Aug 26, 2013

Bread - a love story

It's been rather long since I blogged last time. Why? Because I wanted to only blog again when I have something meaningful to talk about, like bad customer service, retarded rules and regulations or other shortcomings of my Swedish host country. I did however not buy any couches or try to pick up packages with a German passport lately, so the Swedes just haven't been irritating enough to complain about. But then today, when I was sitting in my kitchen, eating half a loaf of bread for dinner and philosophizing about how awesome carbs are, I suddenly realized that there is something I have to write about: BREAD. But this post is not only a declaration of my love for carbs. My mission is bigger. With this blog entry I would like to recover the reputation of my beloved bread in carb-hating Scandinavia.

There are a few things you should not do in Sweden. Entering an apartment with your shoes on, trying to chat to strangers or standing in line without picking a number are all no good. But all these mishaps are nothing compared to the biggest taboo of them all: Eating carbs. That is a real no-go in modern Scandinavian society. 

Overweight, headaches, dry nails, crying babies, flat tires - carbs can be blamed for nearly everything in the land of Ikea and Volvo. Bloggers write endless texts about the evilness of pasta while supermarkets substitute regular flour with almond and coco versions. Housewives bake "carb-free" bread made of cottage cheese and nuts. All in all, carb consumption is looked down upon. It has actually gotten so bad, I almost feel ashamed eating carbs in public. When I get caught with 3 potatoes as part of my lunch at work, I push them to the corner of my plate and pretend that they are not mine. And when I eat my occassional pretzel, I prefer to stay at my desk to avoid humilating comments. If this mad carb-hunt will continue, I will probably end up eating my sandwich in the office in secret, locked up in the bathroom. 

I have to confess: There was a time when I was close to giving in. With an omnipresent bad-mouthing of carbs, I started wondering if bread maybe really was evil after all. It went so far that I decided to try out a week without carbs. Now you might wonder how did that go? Well, it lasted exactly until I tried to have breakfast on the first day. Sure, no bread, fine. And no müsli. And no cereals. And no porridge. WELL WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO EAT? The Internet anti-carb community suggested eggs, bacon and pancakes made of banana and peanutbutter (!!!). Yeah right. So my Lchf experience lasted exactly 2 hours.


 The author on several private occassions posing with bread.

 
For me as a German the Scandinavian fear of carbs in general and bread in particular is very hard to understand. Germans have a rather relaxed relationship with bread. Or maybe better: We adore it. We have bakeries everywhere, are famous for our baking and we love to eat bread. So why do Germans indulge in bread while Swedes demonize it? The reason is simple: Swedish bread with its mushy texture and syryp components is inedible. If there was only Swedish bread in the world, I wouldn't eat bread either. But German bread: Awesome. You cannot not eat it. It is too good.  

Now you might wonder: But how come Germany managed to develop the best bread in the world, while some hundred kilometres up north the best thing the Swedes could come up with was Knäckebröd? To understand this, we have to look at the historic background of Sweden. 

The first recorded carb-related activity in Sweden took place around 500 years ago, when the Swedish aborigines came up with their own joyless version of the concept bread - Knäckebröd. Knäckebröd became (for whatever reason) popular very fast and was soon baked pan-Sweden, until 300 years later the supply of grain and wheat came to a sudden stop during the infamous famine that made many Swedes leave the country and head to America in search of a better life (official version) / better bread (real motives). Once grain and wheat started to grow again, the few Swedes that were left in the country decided to celebrate this by producing a new and softer type of bread. And because they had been hungry for so long, they went a little overboard and threw in sugar as well. And syryp. And probably also honey, sugar powder and sugar beets. 

The result is well-dreaded by all Germans that live in Sweden. Mushy sweet bread that comes in many different colours and has many different names, but can be summed up by one word: disgusting. Most Germans rely on imports from Germany or bake bread themselves to get by, but I can tell you, it is not easy. There have been times where the desire for bread was so strong that I actually bought Swedish "bread" and somehow even managed to eat it. Luckily I have a Swedish boyfriend who is slowly learning the art of German bread baking, so soon I will be self-sufficient. But since the future of carb-eating is so uncertain here in Sweden I cannot help but worry. When will carb-consumption in public be forbidden? Will the Swedes start a Systembolaget for bread? And what will be the required age to shop in a Carb-bolaget?

