Archive for the ‘Shopping’ Category

This will be a running list of things I find odd, or a bit different about every day stuff. It’s not necessarily new stuff as I may be familiar with it from TV, movies, et al, but perhaps living with it every day now makes it seem odd. And maybe they’re not odd to you, but this is my list. Feel free to suggest additions if you have experiences. I may even find that over time they are not so odd, but perhaps it’s something I just haven’t figured out yet. In which case, I will update the list as I learn new details.

  • Bed sheets: They don’t use fitted bottom sheets here. Although I saw one used in a sitcom the other day for comedic effect, they don’t seem to be available in real life. Actually, I haven’t found any sort of bottom sheet yet. I bought some new sheet sets the other day but a “set” here consists of 1 small pillow case and 1 duvet case/cover.
  • Beds: Are basically one size, or two, depending on how you look at it. They start with a single/twin and put two together to make a double-sized bed. I haven’t seen queen or king, but that makes buying the aforementioned linens much easier because there’s only 2 sizes from which to choose. It’s hard to go wrong. Also, they don’t use separate box springs, they are built into the bottom of the mattress. And they all have the same built-in cutouts to add legs. Maybe this is an IKEA creation, but from my limited experience, it seems to be pretty universal. UPDATE 2012/04/20: OK, saw an advert for beds and they had 4 sizes listed. But I’m cynical and still want to see them in person.
  • Shoes Off: Some people do this in the States too, but I think it’s either regional (you live in Wisconsin), or cultural (non-US natives bring the practice with them). The moment you walk in the door, you take your shoes off. It took me a short while to figure out it’s because of the weather and not wanting to track dirt, ice, snow, etc. into the house and not some cultural or religious ritual. Hence, my comment that folks in the colder climes of the USA might also commonly do this.
  • Drying Rooms: Clothes dryers are limited. In lieu of dryers, they have drying rooms where you hang your clothes to be dried by forced hot air.
  • Eggs: Eggs are packaged 10 or 15 to a carton. Sometimes you can find 6, but no dozen (12) like in America. Also, large or XL is SERIOUSLY large, you can use 1/2 the usual amount.
  • Parking: You pay for car parking, even at your own apartment. This is not very cost-effective so you’d then want to rent a garage instead. However, covered bicycle parking is free and in my particular building, they have bicycle “garages” (an indoor, ground-level room) for each building. What’s cool though, when parking in-town, they have digital boards that display the number of available spots before you get there, so you can select an alternate lot, if need be.
  • Would you like a bag with that?: When shopping, you pay for the bags. Most retail stores seem to allow one small free bag with purchase but additional, or larger bags cost around 1kr each. An excellent way to encourage reuse & recycling.
  • The Switch Up: Light switches are UP when the lights are off and down when the lights are on. Give yourself a minute; you’ll realize this is backwards.
  • Week 18, when is that?: Swedes, and perhaps others in Europe, count calendar time in terms of weeks. This is mostly used when discussing a future event, or providing an ongoing schedule. An event doesn’t just happen on a certain date, it takes place in a week number such as 18 (or 10, 17, 32, etc). Even my mobile phone calendar shows the calendar by week. I don’t know if the natives or long-term residents inherently know when a week occurs but I certainly have to consult the calendar and count.
  • Push Me/Pull You: Just because a door handle is on your side, doesn’t mean you pull to open. Stores, businesses, etc. seem to have handles on both sides of their doors.
  • Can You Help Me? Yes, but not so fast. Take a number. Banks, government offices (no surprise there) and many retail stores (especially electronics it seems) use a ticketing system. At first I found it frustrating, but now, I think it’s great to not have to stand and wait in line at the bank. Instead, you sit comfortably and wait for your number to be called. Something Americans are only used to at the DMV and similar offices. And in retail stores, you don’t have to fight for attention, so it’s a good odd.

So, finally did something today I’ve been wanting to do, but was also dreading. I went shopping for makeup. In the interest of luggage space and needing to start a fresh collection anyway, I trashed “all” of mine before leaving home.

Why have I been dreading this womanly right of passage, you might ask? Doesn’t every woman live to shop for makeup and clothes? Not so, my friend. Not so. And those of you  who know me, know I keep my makeup-wearing to a minimum. And even when I doll it up, it’s just the basics. I’m an all natural, jeans and T-shirt kinda girl from Jersey. I am not a cast member of a stupid Jersey show with over-poofed hair and garish makeup. So, I was dreading it for the mere act of having to do it at all.

Second reason is…well, I am a woman of melanin. Swedes are not. Now, in fairness, there is a reasonable African population with a smattering of other color-enhanced cultures here, but by and large, they are not catered to. So, I was wondering what sort of expedition I might have to go on to find the right foundation for my complexion. I had been stalking the familiar counters like L’Oreal, Clarins, Maybelline, etc, but their color palletes stopped short of various versions of pink caramel.

Finally today, I decided to end the individual hunt and had the courage to engage one of the sales ladies and ask for a recommendation. She was admittedly embarrassed that L’Oreal did not have a wider color selection. She said they should, nice whether she meant it or not, I suppose. But she also was professional and tried to deflect my attention toward their mondo-lash mascara and some other products instead.

I asked if she could confidentially recommend a brand that might have more colors. She did. I found them. That girl was lovely as well and managed to sell me 1345 SEK of products. Plus, I wandered over to another self-service brand and managed to spend another 506 SEK. This was my big splurge but I am now ready to be European Fabulous!

If you know me, you know I have a thing for organic foods. I found the “eko store” today. Göteborg’s local organic grocery. It’s quite small and has a few essentials, but not sure it will be a must-visit like the farmers market was back home. So far though, its the only place I’ve found nuts and seeds and non-junk dark chocolates. I don’t like the grocery stores here, they are small and look ghetto from the outside. Inside they are OK but selection is limited.

I guess they are small because they seem to serve mainly the community in which one lives; it’s not like there’s one grand Publix or Kroger where everyone goes. But, I will continue looking. Living as a bachelor who ate the same thing  all day, every day, E isn’t exactly well-versed in locating grocery stores. I did see some groceries at the big IKEA, but I don’t want to have to trek out there regularly. And, until I investigate whether the Swedish food supply chain is as disgusting as that in America, I won’t worry so much about the organics. And I hope I won’t have to.

Grocery Store Finds

Swedish Grocery Store Finds (Photo credit: BohemianDolls)


I bought groceries today, my second day in the city. I am glad to see many familiar items, mainly in the produce section, although I do want to learn the Swedish words for them. The rest of the store is a bit of a mystery as I really have to take time to figure out what the packages are saying, and goodness knows when I will be able to read the directions on the labels.


Anyway, I quickly learned why everyone without a car travels with either a wheeled suitcase, or shoppingsväska. I opted for the latter because I think it’s too much trouble to lay down, zip/unzip/dig into a suitcase all the time, plus, I wanted to feel less like a traveler and more like part of the culture.

The shoppingsväska (shopping suitcase) is a wheeled cart with a large bag attached. Mine is made of canvas and  the bag slides over the handle so you can use just the cart if need be, or toss the bag in the wash, I suppose. Others might have a bag made of plastic-coated nylon. I can just drop my purchases inside and go.

If I think I might buy anything, I won’t go out the door without it. E teases me that I’ve created a new culture because traditionally only old women used the carts. It doesn’t seem that way from my observation, but even if so, he sure hasn’t minded using it himself!