Sunday, June 16, 2013

Travel Log: Sweden

One of the best perks of living in London is that it is truly a global hub for travel. Want to get to South Africa / Brazil / India / Italy / Japan? You can get there from London. We've decided to make it a goal to get away and explore a new destination at least once a month in order to take advantage of this unique traveling opportunity.

The weekend of June 8th we left London early Saturday morning and headed to Gothenburg, Sweden. Why Sweden? Well, why not? Google Flights showed us some fairly good airfares to Gothenburg. We probably wouldn't think of Sweden as a destination place from the US, but when it is less than a two hour flight from London it looks much more attractive.

Sweden: The land of the unisex bathroom
Upon arrival, Heidi decided to use the facilities before leaving the airport. Why am I writing about this? The sign for the bathroom indicated that it was a unisex stall, however, it wasn't just a single stall, but an entire unisex bathroom! You walk in, and to the right are a bunch of men standing at the urinal, and apparently the women just walk right into the stalls. She was so unprepared for this cultural difference, however, that she just walked in and straight back out! Apparently this is a very normal thing in Sweden and we even read later on that there are many unisex bathrooms in the work environment there as well.

Swedish fare
On Saturday we spent much of our time walking around the city. We ate local Swedish cuisine which consisted of a cheese plate, bacon and tomato omelette, and sweet potato mash and sausages. It was delicious! We went to the Gothenburg City museum, where we discovered how thought-provoking the Swedes can be! Almost every single description of the artifacts ended in a rhetorical question about what it might have been used for or what a symbol may have represented.

Entering the Botanical Garden
Sunday we went to one of the largest botanical gardens in all of Europe, which is located just south of the city and very easy to get to via streetcar. It may have been one or two weeks too early to see all the flowers in bloom, but we saw a large variety of floral species in addition to many trees and herbs. We then rode the streetcar back up to Liseberg, the amusement park located in the center of the city. It was quite fun to see the similarities of a European amusement park to the ones at home. There were plenty of rides for the younger kids, along with a few roller coasters. We tried out some carnival games where the prizes were bars of chocolate.

Streetcars Everywhere
Not understanding a word of Swedish, it was a little bit tricky getting around, but almost all the locals speak English as it's taught in schools from a young age. And the streetcar system was very good, so we were able to see a lot in a very short amount of time. Prior to our arrival in London, we didn't know a thing about Gothenburg except that it is one of Chicago's sister cities, having seen the large blue and gold cross among the other flags in the depths of O'Hare. Now having been there, we've seen that Gothenburg, and Sweden more generally, is a great place for a quick getaway.

More photos:

Saturday, June 1, 2013

British Oddities

Sorry it has been awhile since our last post. While Ryan was in Aruba soaking up the rays, I was here unpacking our sea shipment which finally arrived on May 22. We are now mostly settled into our new home (we still need a few things, mainly a couch and a wardrobe) so hopefully we can update regularly from here on.

Also, now that it has been 6 weeks, I think that it about time we start commenting on some of the stranger things that we have grown somewhat accustomed to.

"Should, Could, and Might Do"

Quite frequently in the workplace, I have heard these expressions. Usually it is in the following context;  "I will give the broker a call to check on that data request"
"Yeah, you should do"

Or, when we were buying items for our new place, we asked if the store would offer us a discount on the display item since it was the only one left. "They might do"

I don't know why exactly I find this expression so strange, but I think it might be that I feel the sentence is incomplete. Might do what, exactly? Sure, it is usually apparent from the context of the rest of the conversation, but it just leaves it in such an awkward place.

Floor one is floor zero

If you find yourself in a 'lift' in the UK, don't get off on the first floor if you expect to be at ground level. You may find yourself walking down a flight of stairs.

The washer and the dryer are the same appliance.....and it's in the kitchen

Now, I don't mean that the washer and dryer are connected and stacked on top of one another, I mean that it is the SAME MACHINE. You put you clothes in, leave it for four hours, and you come back ready to fold the laundry. In theory, this would be nice, except all the clothes inevitably get wrinkled from being in the same position for 4+ hours, so ironing is a must. Also, I said 4 hours. That is like an eternity. Especially when it is located in your kitchen/living area and shakes the entire room during the rinse cycle.

You can't dry your hair in the bathroom

Now, this is the one that really bothers me. Apparently, since the voltage here in the UK is so high, it is against the law to have regular electrical outlets in the bathroom. Instead, females are forced to use a vanity or some other set up and dry their hair in the bedroom. And where do men use electric razors, you ask? Oh, well they simply invented a low voltage razor and have a low voltage outlet in the bathroom that only works with electric shavers. Say, what???

Crossing the street requires more steps than it should

Usually at larger intersections, there is a median in the middle for pedestrians to stand. However, when crossing from one side of the street to the other, you usually have to walk about 2-3 meters on this median to get to the spot where the walk signal is located for the crossing the second part of the street. Why can't you just walk in one straight line? Wouldn't that be simpler??

People don't get out of the way when you need to exit the train

In Chicago, it was always one of those 'unspoken rules' that when the El was crowded, the people standing by the doors would exit the train car at every stop in order to let people out and then would get back inside once everyone exited. That was cold, snowy Chicago where the trains are outside. Here in London, where trains are underground and almost always hot because they are crowded and not air conditioned, people do not move an inch when the train pulls into a station. If you need to get out you are pushing people out of your way the entire time. Shouldn't you demonstrate this small courtesy to your fellow commuters? Yes you should do!