Friday, August 31, 2007

Stockholm Design Tour still continues

Take bus 40 to Odenplan. Check an Italian food store Salino, only to find that it has been replaced by a cafe.

Take Tunnelbana to Hötorget. Walk on Tunnelgatan. As the name suggests, it leads to a pedestrian tunnel under Johannes Kyrka. After passing through it, hit Birger Jarlsgatan.

Norrgavel (Time Out's recommendation) is yet another furniture store with focus on lamps, crockery, chairs, and dining table decoration. Find a rather luxurious pair of wool slippers.

Walking to the northwest along Birger Jarlsgatan, I am supposed to find a shop called Klara according to Time Out. But it's been replaced by Poggen Pohl, a minimalist kitchen showroom, and G.A.D., yet another furniture shop with focus on dinning table suggestions and lamps. Nextdoor is The Rug Company, selling seemingly expensive rugs with patterns reminding me of the 1960s psychic movement, and Plan Ett, full of living room suggestions.

Going back to Norrgavel, buy the luxurious wool slippers. It may be pricy, but I haven’t found slippers anywhere else. Then walk down on Humlegårdsgatan. I didn't expect anything on this street, but it turns out to be another cluster of interior goods shops. First Dis Inredning, displaying gothic living and dining rooms with inspirations from traditional Japanese and Chinese furniture. Next the famous Alessi store, selling expensive but very fancy-looking kitchen items. Next door is another branch of Bang & Olufsen, a design speaker store. I now realize that their speakers are VERY expensive, more than 20,000 krona (more than 1,000 pounds).

Walking further to the east, find a store called Rum & Kök, which has a good stock of cooking tools, bath room items, etc. Find the designer towel stand that was on sale at John Wall for more than 1000 krona, whose price here is 595 krona. You really need to walk around Stockholm before buying anything.

Arrive at Östermalmstorg. Use a public toilet for 5 krona. Stop by at its saluhall (indoor food market). A very upper class vibe here, strictly European. Several fishmongers.

Take Tunnelbana to Medborgarplatsen. Here is another saluhall. This one is much more down to earth. Have late lunch at a kebab restaurant. A lamb kebab lunch set is delicious though the amount of lamb is rather small. For the first time here at the kebab restaurant, I encounter a person who doesn’t speak English. He may be a Turkish immigrant.

Go downstairs and visit Asian Livs, a Chinese food shop. Buy sesame oil.

Walk through Fatbursparken (a very nice park in Södermalm) to JFK, in order to buy a rice cooker. The shop owner remembers me. For some reason, this store has a pleasant atmosphere, which is missing in those two Japanese food stores on Tegnergatan. They give away a 2kg bag of rice because I bought a rice cooker for 880 krona. They also give me a stamp card. One stamp for 100 krona purchase. 20 stamps give you a 100 krona discount.

Going back to the Institute. The IT guy, Karl, comes to my office to set up my office computer. Now I can type Japanese letters.

Get a phonecall from Ameet in Kenya.

Go home and cook Japanese rice.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Shopping Spree continues

Go to the Institute to check email and make an appointment with IT staff to set up my office computer (installing Japanese fonts etc.)

Then head for the city center. The first target today is a pair of Japanese food shops on Tegnergatan: Japanska Torget (no. 6) and Sun Ai (no. 15). Buy Nissin Demae Itcho tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen noodle at the former and chicken bone soup stock and ra-yu (chili sesame oil) at the latter. Japanska Torget has a good selection of tabi shoes at the back of the store. Sun Ai sells Japanese books, magazines, and manga comic books. Compared to JFK, however, the atmosphere is rather depressing for some reason. Perhaps because of its very small store size. I may not want to come here often, but Sun Ai sells Akitakomachi Japanese rice for a good price (149 krona for 5kg) and my favorite Japanese magazine. They also sell very expensive rice cookers (more than 1000 krona), making me decide to buy one at JFK.

