Swedish Culture Win – Shoes Off Please

There’s this ongoing battle in many countries. The dispute can destroy dinner parties and make friendships awkward. Some people compare this battle to the War of the Roses, eternal until death do us part.

It is called – The Battle of Wearing Shoes Indoors!

I for one, do not allow shoes in the house. I never have. I never will.

Here’s why:

  • I am Indian, and like all other Asians, our home is our sanctuary.   To not takes shoes off is a sign of disrespect to the owners of the house.
  • I am a Hindi and a Jain, and as such, our home is also a place of worship.   God doesn’t like people schleeping in with shoes and shit on them.
  • I live in Sweden and not wearing shoes indoors is the biggest Swedish cultural win ever. Most of the year it rains or snows in Sweden. Why on earth would you drag stone, snow, mud filled shoes into a home? And Swedes pride themselves on keeping fastidiously clean homes (Americans, for all your cleaning supplies, the Swedes are better at keeping a home tidy). Plus, Swedes find it rude to walk around in a home with shoes you wear for the outside world.
  • Shoes indoors are gross.  No matter how many times I hear the, “ohhh, but it can make people uncomfortable to take their shoes off.   What if they have smelly feet or bunions or holey socks?” Seriously?  If someone gives me that dumbass rhetorical question, my answer is “maybe you should see a doctor and buy a pair of socks without holes.”
  • I am lazy and do not want to wipe scuff marks or water marks from your shoes in my home.
  • Your home is your home.   You have the right to ask, request, and in standoffs, demand people to remove their shoes.   Just as a guest does not have the right to eat food not served to them or throw their coats on the floor or eat before the host (in a formal dinner), a guest can certainly take their shoes off.
  • Wearing shoes all the time is stifling for my feet.  Who wants their feet to be smushed all day long in a pair of sneakers or heels?

no shoes indoors please

When I grew up, half the homes I would visit would take their shoes off and half would not. Even when I lived in New York and the temperature was -30C and blizzard conditions, I saw some friends keep their shoes on.

At my birthday parties, which occurred in December, my mom would always run around and ensure kids took those shoes off. I’m glad she did; no wants to clean up snow blizzard crap on the carpet. Plus, it was a to teach the kids, and adults, that we do ask for respect when you come into our home.

There were always some kids who would cry when they had to take their shoes off. They probably turned into the same adults who “can never take their shoes off because I’ve been doing it for 15 years.” Gross, don’t you want your feet to get some air? No wonder athlete’s foot is a huge problem in the United States.

But after doing some reading, the shoes on indoors turns out to be Anglo-Saxon tradition. Britain, northern Germany, the United States, the Netherlands, and some South American countries.

The Daily Mail had a hilarious article about wearing shoes indoors.

“Is asking guests to remove their shoes before they cross your ­threshold good housekeeping or horribly naff? After all, the suggestion is that your friends’ shoes are so grubby that they are bound to be treading something unspeakable over your carpets.”

Insinuating that your friends shoes are “so grubby” is misleading; shoes ARE dirty. What “unspeakables” would someone tread? Dirt, leaves, mud, water, snow, stones, dog shit, cigarette butts, snus, gum. No unspeakables here, shoes tread dirt.

“One poster wondered whether it was OK to ask guests to remove their footwear at the housewarming party she was hosting. ‘No,’ was the overwhelming response.
‘I’m picturing a Barratt home, twigs in a vase covered in fairylights and that Ikea picture of pebbles,’ sniped one woman on the forum.”

Remind me to never invite the nay-sayers into my home.

“Podiatrist Kate Millns says: ‘Asking people to remove their shoes is giving your guests unnecessary stress, as most people like to keep their feet hidden. It’s more hygienic to make them keep their shoes on, especially if they are not wearing socks or tights.”

By far the most bizarre of all, how does keeping one shoes on be more hygienic than taking them off? Honestly, if your feet smell a lot, you should be seeing a doctor, and possibly not wearing shoes every second of every day.

