Monday, January 29, 2007

Monday, January 29th, 2007:
Recycling: Sweden vs England

What I think:

In December '05, I wrote a bit about recycling in Sweden. Now, after a recent visit to London, where I did some extensive research, I'd like to illustrate the differences in attitude between Sweden and England with regards to this most important topic.

In Sweden:
Most buildings have a sort of shed which houses large bins into which you dump your different recyclable materials. Above each of these bins is a helpful sign indicating what should go where.

The photos that follow show the bins in my building's rubbish (US/CAN: garbage) shed.

First up, we have the cardboard and printed paper bins: Papper is Swedish for paper, but in this context, it's mainly meant as packing material, which includes cardboard. This is where you put your empty cardboard beer crates that you bought on the ferry, your IKEA furniture boxes, and if you're really an eco-warrior, your empty Marlboro packs.

Tidningar is the Swedish word covering both newspapers and magazines. But this bin applies for any printed paper you might want to throw away, like parking tickets and bills that you don't want to pay, as well as the threatening letters that always seem to follow. I've found that it's also good for court summonses as well, but that's another story.

Then there are the bins for your glass waste.This is separated into clear and coloured glass. I thought Apartheid was over, but it appears that segregation is still rife in the world of glass recycling: This is where you put all glass things, including those flimsy wine glasses that you break while doing the washing up, and the remnants of that blue candlestick that your ex threw at you.

Next, we have plastics and metals: The plastics bin is actually for hard plastic only; things like smashed CD's and empty bottles of shampoo or black hair dye (from l'Oréal - because you're worth it).

Metal is for...well, metal. This includes empty cat food tins, foil, and the beer cans you get off the ferry. The cans of beer you buy in the alcohol shop are returnable to supermarkets, where you put them in a machine and get a receipt that you can bring to the checkout to get your deposit back. Cool, eh?

A newer addition is the bin for soft plastic: This is for your plastic carrier bags, your bacon packaging, and the packaging of the shampoo samples you steal from hotels.

That brings us to the remaining household rubbish: Since even your food sraps are accounted for (there's a separate little shed for these in my building), I can't think of too much else that you can put in there, besides perhaps cat poo and your landlord's dismembered body (I bought my place so I don't have to deal with that anymore).

That about covers most of Sweden's recycling.

In England:

Here's a photo I took during my extensive research in London: The English way of recycling is obviously much more efficient: they simply stick everything in one bin. None of this messing around, separating their rubbish, hauling it all out in different bags. Who has time for that nonsense?

You know, a lot of time, energy, and space could be saved in this country if Swedes followed the great English example. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007:
Helsingborg: North vs South

What I think:

There's quite a difference between people who live in the northern part of Helsingborg and those in the south. Many people who live in the north are extremely snobby, and often brag about not living in the south.

It may seem like a sweeping generalisation, but it's been proven to me time and time again.

Example One:
A couple of weeks ago, I arranged to meet a visitor from New York at Utposten, a pub in town (neutral territory). He was staying with some girl who lives in an area in the north called Viken, who tagged along with him. Cool, I like meeting new people. I'd spoken to her over the phone beforehand, and she seemed OK (although she sounded absolutely mortified when I said that I didn't know where Viken was).

So I turned up at Utposten with my girlfriend, and we waited for them to arrive. A while later, they showed up, and this girl immediately went into a monologue about some minor bureaucratic issue she was having with her credit rating.

OK, many of us have had some such dealings with things like this, but this girl had to go on about it, mostly so that she could make it crystal clear to us that she had veritable pooploads of funds, and implying that what was being done to her was like being held at Gitmo. This started to get boring, but nevermind.

The conversation soon turned to where my friend lives (actually somewhere in New Jersey, just across from NYC). This girl had spent time there and loved New York. But what she seemed to love most about it was getting ahold of VIP passes for trendy nightclubs.

My friend, well he's not into that whole scene, finding it all rather pretentious and "Ooh-Look-At-Me-I've-Got-Loads-Of-Money". Which, of course it is. But she went on to name-drop a load of clubs (which I know nothing about, nor do I care). It got even more boring.

I talked a bit about the area I live in, in the south, mentioning how vibrant and lively it is, and how convenient it is to loads of shops and markets, etc. She was visibly shocked at my enthusiasm.

The girl pointed out that where our guest lives is in a pretty posh area, and he just replied that he reckoned he made a good investment; nothing more, nothing less. She then said, "Yeah, but you'd never go out with a girl from the Bronx, right? White trash?"

I nearly spat my over-priced beer out at that. This woman had just called everyone from a whole area in New York City "white trash".

She was a snob.

Example Two:
Just last weekend, a friend came over from Manchester, England.

Here's a picture of him:
Yeah, I know. He doesn't photograph very well.

