Things ex-pat Scandinavians often say to their new friends…
“Where do I put my shoes?”
We automatically remove our shoes when we go to your house and expect you to have a place for us to store them as we parade around your house in our socks. At least, we ask if we should remove shoes (If we don’t ask, it means we’ve been here for a while).
“You call this snow?”
At the sign of a snowflake, wait for those stories: ‘this isn’t snow! When I lived in….’
“Everything of ours in just…. better”.
…And we’ll tell you. “Oh such lovely crisps…. we have those, too, except ours have dill on them and they are better. Great Kitkat! But we have Kvikklunsj, it’s better”.
Even our guys are better – especially if you photoshop Semlor bun onto their boobs. “Semlor? Oh, they are like Scandi cream buns. Only better.”
At the board meeting, The Swedish man will stand up, right in the middle of the discussion about the upcoming budget discussion and announce ‘I need to pee!’
“Oh, it’s 3 pm on Christmas Eve. Let’s watch Donald Duck Show on telly”. Every year. Same show.
“Ah, what a lovely evening. It’s only, 10:30 pm, shall we have some really strong filter coffee and be all cosy together?”
(You may wonder about this later in when you are awake at 3 am, feeling your veins pump to the beat of Jingle Bells)
Dubious love of EuroPop
“Do you want to come over to my house and watch Eurovision” (or the Swedish pre-Eurovision regional heats that takes place every.single.Saturday in January and February)
You can’t handle the truth.
We will answer truthfully. Especially when asked the question ‘how are you’. “Well, you see, my knee has been playing up and I’m not so happy about that. I should have it seen to. Maybe I will. My aunt is visiting next week, she’s nice. Did I tell you I’m going to paint my fence white?”
You: Just say ‘fine’, just say ‘fine; just say ‘fine’….
A love of space food
“Would you like some strange looking cheese, meat, fish eggs (etc) that I am about to squirt into your plate from a metal tube?”
13th December is the Lucia Celebrations all over the Nordic countries. It’s a big thing. It’s also known as the Festival of Lights – processions, candles, singing – the lot.
If you are Scandinavian and feel a bit homesick, click HERE before you start reading and keep it playing in the background. On repeat.
This is what December looks like in many parts of the Nordics
Because of this, we have an excuse to light hundreds of candles.
St Lucia means you get to dress up in white robes (grandma’s nightgown can work). Add a red sash around your waist – it’s a symbol of death, but lets not mention that – it gets all dark and macabre then.
St Lucia originally comes from Sicily.
She died in the year 304. Lucia of Syracuse, also known as Saint Lucy, or Saint Lucia, was a young Christian martyr who died during the Diocletianic Persecution.
You get to fight to become the Lucia Bride (usually a girl, but now also sometimes a boy because, why not?)
It’s every little girls dream to be a Lucia bride
Swedes eat Lucia buns (Saffron flavoured buns with raisins in them). Swedes love Saffron so much that in December they try to sneak Saffron into as many treats as possible. From the traditional buns to any other cake that can possibly have half a gram of saffron added (even semlor buns)
Danes eat æbleskiver – literally: Apple slices. They little pancake balls, but they don’t contain apples. 100 million + are eaten in Denmark every year. Eat with jam and icing sugar.
It’s also a very pagan celebration: it was the night when animals became possessed and could talk. Okay, not quite like these, but they are funny…
The processions start early mornings on 13th December and carry on throughout the whole day and evening. This means we get to drink THIS at 7 am. It has alcohol in it. The day starts here.
Which makes us look like this
And Swedes drink a gallon of this, too.
And eat a mountain of ginger biscuits. Buy them ready made, or buy the dough. Nobody will judge you. Or make your own, whatever, you show off…
If you live in Scandinavia, you will attend at least one Lucia every year. If in Sweden, around 5 (and dodge a few).
Processions take place everywhere – from offices to old people’s homes, schools and more. If there is a hallway with a light switch, Lucia will happen
In Denmark, everybody is in white robes, but in Sweden, they also have star boys, gingerbread men and other fancy inventions. Some look happier than others.
Everybody will have candles in their hands but the Lucia bride will have a crown of candles. Real ones. On average, Lucia brides spend 6 hours picking wax out of their hair afterwards. It’s the price you pay for being the bride.
The best known song is Sankta Lucia. Most people know only the first verse. Here is a phonetic Swedish version.
SUNK TAR LOU, SEE YA
Nut and gore tune-off yet
Ruined gourd ox-stew, vah
Cring you’d some sulfer yet
School gore, now roux vah
Doughy wort murk a whose
Steeger met end-a-juice
Sunk tar Lou, see ya
Sunk taaaar Lou, see ya!
You will cry. All of a sudden, Christmas has arrived…
If abroad, scramble for the last no view seats at the churches/embassies/clubs… Here is where to see it in the UK. Sorry, most places have sold out – but there are sometimes cancellations to be found:
Please place all online orders before 13th December – we are unfortunately, despite best efforts, running a delay on shipping of between 5-7 working days. We are working round the clock (there are elves involved) to get it all shipped, but we need your help – place your orders and we can get through them.
After 13th December, you can pick up all your foods at the London Cafe (Tube: Oxford Circus).
We are open as normal up until and including 23rd December. Please note that as the 24th is our christmas, we are closed.
We’ll pick a winner at random and let you know Sunday evening if you have won.