What to do in a Nordic household:

  • Please do take your shoes off being being asked to do-so.   The whole “Opps, I’m American, I didn’t realize it” is a lame and disrespectful excuse to a homeowner.
  • If you are attending a dinner party and do want to wear a pair of heels, ask the host if it is okay to bring the heels in a bag. Clean the soles with soap and water and wrap them up in a nice bag to take to the party.
  • I sometimes take a pair of my flat jutas to a party. I have cold feet and these shoes are meant for indoors only. They’re also very cute and stylish.
  • Some hosts will have a strict no shoes policy. That is especially true with people who have soft wooden floors. My friend had an inflytningsfest (housewarming party) and made the mistake of allowing people to wear clean heels in the house. Only two of the thirty or so guests did. And one of them left divits across a brand new floor. We tracked her “footprints” from the living room to the entrance to the bathroom and around. The cost to steam and fix the imprints will be 3000-6000SEK.
  • When in Sweden, embrace some new traditions. This is an instance of a great tradition.
  • Buy a shoe rack and a chair to help make it easier for guests to arrange their shoes and sit comfortably when taking them off.
  • Last, think about how much money you can save when not needing to buy shoes in Sweden for every new outfit! I call that winning!

shoe and jacket rack

From the forum, Imamother.com:
“Yes its YOUR home but wouldnt you want people to be comfortable in your home? Lets say they put on their worst pair of socks with holes in the front, not knowing that you had such a “policy”. Would you like to take the risk of embarrasing the visitor by them having to wear “holey socks” or putting them in the position of not wanting to take them off?”

If my friends had a pair of holey socks, it is not my problem.  It’s also NOT for me to make fun of them and make it an issue.

One of these days, I will stitch a sign to say “Inga Skor.” And if someone questions me, I will say “we’re Swedes, take off your damn shoes!”

UPDATE: Temporary Stockholmer found a doormat sold at Home Sweet Home.

Crappy Monday from India

I’m guessing most of you have crawled your way to the office and pouring the first cup of coffee in what is the longest day of the week.

Originally this post said happy monday, but honesty, WTF. Crappy Monday!

As for me, I’m enjoying a hot cup of chai courtesy of my mom’s recipe with fresh ginger and lemongrass. (Today is three months from when you left us, I miss you everyday but I love you and will dream big for you.)

{Animated gif by The Oatmeal, the most fabulous site out there}

The weather forecast for Mumbai helps too but it is too hot because there have been no clouds or rain in the past week.

desert. hot.

parched.

On the plus side you can always find delicious food in Mumbai, and this dish from Moshe’s was sublime. That weird yellow drink was a mango, coconut, lemongrass, honey fresh juice. I am so obsessed with lemongrass now. Obsessed!!
Moshe's mumbai
More Mumbai photos to enjoy.

But I must say, I do prefer the Swedish summer much more. Charming and buccolic.

Happy Monday and drink the black death called coffee. Just don’t turn into the little monster from above. {Animated gif by The Oatmeal, the most fabulous site out there}

Lost in Mumbai

Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is crazy. Crazy crowded, crazy noise, crazy colors, crazy people, crazy smells, crazy traffic, crazy crazy crazy!

I go crazy. I don’t have the magic or patience to survive the traffic, bureaucracy, and heat. I know, I am a wimp.

But, I do like photos. :) These are photos taken over the years and on this trip of Mumbai, India. A few photos are from friends who took them during our own crazy wedding week and riding on a BEST bus.

The fish market – fresh and tasty
IMG_1369.JPG

A bridal car
The evening bridal car

Because penguins are for trash
pingu in trash can form

Amazing egg man battles Mumbai traffic
egg home delivery

Deep fried battered bread stuffed with potato, spicy goodness
IMG_1335.JPG

Dosas … are long
IMG_1359.JPG

Dhobbi district
dhobbi district in mumbai

Sir, do you have an STD?
IMG_1522.JPG

Rosabussarna at Cafe Leopold!
pink caravan sweden - lol

Bullet Holes – from the hostage crisis in 2008
kingfisher and bullet holes

Wassup?
praying mantis

Hanging with the Peeps – The photograph taking a break and chilling with our bus drivers
Chris & our Bus Drivers

I Want a Dabbawalla to Deliver Lunch

Andrew sent me the video below about the dabbawala system in Mumbai. It is an awe-inspiring system built on intricacies and timeliness. Considering the irony of Indian Standard Time where everything runs late, your lunch does not. Your lunch is there come hell or monsoon season.

