The Nordic Region – The Happiest Place on Earth

For all that Swedes complain about the winter, weather, and rain, Sweden is one of the happiest places on Earth.

And so is Finland, Norway, and Denmark. Our saddest little neighbor, Iceland, is only the 15th happiest place on Earth.

Overall, the Nordic region is one happy family and Scandinavia is Disneyland in real life.

The 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index, produced by a British non-partisan public policy organisation, identifies the world’s happiest and saddest countries. They used several sources of data (objective and subjective) from Gallup, World Development Indices, and self researched. The 2012 LPI is similar to the UN World Happiness Report though the latter relies more on surveys than objective data.

The LPI focused on eight areas: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, safety, personal freedom and social capital.

Scandinavia and the greater group, the Nordic region, rank near the top in every category.

Here are the rankings of the Nordic countries. A few OECD and BRIC countries are included for comparison.

ship &
Education Social
United Kingdom261862071130121335686.2
United States202122710145101247153
Use the arrows to zero out a category and reset the ranking list.
In some ways, the findings are not too surprising. India, while growing economically, severely lacks basic access to healthcare and sanitation. Women, suffering some of the greatest injustices in the world, sends the country spiraling downwards when backwards ideology like “marrying your rapist” is acceptable. Interestingly, governance is the country’s highest ranking factor; perhaps a sign that India has the potential to become a better and happier place.

The United States dropped two spots to 12 after three years of holding 10. A massive recession coupled with increased long term unemployment, decisive elections, and long wars have played its toll on the American psyché. The next several years will tell if the people can return to higher levels or continue on a broken path.

There was one very interesting finding. Nordic swept the Entrepreneurship and Opportunity category. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway took the top four positions. I would not have expected it because the venture climate is still lukewarm. Delving into the study questions, it became clear that the Nordic region would top the list. Some questions included, Mobile phones (per 100 people), Mobile phones per household, Secure internet servers (per 1 million people), Good place for entrepreneurs to start a business? (% yes), Business start-up costs (% of GNI per capita).

And most definitely the Nordic region is home to cheap cell phone plans and low start up costs from Skatteverket. If you think about it, how many people do you know owning a HB or AB in Sweden versus your home country?

Looking at the World Happiness Report, the Nordic region holds the top three slots (Denmark, Finland, Norway) followed by the Netherlands and Canada. The whining about the Swedish weather pushed Sweden out of the top.

Still, after all our complaining about Sweden, it really is not a bad place. We are happy, prosperous, and eat a lot of semlor. What more could one ask?

Now only if Disney opened a Disneyland here would we be truly the happiest people on Earth.


Swedish Christmas Guide 2012

December is here! And that means, Christmas, S:t Lucia festivities, and food. Lots of food. Oh and lots of decoration.

Over the years I write a couple articles about Christmas in Sweden and after sometime, the posts get all mixed up together.

To make it easier for you all to find the right post about Christmas, I put together a list of links from over the years.

NK & Hamngatan in Stockholm at Christmastime

Om Anders braskar, skall julen slaskar – Will it snow on Christmas? The age-long question is answered if snow falls on November 30.

Difference between Swedish & American Christmases – Trying to explain how your Christmas is different than from across the pond? This post should help you with the little details in each of the traditions.

Epiphany – The 13th day after Christmas. We get a day off.

Christmas holidays – A list of holidays and days off throughout the Christmas season.


Glögg & Lussebullar Recipes – Swedish and American version on making those delicious little saffron buns. To satisfy your thirst, make your own glögg, mulled wine. It is a lot easier than you think!

Julbord Foods – Want to know what you will eat at Julbord with the in-laws or your company? I made three versions for the Julbord guide translated from Swedish to English. The article, a two page Julbord printer-friendly guide, and a three page large font guide. Print it and share it with your family or coworkers! {If you do share with your office mates, please don’t remove the Lost in Stockholm name.}

Swedish Christmas Foods – Dishes to make at home for your family julbord.
Nordiska Kompaniet {NK}’s Christmas Display – If you love seeing the shops light up their windows for Christmas, then don’t miss out at NK, Sweden’s most well known department store.

Christmas Photos – A lot of pretty photos to help you oooo and ahhh.

Christmas Decoration – Christmas stars, advent candles, we can’t forgot the decorations! The biggest conundrum: when to put the tree up?

Christmas in the Nordic Region
Christmas in Iceland – A guest post written by Tinna. Want to know what the Yule lads are doing? Read her post and perhaps mix in a little spirit from The North Pole.

Om Anders braskar, skall julen slaskar

Before I get to the meaning of the title of this post, it is November 30th allihopa! The last day of dreary November is nearly over and we are one step closer to a fun filled Christmas in Sweden.

That means drinking, celebrating and passing out!

Which begs the all important question: will it snow on Christmas? And by Christmas, we mean December 24th. Not the 25th for you Americans.

For that, we ask Anders, the man who has November 30th as his namesday. It is said that if snows on this day, it will not on Christmas.

I know it is early in the day, but if anyone sees it snow in their region, send me a photo, and we’ll post which cities may not be getting a white Christmas this year.

