Restrooms are shared and cash is rare

Hej allihopa, hey everyone! In mid-August, I moved to the country mostly known for the band ABBA, cheap furniture from IKEA, and a rather unconventional way of dealing with COVID-19. I’ve been living and studying in Jönköping in Southern Sweden for over two months now, and there are a few things that puzzled, amused, or surprised me.

#1 You can look everybody up online (yes, even me).

When you live in Sweden and don’t want to tell people your address or your age, that’s too bad — because they’ll find out anyway. How? …

Everyone is suddenly a nutritionist

Photo of the author, a woman with brown hair, with an outstretched hand nuzzled by two sheep with black faces
Photo of the author, a woman with brown hair, with an outstretched hand nuzzled by two sheep with black faces

My personal decision to stop using animal products was an ethical one — I wanted to take a stance against the exploitation of animals. That was in September 2013. Here are some of the things I have learned since then:

  • When you go vegan, people you know are suddenly nutritionists. People like to point out what they believe to know about nutrition: But you need milk for strong bones, no?! (Wrong.) You need to eat meat to get enough protein! (Wrong.) Watch out that you won’t lose too much weight! (Don’t worry, I myself even gained weight after going vegan.)

Ever heard of Snus or Mello?

Fascinating and sometimes strange — that’s probably what most of us think about local habits when we move abroad. Eight months ago, I left Germany to start studying in Sweden, the country of more than 200 000 islands. In the meantime, Sverige has become my second home. That is how I got to know some particularities, traditions, and frenzies like the following.

You may not know about a Swede’s nicotine addiction.

People don’t really talk like that

Until the pandemic hit Europe in March 2020, I wasn’t a big podcast listener. I didn’t even know that platforms like Spotify allowed you to download whole episodes for free and listen to them offline (almost embarrassing, given that I’m a communication student). It’s fair to say that due to COVID-19, I became a true podcast enthusiast. On walks around the block and lengthy train rides with face masks, I’m now accompanied by the voices of my favorite podcasters.

It didn’t take long until I saw podcasts popping up like mushrooms and felt curious to try it out myself. I…

Enjoy cinnamon buns, crispbread, and more

Välkommen and welcome to Sweden where the coffee is hot & black but plenty and the winters are cold & dark but cozy! Disclaimer: In this article, I will focus on vegan food in Sweden, not on clothing, cosmetics, or free-time activities.

Having lived in the small Swedish town of Jönköping for half a year, I can state that being on a plant-based diet in a Swedish city is very easy. Almost every Swede knows about vegetarianism and veganism and many are very open-minded, although the relative number of vegan people is far from mind-blowing (2 % in 2018).

#2 Discover German comedy

First of all, check out my previous article about numerous resources that I will not repeat in this article:

Ja ja, I know, you could probably also read this article in German, my mother tongue. Even though you might not understand every single word, you’d get the message (jawohl). Your German is good enough to hear that a person from Bavaria is a little bit harder to understand than you anticipated when learning standard German (And did she just greet me with “Grüß Gott”, Greet God?!). Nevertheless, I’ll stick to English, the language of most Medium readers.

#1 Listen to Podcasts

I must admit…

Bring your French skills, a laptop and coffee

Upon entering a lecture hall, you’d see more than 200 students, most of them sitting behind a laptop. You’d hear the incessant, rhythmic sound of keyboards and a professor speaking French into a microphone. A PowerPoint presentation full of information would be projected to the wall. If you took a glimpse at the students’ laptop screens, you’d either see an open text file being filled diligently, a private Facebook feed or an shopping website.

Welcome to a typical lecture of mine in France! Studying a French-German bachelor’s that ended with a double degree allowed me to spend three semesters in…

Fun & easy practice tips

Most language learners have been there: We’ve learned a language and achieved a level that made us pretty proud — and suddenly, we had to move away from that country, we learned another language, we had too much work or other time-consuming projects. The treasured language that we spoke with more or less ease seems to fade away like the color of those black jeans we thought would never turn this grey.

Like clothing dye, languages we’ve once learned won’t stay forever — they are not self-sustaining.

For me, it’s my beloved French that I don’t get to practice as…

I’ve done it for over 3 years.

“Writing a diary in a foreign language?”, you might think. “I don’t even write one in my own mother tongue! Isn’t that for a thing for teenage schoolgirls?” No! Let me convince you that journaling is an amazing opportunity to make you more confident in any foreign language you are trying to learn.

How I got into journaling in Italian

The reason I started writing my diary in languages other than my mother tongue (German) was an Italian tandem partner that I had more than three years ago. …

As a German, I’d say “jein” (yes and no).

When I first moved to France, I was blown away: Whenever I walked through Paris, Lyon or even smaller cities, I saw French flags — and the national motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Freedom, Equality, Fraternity). On bridges, buildings owned by the State, or schools — the French made sure you didn’t forget in which country you were. (Disclaimer: I’ve never been to the U.S. but it would sure be a mind-boggling experience from what I can say by watching American movies. Long Live America!)

A not-so patriotic Germany

The reason I was so astonished is a simple one: I’m German and have lived in…

Annika Wappelhorst

Multilingual student of Sustainable Communication (MSSc). I write about language learning, sustainability, veganism and living in 🇸🇪/🇫🇷/🇩🇪.

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