Since British rule in India, it is common to have your lunch delivered to you. Not a fast food restaurant you called to order, but your lunch from home cooked by your wife or grandmother. They cook the delicious Indian food in the morning and a dabbawala picks it up for the journey to your office desk.

A dabbawalla is someone who carries lunch. It translates from Marathi with dabba or ‘tiffin/box’ and walla or ‘man.’ Walla is used to reflect a profession. Milkwalla is the guy who sells/delivers milk, eggwalla sells eggs, flowerwalla sells flowers and so forth. It is a cool name for them.

Now, if you can imagine your sambo having your husmanskost delivered to your office in central Stockholm at noon everyday for the cost of pennies, you would go wild with happiness. In Mumbai, for $3-5 a month, your lunch will be delivered for real. Yes, that’s a the month price, not the day price.

And how does the system work? Simple, with 4000-5000 dabbawallas who transport at least 175,000 lunches a day. Because many dabbawallas are illiterate, they color code and mark with letters and numbers (they have to learn the bare minimum) that mark the destination train station, building, floor, name.

With so many dabbas picked up, dropped off, and picked up again, you would think the fail rate is high, but it’s not. Forbes magazine considers the delivery system to be of six sigma standard, that is, maximum efficiency of 99.99966% or better. That’s just a couple of messed up deliveries of 16 million; amazing efficiency coming from people who earn $125 a month in a country that never works on time.

Now, if only someone would deliver a hot lunch of färsk potatis and lax to my desk.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

Since we’re just returning back to reality from wedding madness and a server move over our honeymoon, I’m just going to share a few more photos from behind the scenes at our wedding.

Don’t be sad but there’s nothing to hate on Sweden today, although after being in India for this long, I do have a lot more love for Sweden and quite a few things to hate about India.

The best part of the whole wedding was taking 40 friends on a public transportation bus in Mumbai, BEST, that we rented. Can you imagine sticking 40 white people on a bus ride all over the city just to do shopping? Insane and hilarious. We did manage to tucker out the children by the end of the days but did not satiate their appetite for shopping.

Little yellow after the Haldi Ceremony
with the bride

In desperate need of wifi in Mumbai – turns out it was a pay wifi connection, the horror!

Mehndi on my feet
Feet Mehndi

Horn OK Please ?
water truck

One of the few photos we sneaked of the photographer
the photographer, waiting

Supari – digestive aids
digestive aids

It’s a shoe in the garden – Mumbai’s Malabar Hill
giant shoe

November Events in Stockholm: India/Indien

It’s November. Time for the depressing month of the year when we lose more than 5 minutes of daylight each day. Despite the sun running away from, color (and culture) is coming to us for next couple months.

October began the India/Indien exhibition at Kulturhuset. Throughout Stockholm, clubs, theaters, movie theaters, stores are playing, displaying, discussing all things India. This is a great opportunity to get out and experience the chaos and liveliness of the Indian culture.

Even though Stockholm is small, it is difficult to figure out all the great events and cultural attractions in the city. It is also disappointing when great events happen and you don’t know (and sometimes, no one shows). With Indien, I didn’t even know it existed until I passed Kulturhuset and had to go inside to get a schedule.

Point being, if you are sulking at home trying to figure out what to do Friday, Saturday, or Sunday or the rest of the week in Stockholm, Indian activities can keep you busy.

Last night I saw Indian Ocean, an amazing indo-fusion-rock band. We even got to meet all the band members after the concert, take pictures, and get autographs. They are awesome musicians that play music of modern India while still looking cool with kurta tops. Visit their homepage to download, free, yes free, songs (they’re so awesome they dislike the big music companies).

With Rahul Ram, the bass guitarist and vocalist of Indian Ocean
With Rahul Ram
Here is the list of events and happenings for Indien in Stockholm:

Sunday Film – Filmsöndag – Sooni Taraporevala
RSVP on Facebook or show up
Sunday, November 21 · 13.00 – 21.00
Theme: Movies
Södra Teatern, Stora Scen
A free film festival with both classic and an exclusive tour of the new film, Little Zizou. Film showings and Christmas shopping Bombay style means that you and your friends come, buy an Indian picnic bag (who knows, maybe it contains curry popcorn), mingle, watch a movie, eat, and buy Indian presents. All you need this Sunday is Indian food, chai, movies, friends, gifts and Old Monk rum.

