Should you be spending an evening in the company of Swedes and alcohol, they might suddenly demand you sing. This is especially likely if it is midsummer, Easter, new years eve etc. To make sure you are ready and in tune (well, at least know the words), below are the words to 'Helan går' and Will Ferrell not singing it terribly well.
Important point number 1 - you are supposed to drink the whole glass full down in one go
Important point number 2 - if you need to be able to speak and/or stand up at any point afterwards, don't drink the whole glass full down in one go
Important point number 3 - aquavit is extremely strong so you will cough the first few times, even if you sip it.
Will you be buying a Christmas tree in Sweden this year? Do you know your Kungsgran from a Blågran? Get our free guide to Swedish Christmas trees: https://www.newinsweden.com/christmas-tree.html
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Where can you sleep on a bed of ice (and do you really want too??!) or meet some wolves? Sweden has some amazing winter activities that include:
Thursday 9th November at 18:30.
The English Bookshop, Södermannagatan 22, Stockholm.
Merlin – the man, the myth, the legend. Launch of Rhuddem Gwelin’s latest book ”The Wrathful Traveller – the Merlin Chronicles Volume 2”. Reflections by the author on the role of the legendary Merlin in the historical battle between magic and the ever-more powerful church. Presentation of the new novel, in which Merlin is cast into the madness of the Crusades. Reading, signing, drinks and refreshments. In English. Free.
Halloween is becoming a more and more popular event here - Swedes do love a chance to get dressed up and play/party! This year, we've even seen Lego halloween costumes advertised. 10 years ago, there was nothing!
According to Wikipedia, around 40% of Swedes now celebrate it. Each year, we see more trick-o-treating going on and children's parties organised. So far, we've only seen the good side - no nasty treats given out, no tricking or misuse of costumes for vandalism or burglary.
However, if you want trick o'treaters, you better make it very clear. Don't expect visitors unless you have lights and decorations outside and even then, they may not come unless they know you. We put out a lit pumpkin and balloons.
Alla Helgons Dag is always the Saturday following the 31st October and is a holiday day so many small shops will be closed and shopping centres limited hours. It is easy to confuse it with 'Allhelgonadagen' which is the 1st November and is not a holiday.
All Saints' Weekend
This weekend, we remember those who have died. Graves are decorated with flowers and lit candles to light up the dark between All Saints' Day (Saturday) and All Souls' Day (Sunday). It is usual to walk around the church graveyards and cemeteries, which look spectacular, all lit up. There are special services to remember those who have died in the past year.
Do you plan to celebrate Halloween this year? Or have an special traditions to bring with you? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or tag us in your photos!
We met German journalist Axel Halbhuber earlier in the year who was staying at Abisko Guesthouse in Swedish Lapland (250km inside the arctic circle) with his two really small children. He is the author of Reisen ist ein Kinderspiel - travelling (with children) is mere child's play. They had driven all the way up from Germany and were spending six weeks travelling around Sweden, Norway and Denmark before heading home again.
We thought - well, if he can do it, we could manage a four-night trip :D Armed with advice from him and two small researchers of our own (age 2 and 7), we tried, tested, climbed, investigated, opened everything and here are the tips we came up with:
- Book an apartment
We stayed in the 2-bedroom Fjällstugan at Abisko Guesthouse and it was perfect for the four of us (and would have been good with two more children). The flat is also tough enough for us parents to be able to relax - no amount of prodding and investigating caused any concern (though keep little kids out of the kitchen as it isn't toddler-proof).
There is space to eat in the living room and a proper table in the fully-equipped kitchen. The great big hallway is a perfect playroom and the shower and loo were just fine for us.
The Fjällstuga has two triple-bed rooms, meaning a double bed in each with single bunk over the top. Both rooms had plenty of space for a travel cot which we booked in advance from the Guesthouse. It came with baby bed covers and we took with us the littliest one's pillow and duvet.
As we talking about travelling with children, the TV works well and even had YouTube on it, should you 'need' endless episodes of Peppa Pig (or in Swedish, Greta Gris...).
The rest of the accommodation was also suitable for children, except for the top-floor 3-bed flat which you want children old enough not to need a stair gate. However, if you have children that won't throw themselves down the staircase, that top floor flat is fab, with three 2-bed rooms and the most spectacular views across the lake.
- Give the kids a camera. Each.
By having their own cameras (albeit cheap kiddy ones!), they looked at the landscape in a great way - in detail. We did end up with a huge number of photos of stones but there are some great shots among them!