We had a good time going out. He eventually hooked up with a girl and took her back to his hotel where she spent the night.

The next evening, he and I had arranged to meet at my place (in the south) and walk down to the Charles Dickens pub (in the south). So he came over, we had a few beers, and off we went.

He'd also arranged to meet up with the girl he'd met the night before. When she rang him later and found out that he was at Dickens, she desperately tried to get him to meet her somewhere else. Oh yes, she was from the north alright.

He wasn't budging. He was having a good time. When we were playing pool, he got a call on his mobile (US/CAN: cellphone). The girl was calling saying that she'd arrived and was outside. He said that he was inside, and why doesn't she come in, then? He then had to leave the game to walk outside to escort her in.

The game finished soon after, and we all sat at a table. This girl was looking absolutely miserable. It was hilarious. She may seem like a nice person in general, but let's face it:

She's a snob.

Example Three:
My girlfriend was at a work party recently, and was placed at a table with people she didn't know very well. They went through the usual small talk, and GF asked her whereabouts she lived (as you do when making small talk). This girl said that she lived in Maria Park (North). That would have been fine, except that this girl then made a point of going on to say, "Well, it has to be either Maria Park or Viken, doesn't it?"

GF realised then and there that this conversation was over.

The girl is a snob.

Here's a photo of my cat, for no reason:

There are many more examples of northern Helsingborg snobbery I could cite, but it's getting a bit late and I should go to bed soon. I'm going to London for a few days tomorrow and will need to get up a bit early.

I'm staying with friends in North London, I hasten to add. Those bastards south of the river are all white trash.

And it's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think. (I think.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007:
Speaking English in Helsingborg

What I think:

When I first came to Sweden, I was keen to start learning Swedish as soon as possible; I had moved in with a girlfriend who had two children under ten, and they didn't know any English at the time.

Animals and body parts
I started studying these little picture books to try to help me build a vocabulary of nouns describing all kinds of things: from stuff you find in every room of the house or out on the street, to animals and body parts, to different modes of transport and sexually transmitted diseases - you get the idea.

I remember really enjoying the sound of many words, words like fågelholk (birdhouse - roughly pronounced "fogle-holk") and stuprör (drainpipe - it's really not worth the effort to try to explain how this one's pronounced).

Pissed off
When I started working, my employers paid for some Swedish lessons for me, and actually sent me to Stockholm for this intensive two-week Berlitz language course as well. I slowly started learning a bit here and there. Living with a girlfriend who was getting increasingly pissed off with speaking English helped a bit as well, I guess. (We split up a couple of years ago.)

So now, four and-a-half years later, I can just about get by with my basic Swedish if I have to. But the point of all this is that I don't normally really have to.

Because I work in Internal Communication (at a global level), writing funky English copy for newsletters and company Intranet, there's simply no use in trying to improve my Swedish there.

Very often, when I go out, as soon as I meet people and they realise I'm English, they want to practice their English on me.

I'm not saying that I've given up speaking Swedish altogether, it's just that I don't feel that I'll ever really have the opportunity to get to a very good level. I don't intend to live here forever either, so I honestly can't be bothered to start telling everyone to speak to me in Swedish only - especially since the majority are so keen to speak to me in English anyway.

Telegrafen pub
But some of the people I encounter who want to practice their English can be a bit odd. For example, I had arranged to meet up with my girlfriend and a couple of her friends at Telegrafen pub one night. It was quite a busy night, but I managed to find a little table right next to the door, with enough seats for the four of us. My friends would be there in a few minutes.

(Here's the outside of Telegrafen, by the way.)
Within seconds, a couple of over-made-up bottle-blonde tarty-looking bimbos, seemingly in their late-forties (at least), asked, in Swedish, if they could sit with me. I managed to explain that I was waiting for friends who would be with me in a minute. But, while one of them went to get drinks, the other squeezed her pungently perfumed body next to mine on the bench. Then her friend came back with the drinks and made it even cosier. Great.

Smelly thing
When my girlfriend arrived with her friends, they all managed to huddle up around the table. There was another table right next to ours, so at least the slag sisters didn't have their drinks on our table. I had my girlfriend on my left, and this...this...horrible smelly thing pressed up against my right.

Trying to ignore the two intruding monsters, my friends were having a nice chat in Swedish, and I was just interjecting from time to time.

As soon as I spoke English, Fröken Stinkbomb (Ms Stinky) sitting next to me (or rather, nearly on top of me) started staring at me. The woman was mere inches away, and she was staring at me. Bigtime. Yuck.

It was difficult to feel comfortable with this person's gaze burning into the side of my head, and her horrid breath on my face.

Then she asked me, in English, where I come from. So I said England. Then she asked me why I have an Irish accent.

