Hej hej! Thanks for all the supportive comments on the first Sweden post! I do just crank out whatever I think and do no editing or cutting on posts so I'm glad it can make some sense! I'll try to remember the past week but it's all merging into one now! This is quite bad as I have to keep a daily log for part of the course but these posts will help!
So I left I think at the end of the first day, once I'd gone off to buy a quilt and hairdryer, etc. I got to see that here there aren't many shops. No Monki sadly. No Weekday. No Acne. People associate Sweden with high prices and they are not wrong. I think it's more of the fact that there are no bog-standard, cheapie prices. For example, I didn't bring any pens or paper here, so I was searching for a shop that just sold a simple pack of biros. The only place I could find was a stationary shop that is probably comparable to Paperchase, and the cheapest pen (the bog-standard biro you might get in a pack of 20 for £1 in the U.K.) was equivalent to about 50p. Hmmm.
Food isn't too much more, but again there are not many cheap alternatives. This leads to another typical part of Swedish culture, Jantelagen: the Jante Law. This Scandinavian concept means that you should never appear better than anyone else or think you are better than anyone. This seems to be why Swedes seem quite shy and reserved, because they don't want to talk about themselves or big themselves up. So most people here all belong to a middle class, and therefore the food available is all around a mid-price point. This is a bit of a change from England, where I know that my parents and Nan are telling the world that I'm in Sweden!
So after another night of chatting to my Iranian flatmate, the Warwick girls were heading into the city and I went along. They really are so welcoming and I get along great with the girls on my floor, it's a shame they're here for only 3 months! While I like being by myself and trying out new things independently, it's nice to be part of a group where the conversation is not a battle of translation and it's something familiar. We decided to go back into the shopping area, Knalleland, and have a good browse and to sort out banks and phones. This was my first trip in Gina Tricot. It's such a great shop!!! I'd say it was in the middle of Topshop and H&M. They have a few more detailed and embellished things than H&M, but it's not as glitzy as Topshop. Remember, the Swedes are not into glitz! I wasn't out to spend loads as I'm waiting to hit the shops in Gothenberg, but we all ended up with something! I'll show you what I bought in another post, but it was a dress with a bow print (how typical!) and a bag with a studded bow (again how typical!!). I'd say the prices here were 1/3 more than they are in the UK, definitely in H&M as I could compare them with prices I remembered from England.
I asked the sales assistant if most girls wore Gina Tricot and she said, 'Yes, every girl has this dress!'. So it looks like all the things I will buy here will have to be worn in the UK and I can wear all the brands I would avoid in the UK here, e.g. the sell-outs at Topshop and New Look.
My other need was to find out where I could buy English magazines, and it seems most newsagents will stock them. Sadly British Elle and Vogue are about £10!! I'd already bought September's Elle but it was a special price so I bought it again anyway. I'm really annoyed that I bought the AMAZING, giant Elle fall09/10 A3 magazine (that you can get in W.H.Smith) but couldn't bring it. I need to sort out what exactly I am buying this Autumn as I feel so unorganised. I'm missing my weekly fix of Look magazine, but I found Sweden's equivalent! Same features and everything! Sadly I can't read it...
Now my eyes are out on stalks for Swedish style. And this city has not let me down! Hair buns everywhere!! Of the young people I have seen, they do wear very simple, clean clothes; no brash accessories or bright colours and patterns. Many of the teens are scene/emo kids with coloured, backcombed hair. Here's a sneaky snap of three men just sitting in their light shirts and white trousers having a chat; very Sartorialist. Lunching or having a 'fika' here is very important, Swedes LOVE coffee. Pity I hate the stuff!
It is of course very, very clean too. There are lakes and river through the city, cobbled streets, and much greenery and forests. This feels different because it's not like in most UK towns; there the plants and grass was actually put there on purpose and looks odd, it's almost like here they have built around the nature and it is undisturbed.
