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Julmarknad – Christmas Market

Coming from England, I thought our homes, towns and shops looked Christmassy – but then I came to Sweden. Here, every window in every house has a Christmas star or candle shining onto the streets below. Every street has stunning Christmas lights hanging between buildings, and every building has a beautifully decorated Christmas tree inside. Also, not to mention it’s almost impossible to go a day without someone offering you a few of the Swedish Christmas biscuits – pepparkakor.

It also appears that there’s a new Chistmas market (julmarknad) every few days here in Stockholm. Last weekend I popped along to my local Christmas market on the island of Stora Essingen.

23696097956_1852ea7a3d_kThe wonderful florist on Stora Essingen had beautiful flower arrangements perfect for decorating rooms with some Christmas foliage.
23354240289_a6e6fa6e6c_k23095122683_d4eb1cf67e_kSome not so Christmassy Spanish meats were available to taste and buy! More traditionally Swedish is glögg – a warm spiced and sweet red or white wine, similar to the mulled wine we have in Britain.
23639660411_a4aadc0d18_k23613679212_a5ed92f62f_kLots of handmade and carefully crafted decorations from artists living on the Stockholm island.
23639648331_57aa761729_kMy favourite part of the market was the dog sleigh (see top image) which pulled the local children around the market.23696100106_a4df7b0928_k23613688012_e2fe60171e_kThe market was a prime example of the community spirit I love in Stora Essingen. Everyone coming out on a cold Sunday to have fun and support local businesses.


Swedish culture in 5 photos.

1. Fika

I see fika as a statement about the work-life balance here in Sweden, rather than an excuse to consume litres of coffee each day. I also find the concept feeds well into studying by optimising concentration with regular breaks between classes.

Check out the blog from Andaç on fika here.


2. Generosity

I’ve found Swedes – classmates, friends, strangers and lecturers – all to be extremely helpful and generous. I guess this is also reflected within the Nordic social-political model. The picture below demonstrates the community spirit and generosity in Hornstull (Stockholm) with a free book trade alcove situated under a bridge.


3. Nature

Compared to other cities I’ve visited, in Stockholm you always have nature just upon your doorstep. In the summer, the water surrounding the city islands is perfect for a quick swim and it only takes a few metro stops to find a secluded park or garden for a walk around the beautiful countryside. Everyone in Sweden really values this space and I’ve certainly started to feel this too.


4. Ikea

Going to Ikea is actually a thing. Its more than just a brand though, I think the general idea of Ikea – simple and revolutionary flatpack furniture – is a great example of the drive for new solutions and innovations. Everything just seems to work in Sweden.


5. Art

Art is everywhere – not only in the museums, it’s on the streets, in people’s fashion sense and even in the metro stations.


Stockholm Film Festival 2015.

The 26th Stockholm International Film Festival will take place in just over two weeks time and is a brilliant example of Sweden’s appreciation of international art and culture. The spotlight theme this year is Migration.

Taking place over 12 days between 11th and 22nd November, the event will screen 200 films from more than 60 different countries at 9 venues across Stockholm. The 2015 awards have already gained global media attention after the announcements of a few of ‘The Bronze Horse’ winners and the involvement of a renowned Chinese artist.


The Bronze Horse or Bronshästen, is the heaviest award in film at 7.3kg and designed by the graphic designer Fredrik Swärd. It represents the traditional image of the Swedish Dala horse, often seen in gift shops as children’s toys carved out of wood and painted red.

This year, The Bronze Horse award for Lifetime Achievement has already been awarded to English director Stephen Frears (The Program, Philomena, The Queen). After his recent success in depicting Lance Armstrong’s battle with David Walsh in The Program, Frears now joins the likes of Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch and Mike Leigh who have all received the award previously.

Ai Weiwei is also set to be a part of the 2015 Festival making it the third consecutive year of collaboration. In 2014, Ai Weiwei sculpted two giant lions out of ice to symbol guards of The Forbidden City. This year, he chairs the jury of the new Stockholm Impact Award whilst also designing the anticipated award itself. The Impact Award aims to highlight films that create opportunities for change and debate around contemporary issues.


Other highlights of the festival include: premier of She’s Wild Again Tonight (winner of the Feature Film Award), Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist, Requiem for a Dream) receiving the Stockholm Achievement Award and Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) receiving the Stockholm Visionary Award.

Read more at www.stockholmfilmfestival.se

Images: Festival – Stockholm Film Festival/stockholmfilmfestival.se, Bronze Horse – Isa Olsson/stockholmfilmfestival.se, Dala Horse -Amanda Westerbom/imagebank.sweden.se,  Skandia – Emmanuel Castro Skött/stockholmfilmfestival.se, Ai Wei Wei – Gao Yuan/stockholmfilmfestival.se

Welcome to Stockholm.

I guess my curiosity towards Scandinavia started as a child after my Mum described driving a VW Beetle around Norwegian fjords during her early 20s. During this trip she got hold of a Norsk yahtzee set which often made appearances on family holidays; weirdly I thought it’d be super cool to write my name Alex with the letter Å instead. Since then the Nordic countries, culture and people have always intrigued me, but it wasn’t until 2013 when I visited Reykjavík, Iceland that I really felt a connection with the region in general. Whether it’s the nature, landscapes, political model, fashion, foods or innovation that I love, I’m not sure but I just feel at home here. Studying in Sweden was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Anyway, enough of the sentiment.

I’m Alex from England, the United Kingdom studying the Global Health Master’s Programme at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. For some reason, I’ve been trusted to be a Digital Ambassador (AKA blogger), so here you can follow my Swedish adventure in text, photos, Instagram #alexsthlm and the occasional YouTube video.

I thought I’d start by quickly rounding up the highlights from my first week in Stockholm.

Learning Swedish

At Karolinska all international students were offered a free 3 day intensive Swedish course during introductory week. It was a brilliant way to get a head start in learning the language and meeting loads of people also new to Stockholm.

Although literally everyone speaks fluent English, it is nice to learn some useful phrases in Swedish – and personally I’d really like to get to a grasp on Swedish throughout my stay.

Popaganda 2015

This festival in Södermalm is the closing of the summer music scene here in Stockholm. Taking place in Eriksdalsbadet, around a giant outdoor swimming pool, the setting was amazing. Seeing Robyn, MØ, Jungle and James Blake live at the end of the Swedish summer felt like the perfect intro into the academic year.


Starting University

Recovering from the festival was a challenge but fortunately the work-life balance in Sweden aided my level of tiredness. I’ve found this to be a general theme so far (compared to my previous studies) that most courses will cover the required content during lecture time and that the reading outside of school is minimal. From what I hear this applies to the work place as well – with a ‘late night at the office’ translating to leaving at 6pm…

Water in Stockholm

Stockholm Fashion Night

As part of the annual Stockholm Fashion Week at the end of August, a free evening in Östermalm was held to promote Swedish brands and designers. Starting at Sturegallerian, the high-end mall in town, we watched a catwalk show parading the latest trends in Scandinavian design. Complimentary food, goody bags, late night shopping, street DJs, and importantly free beers rounded off a brilliant first week.

Fashion Night