Month: September 2018

What to do when you’re homesick – By Yen

Sweden is absolutely a nice country to live and study – being so organized and peaceful, having well-preserved beautiful nature and pursuing an awe-inspiring sustainable living system. But it also means that Sweden is totally different from Vietnam – my home country. The tranquility in Uppsala reminds me of a busy, messy, crazy, crowded city – Saigon, my hometown. I’d never lived in anywhere outside Vietnam before, therefore, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic on my first few weeks of being in Sweden.

Though parts of me still miss home somehow, I figure out some ways I can deal with living far away from home without missing everything so badly:

1 – Let’s start your day with food from your hometown

I manage to cook for myself every day, though most of them are very simple meals. They are also not all Asian foods, as some Asian ingredients and spices can be very rare and expensive here. I try to balance by having both or try to cook so-called Western foods but with Vietnamese taste (It’s rumored that you just need to add fish sauce to every dish and it becomes Vietnamese food)

Someone told me that if you have breakfast with your home country dishes, you will feel as if you were never away from home. Therefore, I try to have breakfast with either fried rice with egg or sticky-rice at least for a few times during the week.

Two of my typical Asian breakfasts in Uppsala.

It’s always a pleasure for me to visit Asian grocery stores where I can find so many familiar ingredients. Asian livs & Sivia Matcenter are 2 places I would recommend for any Asian wanting to eat like home.

I made a bowl of Hoành thánh soup for this weekend (Chinese name: Wonton). The wonton skin and other ingredients can be found at Asian Livs. This is an authentic Chinese dish and I cooked it with my Chinese roommate’s consultancy. So delicious!

Like Swedes enjoy coffee, Vietnamese people drink Bubble tea. It feels so hard for me not enjoying that delicious drink for a long time. Luckily, I found dried “bubbles” in Asian Livs. It took me 1 hour to cook those tiny balls into real “bubbles”. It’s totally worth that much effort.

2- Talk to other people from other nations. And be proud of your country.

I’m now living in a condo along with a Swede and a Chinese student. Last week, we had a dinner for us all together to cook traditional food from our home countries. I’m so proud to cook Vietnamese beef stew and Green bean dessert and put them on the menu along with dishes from Sweden, Russia and China.

We had a great time sharing our own food, our traditions and our views. And it’s very interesting to reflex how things are different here and there. Every time we talk, we find out different interesting things about how strange another nation could be (And we even exist on the same planet!)

3- Focus on studying

Studying here is different and comparatively difficult from my experience in Vietnam. I finished my bachelor’s degree 3 years ago, therefore I barely touched as many books and documents in those recent years as I’m doing now. It feels so stressful just to think about all the assignment and essay deadlines. So, let’s just focus on studying – as it is the reason why I came such a long way to be here. Also, you will feel much better because you have no time left to miss home.

I don’t have any photos I took to illustrate this part, so I just put here one of my lecturer’s slides from yesterday.


4- Still missing home so bad? Call your loved ones to speak your mother tough and get updated about home

Being far away from your family, friends and loved one can be the hardest thing about studying abroad. It is for me and I still miss them so much. I rarely meet anyone from my home country since I ‘ve been to Uppsala, therefore, I really value every single time talking on the phone, speaking my mother language with my family and friends.

Some pictures I received from my family and friends. From left to right: 1/ Fireworks in Vietnam Independence Day 2/ Parade to celebrate our national team winning a football match 3/ One of my favorite dish in Vietnam

Welcome OUT parade in Uppsala that I joined (left photo) vs. Gay Pride day in Saigon that my friend joined.

I guess I’m over my homesickness due to these small simple things. Missing home, I also feel so blessed for this wonderful opportunity to study and live in Sweden, to get out of my ‘comfort zone’, to go to somewhere so far away from home and get as many exciting experiences as I could. I will end this article with a famous speech from President John F. Kennedy – The Moon Speech, which my boyfriend sent me the day before I departed to Sweden, to motivate myself and anyone may feel the same.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

– President John F. Kennedy


Swenglish – By Layla Koch

Swedes are, undoubtedly, very good at English. In fact, Sweden is the fourth best country worldwide in terms of non-native English skills following Norway, the Netherlands, and Denmark according to Education First. However, to err is human, even among Nordic countries. The funny mistakes Swedish native speakers make in English have coined the term ‘Swenglish’ (or ‘svengelska’ in Swedish). But what is Swenglish? And how can you spot a Swenglish speaking person?