There is hope though. Most of the bread-haters follow a diet rich in meat and fat instead. They substitute pasta and potatoes with steak, butter, cream and cheese - all great components for heart attacks. So it might happen that in 5 or 10 years time the first no-carb generation actually eliminates itself. Just saying.

Mar 29, 2012

Feminismus Wahn oder: Der schwedische Mann, die arme Sau

Eines vorab: Diesen Post möchte ich den armen schwedischen Männern widmen, die hier in Skandinavien ein trostloses Dasein fristen zwischen all den Hardcore Feministinnen, die nicht ruhen, bis auch wirklich alles und jeder bis auf die letzte Kommastelle gleichberechtigt ist. Das einzige Problem: Hier in Schweden ist schon alles so gleichberechtigt, gleichberechtigter geht nicht!

Wenn man als Nicht-Skandinavier nach Schweden kommt, ist man natürlich erst einmal begeistert von der Gleichberechtigung der Geschlechter. Frauen fahren Bus, Männer kochen, und gemeinsam wird sich um das Einkommen und den Nachwuchs gekümmert. So weit, so gut. Und klar, ich will natürlich auch nicht bestreiten, dass es sehr angenehm ist, einen schwedischen Freund zu haben, der die Waschmaschine ohne Anweisung bedienen kann und der ohne Aufforderung den Abwasch macht. Dafür, liebe Feministinnen, danke ich Euch auch aus vollstem Herzen.

Allerdings muss man auch mal wissen, wann Schluss ist. Am Weltfrauentag sah ich einen Artikel auf der Titelseite einer großen Tageszeitung mit folgendem schockierenden Titel: "Nur 40% aller Autos in Schweden haben einen weiblichen Besitzer." SKANDAL. Das ist natürlich ein todsicheres Anzeichen dafür, dass die armen schwedischen Amazonen ganz schlimm von ihren Männern unterdrückt werden. Diese 40% können natürlich nicht zum Beispiel daran liegen, dass Frauen vielleicht umweltbewusster sind und statt dem Auto lieber den Bus nehmen. Oder dass Ehepaare sich ein Auto teilen. Oder dass es vielleicht mehr Männer als Frauen gibt. Nein. Die bösen Männer - oder wieso nicht gleich auch noch die sexistische Autoindustrie, wenn wir schonmal dabei sind - verweigern 10% der Frauen ein Auto. Schockierend, ich weiß.

Schockierend vor allem deswegen, weil momentan ja nun wirklich genug anderes, ich mutmaße sogar mal ganz dreist, wichtigeres auf der Welt passiert. Kriege werden geführt, Diktaturen werden gestürzt, ganze Wirtschaftssysteme brechen zusammen...und was macht der Schwede? Der regt sich auf, dass Kraftfahrzeuge geschlechtermässig nicht 50:50 verteilt sind! Vergesst Weltwirtschaftskrise, Taliban und Putin - Schweden braucht in solchen Krisenzeiten unsere volle Unterstützung. Obwohl, hier muss man auch fair sein: Die Autoproblematik ist natürlich nicht die einzige Front, an der die Feministen kämpfen.

Nein, ein noch viel größerer Dorn im Auge ist vielen hier die Tatsache, dass manche Eltern ihre Töchter mit Barbies und ihre Söhne mit Autos spielen lassen! Das ist ja nun auch wirklich schrecklich. Und dann kommen da noch skrupellose Spielzeughersteller wie Lego und Toys'r Us und bilden in ihren Katalögen Mädchen in pinken Kleidern und Jungen in Supermannkostümen ab. Da nimmt so ein Kind natürlich einen enormen Schaden. Ganz klar. Die 5 Jahre des Barbiespielens in meiner Kindheit haben mich auch schwer geprägt.