Winner will be notified by email. Usual rules apply. No cheating. No alternative prize, no alternative showing, only ticket for the this event in London on Tuesday 6th December. Any discussion about the prize you’ll need to have with the promoters, not us, we’re just the messengers. Also, no cheating.
How to better understand Scandinavians this Christmas
Most Scandinavians really, really like Christmas. Even if they say they don’t, they probably hum jingle bells in secret and wraps presents when nobody’s looking. We’re really good at Christmas and we find joy in even the darkest days of the year.
Call it what you want – we have many names for it: Hygge, Koselig, Mysigt. That state of mind where you relax with people you care about and time doesn’t exist. Christmas is high season for hygge. No, you can’t buy it. You have to create it and BE in it.
We enjoy this kind of snow.
Fluffy, beautiful, delicious, cotton wool snow.
We’re not cold! It’s warm inside and cold outside. We have heating, log fires, stillongs and kärlek.
Little chocolates every day? Pah! Do it like a Dane and give a present for each day in December. Now THAT’S an advent calendar. For both kids and adults. Yes, it’s a thing: One present every single day.
Sundays in Advent
The last four Sundays before Christmas, Scandinavians meet up for glögg (mulled wine) parties, eat ginger biscuits and get red ears and cheeks from the mulled wine. It’s a real thing and it’s important. Christmas begins the first Sunday in advent. One candle is lit every Sunday.
Candles in the windows. ALL the windows.
Let’s face it: It’s dark. Very dark. Can’t see a darn thing anywhere. Most people have big stars or 7-candle bridges in the windows.
We have Christmas Beers and they are delicious.
The Danish Tuborg Julebryg is only available for 10 weeks out of the year and it is the 4th best selling beer in Denmark. Also, you get to wear blue hats and stuff. Usually served at all the…
Going home drunk in the snow after the office do is awful. Watching someone else trying to get home and failing? Great.
Feast of St Lucia
13th December, every year – this happens all over the Nordic countries. In the dark, hundreds of candles and song, so sing in the light. Drink more mulled wine.
Nobody has fake trees in Scandinavia. Just don’t go there. It’s a quick sure fire way to pure Scandi disbelief. We love our trees, our real trees.
In Denmark, they even dance around the tree and sing songs. Oh, and yes, they light real candles on the trees.
Does it require batteries, light up and sing a merry tune? We don’t want it. Does it sparkle in seven different colours? No thanks. Give us simple decorations. No tinsel. Add Christmas elves.
We get to celebrate the big day a day early
Our Christmas happens on Christmas eve 24th December (NOT on the 25th) – dinner, drink, tree, sing-song, presents.
Under no circumstances do we want to go to the pub on the 24th, or to a party, or to anywhere not involving people we really, really like. No. We won’t go.
Donald Duck (Kalle Anka)
At 3 pm, every year, especially in Sweden: Watch the Donald Duck Christmas Show from 1972. Cry when Jiminy Cricket sings ‘When you wish upon a star’ and feel blessed.
Tyrkey? No thanks.
Fed up with Turkey? Join us – in Scandinavia, Christmas dinners range from ham to roast pork, roast duck, sugar fried potatoes, smoked racks of lamb and, eh, cod steeped in lye (ehhh, yes, some do).
[who the hell invited the pineapple?!]
For Swedes, it’s Christmas Eve… For Danes and the rest, its all the other days: Bring out the herring, the aquavit, the left overs, the everything-you-can-think-of-table. Add beer. Aquavit.
Red noses, red cheeks, sneaky kisses under the mistletoe.
It’s also our thing. No, not mulled wine. We don’t add drabs of left over stuff to our glögg, nor do we add half a litre of orange juice. No. We carefully blend spices, sugar and red wine… heat it up and add secret yuletide cheer to every pot. Why is Glögg so much better than mulled wine? Cardamom, dried Seville orange peel, cinnamon, cloves and ginger are the scents of a truly Scandinavian Christmas. It makes us feel all warm and happy inside.
Things flavoured with saffron
Swedes and Norwegians eat Saffron buns. Actually, the Swedes will to flavour almost anything with saffron (drinks, biscuits, Semlor, cakes… ). The Danes eat little pancake balls called Æbleskiver. Over 100 million of those are eaten every year in Denmark (they really, really like them). Æbleskiver means apple slicers, although, oddly, rarely contain any apple.
Like a weirdly flat coke mixed with root beer. It’s available all through Christmas and outsells CocoCola by a mile. Do not attempt to separate a Swede from his Julmust drink
Like a raspberry fizzy soft drink. It’s available all through Christmas and outsells CocoCola by a mile. Do not attempt to separate a Norwegian from his Julebrus drink.
Also, don’t give Julmust to a Norwegian and don’t give Julebrus to a Swede. And the Danes only want the beer.
We can’t agree on where he lives. The Danes are sure he lives on Greenland, the rest knows it is in the North Pole. Or in Finland. Or he doesn’t exist at all because we believe in the Christmas gnomes, not Santa (and then he is called Tomten or Nissen). It gets confusing. Anyway, he wears a red hat. He often visits the house in the afternoon and he looks like Uncle Björn.
90th Birthday – every year
We watch this clip every single New Year. Every single year – on the telly, over and over. Since the beginning of time, we have done this and we will continue. Same procedure as last year, James, same procedure as last year.