Swenglish is, as the name suggests, a mixture of Swedish and English. More concretely, it is English (a) spoken with a Swedish accent and (b) influenced by Swedish grammar and idioms. So, let’s have a look at it!

And, just as a disclaimer: By writing about Swenglish, I am of course neither trying to diminish Swedes’ English abilities nor boasting about my own. I am part German and can assure you: Denglish is much less charming and much more ridiculous.


If you’ve ever tried to speak Swedish, you may notice there are some sounds that are so difficult, they make you want to cry: words such as sju (= seven) or sked (= spoon) or stjärna (= star). For a non-Swede, these words are very difficult to pronounce. However, there is still some justice left in this world, which means that vice-versa there are also some words in English which Swedes find difficult to pronounce. We are talking about words with a J or a CH.

The English J sound, as found in jail, joke or Jew, is not part of the Swedish language. Instead, Swedes pronounce it as Y: A Swedish Julia will prefer to be called Yulia. This is often transferred to English turning jail into Yale (what an upgrade!), joke into yolk as in an egg yolk, and Jew into you.

Another difficult sound is CH as found in choose, cheap, or chit chat. Since this is also a very uncommon sound for Swedes, they tend to pronounce it more softly as a sh. That turns choose into shoes, cheap into sheep, and – my absolute favorite – chit chat into sh*t shat.

But then again, if you ask a non-Swedish native speaker to pronounce sjuksköterska or just Kristianstad, they will probably rethink their life choices.

Grammar / Idioms

As Germanic languages, Swedish and English are in many areas similar. However, there is some small differences, which make for funny mistakes.

One grammar issue I often notice are words that have several meanings in Swedish but not in English. Examples for this are ‘rolig’ which means both ‘fun’ and ‘funny,’ ‘lära’ which means both ‘learn’ and ‘teach,’ or ‘låna’ which means both ‘lend’ and ‘borrow.’ This can be a bit confusing to foreigners when you have a funny roller coaster, lend my book, or learn me how to spot a Swenglish speaking person.

Idioms, on the other hand, are always tricky when speaking a foreign language. There is so many weird sayings in every language, which everyone thinks are normal, because they grew up with them, but which are so random. Nonetheless, this leads Swedes (and many other nationalities) to use their idioms literally translated in English. Some of my favorite Swedish sayings translated to English are “Everyone knows the monkey, but the monkey knows no one” (= being known ≠ being popular), “You’re burning fires for cows” (= you’re doing something completely useless) or “I will be the one carrying the dog’s head” (= I will take the blame). As an English speaker, you will have no idea what the Swenglish speaker is talking about.

And on a side note for German, Dutch, and Danish speakers: At least among these languages, many idioms are pretty similar, but that is just the dot on the i! Does anybody know that idiom in any other language?


Learning a foreign language is difficult and confusing, which very often leads to funny situations and embarrassments. However, that should never stop you from trying again and learning. Just last week I confused ‘stjärt’ with ‘hjärta,’ which made for a fun conversation, but now I know that it is my heart that breaks not my butt. And I will move on with a smile.

This concludes my short dive into Swenglish. I find it fascinating how well Swedes speak English and yet, how common these characteristics are. But I am sure there is many more. What is some of your most heard or favorite Swenglish? What are some common mistakes native speakers of your language make when speaking English?


The first weeks at Uppsala University: Diving into the student life – By Anne

Coming to a new place where you do not know anybody or anything can be hard. You have to adjust to a new town, you have to organize so many things (Hello campuscard!) and maybe you experience language problems. But these first weeks are so exciting as well, filled with new people and thousands of opportunities!