View from Kista. Photo by S.

View from Linköping. Photo by Jesica

Sweden’s Dagen H – Leaving the Brits Left to Go Right

Forty five years ago today, Sweden switched it’s traffic from left hand side (like in the UK) to the right side of the road. After all, Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbors were on the right side of the road, most of Europe was on the right side of the road (props for Britain being the special one), and Swedish cars had left hand steering.

That’s right, errr, left. Saab and Volvo built their cars with left hand steering for drivers who drove on the left side of road.

You would think with a double blind spot, there would be a myriad of accidents. That was the government said. That was what all the campaigns said. “Switch to the right side of the road, and we’ll have less accidents.”

That worked for four years from Dagen H when traffic accidents fell. Then it was business as usual for cars to smash into each other again. And still remains today.

Göteborg on Dagens-H via GP

The campaign to switch Sweden to the right side of the road battled for more than forty years. And for forty years the people voted for against the measure. In 1955 through a public referendum, the measure lost 15.5% to 82.9%. More than two million Swedes said no to the right side. They wanted to be cool like the Brits.

But in 1963, the Riksdag voted for the switch. They created a new commiteee, Högertrafikkommission, to oversee the switching of every road sign, bus stop and traffic signal in the country. Dagen H {Right hand side traffic diversion} was the H-Day for Sweden to make history.

And Högertrafikkommission had four years to teach the country how to make the switch. From logoing the “H” on women’s underwear to pasting info on milk cartons, Swedes were bombarded with the new regulations.

At 5AM on September 3rd, 1967, Sweden made the switch. No one was run over and cars didn’t fall into the rivers. Overall, it was a success. Even Olaf Palme was estatic on September 3rd, “Fantastiskt! Kan någon tänka sig, att svenska folket upplevde en revolution för bara några timmar sedan.”

So was the government right {left}? Do Swedes miss being like the British or should island people stay on the wrong side of the road?

{Photograph by Jan Collsiöö / Public Domain}

Kristi Himmelsfärds Dag {Ascension Day} in Sweden

Today Christ ascends to heaven in one of Christianity’s ecumenical feasts.

In Sweden, today is a red day and most Swedes enjoy a long weekend with proper spring weather.

Ascension of Christ by Garofalo, 1520.

According to the Swedish Church, Ascension Day has been celebrated for hundreds of years:
“Ascension Day has been celebrated since 300’s. It always fall on the Thursday 40 days after Easter Sunday. The date varies depending on when Easter Sunday falls, but is Ascension day always is on or after May 1st and before June 4th. In the Middle Ages, there were often dramas performed along with an Ascension game. They wanted to portray Christ’s physical leave of the Earth in a spiritual way.

Jesus leaves the earth
At Easter, we have the large Easter candle, the symbol of life’s triumph over death. On Ascension Day, the candle is blown out as a symbol of Jesus leaving the world. We celebrate this with an open-air church service, often at dawn to hear the birds sign brightly in the morning.
{via the swedish church}

What will most Swedes be doing? I’m guessing drinking beer and being solar panels.

Sweden Gets Ready for New Banknotes & Coins

I love European money, well the Euro and the Kronar. They are colorful, different shaped banknotes for each denomination and usually have cute/bizarre images on the notes.

Sweden has a colorful collection with dead people on the notes (you have to be dead – sorry Swedish Chef). But since the notes are 25 years old; there’s been no updates to the printing and security features, the Riksbank (the Swedish Mint) announced a design competition to create a collection of new notes for the country.

The winner was announced last week. The jury chose Göran Österlund’s entry “Kulturresan/Cultural journey” as the starting point for the new bank notes.

Each note has a motif and color which was predetermined by the jury:
20 kronor
Astrid Lindgren

50 kronor
Evert Taube

100 kronor
Greta Garbo

200 kronor
Ingmar Bergman

500 kronor
Birgit Nilsson

1000 kronor
Dag Hammarskjöld

My favorite are these two because of the backsides. They didn’t win but they were cool.

If you notice, the Riksbank will be introducing a new note, the 200 kronor to ease change carrying and breaking of 500kr notes. The new styles will not enter circulation until 2015 and the new coins, pictured below, will enter circulation in 2016.

The new coin will be a 2kr and the lowest coin is the 1kr. Death to the 50 öre!

Security features include sparking, a color shifting ink used in the new US banknotes and motioning, a window thread where micro-lenses are embedded to give the feeling of movement of the subject.

I already like the Swedish banknotes, especially Carl von Linné’s 100kr note with a superimposed image of bumble bee staring at you.

I will have to keep a copy when Mint begins to fade out the current collection.

But what I found really interesting about Sweden’s banknotes, the most popular, circulated note is the 500kr. There are 114 million 500kr notes in current circulation, that is 57 billion kronor out of a total 95 billion kronor in circulation. And there are 28 million 1000kr notes in circulation, amounting to 28 billion kronor. I wonder how much of that is black money.

Lakritsfestivalen {Licorice Food Festival} – From Panne Cotta to Massage Oil

I never expected I could be a licorice lover. Growing up, I loved one and one type of licorice candy: Jelly Belly licorice.

