It’s been a long time since I have written a blog. I personally am not too attracted to the idea of blogging, however I guess very occasional entries don’t really count as blogs… do they? Anyway, I’ve been busy doing other stuff and my writing efforts have been focussed on firstly getting this website up and running. Now it’s up and running I seem caught in the trap of only wanting to post about things that really excite me on it – ie. Cycling, hiking, adventures etc. rather than the humdrum day to day stuff. ALthough this of course is largely enjoyable and interesting  (well, for me anyway), writing about Sweden doesn’t really fit with the purpose of this website; and more importantly is unlikely to sell me many books. However that definitely wasn’t the purpose of Swedish Roaming ( in the first place, which I have now decided to continue here. My second reason for being so slack is that I have been working hard (well at times) on releasing a fully updated 2nd edition of Long Ride for a Pie. Unfortunately, that is still work in progress. Watch this space!

Anyway, I digress. The weekend just gone felt like a good time to write about Sweden. Primarily as it was Sweden’s national day on Saturday and secondly as we have now been here for a little over two years. Two years was always my benchmark for moving to a foreign country and learning the language. Not to a point of being fluent, but at least to a point where I could have a general understanding of it and make myself understood. So how am I doing? Reasonably pathetic if the truth be known. I could give a long list of excuses, but it really just comes down to a lack of prioritisation and lack of motivation to learn it. Many people have suggested watching Swedish television or getting a Swedish girlfriend, both attractive options considering they don’t seem to involve text books and study. However, we don’t actually own a TV and I’m not enticed to buy one, and as for getting Swedish girlfriend, well it may be an attractive option, but that’s not going to happen either for obvious reasons. So I’m afraid I am going to continue my snail paced learning by gradual absorption only. For now anyway.



Sweden’s National Day 2013


Sweden’s National Day 2014


Sweden’s National Day 2015

So my language abilities aside, as it was Sweden’s national day on 6th of June (annoyingly on the weekend so no day off), we have surpassed our two year anniversary and now have a member of the family that can truly claim to be Swedish to some extent, I thought I’d write about some random things that I still find ‘odd’ enough or amusing after two years of living here for them not to have become simply routine for me… yet anyway. Most of them to relate to food which may give you an insight into my priorities in life, and most of them relate to food I’m not particularly fond of.



Before I came to Sweden I was led to believe that Swede’s are big drinkers. Maybe it’s because I’m from New Zealand, have lived in England and Australia and have married a German. Or maybe because my idea of a big night out occurs once or twice a year and involves waiting until the kids are fast asleep, rushing into town to catch up with some friends for a couple of beers spread out over a couple of hours, then home and in to bed by 11pm. I know Stockholm has a nightlife, only because I’ve read about. So does that really answer the question if Swede’s are serious drinkers or not. Well it might not, but I don’t really think so.

Outside of Iran and Pakistan, of all the countries I have travelled too, Alcohol is more controlled in Sweden than it is anywhere else. You can’t buy it to take home (apart from beer with an alcohol content of less than 3.5%) from anywhere apart from the government run shop – System Bolaget – or Systema as it is known colloquially. It wasn’t that long ago apparently that the dastardly stuff was hidden out the back of the shop and inside you were presented with a counter to which you ‘ordered’ your potion. Today it’s a bit more civilised. The green and yellow branded Systemas are everywhere, reasonably spacious, clean and well stocked. They even have a website. Check it out,, but only if you are over 20! It’s a good income for the government considering they not only get to add on their large taxes, they also get all the mark up on the product too. In fact I heard that as they have a monopoly on all alcohol sales in the country they (ie. The Swedish Government) are the world’s largest single purchaser of wine.

But it somehow feels naughty visiting a Systema. Like a child going to a candy store with his or her pocket money when they were strictly forbidden to do so by their parents. Purchases from the Systema are packaged in ubiquitous pink or green bags. Whenever I see someone carrying one I can’t help but look at them and think ‘Ahhhh… I know what they are going to be getting up to’, like they have a clear plastic bag full of condoms, lubricant and a whip. Those distinct bags seem to stigmatise the purchasing of alcohol and I can’t help but feeling a little naughty myself walking down the street with a little green bag and some clanging beer bottles.

In public, alcohol seems to be consumed in a very calm manner. I’ve surprised myself at a few work functions by being a little disappointed by its availability and surprised at my colleagues who instead of complaining when the 2 or 3 free allocated drinks run out, they concentrate on sensible concentration and start drinking water to wet their palate. Perhaps it is a comeback from when they purchase alcohol in bars and spend approximately $20 NZ per pint for the privilege. I guess most people would be drinking water after a few hours of spending that sort of money.

So overall, I kind of think the Swedish attitude to alcohol quite refreshing (although school broke up for the summer last week and it is traditional for school levers to drive around the city on the back of a truck drinking and jeering). From a country where it is still regarding as ‘cool’ to go and get smashed (that’s New Zealand if you’re wondering), to one where it definitely isn’t. Even the school kids on the back of the trucks are pretty civilised about it. That’s not to say that Sweden doesn’t have a drinking problem. In fact the whole reason it is so restricted is that it used to – and having survived a couple of shitty winters I can nearly understand why. It’s fairly ubiquitous that the closest park to a Systema, is constantly frequented by drunk men (and the odd woman) sipping cheap larger purchased individually at a time. They must stock up for Sundays, as the Systema’s are closed.

And for the record, Sweden has a very healthy beer industry, with a great variety of hoppy numbers to choose from. The wine industry? Well, apparently there is one winery somewhere.