We also will be showing for the first time a viewing of the acclaimed movie by Sooni Taraporevalas, Little Zizou (2010). As a warm-up before the show, we will also play her (and Mira Nair’s) three previous classics: Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala and Namesake (Jhumpa Lahiri’s book after).

Rupee Me – Samtal om en ny världsmakt
RSVP on Facebook or show up!
Wednesday, November 24 · 19.00 – 21.00
Theme: Talk & Discussion
Södra Teatern, Kägelbanan
Foreign investment, power, and labor influence Indian’s economy today. Is Europe doing right by investing in India or are the less fortunate being taken advantage of? Will India be the next superpower?

The experts on the panel are Fred Fexe the Trade Council, Gautam Bhattacharyya for Springtime, Parul Sharma, Senior CSR Advisor Global Coordinator CSR auditing of suppliers, Sandvik AB, Malin Mendel Westberg, SVT, Charlotte Bohman at Hand-in-hand and Gudrun Sjödén. Moderator: Emma Ihre.

Bollywood Bio IV
Monday, December 6 · 7:30pm – 10:30pm
Bio Rio, for more info

BOLLYWOODBIO is the Indian film club that takes the world’s largest film industry to Hornstull, Södermalm.
Theme: Movie – Peepli live
A comic satire about suicide wave among Indian farmers and the accompanying media and political reaction. The film competed in the 2010 Sundance festival.
Time: 19:30, film Start 20:00, mingling before the movie and Indian food and drink. 80 kr.

Manish Arora
One of the greatest Indian fashion designers visits Kulturhuset.
Tuesday, November 23rd 17.30-18.30
Kulturehuset, Sergels torg 3.
Theme: Fashion (mode)
Ticket Prices: 90 kr.

Sarira – Indian Dance – From Classical to Bollywood
December 29th, 2010 18.00-19.00
Theme: Dance Performance
Kulturhuset, Högsalen, Sergels Torgs 3
Price: 120kr

The show begins in the south Indian classical dance, Bharatnatyam, and then transfers to modern dance forms up to today’s Bollywood Dance.

The colorful costumes, the rapid rhythms and movements and beautiful tones of the sitar and tabla enables your soul to visit India without ever leaving your chair.

Choreographer and dancer Usha Balasanduram organizing the show together with his dancers.
Sitar player Harvindar Singh.

A little bit of India in Sweden

Just finished two courses of Indian cooking with mom this week and they went off without a hitch. ::knock on wood:: Ever since she arrived before Midsommer, the weather in Stockholm has been fantastic: hot, bit humid, and sunny. Indian weather is here in Sweden. Yayyy!
fried indian goodness

The students in the classes were all awesome. Anne from Anne’s food joined us, Sabina from Orientalista, and Mattias Senchaholic’s Blog. English word of day: sencha. Sencha is a Japanese green tea where the tea leaves are not crushed (compared to match japanese tea which is powdered).

If you love tea definitely read his blog and if you love food, read Anne’s blog, and if you want to learn yoga or oriental dance, contact Sabina.

Next week, a couple more bloggers are joining us. Very awesome. I’m excited to hear their thoughts of Indian food and ” hur man lagar god och spännande Indisk mat”. Mumms!

Now that there’s more swedish girls sunbathing in the parks (some topless swedish men too), here’s a mango lassi recipe that will keep you cool and refreshed. A perfect non alcoholic Indian smoothie drink.


Mango Lassi – Serves 4
1/2 bag Coop’s Frozen Mango (available at Coop grocery store)
1/2 liter regular yogurt (here’s a full list of Swedish yogurt, don’t get confused!)
3-4 ice cubes
2 spoons sugar

Get a blender and put the ice, sugar, frozen mangos, and yogurt in. Putting the ice in first (at the bottom of the blender) ensure the ice is ground up.