Doch selbst die Tatsache, dass es mittlerweile extra für den schwedischen Markt geschlechtsneutralen Spielwarenkatalöge, Puppen und Spielzeug gibt, beruhigt die aggressiven Feministinnen hierzulande nicht. Nein, ganz im Gegenteil, die kommen nur noch auf immer wildere Ideen. Der Höhepunkt (bisher): Eltern sollen ihre Kinder nicht mehr "hon" (sie) oder "han" (er) nennen, sondern sie mit dem neutralen "hen" betiteln. Denn so kann das Kind sich frei entfalten, ihm wird kein Geschlecht aufgezwungen. Gut, könnte man natürlich jetzt mal so anmerken, dass es aber leider einfach mal so ist, dass Menschen einfach verschieden sind und es Mädchen und Jungen gibt. Aber nein, wir sind ja alle so schrecklich gleich! Es gab sogar schon Zeitungen hier, die alle "er" und "sie" mit "hen" ersetzt haben. Ich weiß, Wahnsinn.

Mein Name ist Britta. Meine Eltern haben mich von Geburt an als "sie" bezeichnet und mir Barbies zu Weihnachten geschenkt. Meine Spielsachen von Lego waren alle pink und eines meiner absoluten Lieblingslieder war lange "Ich bin so froh, dass ich ein Mädchen bin.". Trotz (oder vielleicht gerade wegen) meiner geschlechtsspezifischen Kindheit und Jugend bin ich heute doch erstaunlicherweise recht glücklich und zufrieden. Ich würde vorschlagen, dass die schwedischen Feministen jetzt mal die armen Männer, Barbies und Eltern in Ruhe lassen und sich den wahren Problemen der Welt zuwenden. Solange auf der Welt noch Krieg und Hunger herrschen, kann ich mich beim besten Willen nicht über ein paar pinke Lego Bauklötze aufregen.

Jan 30, 2012

Schenker Sweden sucks or: Why you need a Swedish ID to pick up a package

Today I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the Swedish postal system on successfully preventing probably millions of packages to get picked up by their recipients, who dare to live in Sweden WITHOUT a Swedish ID. Even worse, there are apparently even individuals who have the nerve to try to pick up packages with - gasp - European ID cards, which are otherwise only accepted at airports, borders and other half-legal institutions. I know, it is hard to believe that there are people like this out there, who try to undermine the Swedish postal laws - so let us look at a case to understand the severity of threats that the Swedish post is exposed to on a daily basis by aggressive non-Swedish ID possessing foreigners.

Britta, a typical dubios immigrant from high-risk country Germany, orders something online in Sweden. Remark: Of course Britta does not have a Swedish ID because she thinks her German one is sufficient (what a little naive lamb). However, so one day she gets a letter in the mail with a note to pick up her package. It says that ID is required. Britta thinks "no problem", grabs her worthless German ID and hurries to the post office. Once there she only has to wait 15 minutes - because service in Sweden is always high-speed - and tada - she presents the letter and her ID to the post guy and says innocently she wants to pick up a package.

But the post guy of course knows betters. When he sees Britta's German "ID" it only takes him 4 minutes and 2 chats with colleagues to identify the ID card as Non-Swedish (rumour says that people at Swedish post offices are trained by the MI6). He then hands Britta the ID back with the words "Wrong ID, we need Swedish ID.". He of course doesn't let Britta confuse him with neither her arguments that the German ID is valid within whole Europe nor the fact that she can even cross borders with it. Nix. You want to pick up package in Sweden, you need Swedish ID.

Now Britta gets a little annoyed because this is not the first time this happens. Actually this happes to her all the time. So she asks the post officer why it then says on the Schenker information board standing next to him that "European IDs are accepted". But the post officer has already an answer: "Your ID is not European". Most people would have thought that Germany is kind of within Europe, but no, our anti-pick up -package-terrorism expert knows of course better.

But since Britta is German (and since she really would like her package because it includes christmas presents for her family and it is 23rd of December) she does not give up yet. She forces the guy to call Schenker. Or the police. He chooses Schenker.

10 minutes later Britta gets the package. With her German ID.

So now tell me Schenker Sweden, is this really necessary??? Do I have to fight for an hour and threaten people to call the police now every time I have to pick up a package from you? I don't think so.