I'd said that I come from England because I didn't feel like going into my usual explanation of the fact that I grew up in Canada, but lived in London for twelve years before moving here.

I digress
(This line of conversation usually leads to:
"Oh, really? Where in Canada?"
"Don't they speak French there?"
"Many do, but I'm one of those English-Montrealers."
"But you speak French."

So Surrey
But I went into the explanation of where I'm from and where I've been, trying to be as abrupt in my explanation as possible. The conversation continued a bit like this:
Her: "But you're Irish."
Me: "Err...No I'm not."
Her: "Then why do you have an Irish accent?"
Me: "I don't think I do. Maybe my accent just didn't make it all the way to England."
Her: "Where did you live in London?"
Me: "North London, near Finsbury Park."
Her: (blankly) "Oh. I lived in Surrey for a while."
Me: "So Surrey to hear that."

Then we all just blatantly tried to ignore her, and continued chatting. But she just kept staring at me. Ignorant bitch.

After the gruesome pair finally left, one of our friends did a brilliant impression of the one with the eyeballs:
This is not far off, trust me.

You know, I think it's brilliant that so many Swedes speak English really well, but this shouldn't give people the right to sit practically on my lap (unless invited or paid to do so), or barge into conversations where they're unwelcome, or call me Irish, or be smelly. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

Monday, January 01, 2007

An A-to-Z of life in Helsingborg (so far)

A handy and educational reference post!

For your convenience, I've listed my previous observations about life in Sweden by key words, and in alphabetical order.

I will add topics to this post as I go along, so be sure to come back to check out this page from time to time.

I wanted to make this a complete A-to-Z, but it appears that I don't cover all of the letters of the alphabet with my posts so far. So I've filled in the remaining letters with key words linking to other sites.

See? This really is an educational blog! Now, let's get started.


Nope, I have no A's. Sorry. Here are some links to other Sweden-related sites:

Abba - The official site of the 70's super-group. Yawn.
Allsång på Skansen - A crap show with boring celebrities singing boring songs at some park in Stockholm. Swedes love it.


Beaches & shy people - July 21st, 2006
Beer, buying - December 31st, 2005
Beer, buying rounds - January 16th, 2006

Beer, how to get cheap - February 8th, 2006
Beer, Swedish - January 27th, 2006
"Beme" (Rolf Gilleberg), local celebrity - December 30th, 2007

Bicycles - April 28th, 2006
Birthday, King of Sweden - May 2nd, 2006
Birthday, mine - March 8th, 2006
Birthday, my 42nd - March 9th, 2007
Bishops Arms, The, pub toilet - June 3rd, 2007

Booze, ordering - April 23rd, 2006
Bowling - February 21st, 2007


Cash machines - January 10th, 2006
Cat food - June 8th, 2006
Cats with short legs - December 7th, 2006
Charles Dickens, pub toilet - April 22nd, 2007 (see also Toilet, Top Tips, below)
Crayfish Party (US: Crawfish Party) - August 1st, 2007
Crossing the road - January 2nd, 2006
CSI: Helsingborg (band) gig - December 9th, 2007

Culinary quirks, burgers - March 15th, 2006
Culinary quirks, ketchup - February 18th, 2006
Culinary quirks, morning bread rolls - February 24th, 2006


Dinner party etiquette - January 1st, 2006
Dog poop - March 7th, 2006


English in Helsingborg, speaking - January 9th, 2007
Eurovision, Spring, the price of fish - May 18th, 2006

"Excuse me" - January 3rd, 2006


Fashion - Pantspotting - February 3rd, 2007
Fashion - Swedes and Stripes - May 31st, 2008
Farts - June 12th, 2006
Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday) - February 20th, 2007
Festival in Helsingborg - August 1st, 2007

Footwear, office - February 4th, 2006
Free breakfasts - January 4th, 2006


Gossip and rumours - March 19th, 2006
Government, sleaze - October 16th, 2006


Hamnkrogen, pub toilet - May 10th, 2007 (see also Toilet, Top Tips, below)
Helsingborg, North vs South - January 17th, 2007
Helsingborgsfestivalen - August 1st, 2007
Helsingborgsvisan (The Ballad Of Helsingborg) - December 30th, 2007
Helsingör, Flat Stanley - April 10th, 2006

Helsingör, trip with the Yank - September 13th, 2006
Hotdogs - January 17th, 2006
Hotdogs, poster adverts - May 11th, 2006


I haven't got any posts starting with I, which is weird, considering I've been working for IKEA for twenty years now. I work in the IT office which doesn't have an external website, so here's a link to the Helsingborg store's pages.

Inlagd sill - pickled herring. They eat this stuff here.