Next door to Sun Ai is, by the way, yet another furniture store FolkHemmet, which stocks modestly stylish living room solutions.

Walk down to Eden shop on Drottninggatan. On the way find an Asian and Afro food shop Taj Mahal on Kammakargatan, which stocks South Asian spice.

Buy a rubber wood chopping board and an instant shoe shine at Eden.

Walk down to the southeast. Visit OMI Food (Olofsgatan 10), a Chinese supermarket. I will come here again to buy some East Asian vegetables.

Walk further down on Olofsgatan. Find another branch of Granit.

Then head for Hötorgshallen, an indoor food market. Have lunch at Kajsas Fiska, a tiny budget restaurant at the corner of the market where customers share tables with others. It is around midday, and there is a long queue. As this long queue and the Sato memo (a Stockholm city guide written by Japanese people living here) testify, their fish soup (Kajsas Fisksoppa), bits of white fish meats and some mussels and prawns in tomato soup topped with melted cheese, is amazing. And it costs 80 krona (6.5 pounds), impossible in London.

The range of foods available in the market is tantalizing. Fish looks very fresh here (except for tuna which is too blackish for Japanese people). Buy a ciabata baguette for 15 krona (1.1 pound).

Head for Åhlens City to check microwaves and double-bed duvet covers and sheets. Find a good-looking duvet cover, but they don't have one for a double bed. There are only two microwaves on the shelf. At Muji on the same floor, find an affordable mirror with a wooden frame. Also at Muji, find a wooden turner and a wooden chopping board both of which look better than the ones I already bought here in Stockholm, even though I visited this Muji once already... You can't check all the goods on offer just by one visit.

Visit Electrolux Home on Klarabergsgatan opposite Åhlens City. They have only three microwaves, all pricier and uglier than Åhlens City.

Visit Hemtex to buy duvet covers and sheets. Find a good-looking duvet cover, but they don't have one for a double bed. I say, "Is a double bed unpopular for Swedish people?" "I don't know. But I know our duvet covers for a double bed don't look good." My guess is that Swedish couples like to sleep on the same bed but independently. So they buy a double bed but two single bed mattresses and duvets. I don't know where else to go for double bed duvet covers...

Walk to DesignTorget on Nybrogatan. Just before arriving at the store, find a newsagent selling magazines in English including Monocle! Buy a door mat at DesignTorget. Also try to buy Koziol's toilet roll stand with an eye, but learn that the eye is too big to put rolls easily. Good design often conflicts with functionality.

Then go home. I've done most of the shopping for the time being. Tomorrow I will buy a rice cooker at JFK. The day after tomorrow, buy a microwave at Åhlens City. On Sunday, buy a mirror at Muji. But I still need to buy double bed duvet covers (I may buy one in London when I visit the city for my viva early October), slippers, sandals (to get out only briefly for rubbish disposal and laundry etc.), a citrus squeezer, a wok, a blender, a coffee grinder, a can opener, a frying pan with a lid, a towel stand (which is rarely on sale perhaps because every house is equipped with a towel warmer on the bathroom wall), a laundry stand for flat-drying sensitive clothes (which I haven't seen anywhere yet), quality speakers, a shopping bag for supermarkets (to avoid paying 1.5 krona per bag), an iron board, socket extensions, magazine boxes for my office, clocks, a desk chair (the furnished one is umconfortable). No, I haven't done most of the shopping...

Then after obtaining my personal number, open a bank account, transfer money from my bank account in UK, subscribe to a mobile phone and the Internet.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Shopping Spree

Go to Södermalm again, but this time its western part. After checking out David Design's concept store at Sankt Paulsgatan 27 (which is not so impressive), walk down to JFK Shop, a Japanese food store. Find a rice cooker manufactured by a Japanese company. The shop owner, a middle-aged Japanese guy, is a rather pleasant person.