My mom love licorice, like real licorice candy in the US. The Swedish variety was too salty for her tastes but she still enjoyed them. And she’s the only person I know in the US that actually ate real licorice candy, not the “red licorice” or alternative fake licorices.

The Licorice Balloon Lady

On Sunday when I went to the Lakritsfestivalen {Licorice Food Festival}, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was on a mission to figure out why Swedes love licorice, but I did not expect to fall in love with licorice too.

Boy oh boy! Licorice is delicious.

Soft, chewy.

Sweet, salty (not too salty though!)…

And flavored with citrus or berries, yum!

I had so many interesting flavors and types of licorice at the festival.

Powdered licorice
It’s the new culinary ‘in’ thing. Martin Jörgensen, founder of Lakritsfabriken, says to “Use it as a spice and add a dash of it to your sweet and savory dishes.”

What licorice powder looks like

He made this delicious panne cotta with licorice
Licorice Panne cotta with a dollop of raspberries

And he also made raspberry smoothie. That was amazing! Raspberries and licorice are like best friends.

Others used the powdered licorice to season salads (no tasting available) and in cotton candy. That was nuts.

Candies, fudges, jams and everything else in between
At the show, there were the traditional candy powerhouses Malaco and Panda but the most exciting was meeting all the small boutique companies.

My stash of licorice infused goodies

The orange confiture with licorice from Liquorice Reglisse, an Italien company, will be exciting to try! I had no idea Italy is one of the largest produces of licorice from the southern region called Kalabria.

A favorite was the Australian soft and slightly sweet candy from Kookaburra

Licorice flavored cupcakes
Lots of interesting and somewhat odd flavors:
Michelle Obama – chocolate, almond, raspberry, licorice
Black Violet – licorice, violet, salt licorice
Old school – licorice, anise, fennel, pistachio nut
Finnish citrus – licorice, lemon, salt licorice
H&D – chocolate, star anise, salt licorice
Pingvinen {Penguin} – licorice, mint, salt licorice sauce

Super über salty licorice from Iceland
Icelandic Lakkrisdjöflar

Mini cupcakes from Damen med Bakelsen
Mini mini Truffles

Dark Milk Chocolate + Licorice

Frejyu Lakkris Draumur – Supposedly the first licorice+chocolate created
Frejyu Lakkris Draumur

Licorice Macaroon

Bath & Body infused licorice
Can you imagine candy-infested smelling store Bath and Body Works selling a licorice soap, shampoo, and massage oil?

Queen of Licorice did just that. They make organic soaps, massage oils, lip balms, shampoo and conditioners. Licorice is a medicinal plant and it’s ability to cure dry coughs, excema, dandruff, makes it magical plant used in ayruvedic medicine for thousands of years.

The Queen of Licorice products are meant to help people with dry and flakey as well as improve their mood (licorice releases adrenline in the body). I picked up a massage oil in the hopes of curing my excema on my arm. Let the experimenting begin!

Licorice Books
The books are not made of licorice; they’re books about licorice. I know, disappointed.

Annica Triberg and Annika Wallin wrote the definite guide to licorice called Lakrits. It’s a historical, cultural, and cookbook all rolled into one. So far it’s only in Swedish but available at the major bookstores. I already love the book and have learned so much about this little root.

Annica Triberg and Annika Wallin

Did you know that people used to brush their teeth by using a piece of licorice root and rubbing it on the teeth? True story.

Lakrits, Mynt, & Choklad is a cookbook by bestselling author Elisabeth Johansson. I flipped through the book and everything looks amazing. Still need to get my hands on one, I’m excited to try my own licorice panne cotta.

Elisabeth Johansson

All in all, it was a great time and I’m hoping to try out some licorice based recipes now!

Welcome Baby {Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary} Princess of Sweden

UPDATE: Feb 27, 15.30. Photos of Princess Estelle at four days old. Awww!

UPDATE: Feb 24, 11.29.

Her name is: Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary !!!

What’s with the W spelling? I thought Swedish normally didn’t use a ‘w’ in the alphabet?

Update: Feb 24, 11.19 The name will be release live today. In the meantime, enjoy this FAIL from the Royal House by calling the new baby David.

At 4.26 this morning, Crown Princess Victoria gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

baby princess sweden on the way homeMom and baby are doing well and are already on the way home! Geez, that was a quick in and out procedure.

Baby princess has a name and it will be announced on Friday by the Riksmarskalk.

You check DN for the press conference Prince Daniel had.

He caught a fish THIS big. No wait, that’s a baby…
i caught a fish this big... Prince Daniel on baby Princess

Norway vs Sweden – The Differences {Venn Diagram}

Found this great venn diagram from diesel sweeties:

It also made me think of the differences between the two countries…

They always sound happy when they speak
Super athletic
Two languages: Nynorsk & Bokmål (why oh why…)
North Pole

Land of the semlor, kanelbulle
The Swedish Bikini Team
Station wagon baby-mobiles
Stinky fish
Should have never given Norway independence

Maybe we need to make a new one??