Coffee Culture Compared: what is coffee?

Coffee culture in Italy and Sweden compared.

As an aspiring translator, I stumbled upon a very serious concept to translate: coffee. Coffee is something that helps everyone understand everyone’s lifestyle and it is strictly connected to culture. In this article, I hope to summarise the concept of coffee culture in two different countries: Italy and Sweden.

Where do we drink coffee?

Coffee culture is pretty strong in Italy, where we don’t have cafés but bar(s). The concept of bar exists in English too, but for British culture it is a place where people meet to drink mostly, if not exclusively, alcoholic beverages, play games (board games, cues) or just have a chat to catch up with friends. The Italian meaning of bar couldn’t be any different. A bar is a place where people spend maximum ten minutes having breakfast or to have a quick coffee (espresso) before going back to work. Italians usually meet in bars in the afternoon too to quickly catch up and have, again, an espresso.

Given this premise, Italians go to a bar, pay at till, order at counter, drink a small cup of coffee, sometimes they drink a cup of water before having coffee (this happens especially in the Central and Southern regions), drink standing up at the counter, then they’re back outside after 5 minutes. So if I ask someone “do you fancy a coffee?”, this is the situation in Italy.

But if I ask someone in Sweden “do you fancy a coffee?”, you schedule everything ahead of time, go to “Espresso House” (the Scandinavian equivalent of Starbucks, even though Starbucks is an independent chain there), order a coffee at counter, you get a large cup/mug of coffee (10 times the amount that you get by ordering a coffee in Italy), pay, sit down, chat half an hour or more.

Who said fika?

Unlike Italians, Swedes have something to eat along with coffee, usually a pastry (kanelbulle or kardemummabulle) or something savoury. Swedes, therefore, don’t have simply coffee, they have fika. I know that Italian readers will probably laugh at this but trust me, it’s not what it seems. Yeah, I know, you must be confused but if you google the real meaning of that word, you’ll see why.
The Swedish word fika is an inverted syllable slang term derived from “kaffi,” coffee in the 19th century. Swedes have usually a fikapaus (fika-break) at 10AM and 3PM and they are among the heaviest coffee-drinkers in the world.

Is coffee something that makes us understand people’s lifestyle from all over the world?

What about coffee culture in your country? I’d love to understand what coffee means where you live.

(I found this interesting article about cafes in Stockholm, have a look!)

Save it if you like it!

Saint Lucy’s Day

Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated on December 13th. ⠀
In Sweden, it is called Luciadagen or simply Lucia. It is celebrated mostly in Scandinavia and in Sicily, so I really feel like a day connecting two parts of me. Swedes usually eat lussekatter, a sweet bun with saffron and cinnamon. Girls (and boys too) in Scandinavia are dressed as Saint Lucy but only one of the girls wears a crown of candles on her head. Processions are organized everywhere and they sing the so-called Lucia songs. 

My mom and I used to go to Syracuse (Sicily) to celebrate it and in Sicily, it’s a heartfelt day especially if you are named after Lucia. The typical Saint Lucy’s dish is called brusciuvia in Sicilian and it is a soup my grandmother (whose name was Lucia too) used to make. ⠀

The 13th of December was considered the longest night of the year, that’s why light plays a relevant role on this day and candles are lit on the head of Saint Lucy. 

Picture taken by Paula

Göteborg / Gothenburg

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I’m sitting on the slowest train ever (I’m currently in Italy) and I just heard a girl speaking Swedish. Her accent is clearly from Göteborg (or Gothenburg in English) and it reminded me of the great time I had there in August. Göteborg is Sweden’s largest city after Stockholm and I traveled there with my best friend. I spent one week in Göteborg and also, in this case, it was an extremely low-cost trip: 25€ per ticket! We didn’t go to any hostel this time since (sorry, again) hostels in Sweden tend to be expensive if not booked with some months in advance. This time, we tried Airbnb, a great alternative to “usual” accommodations. We didn’t pay more than 15€ per night and our apartment was incredible. The host is a photographer and has traveled a lot, he clearly has got an eye for design.

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WHAT’S EMBLEMATIC?

  • LISEBERG PARK

This amusement park is the most famous in Sweden and it’s also the biggest one in the whole Scandinavian peninsula. If you’re brave enough, you should try the tallest fall ride in Europe, called “AtmosFear”. Liseberg is perfect for both children and adults, especially in summer. The park is open every day from May to August (with some exceptions though) and in December it hosts a Christmas market. I need to go there in December, I love Christmas markets!

