Friday, 20 December 2013


I'm feeling uncharacteristically cheerful about Christmas this year. Having thought that I wasn't going to be able to go home, I actually am. And quite honestly, the idea of not being able to spend Christmas with my family made me realise how much I actually appreciate those five days spent in captivity.

So to follow a trend, here are:

Seven things about Swedish Christmas

1. Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve.

2. They eat ham, not a turkey.

3. They have a Christmas... goat.

4. Swedes have a Christmas Menora. Originally a pagan tradition, it was stolen by the Christians, who claimed that each light represented one of the days of the creation of the Universe (there are seven candles). 

5. Each Sunday of Advent is very big event. Friends and/or family get together, light candles, eat and drink mulled wine. But some important advice, don't be fooled by anyone who tells you that it isn't going to be a formal event and don't listen to them when they tell you there will be drinking. For a few hours you're going to sit around a beautifully dressed table eating equally beautiful food, sipping mulled wine from miniature teacups and struggling to understand what anyone is saying. Then you'll watch the Christmas Calendar.

6. The Christmas Calendar. A cult television series which screens only in December and works a little bit like an advent calendar. Cult, except that everyone watches it. Each day you get a 15 minute episode which adds to the story of the previous day and by the time you reach December 24, the story is complete.

7. Dancing around the Christmas tree. It looks a bit like this, only indoors, around a Christmas tree. And everyone does it. 

And a cheeky bonus number 8. Merry Christmas in Swedish is 'God Jul'. Jul pronounced like the English 'Yule' (and God pronounced like God.) 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

How to be broke in Sweden.

I am no stranger to being a bit strapped for cash and sometimes I quite enjoy it. There's an amusement and a challenge that exists when you're trying to work our how you're going to do something without spending any money. And I am fortunate in that there has only been one short period of my life where I was struggling to pay rent and financially in a horrific way. However, a few miserable months working in a nightclub, having no social life and living off cereal fixed that. And I did (sort of) learn my lesson, so when I came to Sweden, I had put some money aside to make the transition a little bit easier. But as we all know money doesn't last too long, and so, as I wait for my first paycheck, I'm going to tell you how I have been getting by.

Emma's Swedish Survival Guide:

1. Buy a bicycle
It's a key investment and one of the first things I did when I got here. I count the number of times I have taken the bus on my hands. Sure, it gets cold and it rains, but at least I know I'm never going to be stuck without a bus card or any money and have to make that long walk home. It's also an excellent way to explore the city.

Swedish buses only take mobile phone tickets or their equivalent of an oyster card. (I could rant about that failure of a system for hours).

2. Dumpster Dive
This is something which is borderline legal and there's also a lot of stigma around it, but it's nowhere near as grim as you might think. The food shops throw away is actually EDIBLE. That's right, completely edible and usually very good. Since I've been dumpster diving, I've been eating things I could normally never afford and there's a whole community around it too. People go dumpster diving together and then cook a large meal at someone's house with all the finds.

More info for Malmo based citizens here:

3. Pants
No, this isn't some weird allusion to underwear. In Sweden Pants are recyclable bottles and cans, worth 1 - 2 SEK depending on the size. If you're really stuck, you can spend an afternoon wandering around university libraries and the town itself and collect enough cans to buy something small that you want/need (falafel/milk/deodorant/toilet paper).

4. Language 
Whether you've got money or not, if you move to a new country you need to learn the language. Scandinavia actually makes it very easy for you. They have a free Swedish course provided by for the state for any immigrants who have just moved to the country. They even decide on what kind of class you'll be in based on if you've had any formal education before (that is truly accommodating for everyone). However, I also highly recommend getting drunk and just talking to people.

5. A Good Night Out 
Before you attempt this one, you do have to do some groundwork. Make some connections. If you know people, they can get you in to places for free, or they can get you some 'small' work inside the club/bar which will mean you work for a couple of hours and get some free beers out of it.

6. Daytime 
There are a lot of free events in and around Malmo, covering a range of different subjects and often with fika included. They provide good opportunities to network with people who can help you bring your own ideas to life, get involved in the city and even find a job.

Here are a few examples:
CykelKoket is a free space to build or fix your bike.
STPLN is an open office area, for people who work from home that want to work away from home.
Cinema Politca organise weekly, free film screenings.
Bryggeriet Skatepark is a free indoor Skate Park and CafĂ©.
Kontrapunkt is a social space and cultural center which holds a variety of events.
Connectors are a group of people who'll help you find all these places through monthly salons and events, which allow you to bring your ideas to life.

7. Creature Comforts 
My number one piece of advice is just to make sure that no matter what, your rent money is there. In Sweden it is not acceptable to pay your rent late, something that I did pretty frequently in Paris (where the tenant is protected, not the landlord). If you're worried about food, or transport or anything like that, it can follow. Rent = a home = a place to sleep, a place to chill out and all the basic comforts.