We’re 17 days into the new year and I’m sitting in front of my laptop enjoying the muted luminosity of the Swedish winter here in Sundbyberg, one of the municipalities in metropolitan Stockholm. Today also marks 108 days that I’ve been back in Sweden. I had originally planned to be here for 90 days, the time allotted to U.S. citizens visiting the 26 countries that are part of the Schengen Agreement. I will be able to devote more time in a later post as to why I’m able to still be here.
One of the top questions that people back in the U.S. have asked me is how am I surviving the Swedish winter. The answer is that I’m doing it. Yes, compared to Los Angeles and my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, it’s cold. The average daytime temperatures have been between 1 to 5 degrees Celsius (33.8 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit). But I quickly learned through my previous visits to Sweden the art of layering. So I returned prepared, packing sweaters, thick socks, gloves, a hat, my Uniqlo HEATTECH thermals and of course a warm winter coat. Just after Thanksgiving I had to buy a new coat when the zipper on the other one broke. I don’t like wearing a hat (pure vanity), but I've still found a way of keeping my ears warm by purchasing the Everest Ear Cushion at Stadium.
Being in the cold hasn’t been a challenge for me. The biggest adjustment has been the extended hours of Swedish darkness. Growing up in Arizona, and living in Los Angeles for many years, I have to admit that I took for granted the sunshine that beams so brightly on those of us in the western part of the U.S. There have been mornings here in Stockholm when it’s remained dark well after 8:30-9:00 a.m. And it hasn’t been uncommon for the darkness to begin its return as early as 3:00 p.m. However, I think the winter cold and darkness add to the mystical charm that makes Stockholm such a charming city.
Another question that I’ve been asked is how is the Swedish cuisine. Well, I’ve been a vegan for many years, so I haven't sampled such culinary classics like Swedish meatballs, Jansson’s Temptation, Raggmunk or Toast Skagen. However, like other major world cities, Stockholm has ethnic cuisine from India, Thailand and Mexico. So I’ve been able to be comfortably nourished.
Right now, one of my favorite Swedish customs is fika. It’s a time to meet up with friends for coffee with a pastry or other sweet delight. It’s through fika that I’m learning the importance of taking time out of my day to relax and enjoy the company of others. Through this tradition I’ve also discovered several quiet cafés around the city that are great spaces for writing and reading a really good book. In the United States, going for coffee usually means racing into a Starbucks or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and ordering something to grab and guzzle on the way to one’s next destination.