Five Scandinavian Career Secrets to Steal

By now you’ve probably heard that workers in Scandinavian countries work fewer hours per week than workers in other parts of the world. You’ve also probably heard that Scandinavians are overall happier in their workplaces than people in many other places? Is it because they work fewer hours? Perhaps. But I don’t think working a few less hours per week on average is really the sole determinant of happiness at work. I’ve outlined five small factors which I believe contribute to Scandinavians’ happiness at work.

 1. COFFEE IS GOLDEN

Scandinavians are some of the biggest consumers of coffee in the world, and this spills over into working life as well. Here in Denmark, we drink the least amount of coffee compared to the other Scandinavian countries, but most offices have coffee ready all day for employees. In Sweden, they take it a step further and even have a word designated for coffee breaks, fika, which is almost a religious institution. Finnish offices also have company-wide coffee breaks throughout the day. Life is just a little bit better with coffee.

2. IT IS OKAY TO WORK FROM HOME SOMETIMES

When I worked in China, we weren’t allowed to work from home – ever – even when the Internet was down! In these instances, it was preferable to have people sitting around doing nothing than be out of the office and productive. A byproduct of the culture of work/life balance in Scandinavia is that people here recognise that everyone works differently, and people don’t always need to be monitored in order to be productive. The ability to work from home is particularly beneficial during flu season. That’s not to say that Scandinavian workers skip work all the time – but there is an added flexibility here that I’ve not experienced anywhere else.

3. THE TEAM COMES FIRST

Scandinavians are all about collaboration, and this extends into the workplace. A flat management structure is common, which is considered to be both empowering and motivating to employees. Within teams, everyone is considered equal and valued as a contributor to the evolution of the company’s core vision and success.

4. SAY THANK YOU OFTEN

In Swedish/Danish/Norwegian, there is no proper word for “please” but there is one for thank you, and it is used often! It pays to say thank you to the people you work with, to let them know their efforts are noticed and appreciated.

5. IT IS OKAY TO ASK QUESTIONS

I could have used this myself a few years ago when I didn’t get a job I had been interviewed intensely for. The feedback: I didn’t ask enough questions. I think in the American professional culture, people asking a lot of questions are seen as less capable of figuring things out on their own – a trait which is valued stateside. Here, I feel like people are more comfortable asking questions when they don’t know something, rather than go at it alone.

Six Things You Didn’t Know Were Swedish

The term “Made in Sweden” probably conjures up images of IKEA, Alexander Skarsgård, and H&M. While these contributions are fantastic, many people don’t know that Sweden is quite the pioneer in science and technology, and Swedes have invented many practical things which we still use today. Here are six things that you (probably) didn’t know were Swedish.

1. THE CELSIUS SCALE

The Celsius temperature system was designed by Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius in the 1700s. The original system had a scale of 100 degrees, with 0 for the boiling point of water and 100 for its freezing point. After Celsius died, the centigrade scale was reversed, and the thermometer as we know it today was created. Another Swede, Carl Linnaeus, is accredited with reversing the scale to make it more practical.

2. THE COKE BOTTLE

It’s hard to overlook contributions made by Swedish-Americans, and few things are as iconic in the USA as the Coca-Cola bottle. Alexander Samuelson, a glass engineer from Gothenburg, is accredited with designing the Coca-Cola bottle we know today. When designing the bottle, he wanted it to be recognisable even if broken. As one of the most recognised packaging products in the world, it’s safe to say he succeeded in that!

3. DYNAMITE

It might seem weird that a famously neutral country such as Sweden would be home to the inventor of dynamite, but in his defence, it was an accident! While experimenting with explosive nitroglycerin in bottles, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel accidentally mixed it with the chemical protecting the bottles. The mixture resulted in a substance which was blast effective but safer to handle. Nobel named it dynamite, and used the money he earned from it to create what we all know now as the Nobel Foundation and the Nobel Prize.

4. SPOTIFY

Spotify seems to be taking over the world, with services in over 50 countries, but I remember when it was only available in Sweden and you had to have an invitation code to use it. This music streaming service was launched in October 2008 as a start-up in Stockholm and has expanded rapidly ever since to over 40 million users.