  • BOTANICAL GARDEN

The best place to visit on sunny days! If you’re interested in science, nature or even if you’re actually not so fond of gardens… you will love Gothenburg’s botanical gardens. The ideal itinerary to getting there would be: a visit to the Museum of Natural history, a walk through the most beautiful park I’ve ever seen and then a couple of hours at the trädgården.
The entrance is free, though I would recommend leaving at least some coins at the entrance in order to help the city keep this gem as beautiful as it is. I’d also recommend a fika at AnyDay (more info here), 3 minutes walking from the entrance. Here you can see some pictures I took there. The view, if you get to the top, is breathtaking!

 

 

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  • UNIVERSEUM

It doesn’t matter how old you are, Universeum is worth a visit! It’s basically science made fun for all ages. My favorite section was the one dedicated to the rainforest (Regnskogen) because it really felt like being in a real one. Monkeys and all the other animals seemed to live happily and freely. Honestly, this is just an impression that I had, since I can’t tell if this is 100% true or if there are things that I don’t know. The Ocean zone is my second favorite and I happened to be there while a shark was being fed… amazing! It takes at least four hours to visit Universeum and the price is 250 SEK for adults and 195 SEK below age 16. There are reductions for families and the price actually varies according to the season, so it’s better to check this page.

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FOOD AND ACCOMMODATION

This was the 6th time to Sweden and again on a budget. So I avoided restaurants, except on Fredagstaco (which is an interesting custom in Sweden and moreover in Norway). ICA (a supermarket chain) was my only option in Göteborg. Same for accommodation: Airbnb is something that I should use more.

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PÅ SVENSKA:

Göteborg är L I V L I G. Musik verkar vara viktigt här och jag hade intrycket att vara i en ung stad. Kanske tenderar göteborgarna att vara mer öppna med turister, men jag får inte säga det ännu för jag behöver att resa lite mer till Sverige och lära känna mer svenskar. Hoppas jag kan göra det snart igen! Tack Göteborg, du var helt fantastisk!

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Post-scriptum tip: I bought the tickets through http://www.ryanair.com/

What to do in Stockholm on a rainy day

I needed to write this article because Stockholm tends to be quite a rainy city. The average number of rainy days per year is 100. Basically, 1/3 of the year. So what can you do if you happen to visit Stockholm for a few days and it rains cats and dogs? Here’s a list of some indoor activities that will let you enjoy Sweden’s largest city in spite of the shitty weather.

  • NORDISKA MUSEET

This museum dates back to the XIX century and revolves around the history of Sweden from the 16th century to the contemporary period. Founded by Arthur Hazelius, it visibly recalls the Danish Renaissance, in particular, the castle in Roskilde. The entrance is free if you already have the Stockholm pass, which includes transportations and many other museums. So I guess that having the Stockholm Card is the best option if you’re planning to visit several museums in the capital.
Useful information:
Price (without the SC): 120 SEK (Adults), free below age 18.
English guided tours available from June to August, 11:00-14:00.
Official website

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  • VASA MUSEUM

The Vasa Museum is right in Djurgården. Here you will see and walk around an amazing ship from the 17th century, which sunk on its first trip. Just like a small Titanic, but with fewer casualties because the crew kinda expected the ship to sink (smh). The Vasa laid underwater for more than 300 years before being brought to light again. Incredible, isn’t it?
Entrance is free below 18 y.o. and with the Stockholm pass.
Adults: 130 SEK;
Students: 110 SEK.
Guided tours available in English too.
Official Website

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  • FOTOGRAFISKA

If you love photography or you want to visit something different from the “classical” museums, then you can’t miss the Swedish Museum of Photography, also known as “Fotografiska”. Even though it’s called “Museum”, it’s far from being one. So, what are you waiting for?
Again, entrance is free with the pass and for children under the age of 12, otherwise, it amounts to 130 SEK for adults and 105 SEK for students.
Please note that you can’t pay cash here!
Official Website

  • KONSERTHUSET

It’s raining or even snowing, it’s dark and cold. You don’t want to stay in your hotel room or your dormitory is packed with snoring people. You already visited the major attractions. Then… what about some GOOD music at Konserthuset? Founded in 1902 and operating since 1926, the concert hall offers a wide choice of music, especially jazz, orchestral and chamber. You can take a look at their program here.

