Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Starting Again; Part 2

I am frequently asked to report upon the various smaller details about living in Sweden, so I've chosen a just a few subjects and will do my best in this entry to give a little flavour of some of the smaller experiences so far.

Malmö is home to the 3rd largest IKEA Store in the world. After the Christmas break Henrik and I booked a date in our diaries to take a bus to IKEA and "make a day of it", which might sound crazy but, as I'm sure many of you will agree, once you really get stuck in to IKEA it's very hard to move on to the next section of the store, let alone make it out of the store within just a couple of hours! And don't forget the restaurant, which is an important part of any IKEA trip. Just out of interest, has anyone ever had anything other than the meatballs? I always swear I will choose something else, and then I never do!
Henrik and I arrived at IKEA with the usual promise that we wouldn't buy anything unless it was really necessary and we definitely wanted it. That promise flew out of the large glass entrance doors as we walked in. Because of the layout of IKEA, as you walk through you imagine yourself living in so many different homes. I would not advise going to IKEA with your significant other unless you are very secure in your relationship, or already living together. Because if you didn't already feel very serious about this person, a trip to IKEA can change all of that, which is not necessarily a good thing! You suddenly see your sweetie in amongst the sofas, cushions and throws, televisions and perfect kitchens, and your imagination goes haywire. Suddenly you picture your whole yet-to-be-created family together, in this custom built IKEA house that exists only in stores and in your mind. Any previous annoyances, compromises or little niggling doubts are thrown out with the promises not to purchase anything, as you find yourself in a world of style and convenience. You start to picture yourself inviting friends over for dinner in your new IKEA dining room, before you get everyone to gather around for a DVD on the huge television, relaxing on your deluxe corner-settee, with a huge IKEA Popcorn bowl, while you serve wine in neat IKEA glasses. Even those of you who are the most sceptical about your own relationship, or relationships in general, IKEA can arouse the most surprising feelings inside you. After all that, and scribbling down notes for every item to make sure you don't forget to check it out later on, it's no wonder people need a break in the restaurant! And the restaurant is a great place to be brought back to reality after your little trip to wonderland. I think it's essential to visit the restaurant, even if only for a quick fika. It gives you a chance to remember who you are, and also where you are both physically (an IKEA store) and emotionally within your relationship. You get the time to realise that the imaginary party, or family, or whatever your IKEA dream consists of is just that: a dream. For now anyway...(!) After our visit to the restaurant we went back into the main part of the store and bought a few nice items with our Christmas money, just to make the apartment a bit more cosy.

Princess Cake (Prinsesstårta)
How many of you have been in to the IKEA restaurant and seen the strange-looking "princess cake". This delicious green oddity is not always green, but that does seem to be the most common colour. I promised my cousin that I would sample one on her behalf (well, really, it's my pleasure!) and decided that the next fika would include princess cake. So why is it that, as soon as a decision like that is made, Malmö suddenly became devoid of princess cake? I had so many fika's while on the search and it simply wasn't on offer. I wonder if it had anything to do with the season, as it does seem to be a rather summery dessert. I noticed it was available in the freezer section at Willy:s, to be defrosted and enjoyed at home, but as I was doing this for other people, not just myself, I thought it should be freshly made. It turns out that Princess Cake is Henrik's favourite dessert, and as his birthday was coming up I put in extra effort to buy a princess cake, rather than just ordering a slice with my coffee. My sister was staying at the time, so there was extra reason to buy a full sized cake, as there was another person to eat it. In the end I went to Mormors Bageri (Grandma's Bakery), and bought a roulade princess cake, rather than the traditional dome, which wasn't available. The cake was white and red in colour, rather than green. I think it was a Christmas theme, as those were the only colours to choose from. Check the picture at the top of this post to see Henrik and I tucking in. Princess Cake consists of a vanilla sponge, with a jam and cream filling, much like a victoria sponge. Then more cream is piled on top of the cake, and finally a layer of marzipan completes the design, resulting in a very neat and stylish dessert. I've included a photo of a traditional princess cake. We really enjoyed eating it, and my final judgement - everyone should try it. The fact that it is green should not put anyone off!

The Swedish Language
Lastly, for those with a slightly more immature sense of humour, I'd like to invite you down to my level for a moment while I share with you a few funny little things I've experienced with the Swedish language. For the rest of you, I make no apology, but if you're not interested, then now is the time to stop reading!

OK, how would you feel, if when ever you go outside you continually see the word "fart"? How long would it take before you manage to stop laughing each time you see it? I'm just about there now. But why the word "fart"? Well, in Swedish "fart" means "speed". As a result, it is constantly appearing on road signs. A "farthinder" is a speed bump. "Infart" means "entrance", and "Utfart" means "exit". A driveway is an "Uppfart"... you get the picture. This word is everywhere!

Another word, slightly ruder this time, is the word "Tvätt". If you're not already laughing then it must just be me... but come on. "Tvätt". It's like a camp european way of saying tw*t. Oh and it means "wash", as in doing the laundry. So you might see "Tvätt" on a sign for a laundrette, and most apartment blocks have a "Tvättstuga" or "Tvättrum", meaning "laundry room".

Just one more, although I could go on! This one is related to music. The Swedish have a very literal term for the instrumental introduction to a piece of music. It is, simply, "förspel". Translated literally it means "foreplay". You have to be very careful in rehearsals when using that phrase, believe me!

I'd like to leave you with a link to a funny video on youtube, of an advert that has been showing on Swedish Television. It is a pretty good representation of how I feel when attempting to speak Swedish, especially when Henrik works so hard to correct my mistakes. Enjoy!

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