5. SOUNDCLOUD

We all knew Swedes had a knack for catchy pop, but it seems they also have a talent for music technology. SoundCloud, a music distribution software, was created by Swedish sound designer Alex Ljung and Swedish artist Eric Wahlforss in Stockholm in 2007. It was designed with the intention of allowing musicians to share their recordings with each other, but it transformed into a full publishing tool which also allowed musicians to distribute their music tracks. Now based in Berlin, SoundCloud now has over 200 million listeners.

6. THE ZIPPER

Swedes may not have invented jeans, but they invented one of the most important elements of them. The modern-day zipper as we know it features interlocking teeth pulled together and apart by a slider and was developed by Swedish-American inventor Gideon Sundbäck. It was improved upon from a less effective model in 1913 and the redesigned version was patented in 1917.

I write this while wearing H&M jeans and drinking out of an IKEA coffee mug, and I love these Swedish-designed products, but it is also important to recognise Sweden’s contributions to the world in science and technology. For a small country, it has contributed disproportionally in these fields and continues to impress the world with their innovative exports.

Six Ways to Youthful Skin: The Scandinavian Way

The Koreans are world famous for the elaborate skincare routines (and great skin), but in Scandinavia they do things a bit differently. Here, there is more of a focus on achieving great skin not only through fabulous skin care products, but also through natural means like diet and a focus on a healthy lifestyle. Here are six ways to achieve Scandinavian youthful skin.

1. EMBRACE ROSE HIPS

Rose hips are the fruit of the rose plant and are commonly found in Scandinavia. In skin care, it is used for fighting hydration, scarring and irritations. As one of the richest sources of Vitamin C, they are used in a variety of ways including in teas and foods. Rose hip soup (Swedish: nyponsoppa) is a common dish in Sweden, for example. Vitamin C is considered beneficial for the skin to maintain elasticity, prevent wrinkles and minimise skin flaws. A full list of benefits can be found here.

2. SAUNA, SAUNA, SAUNA

Saunas can be found around the world, but the Scandinavians take it to a new level. They understand that nothing is more invigorating than a deep, healthy sweat every day. Even my student building in Uppsala had a sauna on the rooftop! The benefits of a sauna session include opening up and cleansing of the pores and increased blood circulation. A full list of benefits can be found here.

3. TRY SCANDINAVIAN BERRIES FILLED WITH ANTIOXIDANTS

Scandinavian berries are filled with antioxidants and grow in a part of the world where the sun doesn’t set in summer, making them plumper, richer and more powerful than any berry anywhere else in the world. They are eaten frequently at breakfast with yoghurt or as a jam to accompany savoury meals. Scandinavian berries can also be used directly in skin care. Companies such as Lumene have been harnessing the powerful elements of these berries, in particular the cloudberry, which grows between August and October in Sweden, Norway and Finland, to integrate them into various creams and skincare products.

4. SPEND TIME OUTDOORS, RAIN OR SHINE

It’s no secret that Scandinavian weather is not the best. But this doesn’t stop Scandinavians from spending time outdoors, even in the winter when temperatures regularly are below freezing. You’ll still see people outside running in January, or cycling on an icy path (how people can do this, I don’t know). There’s much evidence that living an active, outdoorsy life does wonders for the metabolism by quickly burning unwanted fat. Scandinavians take winter by the horns and reap the benefits.

5. FOCUS ON NATURAL BEAUTY

Most Scandinavian women don’t seem to wear a lot of makeup – at least during the day. Piling on the foundation day after day is not good for your skin. It is important to allow your skin to breathe in order to prevent clogged pores and breakouts while avoiding premature ageing. There is an emphasis here on enhancing what you already have, not covering anything up. Also, because of the informal Scandinavian working culture, there is less pressure here for women to look “done up” everyday.

6. DRINK COFFEE

The Scandinavians are some of the biggest consumers of coffee in the world, and caffeine has been shown to have great benefits for skin. The antioxidants contained in caffeine can attack skin-damaging free radicals and eliminate them, which improves the overall look of skin. This is why caffeine is widely used in anti-ageing day creams in combination with retinol. A full list of benefits can be found here. Caffeine should of course be consumed in moderation to reap its health benefits.