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  • SAMRUAI THAI MASSAGE

Unfortunately, their website is in Swedish (though they speak English too), but if you book a massage, you won’t regret it! Why not relaxing after walking so much in Gamla Stan? The beauty center is located in Kungsholmen and (in my opinion) is not like one of the cheapest activities ever, but it’s absolutely worth it!
Official Website

  • UNDER KASTANJEN

Located in Gamla Stan, this bistro is perfect if you want to have breakfast, lunch or… fika! Fika in Swedish means to have a break drinking something warm and eating something sweet and Under Kastanjen is the perfect place for a fikapaus in the heart of Gamla Stan.
OPENING HOURS:
Mon-Fri: 08:00-23:00
Sat: 09:00-23:00
Sun: 09:00-21:00
Official Website 

So basically that’s a short list of things that I wanted to suggest you instead of lying on the couch wondering why everything must be dark in winter (it’s not that bad, actually). Let me know if you visited one or more of the places listed here and if there is something else that I must not miss next time in Stockholm!

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Uppsala

 

WHAT’S EMBLEMATIC?

Uppsala is a city rich in history, therefore there are many elements that can be taken in account. If you’re planning to visit this lovely city there are at least three things that you can’t miss:
1) UPPSALA CATHEDRAL – UPPSALA DOMKYRKA

With its 118,7 meters, Uppsala Domkyrka is the tallest church in Scandinavia. Its construction began in the second half of the 13th century, but the twin spires were added only during the course of the 19th century. The Cathedral was built in French Gothic style and hosts famous tombs, like the relics of St. Erik, the King Gustav Vasa or the 18th century scientist Carl Linneaus. I’d say that there aren’t many cathedrals as beautiful as this one. If you wish to visit it, keep in mind that it’s open daily from 8 to 18.

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2) UPPSALA CASTLE – UPPSALA SLOTT

Dating back to the 16th century, the castle is extremely relevant in the history of Sweden and not only for positive things. The castle was, as a matter of fact, the stage of the Sture Murders in 1567 under the kingdom of Erik XIV. The castle was constructed thanks to King Gustav Vasa and was later destroyed by a huge fire in 1702, which damaged even the Cathedral. The castle was later reconstructed, reaching the current appearance in 1740, even though some of the remains of the fire were used to build the royal palace in Stockholm. Today the castle is the site of the Art Museum.

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3) GAMLA UPPSALA

Gamla Uppsala (literally “Old Uppsala”) is a historically rich area a few kilometers away from Uppsala. Its importance is witnessed even by Saxo Grammaticus and Snorri Sturluson, two pillars of Classical Scandinavian culture. Some archaeological remains date back to even more than 4000 years ago, therefore carrying witness of the Nordic Bronze Age. What most characterizes this site is the so-called “kungshögarna” (the royal mounds). These three mounds respectively represent Thor, Odin, and Freyr according to the tradition. Some scholars in the past centuries think that they probably represented three kings of the oldest Scandinavian dynasty: the Ynglings. It was also important from a political point of view since the site hosted the “Ting”, a general assembly.

HOW TO REACH UPPSALA

You can reach Uppsala directly by train from Arlanda or by bus. If you land at Skavsta, then the best option is to get to Stockholm through Flygbuss and then to Uppsala.
I was in Uppsala for three weeks in total but I spent the first two nights at Best Western Hotel. It’s very nice but it was quite improvised since my flight was moved up to two days earlier. So I hadn’t planned to spend the night in a hostel, which in Sweden can be quite expensive. Bear in mind that a night in a hostel starts from at least 200 kr (around 22€) per night per bed in a dormitory. Staying in a hostel for nearly a month could have been hard and way more expensive than renting a student room. It’s way easier to find a student who rents his room during the summer break.

CLIMATE

I was lucky because only the first week was raining, while the other two weeks were sunny and hot (for Swedish standard, of course). The temperature never got lower than 17°C and never rose over 25°C. Fun fact: the centigrade scale was invented right in this city by Anders Celsius, after whom it’s named.

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FACTS

  • Inhabitants: around 150 000;
  • The oldest university in Scandinavia was founded here in 1477;
  • The highest temperature ever recorded was in July, with around 37,4°C (99,3°F) while the lowest reached -39,5°C (39,1°F)
  • Total Area: 48,77 km2
  • The official visitor’s guide
  • Great opportunity to learn Swedish here during the summer;

 

Jag älskade Uppsala och om jag kunde välja i vilken stad att bo i, jag skulle välja just Uppsala! Det är så kult att gå och promenera sig där och i sommaren blir det livligt! Människor här är så snälla och när jag gick vilse i skogen (ops!) hjälpte de mig. De ler alltid och verkar inte vara i rush som det händer till exempel i huvudstaden. Det var så trevligt att lyssna på så bra musik i parken, att besöka en historiskt viktig stan och äta sådan god mat. Tack så mycket, Uppsala.

