Archives for category: oops

Despite the obscene amount of money I’ve dropped in Sweden (and I know you’ve all been glued to our plummeting exchange rate with the Swedish kronor, so I don’t need to tell you I’ve been makin’ it rain here just to buy groceries) – the universe still seems to think I’ve come in under budget. So tonight, following a really lovely farewell dinner with my entire BGA department at my favorite uber-spendy restaurant in Stureplan, I came home feeling on top of the world…to find an email from my dentist saying that I owe an additional $300 for some fillings I had done before the trip. Does anyone else’s dentist email them? Is this weird? Either way, I distinctly remember clutching my chest and gasping oh dear god as I handed them my credit card way back in August, so I can only guess that the fact that they’ve come back for more is just a big cosmic haha. The out-of-pocket amount I will have ultimately forked into my teeth this year just makes the idea of “dental insurance” a mean company joke. You got me, Bonnier!

But no matter. My healthy, reinforced teeth and I are off to Paris on Thursday where we will rip into a French turkey with the kind of reckless dining abandon that only comes with spending $1,100 on dental repairs. For that kind of money you’d better believe I’m going to chew on solid steel just for the hell of it. Anyway I get to leave Stocky at 4:30 am – a decision I almost certainly made because this flight was $4 cheaper than the others – and I’ll be meeting my mom there a few hours later for my first taste of family bonding in three months.

I may or may not have time to blog tomorrow before I get sucked into my important and all-consuming TV routine (and packing, but mostly the TV thing), so just in case, Happy Thanksgiving to all! This year, among your many blessings, remember to count your teeth as well…all 32 of them.


When all is said and done — the last Swedish translation written, and the last meatball inhaled — how do you adequately measure three months in Stockholm? Well in terms of butter, the answer is 600 grams. This occurred to me a minute ago as I scraped the last little bit of salty lard from the tub, and realized that this is the second 300 gram brick of butter I’ve purchased for the apartment. Luckily, I have no concept of the metric system so that number means nothing to my waistline. (This is the same principle as the unintelligible nutrition info on my sour cream and onion chips. If you can’t read it, the calories don’t count.)

At this point it should be pretty obvious why I’ve been stalling on posting the Helsinki ugly photo collage. As I mentioned last week, we spent that entire weekend trapped on a floating mall food court just traveling to and from Finland, so we were only actually there long enough for me to take 11 pictures — and they’re all terrible. But I’m a girl of my word, and I promised you this, so here. Take it. (Yes, it’s a mini version.) Just please promise me you’ll form your opinion of Helsinki from a way better source than this hot mess.

Will you relax? The Helsinki ugly photo collage is coming soon. These kinds of intricate works of art don’t just appear from the ether. And for now, since I’m on my 1987 HP desktop personal computation device at the office, and this thing has never even heard of Adobe, I can’t do anything to speed along the Photoshop process. So I’ll tell you a story instead.

It was Friday, November 6, the eve of All Saints Day. Swedish children traditionally have this holiday off from school, but we, the Bonnier faithful, did not have the day off this year, and so there were kids hanging out and coloring in the office break room all day. Now, I’m officially on cappuccino detox this month, so I went to make my afternoon earl gray tea — a lousy taste substitute, but I find that these caffeine shakes are more manageable than the espresso-induced seizures have been. Entering the break room, I exchanged a quick “hej hej” with the little five year old sitting at the table. She looked at me shyly, and I was grateful, because you don’t have to attempt conversation with the quiet ones. But I must have really nailed the accent on my greeting, because this little lady suddenly launched into the longest story ever told, in Swedish. I looked around and, yep, I was the only person there, so she was definitely talking to me.

Tens of seconds went by — what felt like a solid minute of this Swedish story (long enough, in fact, for my tea to steep) and I didn’t want to interrupt her, but I had no idea what to retort. Normally I would just pick a word from her story and repeat it back as a question (vänner? eh?), which usually buys some time, but I truly didn’t catch a single familiar word in the whole diatribe. So when she finished, I just smiled and said in my cutest, sing-songy, kid-friendly voice, “oh sorry, I don’t speak Swedish!”

Blank stare. Crickets.

“Do you speak English?” I continued, remembering that they’re taught the language in school here. Smart little cookies! I’ll invite her to speak it with me, and that will work. We can get by with a quick broken-English interaction and then I can go. But, as it turns out, they do not know any English by the tender age of 5, and this poor kid thought I was insane. You know how when you hear a language you don’t speak, you can usually at least tell roughly which language you’re hearing? It’s familiar. You don’t have to speak German, but you can recognize the sounds because you’ve heard it before, right? Based on that assumption, I can safely say that this particular child had never heard the sweet twang of English in her entire life. She cocked her head to the side, staring with eyes and mouth wide open, and I truly might as well have been saying “blargitty blarg! bloopity? blip blop? blorp!”


Even worse, I couldn’t make it right. All of the basic Swedish I’d practiced and stored in my brain for just such an interaction — ursäkta, jag pratar inte svenska — was just totally gone, and the kid and I both had to resort to five or six seconds of awkward charades instead. Later, I heard her telling her mom about the weird blarpity lady and I was ashamed. At least I think that’s what she was talking about, and I think that was her mom.

But never mind. I returned to my desk to find a mass email from one of my Swedish coworkers — a forward filled with funny signs in muddled Engrish (they have their own special brand of it here, too, called Swenglish). This really has nothing to do with the break room story, except that everyone shared a group chuckle about language barriers, and of course I ate it up. Because after my run-in Little Miss Judgypants, I felt entitled to a good old superior haha! at someone else’s expense. Take that, five year old! Now let’s all look at funny foreign signs and laugh at small children who don’t speak our language yet.