No J's either. Oh well, here's a Swedish recipe with a story behind it:
Jansson's Temptation


Looks like I have no K's either. Here's more food stuff for you:
Kalle's Kaviar - this is a fishy paste (made by a company called Abba, believe it or not) that comes in a tube. It's sort of like a cheap and nasty version of caviar, but they eat it up here. Literally. Usually on crispbread, otherwise known as:


Limerick - March 17th, 2006
Lithuania dream - July 6th, 2006
Lithuania trip - June 26th, 2006
Live music - January 8th, 2006
Live music, Open Stage - July 11th, 2006
Live music, punk gig - March 18th, 2007


Magpies - March 5th, 2006
Magpies, more - May 13th, 2007

Mangler - February 24th, 2006
Montreal Trip - July 24th, 2007

Mormons - July 14th 2006
Move to Stattena from Eneborg - October 6th, 2007

Munchies - January 30th, 2006


No N's. Damn.
OK, my girlfriend lives in an area in Helsingborg where there's a pub called Norrbro. Here's their website:
Norrbro Pub


I've got no O's. Thank goodness for Olympia. This area of Helsingborg has the stadium which is the home of Helsingborg's football club, where Henrik Larsson is based, when he's not playing for non-Swedish clubs.
Olympia Stadium


Pants (US/CAN: underwear) - Pantspotting - February 3rd, 2007
Pavements (US/CAN: sidewalks) - February 1st, 2006

Pharmacy - March 29th, 2006
PL13, pub toilet - June 19th, 2007 (see also Toilet, Top Tips, below)

Promises - January 14th, 2006
Pub snacks at PL13, after punk gig - March 18th, 2007

Pubs, a night out - October 2nd, 2006
Pubs, bouncers - February 28th, 2006
Pubs, buying rounds - January 16th, 2006
Pubs, getting served - January 9th, 2006
Pubs, toilets: see "Toilet, Top Tips" below

Punctuality - January 11th, 2006
Punk gig - March 18th, 2007


Unsurprisingly, I don't have any Q's. Just read up on the
Queen of Sweden, OK?

There's a really bizarre band from Landskrona called
Quit Your Day Job. I've seen them in London and Copenhagen. They're weird. It's an acquired taste.


Recycling - December 30th, 2005
Recycling, Sweden vs England - January 29th, 2007
Restaurants in Helsingborg, a blog meme - May 19th, 2007
Rounds, buying in pubs - January 16th, 2006


Sandals and socks (office footwear) - February 4th, 2006
September 11th Tribute - September 11th, 2006

Shoes - January 23rd, 2006
Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) - February 20th, 2007
Snow (in February) - February 22nd, 2007

Speaker's Corner, a new thing - June 15th, 2006
Speaker's Corner, it's gone - June 21st, 2006
Spring, The A-Team - April 28th, 2006
Spring, bald chicks? - April 15th, 2006
Stockholm trip - October 14th, 2006
Swedish lesson, architecture - May 27th, 2006
Swedish lesson, grammar - May 19th, 2006


Tattoo idea - September 22nd, 2006
Tattoo done (and expensive haircut remembered) - December 2nd, 2006
Toilet paper - February 13th, 2006
Toilet, Top Tips: Pubs in Helsingborg - Part One: Charles Dickens - April 22nd, 2007
Toilet, Top Tips: Pubs in Helsingborg - Part Two: Hamnkrogen - May 10th, 2007
Toilet, Top Tips: Pubs in Helsingborg - Part Three: The Bishops Arms - June 3rd, 2007
Toilet, Top Tips: Pubs in Helsingborg - Part Four: PL13 - June 19th, 2007
TV, hairstyles of presenters, etc. - February 7th, 2006
TV, watching films - January 6th, 2006


I'm so lonely without U.
So I just might just go shopping in


I'm completely V-less. It's quite a shame really, because it's such a fun letter. As far as Swedish culture's concerned, however, there's a museum in Stockholm that houses a big old ship called

We have a
Video (a ballad about Helsingborg) - December 30th, 2007

The Vestibules have absolutely nothing to do with Sweden, but you have to check them out anyway. Because I know them and I'm in Sweden. So there.

Vikings were Scandinavian. Some were Swedes.


We Can English (my company) - December 30th, 2007
Weird structure, mystery - May 6th, 2006
Weird structure, mystery solved - June 21st, 2006


For some reason, Sweden is known for their liberal attitudes towards sex, and their pioneering work in the field of pornography. But since this is not an adult (XXX) blog as such, have a look at a beautiful


Yellowcoats: "Safety/Security Hosts" on the streets of Helsingborg (you'll need to scroll down a bit on this one) - February 13th, 2007
And here's the post about my cat from Ystad


I bet it comes as no surprise that I have no posts with Z's.

But there's a really cool little bar in Helsingborg that serves noodles and good bottled beers called Zoo Bar. Here's a photo: