How To Be A Swede • Elenore Bendel Zahn

Elenore Bendel Zahn of Earthsprout stole my heart years ago. I've followed her journey through motherhood, marriage, and some of the most epic recipes in-between. She is a Swedish fairy that truly makes the world a better place with her light, green thumb, recipes, parenting, and dedication to less-waste.

And I think it's safe to say that we've all been wanting to pull back the curtain to learn how we can be a bit more Swedish? Amirite? Here are fifteen ways that you can infuse your life with this amazing and magical culture - through Elenore's full, funny, and loving heart.

You’re headed to Sweden to spend a year behaving, thinking, speaking and eating like a Swede and you need some tips. Although generalizations, as a born and raised Swede, the list below is full of observations of this country and culture. Come along for an exploration of this Scandi nation! Time to embrace your inner crispbread-eating and privacy-loving minimalist pagan.

1.      Get ready for ways of life and seasonal traditions with roots in paganism. Earth-loving is really real here. It’s our church and it suits me so well. 

2. Envision a big globe around you, that’s your official Swedish ball of privacy and you better act as if it’s really solid. People on the subway will think you’re drunk or very weird of you start chatting to them for no apparent reason. 

3. Although I’m a big fan of waste-free living and think we have a long way to go, if you come to Sweden and don’t sort and recycle* you’re trash, you will be met by some very raised eye brows. 

*Recycling stations are everywhere and only 1% of our trash goes to landfills!

4. It’s a very gender equal society and the awesome view of dads walking around with prams and baby carriers everywhere is pretty standard*. 

*In Sweden, couples are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, and this time can be shared between parents.

5. We’re not a ’my way or no way’ kind of people and you will see this everywhere. Meetings, discussions and all over working to find ways that makes most people happy. That’s generally our deal.

6. In Sweden, if you walk into a party full of fiery conversations, passionately gesticulating people and bold and expressive outfits you’ve most likely ended up at a place packed with. ..non-swedes. Maybe it’s the long cold winter months, but in my mind it wouldn't hurt the Swedish soul to infuse itself with some tango and salsa.

7. You won’t find religion weaved into our everyday life and even though some traditions still exist (like baptisms and Christian confirmations), they are more symbols and rites of passage and more often than not, performed in a pretty laid-back ways. 

8. Are you unstructured and a little lazy? Then, my friend, life in Sweden will be hard. Time to embrace your punctual, polite and correct way of living. 

9. More people than not care a lot about what their (overall minimalist) home looks like in the eyes of others. Much more than anyone would care to admit. Remember the previous note. Be correct, pulled together...and use a lot of white paint.

10. I always think of a certain SATC-episode (but it’s the same here). Get ready to take off your shoes when you enter a Swedish home, for we don’t to outdoor shoes inside.

11. We might be punctual and hard-working, but we sure know how to ’fika’. You know, take breaks, down cups of coffee (tea/potions for me!), chat with friends and colleagues (actually, most dates are also ’fika’-dates’). I hope you like a good traditional rustic cinnamon bun. 

Oh, and the strollers and prams outside of the cafés (with sleeping babes in them) aren’t evidence of bad parenting. It’s just the (very trusting, and again, nature loving) way we roll. 

12. Not to scare you off, but seasonal depression is really a thing here and the winters are long. However, if you get off your butt and (you guessed it) out in nature, you will find sensational spots to visit all winter long. I mean, northern lights and ice hotels? Gimmie!

13. We might not all be full blown fashionistas but I think there is a code somewhere in our DNA that makes us favor stylish, slightly minimalist fashion. After a year here, I bet you will have embraced some of it. That and the snacking on open-faced crispbread sandwiches. 

14. By the way! Bring a good pair of walking shoes. We’ve grown up with all and every outdoor activities*. Picnics? Sure, but first after we’ve picked mushrooms, identified some plants and trees, foraged for wild edibles, and infused ourselves with the scent of the forest, then we fika.

*Allemansrätten (the Right of Public Access) allows everyone to walk/explore wherever they please. The sense of responsibility to treat flora and fauna and other people’s property with care is something we’re pretty much born with.

15. Does it seem like we’re a bunch of very appropriate peeps without a lot of passion and fire going on? Sure, if you judge us by our need for privacy and our polite ways. However, we’re really strong-minded and independent. Here, you can do anything and people will support you. 

...and in my view that’s pretty darn awesome.

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