Having visited all the major homeware stores in Stockholm and checked what's available at what price, I'm now ready for shopping spree. After paying 5 krona for using a public toilet at T-Centralen station (it seems almost all public toilets in Stockholm cost 5 krona to use), I buy the following:

Black, heart-shaped oven mitt at Design Torget

Screw driver, adjustable spanner, disposable washing gloves at Clas Ohlson

Clear-blue soap bar at Muji in Åhlens at Gallerian

Lime green bathroom mattress at John Wall

Black laundry bag at Granit in NK

Wooden turner at NK

Renova's lime green toilet rolls at Stockhome

Lime green basket at Village

Wilfa black kettle at Åhlens City

I will upload photos of some of these in the future.

During the shopping, have lunch at Souperb in Gallerian (tasty green curry chicken soup for 65kr with rice and bread and soft drink included) and pay another 5 krona coin to use toilet at NK.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Swedish pocket dictionary and Ikea

Briefly visit the Institute to check email at 9am. Then head for Gallerian's Teknik Magasinet to return the stupid electronic dictionary. They pleasantly accept my claim for refund. Then I walk to Akademibokhandeln to buy Norstedts's pocket English-Swedish Swedish-English dictionary which contains 32,000 words for each language, 12,000 more than the stupid electronic dictionary. This is a must-have for any English speakers living in Sweden.

Today I plan to go to Ikea, but I have a bit of time before the bus to Ikea comes. So I stop by at Cervera on Regeringsgatan, next to NK. From outside, the store looks like just a crockery store. But it has a huge lower ground floor where a lot more kitchenwares are available along with lamps. The basement is connected to another homeware shop John Wall, whose range of bathroom items is probably among the widest in Stockholm. I need to come here again when I have plenty of time.

Opposite Cervera is Hemtex, a bedlinen store. Just a brief browse assures me that I need to come here again.

Take the Ikea free shuttle bus at 11am. Many other people are also on the bus. It takes around 20 minutes to the Ikea store.

The Ikea store is worth visiting for buying bed mattresses and duvets. A wide range of them is available and you can try each out. But after being exposed to the high standard of Stockholm's homeware on the market, most Ikea goods look rather boring. But when the design happens to be good, it's a real value for money. I buy a nice shower curtain.

Meatball with lingonberries jam at the third floor restaurant is excellent, by the way.

Finish shopping by 3:30pm. Take the free shuttle bus to the city center with a rolled king-sized bed mattress on my shoulder.

Back at home, continue unpacking the UPS boxes delivered yesterday. When it's finished, my flat doesn't look much different than before. A huge storage space absorbs most of my belongings. Great.

Laundry, UPS, and Södermalm

8am: laundry

Doing the first laundry in a foreign country always involves a surprise. Swedish people usually share washing machines with others living in the same apartment building. My residence has a rule on this: you need to book your laundry either from 7-11am, 11am-2pm, 2pm-6pm, or 6pm-10pm (for Sundays, the 7-11am slot is unavailable) by inserting a cylinder with your room number into the time table hanging on the wall outside the laundry room in the basement. You cannot pull out the cylinder without inserting your key in it; so nobody can change your booking.

I book my laundry this morning, and there are two washing machines and a huge tumble dryer (by Electrolux, Sweden’s electric appliances maker) in the laundry room. I don’t know which button to press as all the instructions are in Swedish. Luckily, an elderly lady comes to the room. I ask her for instructions. She seems to start believing that I never did laundry before. No, I just don’t understand Swedish instructions…

It takes 2 hours to finish, as I need to wash my clothes in three separate batches (whites, blacks, and sensitive textiles with a hand-wash laundry tag). What is stupid is that you cannot select a washing program that includes spinning. After washing is done, you need to press a button for spinning, and wait for three more minutes…

9:30am: go to the Institute and check UPS online tracking. No updates. Call them up. They say they will come today. Go home immediately.

While waiting, hoover the flat floors.

3:15pm: UPS finally arrives. Immediately after the UPS driver leaves, go out to Södermalm, Stockholm's equivalent of Hoxton and Shoreditch in London.