And just for the record: That stupid Swedish ID which you treat as holy grail of security can actually even be issued at BANKS. That is really super safe, especially looking at how reliable and trustworthy banks have proven to be in 2011!

Aug 24, 2011

The story of my couch or: Bolagret sucks

This post is dedicated to Bolagret, a Swedish furniture company from hell.


Compared to Bolagret, furniture shopping at IKEA is a zen-like experience.


But let's start from the beginning. In March I decided to get a new couch. After browsing the 2,7 furniture stores in Sweden with acceptable offers I finally ordered a very nice couch at Bolagret, a Swedish furniture store I back then was very fond of - probably since I had never bought furniture from them before. When looking back now, I should have seen the signs already back then that something was wrong: It took the lady at the checkout for example 'only' half an hour to process my order (yep, Sweden is unfortunately the country of service snails...), including a very rude "You don't have enough money on your account." comment when the first payment try did not work. Later it turned out that it actually was their creditcard reader that did not work. But nevermind. Being insulted and accused is actually one of the less bad things that happen to customers in Swedish shops.

So after some struggle the couch was ordered and paid and I was told delivery time would be 4-8 weeks. Yes, I know, you could wonder why that takes soooo long, but as I said before, we are in Sweden here, you are not surprised by such things. I was actually happy they were able to deliver the couch at all and that it was not sold out like so many other things (alcohol, bread, winter jackets, etc) in this banana republic. So we waited patiently for the couch. 4 weeks. 5 weeks. 6 weeks. 7 weeks. After 8 weeks we were still sitting on our temporary "couch" - an air mattress. Yes, that had white trash written all over it, but hey, we were willing to sacrifice 2 months of comfort for our dream couch.

When I was about to contact Bolagret after 8 weeks to ask where the hell my expensive couch was or if they maybe already had left the country with my money instead I suddenly got a note from the delivery company, stating they would come that Wednesday and deliver the couch between 8 and 12. Great that they only needed a 4 hour-window for this delivery. Who doesn't like to take vacation to get his couch delivered? But anyway, this is Sweden I tried to remind myself. So that Wednesday we waited patiently for the people from DHL. We were actually so excited that we already deflated our air mattress couch in ecstatic expectation of a real couch. At 12.15 the DHL people 'already' arrived. So we went outside to greet them and tell them which floor exactly they would have to bring the couch to. After all, we paid 50 Euro (FIFTY) for the delivery.

Well. Let's say that did not work out as expected. Instead, the DHL guy dropped a gigantic couch wrapped in a lot of very dirty plastic foil on a EUROPALLET right in front of our appartment building and just left. It took some minutes until I understood that he would not come back and that we would have to carry the couch upstairs on our own. That was of course very easy. I don't know if it was the extremely dirty packaging, the fact that the heavy couch was packaged as one and not two packages or the 25 kilo heavy europallette that we got on top of that, but it took almost 1 hour until everything was up in our appartment. After we had removed the dirt from our faces and changed into clean clothes we started unwrapping the couch.

Unfortunately, what we unwrapped was not the couch we had ordered. It had taken stupid Bolagret more than 8 weeks to deliver a couch in the a)wrong shape b)wrong fabric c)wrong colour and d)wrong modell! I have to say that I was first so confused that I started wondering if maybe I had actually ordered that couch. But after taking a second look at that hideous brown corduroy couch (I know!!! who on earth buys something like that?!) I realized that there was only one party to blame here: BOLAGRET. So I called their customer service and asked them kindly where my couch was and whose couch I was giving shelter to.

First thing I noticed when calling Bolagret's "Customer service": They did not apologize. Instead they asked me if I was sure that it was the wrong couch. Yes, you can imagine the level of my pulse. After having reassured them that it really was not my couch that I had received, they promised me to look it up and get back to me asap. For the rest of the day I did not hear anything from them. So what does a labile German customer do who ordered a very expensive couch and does not know where it is or if it exists at all? Exactly, I wrote some words of choice on the facebook wall of Bolagret. And tada, they reacted within 15 minutes and promised me to ring me first thing the next morning.