- Exploring outdoors
* Walk to the lake: Lake Torenträsk is 700m gently downhill from the Guesthouse and is a wonderful place to explore. In the summer, take a fishing net with you or if you have old-enough children, take fishing rods with you. The lake has trout and arctic char as well as plenty of things to catch. Arctic char is yummy so if you catch one, take it back and cook it for dinner. You can fish all year round but will need help drilling holes in the ice in the winter so then take a guide with you! Guests at the Guesthouse can borrow sensible clothing for free.
In the winter (8 months of it...), you can walk on the frozen lake, despite how deep it is (very). The view is indescribably spectacular. Frozen lake opens all around you and is surrounded by low mountains, making it look like something out of Lord of the Rings (think Rivendell in winter). The mountains sparkle. The lake sparkles. There is certain to be someone walking a dog across it at some point, though they may be a long way away, as you can see the whole length.
If the lake isn't frozen, then look for fish, for bugs (not big ones, just ones small kids like to investigate) and there may even be a digger around, as repairs and building work to the small pontoons and houses there taken place in the few months with no snow. When we pottered down, a new pontoon was being built by a small digger.
* Chairlift up Mount Nuolja.
We took our 2-year-old up on the lift after asking around but would only recommend it if you are sure that they will sit absolutely still for the 20 min journey up and the same down. We used a BabaSling tightly around ours and it worked well but wasn't the most relaxing journey. However...the view is absolutely beautiful, very definitely worth it and is even better on the way down. Our 7-year-old thought it was amazing and took many, many video clips on the journey up and down and from the top. Check that it is open, it closes in the spring and autumn.
If you can and want to hike or ski down from the top, do. The hiking paths are well marked. If you don't, you can take the lift, just buy a return ticket.
There is a cafe at the top chairlift station that served a small selection of yummy food. We had tomato soup and waffles (not together!). Then we went out onto the viewing platform and filmed and photographed the amazing scenery.
* A bit of a walk:
There are all manner of hikes through Abisko National Park and with kids that are old enough, we would head to Trollsjön, a 'magical' lake that is entirely frozen most of the year so has no life in it at all. It is beautiful.
But...our kids aren't nearly up to that (yet...?) so Stornabben is a much better bet. A 1,5km trek up to the mound gets you great views of the lake and the landscape all around you and, best of all, it is only a 20 minute walk. It is magical to look across the lake and also see Lapporten - the gap between the mountains that is called the 'Gate to Lapland'. Visitors have reported it as one of the most amazing places to see the northern lights, if you fancy staying up late enough to see them (not in the summer!).
* Short hike:
If you have kids that might be interested in a busy beach full of bird-life, then head to the beach and delta where the river Abeskoeatnu meets the lake, 3-4km from the Guesthouse. Blue throats hang out there, sometimes singing a wide variety of songs, so listen out for them. Do check the time of year though - entrance to the area is restricted May-July to allow the birds some peace.
- Entertainment indoors (for when the weather isn't perfect)
* Naturum nature centre at the tourist station in Abisko
About 2.5km from the Guesthouse is a group of buildings that includes the Swedish Tourist Association hostel and the local nature centre, called Naturum. On one side of the nature centre, you can find out all about the history and wildlife of the area. On the other is a shop and a place to sit and rummage through the books they have. More importantly are there things to colour in and with, dough to make things out of, a microscope to thoroughly investigate (including trying to take it apart...) and lots to look at, touch and press. The bird-song buttons were, of course, great entertainment. Sometimes, there are organised activities for children at a very simple level but ours loved investigating the hides of local wild animals that the guide assured them had all been killed by natural causes or by getting in the way of a train.
Every day, they show a couple of films in English and one in German, about the national parks and about reindeer herding. The one we saw seemed to have been filmed an extremely long time ago but it included showing the arrival of huskie puppies and our 7-year-old was fascinated The room where the films are shown has a model of the area which was a) very useful to see and b) had a million buttons that kept our 2-year-old busy right through the 15 minute film. The films are free to see and you can ask them if they'll put them on at other times too.
If you are in need of refreshments, the centre itself doesn't have any but the really big hotel next door (STF Mountain Station) certainly does. A rather fancy restaurant is there but the shop, equipped with everything from very expensive hiking gear to tins of food, has tea and coffee and snacks. You can sit in the lobby with them, together with a fair few others in varying degrees of hiking attire.
