So it’s been a while, team! Sadly, I don’t have much to report about the three weeks following my last post – I got really sick and spent most of my time indoors fighting everything from a nasty head cold to a stomach bug. Turns out three consecutive weekends inside a 25 square metre apartment can make you go a bit crazy – who knew?
Fortunately, I’ve made up for lost time since then. A few weeks ago I went to an ice-hockey match between Djurgården (Stockholm’s team) and Malmö (Sweden’s third largest city). The Swedes are veeeery vocal at their sports matches and we spent the evening singing “Heja, heja, Djurgården” over and over. It must have worked because Djurgården won. A few days later I visited the ABBA Museum, complete with recording booth karaoke, ABBA holograms, wax figures, and a collection of original costumes and instruments. I have visited various other museums too including the Swedish History Museum and the Nobel Museum. The latter is situated in Gamla Stan (the “Old Town”) which I hope to explore properly soon because it is truly enchanting.
I have also completed and passed my first Swedish course for the semester. Svenska är ett vackert språk! Det är som sång. It has been super fun to learn (even if I still sound incredibly silly – but I think I’ve come a wee way in a short time) and I am now waiting to begin the second course. Here’s hoping I can keep it up when I’m back in NZ! At least I now have awesome Swedish friends to help me out and keep me learning – Fanni (aka “Swedish bestie”) – I’m looking at you haha.
Since my last post I have also been to Lapland – and yes, the northern lights did come out, much to my overwhelming joy. They were beautiful and I have to admit, I had tears prickling in my eyes. Thankfully, a lovely girl on the trip with us had a proper camera which saved us from having to rely on our less-than-adequate phone cameras. In fact, my phone wouldn’t even stay on; it kept throwing a tantrum and turning off in the cold. And believe me when I say, it was COLD. To gear-up for an unknown length of time waiting in -25 degrees, I was wearing a thermal, a hoodie, a down jacket, my ski jacket, and a full snow overall that I hired for the trip. I could barely move for all my layers!
On my return from Lapland many people grilled me for my highlight, but honestly it’s too difficult to choose. Seeing the northern lights was obviously one of the main reasons I wanted to travel there in the first place, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Unexpectedly, one of the best things about the trip was our outstanding tour guide, Laura from Lithuania, (but dare to call her the anglicised “Law-ra” or say she is from Latvia and you’ll be sorry). All jokes aside, we couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide. She was hilarious, full of energy, very knowledgeable about the area, and made sure everyone was as happy as they could be.
That said, if I absolutely HAD to choose a favourite thing about Lapland, (other than the northern lights), I’d probably say the sauna evening. Before going to Lapland I was highly sceptical that I’d even get so much as a big toe into the arctic lake, so I was pretty proud of myself for doing the full dip. It wasn’t actually as bad as I expected, although I did hyperventilate all the way back to the sauna. The Icehotel was also super cool. We trawled the -5 degree rooms looking at incredible ice sculptures; saw the first blocks of ice being harvested from the adjacent lake to be used to build next year’s hotel; and drank cocktails out of ice glasses in the Icebar. Other unforgettable experiences include hand-feeding reindeer during a visit with some delightful Sámi people, and driving snowmobiles through picturesque snowy countryside.
As for what’s to come – my next couple of months are looking really exciting – so I guess you’ll have to stay tuned to find out what I get up to!
- Random highlight: Standing at the till of Zara Home and understanding when asked in Swedish whether I was paying by card or cash.
- Lowlight: Losing my travel card with two months of travel left on it (approx. $180NZD). Pro tip: never trust that your card won’t fall out of your pocket.
My favourite things about Sweden (so far, and in no particular order):
- FIKA! Quite possibly crossing the threshold of ‘religion’ here in Sweden, fika is more than a coffee break – it is a moment to pause, catch up with friends, and refresh your mind. Sweet treats are often featured too, and there isn’t much that can beat a good kanelbulle. If you are planning on establishing a thriving social life in Sweden, I suggest you bank the phrase “Ska vi ta en fika?”
- The people – both locals and fellow exchange students. My “buddies” (local students assigned to us exchange students) have been so welcoming. Not only have they been incredibly friendly and happy to help with anything, they have been genuinely interested in getting to know us, hanging out, and making us feel at home in their beautiful city. As for my fellow exchange students – they are all so nice and are already becoming life-long friends.
- The student unions. The student unions here at SU are incredible. They organise an endless stream of things to do – from trips out of and around Stockholm, to parties, to watching sports matches, to sittningar (quintessentially Swedish dinner parties with singing and quirky table etiquette), and much more. All of these things have kept us perpetually entertained and have helped build our friend networks.
- The landscape. I think photos speak for themselves here.
My pet peeves about Sweden (a very short list – Sweden is awesome):
- Scarce public toilets. Out and about and need to use the loo? Think again. Public toilets are pretty hard to find here in Stockholm – and when you do find one, you generally have to pay to use it.
- The personnummer. A “personnummer” is a Swedish social security number. You’re probably thinking this is an unusual thing to put on a list of pet peeves. However, the personnummer is used for so many things in Sweden, and anyone here for less than 12 months is unable to get one. This makes things difficult at times, for example, I cannot register my Swedish SIM card and therefore cannot use it outside of Sweden – so I had to get a third SIM card for travelling.
6.07 am – 5.45pm = nearly 11 hours 45 minutes of sunlight per day. Contrasted to the 7 hours we were getting when I arrived, that’s nearly 5 additional daylight hours in 7 ½ weeks. Not bad!
Time is flying by here and I’m trying to soak up every minute. I never expected to feel so at home while so far away, and that’s truly a credit to this wonderful country and the people I am surrounded by. I’ve already made such incredible memories and cannot wait to make more very soon.
Until next time, vi ses!