kidding when they say Swedes are on vacation during the summer! Salaried employees start the year with 25 days of annual leave whereas Americans earn their leave throughout the year. Most Swedes take 3 to 4 weeks of vacation during July and August. Many companies require employees to take at least 3 weeks off during that time and many places actually close down.

We're coming across more restaurants we can't check out because of their stängt (closed) signs. Our corner bakery just had a half-off closing sale because they shut down for the summer. The buses and remaining open places away from tourist areas are noticeably less crowded. It's weird that the nicer weather means there's less people around enjoying it. We still see many people in the parks and along the waterways soaking up the summer sun but it seemed like there were more people around last weekend.

I've heard many people in Stockholm have places in the country and they head out there to enjoy the weather. There's also a lot of people that travel to other countries during this time and I don't fully understand that one. The weather here is nice now with a recent high of 81F feeling very hot without any air conditioning. It's been around mid-70s on average since we got here so I don't understand the Swedes missing the few good months of the year here instead of escaping in the winter.

We plan on doing our traveling during the less desirable months so we can get away from a dreary winter. That's our plan at least even though the first thing we're working on booking is the Ice Hotel near the Arctic circle in Sweden. It looks like the rest of Europe picks now to swarm Swedish tourist spots and museums so maybe we'll save some of those local places for later in the year.

Dolly Parton

I see various concert posters at the T-bana stations and from those we went to the Dolly Parton concert Friday night. My wife grew up listening to her so it was a real treat for her. We were in the nosebleed seats after buying them the week before the concert. We'll have to keep our eye on other concerts that come through here so that's another good thing about this post. Dolly was surprised by everyone singing along to one of her songs and joked that it was beautiful even with their funny accents. I guess she doesn't know that pretty much everyone here speaks very good English.

 I Will Always Love You finale

Go-Karts and Wandering Town

We went to SMC Go-Kart and had fun driving fast. We realized it may be our only driving experience for awhile unless we decide to rent a car to drive around. If we get a little rusty with our driving skills we could go back to the go-karts and then we'd really fly around those traffic circles in a rental car!

We spent the day wandering around our buses, subway, and tram system. We wanted to add the ferry to it but it was a complete fail. The schedule said it stopped at a port near the go-karts every day but when we got there we found just 2 people and some locked gates. They said they just found out the ferry doesn't stop there on the weekends and it turns around at the next stop on the other side of the waterway. Maybe it's another one of those closed for the summer things that aren't always well publicized.

Regardless, we rambled around some new streets we hadn't seen. It was a chillier day around 70F, but it was lovely weather for walking around even with the cool breeze off the cold water. Here's a few pictures:

Tomorrow we're going to take it easy and just go to the movies. Foreign movies from America are in English and fortunately they don't bother adding subtitles here. Swedish subtitles would be an interesting distraction that would quickly lose the novelty factor. Actually, seeing some Swedish words anywhere may continue to hold their novelty factor. For example, utfart means exit and infart means entrance. Utfart signs are everywhere and I may always giggle like a child because of the irony of it.

Our daughter wanted to see the new Transformers movie when it opened June 27th as we left the U.S., so she was disappointed to find out it didn't open here until 2 weeks later. I won't complain because they do have nice big theaters here for the big "sommar bio" hits.

Edit: The movie did have Swedish subtitles including for the Chinese language parts so we had no idea what they were saying when the dialog was in Chinese. The movie wasn't that great for dialog anyway so I'm sure we didn't miss much. Here's a picture of the movie poster and a cool looking bridge for a cross street.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

First Work Week and Gamla Stan (Old Town)

I started work this week and am already using a good variety of the training they gave us. I've done a bit of everything including systems administration, communications, and tipping fiber connections on a new network cable run. Tipping fiber isn't something that comes up often, but I was lucky enough to get to do it again in my first work week. I've already been in some other things they didn't teach us, but overall I would have to say the initial training at FSI was well matched for starting work as a newbie. Probably only my classmates are interested in these work bits, so let's get to some fun parts of living in Sweden.

We hear Swedish spoken everywhere but most people speak English (and often with a British accent) when I start speaking as a simple monolingual American. I've learned to respond to "hej" (pronounced like hey) with "hello" so they immediately know I'm clueless. The first time I responded with "hey" they went into some long sentence they had to repeat in English for me. "Hello" is now my shorthand way of saying I'm a simpleton barely capable of speaking one language. I feel like a simpleton because Swedes are bilingual (at a minimum) and immigrants speak their own language, English, and fluent Swedish (an immigration requirement with government provided training). Newer immigrants speak passable English as a third language so sometimes we have a hard time communicating with them. There isn't much incentive for us to learn Swedish since English is so common but apparently Swedish works better with some of the immigrants.

The U.S. Independence Day isn't a holiday here (obviously) so we took our holiday to play tourist for the first time. We spent the day in Gamla Stan (old town of Stockholm). This is where the city was founded in 1252 long before our young country was born. Most of the current buildings date back to 1700s-1800s so we were seeing something similar in age to the United States on our country's birthday so there's a loose tie-in there.

We started with the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace:
(click on pics to enlarge and a few videos thrown in)

We ate burgers at Texas Longhorn Steakhouse. I was disappointed they didn't have the dinner menu available for a better taste of home. :-(

We explored some of the area and shops but I forgot to take a picture of the main shopping street. It's similar to the previous one I posted near T-Centralen:

Saint George and the Dragon


front of royal palace

 narrowest alley in Gamla Stan

We also visited the Royal Armory museum at the Royal Palace:

Most of one floor was devoted to Game of Thrones and the parallels to Swedish royalty but I didn't think of taking any pictures. What's really nice about all of this is that it isn't very far away. We can go back anytime we want while living here and see all of the various things we skipped yesterday. If we were just tourists then we'd have to cram it all into a day or a weekend.