The Scandinavian lifestyle is all about balance and sustainability, and this extends into beauty and skin care. To achieve the Scandinavian look, forget the make-up and styling tools and look to more natural ways of beautifying – inside and out.

Six Things You Didn’t Know Were Finnish

Finland is technically not a Scandinavian country, but it is indeed a Nordic country with historic ties to Sweden and a sizeable Swedish-speaking population. It also gives the Scandinavian countries a run for their money in the global rankings. Finland scores in the top 10 for reported happiness, is one of the most egalitarian countries, and is consistently praised for their education system. They are also the world’s largest consumers of coffee, and have more heavy metal bands per head than any other country. Finland, you have absolutely earned a place in our hearts and we present you six things you didn’t know were Finnish.

1. SAUNA CULTURE

Today, the sauna can be found all over the world, but Finland has many unique sauna customs that have evolved over the centuries. If the sauna is located near a lake bathers may jump into the water to cool off rather than taking a shower. Otherwise, a roll in the snow works just fine. Another Finnish tradition is to take birch branches into the sauna, moisten them, and then gently brush yourself with them to help open up your pores and increase blood circulation. This is seen to enhance the sauna experience.

2. SANTA CLAUS

The debate is over: Santa Claus is real and he is from Finland. There is an actual place in Finland called the Santa Claus Village, just above the Arctic Circle, in a town called Rovaniemi. The village has a post office which receives letters from children (and sometimes adults too) from all over the world – and each letter is replied to by Santa’s Little Helpers. The village in Rovaniemi is open year-round and open to visitors from children and adults alike.

3. ICE SKATES

Ice skating, which is the oldest human-powered means of transportation, was estimated to be invented in Finland around 3000 BC. Scientists have discovered ancient ice skates in the area made out of animal bone. They are believed to be invented as a means of transportation in order to travel more quickly and use less energy than walking around all the lakes – Southern Finland has more lakes within 40 square miles (100 square kilometers) than any other region in the world. It is no surprise then that Finland has such a strong ice hockey team!

4. ANGRY BIRDS

After Angry Birds was first released in December 2009, it was inescapable. Nearly five years later, the game has been downloaded over TWO BILLION times and has spawned a wave of toys, a television show, and themed beverages. This video game franchise was started by a Finnish computer company called Rovio Entertainment in Helsinki and is one of the largest mobile app successes. Although Angry Birds is a global phenomenon, it still maintains its ties to the Finnish identity. Angry Birds enthusiasts can visit the Angry Birds Land theme park in Särkänniemi, Finland.

5. WIFE CARRYING AS A SPORT

Wife carrying is a sport in which male competitors race while carrying a female teammate. The objective is for the male to carry the female through a special obstacle track with the fastest time. There are the Wife Carrying World Championships which are held annually in Finland, and the prize is determined by the wife’s weight. It might sound like a joke, but it is actually taken very seriously by competitors, and has even been exported to other countries such as Hong Kong, Australia, and the United States.

6. XYLITOL

Xylitol is a substance used for dental health and as a sweetener alternative to sugar. It is primarily made from the birch tree branches found in Finland. It offers numerous health benefits such as the prevention of cavities, plaque reduction, and even helps with ear infections in children.

This was a hard list to narrow down to just six things! Finland is an example of how a small nation can achieve great things and have a significant global impact. Kiitos Finland for all your contributions!

Six Reasons Why Copenhagen is the Healthiest City

CNN has confirmed something many of us living here already suspected – Copenhagen is one of the 10 healthiest cities in the world! Personally, we feel that Copenhagen is the healthiest city on this list. Here are the top six reasons Copenhagen is the healthiest city:

1. WORK/LIFE BALANCE

Denmark has a great culture of work/life balance, with only 2% of Danes working more than 40 hours per week. This leaves people with plenty of free time for friends, family, volunteering, and personal interests. Having a proper work/life balance not only reduces stress levels, but increases happiness as well. After all, Denmark has been named the Happiest Country in the World for a few years now.

