Stockholm, Sweden: 14 islands filled with blonde-haired, blue-eyed, happy-go-lucky Scandinavians who have a penchant for bike riding, meatball eating and shopping at H&M. The Clog did some on-site research this week to get a better feel for how a Berkeley hippie would fare in this city. We noticed some overlap between the two places — the Swedish enjoy laying on grassy glades and composting their leftovers, they adore their Nobel Prize winners and, like the broke students of our college town, they wouldn’t be caught dead without an IKEA credit card. However, like any sort-of-well-known-but-not-really-well-known European city, Stockholm has its oddities. American superiority complex aside, here are nine things you’ll find in Stockholm but not in Berkeley:
1. During the summer, the sun doesn’t set until after 10 p.m.
Like a dystopian dream, the Stockholm sky will stay lit from the wee hours of the morning (3:30 a.m.!) until late into the night. Though this means more flower growing, more tanning and more bar hopping, it is nearly impossible to fall asleep with the sun glaring through your window — even if prime-time TV ended hours ago. While this is a blessing during the months of May, June and July, in the winter, Earth’s axis tilt shows us the ugly side of high latitude, providing Stockholm with only five hours of sunlight.
2. Unlocked bikes
You’d be hard pressed to find a bike lock in this city — the people of Stockholm leave their bikes on the sidewalks overnight without any security fixtures. Bike theft is not a concern. Nearly 65 percent of the Swedish population owns a bike, compared to only 32 percent in the United States.
3. Street vacuums
Stockholm is one of the cleanest cities the Clog has ever visited. There is not a piece of garbage in sight. Apparently, Zamboni-like vehicles are responsible for the lack of waste. They prowl the streets 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to pick up trash and sanitize the urban walkways.
4. Coed bathrooms
Among many other European cities, Stockholm has adopted a more egalitarian approach to bathrooms — many newly built public structures house only coed lavatories. Individual stalls surround a main sink area, where men, women and everyone in between are free to engage in gender-neutral hand washing.
5. Extremely tiny hot dog buns
Because the image of a hot dog wasn’t phallic enough, Sweden decided to one-up America by shrinking the size of their hot dog bun down so that it only envelops about a third of the sausage.
6. An unapologetic obsession with ABBA
Despite the fact that the band broke up in 1982, the Swedes are still fully engrossed in the legend that is ABBA. The radio airways in Sweden are constantly blasting the sounds of the once-legendary musical group, the streets are lined with posters of the band and there is even a museum devoted to them.
7. Cheese incorporated into every meal
The only thing Sweden loves more than ABBA is cheese. Never before has the Clog seen cheese so craftily used in every dish at every time of day — for breakfast, you may be served a nice hunk of Brie on toast; for lunch, you might get a panini made with Parmesan bread and a Gruyere filling; and for dinner, it is not uncommon to see fried halloumi cheese on the menu. We approve. We definitely approve.
8. Arcade Fire and Tom Jones playing at the same concert
Us narrow-minded Americans typically associate certain performers with specific audiences — we expect Arcade Fire to target a young, indie crowd, and Tom Jones to attract the older public (or anyone who enjoys chest hair and deep vocals). The Scandinavians, however, have no trouble mixing oil and vinegar. Both artists are set to perform at the Hyde Park Summer Festival in July. Coachella should take a cue and invite Barry Manilow to headline next year.
9. Coat pulls
In the parts of the world where the weather drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (gasp!), people own heavy articles of clothing called “coats.” Many airlines that offer flights to Stockholm have their planes equipped with coat pulls — metal pegs that extend from the seatback so that one may hang his or her coat. It’s a fanciful thought, lugging a coat onto an airplane and taking care to make sure it doesn’t wrinkle, but in reality us Berkeley folk prefer to just bunch up our flannels and stuff them into our JanSport backpacks.
Contact Daniela Grinblatt at [email protected].