Stockholm

Let’s start with the first Scandinavian city I’ve ever visited, where I spent nearly one year exploring the archipelago, breathing the freezing air during the winter and enjoying the sun in summer. Living its traditions both in winter and summer (because –let’s say it- there are only two seasons in Sweden if you compare this amazing country to Italy – where I come from). I got to know people who gave me a lot, with whom I bonded as if we were sisters.

WHAT’S EMBLEMATIC?

Probably one of the most photographed spots in Stockholm is in Gamla Stan (literally “Old Town”): Stortorget. It’s a square from the Middle Age surrounded by old merchant’s houses. During Christmas time this square hosts a typical Christmas market where you can eat, drink, buy presents and live a true winter wonder. Especially if you eat pepparkakor (cookies) and glögg (mulled wine).

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CLIMATE

When people think about Sweden the first thing that comes to their mind is… COLD! Yes, of course, Sweden is cold, but it can get worse, you know. I will (or at least I’ll try to) list all the GOOD things about the cold depressing Swedish winter. First thing: no mosquitoes. Sounds like a good reason, right? Going back to being serious, what’s really amazing about winter is that you can be lucky enough to get to see the Northern lights.
Well, to enjoy this incredibly overwhelming phenomenon you need to be extremely patient, especially in a city like Stockholm, where it’s even rarer since it’s not in the North. It took me almost two months to finally see the northern lights. I checked the Aurora forecast every single day, I watched the weather forecast too because you need a clear sky and grabbing just a blanket and my camera, I walked to the nearest forest and sat on a rock right in front of the lake. This happened for almost two months straight and finally in October, I saw the lights dancing and enchanting the night. It was one of the most magical experiences ever. Another phenomenon which I personally never had experienced before was the so-called light pillars. This happens when light reflects from ice crystals suspended in the air, thus creating pillars in the sky. That is magical too, even though I must admit that I thought I was having hallucinations the first time I saw those huge pillars. So… yes, Stockholm might be cold during the winter, but its cold creates magic.

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Summer is brief, fresh and bright. It feels like a neverending day, with around 17-19 hours of daylight. Everything and everyone looks happy during the summer.

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FOOD AND TRADITIONS

Everyone who has been in Sweden or at least at Ikea must have tried the famous köttbullar (meatballs) or kanelbullar (cinnamon buns). Well, I want to talk about something else this time, a food related to a tradition usually celebrated in August: kräftskiva, crayfish party. People gather and eat crayfish (something I had not tried before), drink snaps (a shot of alcohol so strong that the only thing I remember is how delicious it was). Before drinking Swedes sing and make eye contact before yelling SKÅL (the first word I learned in Swedish). Oh and… I swear, they do make eye contact. After this, they get wasted so badly. Or at least, that’s what happened to me.

THINGS I LEARNED AFTER MY 7-MONTH-LONG EXPERIENCE

  • Swedes are kind, open-minded and precise. They’re usually described as cold distant people, but once you earn a Swedish friend, just be sure that you’ll keep him/her for life.
  • To live on a budget, because -as you may already know- Stockholm is quite expensive. I worked as a babysitter for a few months in Stockholm, but living with less than 5000 SEK (510€) per month can be challenging.
  • To give more importance to time. Usually, when I have to do something, it happens that I feel too lazy and therefore I procrastinate. I had the impression that Swedes live the day and they consider commitment very important. If you meet a Swede, say a few things, chit-chat and before leaving you say “we should hang out sometime” (wow, nice Italian cliché) be sure that he/she will call you the next day and ask if on May, 25th 2019 at 15:00 you’re up for a fika Be also sure that he/she will be there on May, 25th 2019 at 14:50 wondering why you’re so late.

MY OPINION ABOUT STOCKHOLM IN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE:
(please correct me if you find mistakes)

Nu tänkte jag att skriva lite på svenska för jag tror att varje resa måste ge dig någonting mer. Vad kan vara bättre än att lära sig ett nytt språk för att leva sig i en kultur? Språket är en direktare uttryck av kulturen och jag har lärt mig svenska för någon tid nu. Stockholm och Sverige i allmänhet har så mycket att erbjuda men tar också någonting från dig själv: hjärtet. Du ska lämna ett styck hjärtet i Stockholm, mitt  i vatten eller i stan. De där 7 månader var en av de bästa jag har alltid levde. Tack Stockholm.

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