2. CYCLING CULTURE

The cycling culture is one of the first things visitors will notice about Copenhagen – bikes are everywhere! Approximately 50% of all commutes in Copenhagen are made by bike, with plans to see this number increase in the future. Not only is cycling economical and environmentally friendly, it’s physically healthy as well. The city has implemented many bike lanes, paths, and bridges to ensure cycling is a safe and enjoyable activity.

3. STRONG SOCIAL NETWORKS

96% of Danes report having a strong support system and being able to call someone in a time of need. Access to a strong social network and support system is proven to have both mental and physical benefits such as reduced anxiety and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

4. ACCESS TO GREEN AREAS

Despite being a bustling capital city, Copenhagen is full of green areas such as parks and beaches for locals to spend their free time. In fact, the city has made it a priority to ensure that all residents can access a green area within 15 minutes by next year – quite an undertaking, but it shows how seriously green areas are taken around here!

5. FITNESS AS A PRIORITY

Even though many Danes get some exercise by cycling, they still flock to the many fitness centres and outdoor areas to break a sweat. Fitness is clearly a priority for many people here, and “what kind of fitness do you do” is a common question to ask someone. The Danes don’t let weather stop them either – you will see people out running rain, shine, or cold temperatures.

6. LAUGHTER YOGA

Laughter yoga is one of the many free and healthy activities available to residents of Copenhagen. The city is even home to Denmark’s own laughter guru, Thomas Flindt! Laughter yoga proves that laughter really is the medicine sometime, with reported benefits such as improved mood and decreased levels of stress.

In short, the Danes can have their Carlsberg and drink it too. This is a country all about balance, both in their professional lives and in their approach to health. To learn more about health and happiness in Denmark, tune into CNN’s “Vital Signs with Dr. Sanjay Gupta” as he talks about happiness in Denmark and participates in a laugher yoga session with Thomas Flindt.

Six Things You Didn’t Know Were Norwegian

Norway is perhaps one of the most beautiful countries on earth, but culturally it sometimes gets overshadowed by its neighbour to the east, Sweden. Like Denmark, Norway is a small country with more than their fair share of contributions to the world. Here are six things you didn’t know were Norwegian.

ROALD DAHL

Many of us remember many of Roald Dahl’s classic novels such as James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (both the book and the movie versions) from our childhood. Although he was born in Wales, as his surname suggests, Dahl is born to Norwegian parents who had emigrated to Britain. Dahl still spent most of his summers in Norway, and Norwegian influences were evident in his work. The Witches, for example, is about a British boy of Norwegian descent whose grandmother is still living in Norway. Dahl’s stories are known for their unexpected endings and dark humour.

THE SCREAM

The Scream (Norwegian: Skrik) is perhaps one of the most recognised pieces of art worldwide and was painted by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, born in Oslo in 1863. Four different versions in various medias were created of The Scream and have been the target of various thefts. Many of Munch’s themes included illness, insanity, and death and he is often regarded as the pioneer of the Expressionist movement in modern painting.

THE CHRISTMAS TREE AT TRAFALGAR SQUARE IN LONDON

Since 1947, the Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square in London has been gifted to the people of Britain from the city of Oslo as a token of gratitude for British support of Norway during second World War. The tree is typically a 50-60 year old Norwegian spruce standing at over 20 meters tall and is displayed in Trafalgar Square from the beginning of December until 6 January. The Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square is often considered one of the best places in the world to experience the holiday season.

ARENDELLE IN DISNEY’S FROZEN

Arendalle, the fictional Scandinavian country in the hit Disney movie, Frozen, was inspired by many of Norway’s picturesque landscapes. The look and feel of Arendelle is based on the city of Bergen, in the Norwegian western fjord lands. Several other Norwegian landmarks appear in the film as well such as the Askershus Fortress in Oslo and Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. Since the movie was released last year, tourism to Norway has increased with Disney organising Frozen-inspired tours in Norway. It is rumoured that the director visited many places around Scandinavia for inspiration before deciding on Norway.