As opposed to Mammaledig. If I tell you that ledig means free and the term also relates to not being at work, you might be able to figure it out. The site of men pushing strollers or playing with toddlers on playground during the weekday really struck me when I first arrived in Sweden, and now after two years of living here and actually being one of those men myself on occasion, it still surprises me. Maybe I’ve been living with my head in the sand, and the sight is becoming more common around the world, but I think it would be rare to see a playground at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon been used by half a dozen toddlers and their respective fathers with not a woman in sight elsewhere. It is a common sight in Sweden. And want to take time off work to care for a sick child? No one will even bat an eyelid. I recently had a bunch of male truck drivers and drillers who were contracted on one of our jobs tell me that they had to finish work at three as they had to go and pick up their kids from kindergarten!

Despite the governments best efforts though, equality in parental duties is still quite unbalanced. In 2013 men only used 25% of all parental leave days versus women who used the rest (75%). Recently, the government brought in an extra measure to encourage couples to share it more equality, offering an equality bonus for couples who share their 480 days more evenly. Sweden is definitely paradise on earth when it comes to having a young family.


Marzipan is green

In Sweden yes. Why, are the almonds green in Sweden? Well in the very unlikely event you could grow almonds in Sweden (in a bloody hot greenhouse) they would still not be green. But Swedes seem to have an obsession with adding green food colouring to Marzipan, coating entire cakes with the stuff and selling little green marzipan snacks otherwise known as dammsugare – which is also the Swedish word for vacuum cleaner. Can you imagine having a sweet named after a household appliance? Well, in Sweden they do, but it kind of looks like one; kind of. I wouldn’t recommend them, unless you have an incredibly sweet tooth, which most Swedes do!


Caviar comes out of tube

In New Zealand, kids are brought up with tins of Watties spaghetti and baked beans. In Sweden the kids are brought up on caviar. Yes, The Swedes are so rich, kids squeeze caviar out of tube on a near daily basis. In 2004, 17 million tubes of Kalles were sold to the 10 million inhabitants in Sweden. It’s a little salty and pink for my liking, but the ingredients assure the purchaser that it contains 52% cod or saithe roe.

In fact the Swedes are very good (or bad) at the tube in the food thing. The supermarkets have sections were a vast array of cheese products in a tube are on display. I purchased a tube of cheese with mushroom flavour for my week long hike up north last year, and I have to admit I ended up throwing most of it away. Last week I also got to taste a cheese and prawn flavoured tube. I must admit, that I wasn’t particularly endeared to that either. As for the caviar; I think I’ll leave that to the elite of the world, and of course the kids of Sweden.



Do you really like sandwiches (which co-incidentally no one eats in Sweden) but like cakes even more? Well let me introduce the sandwich cake. Yes, you heard me correctly, the Smörgåstårta is a sandwich cake. Kind of like a sandwich on steroids, and were not talking about a puny two layered club sandwich here. These ‘sandwiches’ are skyscrapers in the sandwich world, with countless layers of rye bread, absolutely dripping in mayo – just to ensure they are as soggy as a Swedish Spring, and filled with such delights as liver pate, olives, shrimp, ham, various cold cuts, caviar, tomato, cucumber, grapes, lemon slices, cheese and smoked salmon – according to Wikipedia. And by the looks of them, often all at the same time. They actually look more like cakes to me, until they are cut when they simply look sandwiches gone terribly wrong and built by a couple of three year olds fooling around in the kitchen. I have to admit I have never eaten one, I don’t think I could bring myself to eat a sandwich made by a three year old to be honest. But jokes aside, Swede’s take their Smörgåstårtas very seriously. A colleague brought a piece of one to work one day for lunch and people were cooing at it like a new born baby. In my ignorant manner I simply stated ‘And what the hell is that!’ It was described that they had been so disappointed by the size of the previously purchased one they complained (which is a rarity for a Swede), and as a result got a ‘proper’ one for free. I’m not keen.



Swedes are in to their barbeques nearly as much as Kiwis are in New Zealand. The fact that the barbeque weather window for having them is bloody small doesn’t seem to stop them either. Barbeque pits are ubiquitous in the cities forests, and it’s a common site to see day trippers stoking them up and cooking up some sausages to quench the hunger.

However it’s the backyard barbeque that fascinates me the most. Whenever the temperature reaches double digits, about 10 times so for in 2015 (yes it is supposed to be summer); the smell of the barbeques starts to permeate into the house come five o’oclock. I would have thought that gas barbeques would be in vogue as they are back home, but they are not. Instead coal is poured into a barbeque boule (old school circular black cylinder on a tripod) and it is then drenched in what is practically petrol before alighting. A mass of flames erupts as the benzene vaporises and a cloud of toxic chemicals releases into the atmosphere and into every open window in the neighbourhood. Eventually the fire dies down, a huge smoke cloud follows, and then when that is manageable, the meat is thrown on for a quick singe. OK, I must admit, I am still mastering the art of the Swedish barbeque and have lost all the hair on hands quite a few times over the last two years. As all our back gardens adjoin, and one of our neighbours has a barbeque frequently, I think he quite enjoys watching me do battle with ours… I’m still figuring out the best technique. Admittingly, his model is a lot flasher than our decrepit model; but despite appearances it does in fact work on the same principal: add coal, petrol, light and singe. Maybe this summer I will actually figure it out.


Barbeque Juice!


Happy Sweden Day.