After a long day of shopping and working out money and then chilling by the river in the sun, we headed back to our halls and debated on walking through the forest to a lake. It's so funny to look out my window and see such a huge, dense forest. We were tired but thought a walk wouldn't do any harm, so after dumping our shopping we headed down the path into the woods. The lake is about a miles walk, and we kept stopping the joggers and walkers to point us down the right path. The forest is SO thick, it's hard to believe this is right next to a thriving town and hasn't made way for more buildings or houses. Also the Swedes are so fit and healthy, there were many joggers throughout the walk and people riding horses. We laughed about forest parties and probably venturing into the forest when drunk for a Blair Witch-style adventure. We came across baby frogs and rabbits until finally reaching a beautiful lake.
There were many people there enjoying the last of the summer sun, and it's not pictured but there were boards or a pier or whatever you call it, where people where jumping into the lake and messing around. A family showed up and left their pram and all their bags while they took their little children for a dip in the lake!
The next day was our first introduction day, where the new exchange students had many, many talks in a huge lecture theatre. I'd say there was about 150 of us, and I spotted the other girls from Manchester, who I didn't know previously as they do textile design. They are in different halls down the road which are more like flats, rather than together as larger floors. We actually had a welcome from the head of the whole uni, a lovely blonde woman who invited everyone to greet her by her first name when they saw her and have a chat. In Manchester, I haven't a clue who owns the uni, although I think it's an architecture company? In fact I didn't even have a tutor!
You might notice I'm comparing here to the UK and Manchester uni loads, which you can't really help as that's just what you do naturally! I'd met all the people in our flat by now, there being three (or maybe it's two) Spanish boys, a Spanish girl, us three English girls, the Iranian guy, a Chinese girl and her Swedish boyfriend, who when we asked him where he was from said very slowly, 'Ah... I am from a very...very...far away country........ called Sweden.' Ah those Swedes are so cool, and it seems a bit sarcastic! There's also a girl from Pakistan in my flat and a German girl who reads fashion blogs!! She came with us to the first introduction day and as she does my course, I happened to ask if she read blogs and she knew loads! It's so cool to live with someone who reads some. She has great style too.
During the intro day I had lunch with the Manchester girls and met the other English students, who also do Textiles, from Chelsea art school. They are very well spoken and one girl wears sailor clothes, sweet! Later everyone set up their internet but a few people like me had already done it, so we hung around the side of the computer room. The guy telling everyone what to do was hilarious and stopped and stared at my legs before saying 'Ja! You have nice pattern!' about my heart print tights! They were my last Topshop purchase after a long Twitter discussion with Winnie from Diamond Canopy!
As I stepped to the side, the other people who had already done internet was a group of little Asian girls. By now it was apparent that the Spanish people will hang with the Spanish people, the Pakistani people will hang with the Pakistani people, and the Asian people will hang with the Asian people (to clarify, I mean people from China/HK/Japan/etc). And to be fair, us English people were hanging out with English people! I don't mean this is everyone and all of the time, but in general you see this even in England, and there are many Chinese people in my classes at home who I have never spoke to. But I'd love to go to Asia and of course have a Hello Kitty love so I just thought why does no one talk to the Chinese people?
So I was like hiii! and I introduced myself. And turns out the girls were from Taiwan and they are the sweetest, most lovely girls ever!!! They were like, 'We're from Taiwan, have you heard of it? Do you know it?' I was like yes of course! Over the next few days they took so many photos and I will try to get some to show you!
That night was the exchange student dinner and a party for us in the student corps bar. They're like a student union, but they say they are not involved with the uni because it would be biased. It was the same in the library talk, it seems that here absolutely everything is student orientated and they really think about why they do things and how best to aid studies, whereas in the UK, it's a bit more like 'here's already how we do things: learn it.'
I asked around but it seemed people weren't going in heels and were pretty casual. I brought with me all of my American Apparel dresses, my playsuit, and a strapless, sort of tube dress, which is what I wore with some little shorts and the heart print tights. I folded up the dress so it was more of a top but pulled down later to be a dress!