THE CHEESE SLICER

The cheese slicer was invented by the Norwegian inventor Thor Bjørklund and is found in most Scandinavian households today. It is also an important Norwegian export, and its popularity is catching on outside of the Scandinavian countries. Bjørklund also created the company Thor Bjørklund & Sønner AS, which still produces cheese slicers in Lillehammer, Norway. The Swiss also claim this as their invention, but I’m going to give it to Norway!

SKIING

The word “ski” comes from the Norwegian word “skíð” which means “stick of wood” in English. Although it is believed skiing originated in China as early as 600 BC, the first recorded organised skiing exercises come from military uses of skis by the Norwegian and Swedish infantries. Military exercises included downhill in rough terrain, target practice while skiing downhill, and cross-country skiing with a full military backpack. The first public skiing competition was held in Tromsø, Norway in 1843, so it comes as no surprise then that Norwegians still dominate today at the Winter Olympics in skiing events.

Tusen takk Norway for everything you have given us!

Living the Gay Life in Copenhagen

Last week was a great week to be gay in Copenhagen. Saturday marked the end of this year’s Copenhagen Pride Week, a week where LGBT issues are at the centre of attention in the city. The festival is always colourful, festive, and political – and all the events are free! Despite the rain, the final parade went on without a hitch on Saturday with over 100,000 people in attendance. This year’s Pride Week also coincides with the 30th anniversary of the PanGames, an international sports event hosted by the LGBT sports club in Copenhagen. Gay life goes way beyond Pride Week in August, it has long been a part of the culture in Copenhagen, and Denmark has always been at the forefront for LBGT rights.

Denmark is considered an inclusive place for people of all persuasions as Scandinavians in general are known for their open-mindedness and tolerance. In 1989, Denmark made history and became the first country to make same-sex unions legal. On the 1st of October in 1989, Danes Eigal and Axel Axgil were the first couple to enter into a registered same-sex partnership in 1989 after 40 years of being engaged. Registered gay couples have been allowed to adopt children since 2009, and have been legally allowed to get married in church since 2012.

Today, there are plenty of LGBT activites and events held throughout the year – the Copenhagen Pride Festival is one, and the city also hosts one of the oldest LGBT film festivals in the world, MIX Copenhagen hosted in October. There are many LGBT support groups and communities around the country which organise regular events and workshops, such as the PanGames. Copenhagen was also the second-ever host of the World OutGames in 2009.

Long before 1989, Denmark was a haven for gay rights. Copenhagen is home to one of the oldest gay bars in Europe, Centralhjørnet, opened in the Copenhagen city centre in 1917, and became a gay bar in the 1950s. Today many other establishments have followed their lead, and there are many gay bars and clubs located throughout Copenhagen.

Not only is this tolerance great for gay Danes and international residents, it is also great for tourists. Tourism boards in the region, such as Visit Copenhagen and Visit Denmark, take pride in the country’s tolerance and feature LGBT info sections on their websites. The information includes LGBT history in Denmarkas well as recommendations of places to go in the country/city. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), which is owned by the governments of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, also features LGBT travel information on their website. SAS was also the first airline to hold a same-sex wedding in-flight in 2010.

The rest of the world is starting to take notice of all which Copenhagen and Denmark have to offer LGBT travellers, and this is long overdue if you ask me. Earlier this year, Copenhagen was awarded the Breakout Destination of 2014 by Out Traveler Magazine, an online travel magazine for the gay community. The city was voted by readers around the world, beating out cities such as Istanbul, Philadelphia, and Antwerp. The city’s gay offerings have also been featured on one of USA Today’s 10 Best lists.

I come from a country where we are still fighting these issues of acceptance and tolerance. I’ve also lived in a country that only legalised homosexuality in 1997 and removed it as a mental illness in 2001. This week and every other week, I’m proud to live in a country where people can be free to love whomever they please.

Six Things You Didn’t Know Were Danish

Denmark is a small Scandinavian country of about 5 million people, and recently it has become known for high levels of happiness and quality of life. For such a small country, Denmark has contributed quite a lot to the world over the years, but many of its exports aren’t immediately associated with Danish-ness. Here are six things you maybe didn’t know were Danish.