Morning turned into afternoon and finally Bolagret called me. Unfortunately they did not have any answers to my questions. Even worse, they were even not sure anymore that my couch had been produced at all! So I had to wait another day. Pulse was now very close to 1200. On day 3 they finally managed to track down our couch in Stockholm (excuse me?!) and told us we would get it in one week. I also urged them to remove that brown Alien couch from my appartment immediately. Bolagret promised to send someone to pick it up the day after. And the day after they said they would come one day later. And another day later they finally decided to exchange the couches at the same time. The fact that we had to live with a strangers couch on a europallette that was blocking our living room for one week was not really interesting for them.

After another week finally the day of couch-exchanging came and we awaited the arrival of the couch we had ordered. This time delivery was scheduled between 2 and 4 since I had refused to sacrifice one half day for this again. A little after 4 our couch arrived. My first move was checking if it was the right modell this time. You know, it was getting a little crowded over there in our living room, I was not sure if we could fit even more Bolagret couches into our apartment. After all we are not a furniture storage, even if Bolagret apparently thought so. But to my great relief it was the right couch. This time the DHL guy even helped us to carry the couch upstairs - but we also had to help him carry down the wrong couch. Nevermind. So here we were, standing next to our unwrapped couch. The atmosphere was very tense since we only expected something to be wrong.

And we were right. When we wanted to assemble the couch (no, here in Sweden that is not included and yes, I know, banana republic!) we searched and searched for the legs for the couch and we could not find them! Well, why couldn't we find them? Maybe because they had not been delivered! I mean, sure, what was I expecting at that point? That Bolagret would give me the stuff I paid for without a fight? Noooooo. So I called for the 450th time their 'customer service'. I actually already knew the people by name. The customer service's reaction was "Are you kidding me." followed by "You have to look again under the couch for the legs". No excuse, no "I am so sorry that we fucked up" - no nothing. After I had convinced the lady with my voice shaking from anger that there really were no fucking legs, she agreed to UPS them to me. Actually inbetween she apparently was so intimidated that she offered to bring them by our house personally. In any case, she promised I would have the legs the next day around lunch time and they would be sent to my office which was great since I was running out of vacation days to take for receiving couch parts.

So the next day I stayed in the office until 5. No legs, no delivery. The next morning I called UPS just to find out that it would take two more days to deliver the legs. I thought that was great, since I don't mind waiting for 8 weeks for a couch, get the wrong one, wait one more week for the correct one and then wait another week on top of it to be able to assemble it. I decided to once more call the customer service to tell them how great this all was going. And this time I wanted to not only scream and shout at them to restabilize my mental health, no, I wanted a compensation.

I know what you are thinking now. Compensation? Did Bolagret after all that drama not offer a compensation voluntarily? Haha. Welcome to Sweden. They actually REFUSED to give me a compensation! Why? I quote: "You must understand, this couch has already cost us so much with that redelivery, we hardly earn something from this." I answered calmly that I am really sorry but that I did not ask them to deliver the wrong couch in the first place, that I had paid for delivery and had to carry 2 couches instead of 1, that I had waited 10 weeks for the bloody couch and that even if their company would go bankrupt it would not be my problem. I deserved a compensation. After she still refused, I forced her to discuss this matter with her boss.

You know what I got in the end? A fucking VOUCHER worth 50 Euro. And you know for which shop? Yes, Bolagret. When their customer service told me this I was so shocked and in disbelief that I actually was speechless. And we even had to go to their goddamn shop to pick the bloody voucher up. And guess what. When we arrived at the shop nobody knew anything about a voucher. So I made my final call to the customer service and 1 week later we got the voucher via mail. I mean, how dumb can a company be?! Even almost 3 months later I am still so pissed-off that I get a strange desire to set fire to the Bolagret shop every time I pass by. We tried twice to find something in this shop to buy so we could get rid of the bloody voucher. But we can't. Bolagret still makes me sick.

So what will happen next? I am actually thinking about burning the voucher. In front of the Bolagret shop in Malmö. A manifestation of what I truly think of Swedish customer service:
Sweden, you still can learn how to treat customers right, it is not too late yet!

And Bolagret: Pardon my language, but GO FUCK YOURSELF.