First of all, a disclaimer: Whatever I write about my first weeks in Uppsala, it will never be the same for anyone else. There are simply too many welcome events to attend everything. But my advice is, do as many things as possible! Dive right into the student life! Maybe the most important thing: participate in as many events organized by your programme as possible, especially if you are a Master or Bachelor student. It’s highly likely that you see the people you meet there on a daily basis in your classes. Imagine how nice it is if you found friends there before university officially started! 

Join a nation! Working there is an uncomplicated way to get to know people outside your programme. It’s fun, it helps you to get into life in Uppsala and everything is way easier with friends. Besides, if you are part of a nation, you can go to the recentiorsgasque (a formal dinner for new nation members and the perfect opportunity to dress up) and other events. That has – so far – been one of the best things in my student life here.

Attending the Recentiorsgasque with friends.

Go to the Welcome Reception and the Welcome Fair! It was a nice (and formal) way of being welcomed into Uppsala University. At the welcome fair, a huge number of student organizations present themselves (choir, sports, debate, whatever you want to do). And last but not least, explore Uppsala and its surroundings! 

The Welcome reception in the main building. What a great atmosphere!

These first weeks can be hectic and exhausting. But it is so worth it! In the beginning, everybody is just as desperate (and excited) as you to get to know new people. It is so easy to meet new friends and have lots of fun. Even if you are a bit more introverted and need time for yourself, don’t worry. Needless to say, you don’t have to attend every single event if you don’t want to. For me personally, it was great to push myself out of my comfort zone and I am happy about how my time at Uppsala University started. 

Oh, and by the way, if Swedish people are not talking that much to you, don’t take it personal! They are really friendly (after you get to know them a bit better). 😉 

/Anne Kristin Kästner

Learning Swedish the hard way: blundering at Flying Tiger – By Fleur

Learning Swedish must be the most common resolution among international students. However, like any language, Swedish comes with a wide range of possibilities to make mistakes. Blundering your way through learning  a new language may be very awkward, but it might also be the most efficient way to learn. Not only because you will forever remember your cringe-worthy mistake, but also because you will tell your friends about it, repeating what you should’ve said (or, like me, write a blog about it, for the whole world to know).

My most awkward Swedish situation so far happened at Flying Tiger. For those who don’t know: it’s the ultimate store for everything you need in your students room, that you forgot at Ikea and don’t want to go all the way back for. Can openers, laundry bags, those kinds of things. I had gathered a pile of stuff that I did or didn’t need and went to the counter to do what I usually do: pretend to be Swedish (and pay, of course). Pretending to be Swedish starts very easy: you put the desired articles on the counter while you say “hej hej”, in a high pitch voice, the first ‘hej’ a bit higher than the second. The cashier will scan the items and ask something that most likely means “do you want a bag?”. Usually I take my own bag, so I politely decline saying “nej tack”. However, this time I was unsure whether the cashier asked about a bag, or about something else. The only way to solve it was to drop my incognito Swedish identity and ask “wait… that means ‘do you want a bag?’, right?” Polite as the Swedish are, the cashier apologised for speaking Swedish, to which I replied that I was trying to learn Swedish anyway. He explained to me that ‘påse’ means bag, and asked in Swedish whether I wanted a ‘kvitto’ (receipt). Of course he had to explain what ‘kvitto’ means as well. 

I meant to go to the office supply shop next door to get tape and batteries. Unfortunately, they only had super-sticky-double-sided-invisible-magic-tape, which of course costed ten times as much as regular tape. Therefore I decided to go back to Flying Tiger, which at least put me in the position of practising the words I had just learned. Of course I ended up at the same counter as before. The conversation (IN SWEDISH!) went quite well, until the final moment when the cashier told me to “har en bra dag”. Now, I knew what these words meant, however, what is tricky is the Swedish intonation: the Swedes tend to sound surprised with everything they say. Therefore my brain decided in a split second that the cashier had asked me whether I had a nice day, and I promptly blurted out a very loud “ja!” (in my defence, it had been a very nice day). Slightly embarrassed, the cashier politely explained to me that he actually had meant to wish me a good day.

Walking out I got a text from my housemate. “Since you’re there, could you bring me a stapler?”

“Nah man, I just walked out the second time. If I go in again, the cashier will either think I am very dumb, or madly in love with him”

/Anne Fleur Van Luenen