After the last laundry day debacle, I had resolved to avoid washing my clothes for the rest of the year, no matter how ratty or chocolate- (I mean veggie-) stained they became. But since the washer and dryer in my building are both free, it turns out that doing laundry is one of the only things I can afford to do anymore. So today I acquiesced. I tossed a bunch of my stuff in a bag, grabbed a few of my trusty Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets (highly recommended, btw – particularly when you don’t have the luxury of a washer and dryer in your apartment like certain spoiled, rich GROW kids) and I trekked down to the laundry room…

…only to find this. Strategically placed, unmanned scaffolding in front of the one and only entrance. (And oddly, no construction to be seen anywhere…WTF is this for?)Never mind that I had reserved this date and time two weeks ago on the “official” laundry room padlock-calendar system, and no one posted an announcement or otherwise notified the new fifth floor tenant that there would be construction on her scheduled laundry day. It’s fine. Because you know what? The landlord clearly underestimated how stubborn this American girl can be, as well as the lengths to which she will go for clean socks and something to do on a Wednesday night. It took every ounce of piloxing strength and agility I’ve built up in company gym class, but I – and my laundry bag – ducked and maneuvered and twisted our way inside! Victory is mine!

Update: The dryer is broken, and I did not see that coming. Apparently victory is not mine.

Hey when you do laundry, do you have to reserve a day and time weeks in advance by putting a nonsensical padlock on a giant metal calendar so your neighbors can’t book the same time frame? And then on your designated day and time, do you have to drag your dirty clothes down five flights of stairs, exit the building, walk across a courtyard in the rain and then go inside a dark, tiny shed swarming with ghosts and boogiemen and creepy sounds, where the Barbie-sized washer and dryer are programmed entirely in Swedish, causing you to accidentally lock your sheets and towels in a two-hour spin cycle at 9 PM when all you really want to do is shower and go to bed? If not, then doing laundry does not suck for you. Come to the bourgie east side of Stockholm where people have real problems.

My computer at work — including all of my folders and documents, menus and functions — as well as most of the hardcover and paperback books I’m working on = Entirely in Swedish. Even my email. And like my fellow GROW buddy in Helsinki, I’m finding Google Translate to be a little, um…flawed? But I’m not down on Google — I think sometimes an idea just really does not translate. And when that happens, all that’s left to do is adapt.

Last week, my coworkers and I went to see a foreign film from the exotic and far away USA — New York, I Love You — and, stopping for a quick bite at Wayne’s Coffee (a.k.a. Swedish Starbucks), I asked why certain munchies at the counter were labeled as “mycket.” What could it mean, and what could that spinache quiche and strawberry tart really have in common? The answer is foodie. They were both foodie foods.

Me: So, you mean like hearty?

Coworkers in unison: No, not really…

Me: Savory?

C I U: Not exactly, no…

Me: Filling?

C I U: No, it’s just foodie. Like, foodie foods. When a food is foodie…

Ah. In my Orlando life, I generally try to avoid modifying a noun with itself as the adjective — oatmealy oatmeal, rainy rain, a kitteny kitten — but here, I’ve really latched on to this. I think I love it. Every morning I have about 26 cappuccino-y cappuccinos and I often end my days with a yummy glass of wine-y wine, and it may not make any sense to you uncultured people, but I think it’s great. All mycket, all the time.

On Thursday night, I hobbled along three miles of cobblestone and cement in these…

That’s probably worth its own blog entry, but this post is actually about why I subjected myself to tiny suede stilts and imminent shin splints: I went to the Kungliga Opera, and you just don’t do that sort of bourgie thing looking like an American schlub in UGG boots.

For some, the destination sounds way more punishing than the shoes, but I actually love the opera – and this was a particular treat because it was my favorite one, Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Or in Swedish, Figaros Bröllop. I took my seat on the left balcony, stealthily slipped off my ankle boots to give my throbbing toes a break (whatever, no one saw, except for maybe the people next to me, and possibly that lady in the next row who scowled at me, and the old man in front of me who turned around) and I waited for the familiar overture.

The Swedish title on my ticket stub really should have been my first clue, but it wasn’t until Susanna and Figaro sang their first few bars that I realized, stupidly, this little Italian opera would be captioned in Swedish. For all four acts. For three hours.

So, that made for a long evening. But I still had such a blast that I stopped by the box office again this morning and bought tickets to see Rigoletto and the Rites of Spring next week. And now I have renewed purpose for this weekend, because what kind of uncivilized westerner would repeat the same footwear at back-to-back shows? I have standards. And a credit card, unfortunately.

They always tell you to drink plenty of water when you travel to stay hydrated, but then you get here and they show you the unisex bathrooms. And I’m not just talking onesies where you’re the only person — male or female — using the facilities at a time. No. Many of the bathrooms here are stalls next to urinals next to sinks. Sven gestures to Annika, “hey, pass the soap,” Stina fluffs her hair while Lars adjusts his goodies in the mirror, and this isn’t weird to anyone. Just be prepared for this. No one told me.

During your first week in Sweden, your new coworkers will take you to lunch. They will want to show you a lovely hidden gem of a restaurant in Östermalm just off Sveavägen, and you will want to impress them with your newly rehearsed (and completely self-taught) pronunciation skills. Don’t do this. Resist the urge to say anything at all Swedish — particularly words including å, ä or ö. And really, really fight the temptation to pronounce — even delicately, even carefully — the restaurant’s name. Not when the restaurant’s name is Rolf’s Kök. You will think “ah, I am newly rehearsed and self-taught in the complexities of Swedish vowels, and I know better than to say that word as ‘cock’…so instead I will say it more like ‘coke,’ and they will all say ‘wow, how perfectly you just pronounced that complex word!” And you will be wrong. Because then your new Swedish coworkers will reveal to you that “coke” actually means cock, and you just announced it to the whole bistro.