european culture

Lund, Sweden: minimalist designs and progressive views by Jessica Lee

Lund, Sweden, was one of the first places I visited in Europe.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see a lot of it in the daytime because I was still recovering from jet lag and Sweden only gets about 3 hours of sunlight a day in Winter. The mood of walking around at night is dark and sombre- exactly like a Swedish film I saw a couple of years ago, Let the Right One In (2008). That's okay though, because the city centre was inviting and warm.

I think my favourite part about Lund was its small size. There aren't many tourist attractions so I didn't feel the pressure to rush from place to place. I took my time, went window shopping and sat in cafes.

One of the things I noticed about Lund (and I suppose Sweden in general) was its minimalistic design in everything from architecture to interiors.

The simple, practical design of the buildings in Sweden are quite different from say, the fancy Haussmann style of Paris.

I liked the design of this bathroom in their community centre. It was non-gendered, with just one big room and a communal sink but different stalls. It's utilitarian and gender-friendly. It allows women to use the men's stalls if there is a huge line-up of women and no men's line-up, because usually that's what happens. It also puts less pressure on transgendered people.

I think it's really cool Sweden's progressive views are reflected in their designs. Swedes are known around the world for being tolerant and having great social policies such as long parental leaves (480 days, 390 of them paid), a good welfare program, and fairly equal gender equality.

As much as I liked the aesthetics and generous amount of cafes in Sweden however, I think my favourite memory of Lund was taking part in an elaborate dinner with my friend's Swedish buddies.

It's always nice to have locals explain delicacies to you while showing you how to cook in their homes. It feels much more authentic than going to a restaurant. It's also really cool to know they play the same games we do in North America. We played a sweet game of charades after dinner. But of course, the pop culture references are different. For example, I didn't know some of the Swedish politicians the group brought up. Also, because I'm Canadian, whenever I play a guessing-type game with people of other nationalities, "Justin Bieber" always gets thrown into the hat (lucky me).

By the way, Swedes really love their cheese. Here is a photo of me with an "ordinary" sized block of cheese in a grocery store, which is HUGE even by North American standards:

I hope I get to visit Lund again a few years down the road. Of course, everything will be different because I won't know anyone there anymore (everyone I do know there is a temporary student), but I love to revisit places, retrace steps and relive memories.

Cottage trip to Hawks Nest, NSW by Jessica Lee

I went sailing this weekend at Hawks Nest, which is a little cottage town 3 hours away from Sydney.

Spending St. Patrick's Day with a group of sailors (40+ total) was one of the craziest parties I've ever been to. But more on that later.

I want to show you pictures of the cottage we went to.

This is the view of our backyard.

The gorgeous patio.

We left on Friday night and got there around 11 pm, so my mental capabilities weren't at its most alert when we finally stumbled in to 40 people hanging out and eating in a porch/dining room. It was then when I experienced my first big cultural clash since being in Sydney...

But not with Australians.

When I got there, I was greeted by a French guy, some Australian guys and a Belgian guy. I got hugs from the Australian guys and everything was fine. And then the Europeans moved in and judging from body language (open arms), I assumed he were going for a hug, but nope. It was cheek kisses!

So here I am attempting to hug this guy, and he is trying to give me cheek kisses at the same time. It was a lovely surprise for both parties.

But now at least I will know what to expect when I travel to Europe. I've been there before, but went in a tour bus, so we didn't meet any real Europeans to greet with cheek kisses.

After a late dinner of pasta at midnight, we headed down to the beach for a beach bonfire where there was marshmallow roasting and acoustic guitar music. You could see the stars lit up at night, and a yellow moon in the corner. It was quite spectacular. 

I can cross "beach bonfire" off my list now, as in Toronto I've only enjoyed fires around campgrounds.

Another thing I can cross off my list is dry capsizing on a sailboat!

When I did it on Saturday in front of a small crowd on the beach, I kind of played it off like I did it all the time which made me look somewhat pro, but really it was the first time I had achieved such a feat.

For those of you non-sailors, dry capsizing is climbing over the edge of the boat that isn't tipping into the water and bringing the boat back up with your weight/strength when the boat tips into the water sideways.

After sailing, we watched some kite surfers do their thing on the water.

Previous to seeing kite surfing in person, I've always thought wake boarders were the coolest people on the planet. Seeing the kite surfers this weekend has challenged this perception. Kite surfing looks so cool! And the guys who were doing their tricks made it look like the easiest thing ever, and they were metres off the water, which frightened me at the same time. Regardless, I am probably going to go kite surfing this weekend just because.

I don't have photos of the epic St. Patty's party, but I will try to describe it to you in words.

Imagine 40+ people crammed into a small indoor beach porch + dining room. A barbecue is happening in the backyard. There is loud music playing, and the biggest mountain of food I've ever seen in one place at the same time. I was legitimately worried that we wouldn't be able to eat all the carrots we had chopped, and I'm not even sure if we did end up eating it all.

Here is where I learned what the Aussie term "goon" means. It's actually just cheap wine, which is usually sold in a bag.

On Sunday, we had another sail, then packed up and headed back to Sydney.

But first, a detour to a small New South Wales town named Toronto!!!

This is their main street. (Note how it says "Toronto")

This is their sailing club, which I thought was cute.

At the end of the trip, we had a free for all for the remaining food that wasn't eaten.

I grabbed two loaves of bread (there were more than a dozen), some apples, and a full jar of Nutino, which is the Italian version of Nutella.

My goal for this week is to spend $10 or less on food. Milk costs $3, and I'm planning to buy sandwich materials with the other $7.

I'll let you know if I manage to make this happen!

Until next time...