The Swedish also have another custom called lagom, which means just enough, not too much or too little. So Swedes are rarely early or late, they are just on time. We assumed that the student dinner wouldn't be a fancy affair as it was a buffet, and thought that people would be standing around and chatting. So we rolled up (on the bus, haha) at about quarter to 8, as it started at 7. As we walked in, it looked really empty apart from the student corps, but as we signed our name, we were told to take a number. I was last in line so as I walked through the door, I was thinking huh, a number?
Turns out, each table had a number and so we had to sit where we were told with people we didn't know!! The room was already full, I think we were the last people! After the immediate shock and thoughts of 'aaargh!!', I found my table, which sadly wasn't a circle of five like most of the others, but a long one of about twelve people. One of the Manchester girls was there but I had to sit at one end, so could only really talk to the people around me. I spent the dinner talking to a French girl opposite who had been an au pair in England before, and was doing Library studies. Seems it is learning about being a librarian, so it's harder than I thought! In the talk about the library during the day, everyone fell asleep, I felt so bad for the speaker! The other three nearest people were Spanish, so they spoke to each other in Spanish. It's hard to make conversation to distract people as it's harder for them to create answers and you have to search for common grounds. Although, I found one was actually in my flat I think, and as the two most nearest Spanish people went to the buffet, she moved over a seat and said, 'Hey in England, do you know the programme, eer, Skins??' I was like wow yes, Skins is a total phenomenon here practically!! She said I reminded her of Cassie, which a few people have said to me before and I think it's more ditzy actions than looks, weird!
Ah and it has to be said, the buffet wasn't what I expected. Well I didn't know what I expected, but it was potatoes, salmon and meat balls, and tomato, lettuce and cucumber. So I had some potatoes and plain salad, which might not have been a good idea since I hadn't ate hardly anything since I'd arrived. It was partially being a bit nervous to cook in the kitchen, as the utensils and pots and plates are all communal and mismatched, as so it still felt like I was invading someone's space. Also, have you every tried cooking pasta in front of an Italian, or a stir fry in front of a Chinese person? Of course I know loads of Asian people at home, but they live in England. Everyone here is straight from their own culture and the English aren't exactly known for their food! For example, the three Spanish boys came in to make their dinner and they created a fresh salad with grilled chicken and fresh bread. In England, student boys seem to live on a diet rich in Pot Noodle and frozen pizza, so seeing boys sit around a table, break bread, and decide to make a salad. It's so different! I'm generalizing quite a bit about England, but that's just the way it feels.
I was waiting for some kind of game or quiz during the dinner but they just sat us there and left us to it for three hours. Some of my friends on tables of five sat there in silence for most of it! I forgot to mention that they said no alcohol would be served all night but we could bring our own. Sweden has some crazy alcohol policies! First, you can only buy alcohol from one place, a shop called a Systembolaget, which is open only in the day and very few hours on weekends. Imagine a very posh wine shop in England. I got a litre of vodka for over £20!!! Alcohol is double the price! They don't have any cheapo alternatives as I mentioned before, and I found a bottle of Jacob's Creek wine for about £7, which I took to the dinner. I shared some with the French girl so I was pretty tipsy through the night as I'd not ate very much. We all move onto the student club, which was a little basement with a stage and a DJ on a laptop. We met some Irish guys too, which the Manchester girls were very interested in as they're almost like a cool novelty as they are English speaking and the English love the Irish. They were pretty hammered though!
Something new to note is that people here dance CRAZY! This became more apparent in the next few days, but I guess that night it was because everyone was from totally different places. The night split into people sitting and watching the people on the stage, who were doing some insane dancing! The music ranged from cheesy chart tunes that we knew, to random songs that make all the German people cheer and dance like crazy, or the same with other nationalities!
This post is already again miles long so I'll leave it there and continue tomorrow! Tonight is a night for the new students, but we had a bit of trouble getting in on Monday so I hope it will be OK!
p.s. More to come about the hotness of the guys, the meeting of actual Swedish people, and my Taiwanese crew!xx