- Where to eat
* The Guesthouse is self-catering so the most important place to start is the supermarket. Sited inside an enormous sweet shop, do not take the kids in with you unless you can keep them from putting their hands in the huge barrels of sweets or you have managed to bribe them to behave with something else. I'd even recommend giving them something to eat right before you go in! Apart from that, it is a perfectly well stocked little supermarket (the sweets have more space than everything else) and we managed to find all that we needed but don't expect much choice or that they'll have baby things. However, you can get frozen reindeer meat and we highly recommend trying it. The kitchen we had (and the others we investigated) were fully equipped and we didn't need to ask for anything.
* As we mentioned, the hotel at Björkliden (about 10km from Abisko), Hotell Fjället, has a restaurant that serves a really great lunch buffet. There seemed to be just one thing on the menu but the days we tried it out, there was a vegan option too (meaning allergies were easy to deal with) and then small hotdogs and meatballs for the children - who eat for free...! Seriously, that is unheard of in Sweden! The Restaurang Lapporten has windows that look out right across the lake, back towards Abisko. The 'app on an ipad' you use to get tap water or squash from the machine was a big hit with our little travellers.
* The restaurant at STF Mountain Station looked very smart and we didn't try it but will another time. It also lists a playroom which we didn't find and forgot to ask about!
* If you head up on the chairlift, the cafe at the top is very nice and, although not a huge selection, had very nice food. Think warming soup and sticky buns.
- Do you need a car?
We wondered how we would manage without a car. You can book tours and transfers with the Guesthouse, they have a mass of minibuses. We arrived on one occasion by bus but there is only one bus a day from Kiruna airport and you'd be stuck if you missed it. On reflection, we think it would be tough there with little kids and no car, especially if it isn't warm and sunny all the time. We hired a car from Kiruna airport and that worked well.
- Have you been to Lapland with small children? -
Let us know if you've been up north into the arctic circle with children or if you'd like to go. We'll be going again so let us know if you want to know about anything!
Nursery school places are sometimes hard to come by in the Danderyd area but, after a few families have moved on to other countries, the wonderful English-speaking Lilla Montessori has space for this autumn. It is a tiny nursery school and wonderful in many ways (we know from personal experience!). Here is the info:
Lilla Montessori Djursholm International Preschool
We are a small private nursery and preschool for
one to five year olds that caters for families
who appreciate the benefits of a small group.
We offer a homely and peaceful setting,
experienced staff and a Montessori influenced
English speaking environment.
Our premises are on Danavägen 3 only a few
minutes from Djursholm Center.
For more information please call
0708-52 55 55. International 0046-708 52 55 55.
1. When it snows – it pours
Winter weather is discussed often in Sweden. The fact is, snow is pretty well dealt here. There are systems in place for getting it off the road to temporary storage points and then moving it from the temporary storage points to permanent storage points. When this system works, which it does almost all the time, all is well.
However, when a larger-than-expected amount of snow decides to show up, things do break down. Please bear in mind that this is not the same as the few flakes of snow that fall in the UK and everything grinds to a halt. We are talking extra, unexpected meters of snow here!
Plows and tractors will be in much demand and roads are cleared in priority order, which means that residential side-streets can get clogged up with snow. You should be prepared for situations like these though they should be few and far between.
2. It's not the temperature that decides how cold it is – it's the moisture in the air
This is something you will learn intuitively, we certainly have. At -16 degrees Celsius, you will often feel warmer than at -1 degrees Celsius. Strange but true, in our option! Lower temperatures drive the moisture out of the air and keep the snow frozen. Warmer temperatures thaw the snow, releasing moisture into the air and this is when you might start to feel chilly. When it is around freezing, you’## find gloves and scarves help.
3. Make sure that the name on your ID matches the name on post your receive
Anything bigger than your post box flap will sent directly to your local pick up point, which is often in the local supermarket, with convenient and long opening hours. In most cases, you will have to provide ID in order for the clerk to give the mail to you. Here there can be a problem. Let's say you have a nickname that's not on your ID. If the mail happens to be addressed to your nickname, the clerk may not give you the mail. It unfortunately depends on how picky the clerk is but many of us have had problems with it, so it's something you should keep in mind.
4. The Swede is informal – even in a formal setting
You will notice this quickly, especially if you compare it to the American style of customer service. You can expect all manner of emotive responses from store clerks and administrative personnel if you complain about something, although they will almost always speak quietly. The customer is not always right here.
5. There is a right answer, just like there is a right way to do everything
Swedish culture dictates that there is a right way to do most things and therefore most people will do things that way. If you push Swedes to answer awkward questions, you may see them try to find that 'right' answer too.
If you'd like help with your move to Sweden or even to Danderyd, join our membership group. We help our members get settled in. Fast.
About the blog
Interesting bits and pieces about life in Sweden, including all-important song words.