1. LEGO

Many children around the world are familiar with these multicoloured plastic bricks, as well as the hit film The Lego Movie. Fewer people are probably aware that the brand Lego began in a carpenter’s workshop in Billund, Denmark and were originally wooden toys. The word LEGO is an abbreviation of the Danish phrase “leg godt” which means “play well”. The company maintains its headquarters in Billund, which is also the home of the theme park Lego Land.

2. AQUA

I dare you to find me one person who is not familiar with the song “Barbie Girl” by Aqua regardless of personal music preferences. Three out of four of the band’s members are Danish (Lene Nystrøm is Norwegian) and the band was formed in Denmark. Today, all four members are still living in Denmark having had their own individual successes in the music business. Sweden isn’t the only Scandinavian country capable of producing catchy pop songs!

3. THE LOUDSPEAKER

On Christmas Eve in 1915, 75,000 people stood in front of the City Hall in San Francisco in anticipation of the demonstration of the world’s first loudspeaker, designed by Peter L. Jensen. Born in Denmark in 1886, Jensen was regarded as the Danish Edison in the United States. Nearly one hundred years after that Christmas Eve in San Francisco, one of the most expensive loudspeaker brands still goes under the name Jensen.

4. THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

Okay this one is technically Australian, but it was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon in 1957 – the winner of an international design competition. The venue was formally opened on 20 October 1973, taking 10 years more than expected to complete. Today it is considered Utzon’s masterpiece and is one of the most iconic symbols of Sydney and of Australia. The Sydney Opera House is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 2007.

5. MOMONDO

If you’ve been experiencing wanderlust, it’s possible you’ve used Momondorecently. Momondo is a travel search engine based in Copenhagen that allows users to find and compare prices on airplane tickets, hotels, and cars. It does not sell tickets directly on the site but provides an overview of available providers and prices, allowing customers to chose the best and most attractive deal. The company was launched in 2006 as a flight search engine only but has since expanded into vacation packages, hotels, cars, and travel deals.

6. THE EGG CHAIR

You might even be sitting in one of these now; the egg chair is an iconic piece by Danish furniture designer Arne Jacobsen. It was designed in 1958 for the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen in typical Jacobsen style, using state-of-the-art material. The chair has since popped up in a variety of venues around the world, and has been subject to imitation.

These are just a few Danish innovations, but there are many more. Regardless of whether you knew these were all Danish or not, it’s easy to see that Denmark’s contributions to the world are numerous.

Five Ways to Make Friends in Sweden

Just moved to Sweden? Välkommen! Unless you were lucky enough to bring your BFF with you to this beautiful Scandinavian country, you’re going to need some friends – or at least have someone to skål with.

No matter where you come from, friendship is a universal concept – you have your close circle of friends and then there are the acquaintances we enjoy spending time with once and awhile. Meeting people in a new country doesn’t have to be tough, here are five tips for making connections in Sweden.

1. GET INVOLVED

If you’re attending Uppsala or Lund Universities, you’ll benefit from the nation system. The student nations are like student clubs which offer social activities and run their own bar/cafe as well. As a student, you have the option to work at the bar or cafe in exchange for a small salary or free meals – but the real opportunity here is the chance to work alongside Swedes and get to know them. A lot of my friends in Uppsala did this and I kind of wish I had too. Even if you are not in Uppsala or Lund, most Swedish student cities have at least one student bar or cafe and they will usually hire international students as well as Swedes. I highly recommend this!

2. LEARN

Attending university and becoming involved in school activities is one of the easiest ways to make friends in Sweden. But for those of us who have finished our education, most cities and towns in Sweden have continuing education schools such as Folkuniversitet and Medborgarskolan. Here you can take classes in everything from Finnish, crafts, or public speaking. No one will expect you to be fluent as soon as you get off the plane, but learning Swedish will offer many benefits no matter what your level. You won’t find many local Swedes in these classes (I would hope) but you will meet plenty of others who are new to Sweden and in a similar position to you.