Pour into glasses and drink straight away! Yogurt is great to keep the body cool and fresh. If you are able to find fresh mangoes or real mango puree use that instead. Absolut delicious!

Yum! Indian Cooking Classes in Stockholm

biryani

Update, April 18th, 2012: I will be holding a cooking class in May and June. After that, I’ll be taking a break for a few months so please contact me and let me know. We can work out a custom plan for you as well!

I love cooking and one of topics readers wanted covered from the polling was more posts about cooking and different cuisines.

Now that it is spring and the weather is still terrible, it’s time to cosy up and cook lovely food. I will host a few cooking classes over the spring for Indian food. If you love Indian cuisine from the restaurants (the few, the proud, the delicious), learning to cook that same kind of food at home is easy.

Truly, Indian cooking is easy once you master the basics and understanding of the spices. The classes are a bit intense if you are not accustomed to Asian spices but certainly not at the level of Kendall’s Chicago culinary arts colleges or the Swedish Chef.

What I’m planning is to host a course made of three sessions in a one week period.

My mom, a fantastic cook, knows Gujarati, vegetarian, Marathi, South Indian, traditional North Indian, and even some Burmese dishes. She will lead the cooking class as her depth and knowledge of Indian food is brilliant.

In honor of my mom’s fabulous cooking, I will lead two more sessions.


What will you learn?

Because it is summer, we will have lighter meals. Simple, quick Indian dishes.

For drinks: mango lassi, sweet lassi, Indian chai (don’t call it chai tea, that’s calling it tea tea then), or chaas (a favorite Gujarathi drink made of yogurt).

Food: Chole bhatura (chick pea curry), paneer bhurji, dahl, biryani, egg curry, and fresh home paneer (cheese!).

Grilling: Tandoori chicken

Side dishes: Raita, papad.

Dishes may change but chicken tikka masala will be on the menu!

Naan cannot officially be made at home because homes do not have a tandoor, an oven charcoal pit. Instead, we will make roti, another typical Indian bread.


Class schedule:

May and June 2012. Classes are open dates at this time.
They are three nights of session but email me so we can work something out!

If you want to have the class on the weekend, that can be organized as well, please email me.

If you are interested, or want to gift it to a friend. Please post a comment or email me directly at ablacksapphire at gmail dot com. Half the payment must be received before the class starts. It will be held at my home in Stockholm.

This will be wonderful for all of you Indian food lovers out there looking to bring India to your home! Besides, how often do you get a chance to learning Indian cooking in Stockholm, Sweden?

And mumms the word!

Indian Engagement Ceremony Photos

Indian Bridal Mehndi and Bangles
menhdi hands - indian engagement

Traveled with Air France on an unusually nice flight. We survived an Indian engagement ceremony. In India. With Swedes. And an occasional stomach problem.

Now that we have our Swedish engagement done, it was time for the Indians to take over and show what a Hindu engagement is about. An Indian engagement can be a large or small affair. A small involves 30-50 people. Okay, that is not small for Swedish standards but considering in India, we invite everyone for a wedding, 30 people is super duper small.

Giving Blessings
Blessings - Indian Engagement

We invited only family, i.e. my dad’s brothers and sisters and their family, my mom’s brothers and families and my grandmother’s in laws. Despite having a few extra people show up, we still had only 40 people.

For the ceremony, there are two parts: introduction and ring ceremony. We did this in a mainly Maharastrian style. How it differs from other Indian engagement ceremonies is anyone’s guess. The first part of the ceremony took 20minutes and involved giving blessings to the bride and bridegroom’s family, exchanging gifts and changing. I wore a very typical Maharastrian Paithani sari.

After the changing, we exchange rings and mithai (sweets). Traditionally you exchange sweets to ‘live a sweet life’ but modern tradition is to exchange rings as well. For the second part, I wore a typical Gujarathi chenia choli. This chenia choli is hand made Kutchi style with embroidery, ablah (mirror work), and bandhani (tye dye) design.

Both were lovely!

Grandmothers
Indian Grandmothers
Respectfully bowing to my maternal and paternal grandmothers. They are awesome.

We’ve come a long way since last year when he met the indian family for the first time. And now we’re planning a wedding. Strange how the puzzles in life fall into place.