Don’t forget to eat and drink too much this Easter - with one eye on the internet - like Jesus intended.
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, The Marble Faun
Got some new glasses after not having been able to see anything since I ditched my spectacles when I was fourteen. It kind of looks like I stole them from a Swedish grandpa born 1910 but that’s the risk you have to take when ordering Prada sunglasses on the internet to make them into glasses.
Rick the Dick
Chelsea Handler calls her cousin Ulrike “Ricky” or “Rick the Dick” and my name is Ulrika and I’m so jealous right now.
P.S I have no idea why Amazon sent me a large print copy but whatever, easier to read while drinking I guess.
I’m from Sweden. For years I pretended not to be. I wanted to be international, not defined by my origins, which, at the time, I had no love for and didn’t identify with. I left Sweden as soon as I could because there didn’t seem to be any opportunities there for me. Everything was by the book. I couldn’t draw so I wasn’t accepted into any design school. I moved to London. I applied to Saint Martins and got in on my third attempt. London was more flexible; it gave me a feeling of endless possibilities. If you just worked hard enough, nothing was impossible as opposed to Sweden where you had to have a certificate that showed your qualifications and to get those qualifications you had to fit exactly into the mould that they had created - because those were the rules. After graduating from the MA at Saint Martins it took me nine months to find work but when I eventually did I never stopped working, despite the fact that I still can’t draw. For a brief moment I even became one of those people who believe in “statement bags.” The way to my first job was a bit tricky for reasons that I was surprised still existed. Like how come a girl wants to design menswear and what is Sweden?
One of the interviews, before getting that first job, was for a brand that Wes Anderson fans, including myself, died for season after season. The clothes were perfect in a hipster way with emphasis on the colour mustard. The brand repelled anyone who was popular in school and who grew up to become a well-adjusted member of society or people who would never dream of wearing cropped tailored trousers.
I made myself known to the till girl at the flagship store. She was one of those people that had been too young to tweeze her eyebrows off in the early nineties and could pull off the no-make-up look that the brand subscribed to. She showed me the way to the head office, which was situated at the back of the building.
Two men interviewed me. One was a thirty-something designer and one was a fifty-something boss-of-it-all dressed in a pink and blue business shirt with a purple tie. The boss-of-it-all introduced himself a little too long. He said he had worked at the company since the late eighties. Old enough to have seen my favourite band The Cult on the Love tour in ’85, but not the type to know them. I tried to leave my judgment at that.
“Do you have a work permit,” the boss-of-it-all asked as we sat down.
“I don’t need one. I’m from Sweden, it’s part of the EU.”
Some people confuse Sweden with Switzerland so I could understand his confusion.
“Some people confuse Sweden with Switzerland. Sweden is famous for ABBA and IKEA as well as crime novels, blondes, tube cheese and moderation. Swedes subscribe to the law of Jane which means that you shouldn’t try to further yourself too much because individual success is not seen as democratic or appropriate. Swedes just want to be like everyone else. This is partly why I left. Sweden is a member of the EU.” I paused before continuing.
“Switzerland is famous for technology, pharmaceuticals, banking, insurance, and luxury items such as watches, perfume, chocolate and real cheese. Switzerland is pretty elitist and an independent country, not a member of the EU. It can be confusing for people to remember so I break it down like this: Switzerland - long name - famous for high-end things. Sweden - average length name - famous for the average things the average person enjoys.” I let that sink in for a second and then clarified.
“I’m from Sweden.”
“But Sweden doesn’t have the Euro,” the boss-of-it-all protested.
“That’s correct,” I was speaking slowly and clearly now, “just like the UK Sweden has its own currency. Both are still members of the EU.”
I could tell by his facial expression that he didn’t like being corrected in his observations of the world at large, and that I would stand a good chance of winning over him in Trivial Pursuit.
Taking a break from international politics, he took a long look at my CV.
“What did you do between high school and studying English at university? There’s a gap of a year there.”
I hadn’t seen it necessary to add to my CV that I had tried to become Linda Evangelista for a year and paid my rent flipping burgers so I had glossed over this period. It was one year, twelve years ago. It was my turn to be confused. I thought we were going to discuss the brand, what the job entailed, and my part in it.
“I’m more interested in your shop jobs than that you were an intern at Aquascutum,” he said and started circling things on my CV. “People with CVs like this are often unemployed.”
“I’ve been constantly employed since the age of fifteen. I’m a worker. I love design. Would you like to have a look at my portfolio,” I asked with a Tyra Banks smile that extended to my eyes.
I’ve just graduated from the MA at Saint Martins, so yes I don’t have a job in design yet. That’s why I’m here. The boss-of-it-all was getting on my nerves.
There’s a special kind of disappointment you feel when someone flicks quickly through work that you’ve spent months organizing, without even looking at a single page. It was the complete opposite of when Professor Louise Wilson speed-read your portfolio and could tell you within a minute if she liked it or not – and what was essentially wrong with you.
“How are you with Excel?”
I couldn’t even begin to think about how to answer that question or why it was asked. That program, and what it symbolized, was the whole reason I decided to study fashion in the first place. I wanted nothing to do with it. Spreadsheets are for accountants. Besides, everyone knows that computers are a Lite-Brite for bad ideas.
“I’m ok with Illustrator and Photoshop,” I lied in an effort to sound computer literate and hoped this was another Sweden versus Switzerland confusion.
“What about Windows? Are you an efficient Windows user?”
I didn’t understand the question.
The designer guy walked me out. I couldn’t understand what had just happened.
“You are the first person we’re interviewing, the whole process will take a couple of months. If you don’t hear back from us it’s not because you didn’t do a strong interview. You couldn’t have done any better. If you don’t get a second interview it’s because we’ve tweaked the job in a different direction.”
I still wondered what the job actually entailed.
Welcome To Sweden: It’s Not A Competition
You guys. Welcome To Sweden. If you’re not watching this TV show already you need to start. It’s the story about Bruce, an American, moving to Stockholm for love and encountering situations where he - amongst other things - is frowned upon for not being a fan of cinnamon. No more spoilers. It has guest stars like Gene Simmons, Aubrey Plaza and Will Ferrell who actually lives in Sweden. The show is not about making fun of Sweden or how one country is better than the other - it’s about the funny misunderstandings and clashes that happen when two seemingly similar cultures meet. My immigrant NZ husband loves the show. I’m excited about NBC picking it up. Welcome To Sweden should probably get an educational grant to be shown in all European countries so that Sweden will never again be confused with Switzerland because let’s be honest I for one is sick of my country famous for food that comes in a tube to be confused with a country famous for real cheese and expensive watches. Thank you Greg Poehler for putting Sverige on the map. So yeah, watch it! And another thing. Like America and Canada, Sweden and Norway have always had a thing, a competition of which country is better than the other, but no more! Norway might have oil, but fuck oil, we have Will Ferrell.
Coachella? No. I stopped going to festivals in the 90’s. Now its 100% couchella in dirty Sonic Youth t-shirts, and alcohol in glasses, because why grow up completely?