3. SING

Sweden has a long musical history and is the third highest exporter of pop music in the world. Singing is in the Swedish blood, and this is evident through many of their cultural traditions. Sweden has one of the highest rates of barbershop and choir participation in the world! There are competitive groups, but for most choirs or barbershop groups, it’s not about gruelling auditions and intense practicing. Most people join regardless of singing ability because it’s a great way to meet people and have fun. Besides, you never know when ABBA will reunite and look to recruit a 5th member.

4. ENTERTAIN

Pub and restaurant culture is not quite as evolved as you would find in London or New York City, so many people in Sweden enjoy entertaining at home. If you are invited to someone’s place for dinner, it is expected that you will extend an invitation in return within a reasonable time. Likewise, thanks to high taxes on alcohol, a night out can get pretty expensive in Sweden so pre-parties (förfest) are almost mandatory. I’ve heard that alcohol brings people together but I’ve never tested this theory.

5. GO AUSSIE

Even though Sweden is a long way away from Australia, Aussie Rules Football(AFL) has a keen following in Sweden is played in many cities – Stockholm and Gothenburg of course, but also in smaller cities such as Helsingborg and Karlstad. Teams are registered under the national governing body, Svenska Australiska Fotbollsförbundet, or AFL Sweden. Involvement is a great way to meet Swedes and internationals, fit in a good workout, and see other parts of Sweden when travelling for games.

Moving to a new city or country can be lonely at first, but it doesn’t have to be! There will be a niche for everyone, and fortunately Sweden offers many opportunities for you to find it.

University Life: American VS Swedish

I am fortunate enough to have spent significant time in both the American and Swedish university systems. I went to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, which is just about as all-American as universities come. Meanwhile, I also spent three semesters at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden. One of the oldest universities in Scandinavia, Uppsala University is filled with traditions that date back before my country was even around.

Sometimes it seems like these two worlds couldn’t be farther apart, so I’ve highlighted some of the differences between the American and Swedish university systems in terms of academics, social life, and school spirit.

ACADEMICS

AMERICA:

Students pick a major, and maybe a second major or a minor, and focus on this while taking care of the general education requirements set by the university for all students. A student’s admission is primarily to the university, although individual programmes have their own acceptance requirements and some programmes are notoriously more difficult to get into. That said, a student can gain a broader admission to the university and then it’s usually easier to switch majors as they see fit.

SWEDEN:

Students generally pick what they want to study when they apply to universities, and admission is based on acceptance to a particular programme. Sometimes, first year students will take “free” courses to get a feel for what they like and then will apply to a specific programme. They then follow a programme path outlined by the department. There are no general education requirements, students can dive right into their chosen subject.

SOCIAL LIFE

AMERICA:

Many students share a room with another student in a large dormitory during their first year. The advantage to this is students get to meet people from all academic backgrounds, from all over the country. Some universities offer themed housing which allow students to focus attention on an interest. Many students chose to participate in the Greek system but just as many opt out and still have a fantastic social life as there are so many other ways to be involved.

SWEDEN:

Students tend to meet people primarily through their courses, so most of their friend will have similar academic interests. Students at Uppsala University (and Lund University) benefit from the nation system, which is available to anyone to join for a small fee. Until 2010 in Uppsala, membership in a nation was mandatory. Even though it is not required now, most students still choose to join a nation. Each nation is different, but some of the social offerings include choir, sports, cafes, and open mic nights. There is definitely something for everyone.

SCHOOL SPIRIT

AMERICA:

At Virginia Tech, it was hard NOT to have school spirit. Everyone is walking around in Virginia Tech gear, and on football game days, there is only one thing happening in town. Of course, there are plenty of smaller schools in the US which don’t have such a spirited student body – a lot of this is dependent on athletic programs.

SWEDEN:

While most Swedish university students seem to greatly enjoy their time, most European universities don’t even come close to American universities when we’re talking about school spirit. Students generally don’t wear apparel featuring their university, and they don’t have athletic teams which bond students together.

When it comes to comparing American and Swedish university systems, there really is no clear winner. I prefer the focus of a laid-out programme in Sweden, but also enjoyed tacking on leadership courses to my degree. I can’t say enough good things about the nation system in Uppsala, but also missed the school spirit and sports activities of Virginia Tech while I was away. Both systems offer a fantastic student experience if you chose to make the most of what is on offer.