4-7pm: Get off at Slussen station. Walk to Götgatan. Check out Wallpaper*'s recommendation Konsthantverket at Södermalmstorg 4. Not my taste. Wallpaper* may not be so useful for me.

Walk down to the south along Götgatan. The pedestrianised street is busy with youngsters perhaps going out after the first day of school and college. Ordning & Reda's flagship store is here with better presentation of its products than all the other branches I've visited so far. Opposite this is 10 Swedish Designers, which mostly sells bags. Its geometric patterns are, however, rather disappointing. One block south lie two shopping-centre-esque places on both sides of the street. At Götgatan 36, boutiques for youngsters surround a nice bohemian cafe. It's called Bruno Götgatsbacken. David Design is supposed to be here, but it has moved to another place. On the other side of the street, Götgatan 31, sits a cluster of interesting shops including Granit and DesignTorget. There is also Press Stop, a magazine store which also sells some magazines in English including The American (a magazine newly launched this month featuring Japan and Sweden) and Monocle, which the shop attendant tells me will be on the shelf tomorrow.

Turn left and walk along Högbergsgatan, which is pretty much deserted today. After passing the crossing with Östgötagatan, find yet another furniture store called Ritto. Although the store looks a bit untidy, its presentation of kitchen tables is enlightening. They do stock things unavailable at other stores. How many more stores like this does Stockholm offer?

Further walking to the east and then turning right to go down on Nytorgsgatan, find a kitchen show room called Svensk Kökstradition. It seems very expensive, but offers a classical atmosphere with some contemporary twist.

This area appears to have several offices for creative types. Looking through the windows, I notice all these offices feature stylish desk chairs etc.

Walking down further, I learn that Apparat and Klara at Nytorgsgatan 36, featured in Time Out, have been replaced by some boutiques for youngsters. Walking one block to the east, Elviras Värlad at Renstiernas Gata 24, also featured in Time Out, are shut down, too. But find Chimra, which displays popart-ish lighting. There's also a furniture store next door.

Walk to the south on Renstiernas Gata. At the crossing with Skånegatan sits Stockholms Stadsmission, a second-hand clothes and crockery shop. Find an old steel pan with nice turquoise decoration on the side, kind of a pan you can't see these days.

Walk two blocks to the west. This area has many boutiques targeting bohemian youngsters. Mixed with them are Coctail and Coctail Deluxe, two separate shops under the same management recommended by Time Out. They sell rather girlie home accessories. But Coctail Delux store displays a small, pink suede buddha(!). Find another boutique called Grandpa, playing eccentric rock tunes as background. Along with clothes they also sell glass cups, one or two used leather sofa, and a golden tank-shaped vase.

It's now about 6pm, when most shops close on weekdays. Just before reaching Medborgarplatsen station, find YET another furniture store They make an interesting CD storage suggestion and teach me how to use your postcards from friends as an interior decoration.

Back at home, start unpacking the UPS boxes. My Hi-Fi system comes up. For the first time in a week, manage to listen to music without using earphones.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Day Six: Stockholm Design Tour continues

Plan to go to Ikea. According to Time Out City Guide, there is a free shuttle bus to Ikea store from Regeringsgatan 13 every one hour from 11am to 5pm daily. Arrive at the bus stop a couple of minutes before 11am. No bus comes. I may have missed one. So I wait for the midday bus by visiting an Åhlens store in front of the bus stop. It does sell some tempting products like napkins with nice patterns. It also tells me about the best colour combination for my bathroom. Muji is also here, and I find colourful and transparent bath soap bars (in yellow, blue, organge, and green) and tissue boxes which are surprisingly rare in Sweden. It's a good idea to open a store like this in front of the bus stop for Ikea.

Midday approaches. A girl speaking American English asks me if the bus to Ikea is operating on Sunday. The bus stop has a sign: "går alla vardagar." The electronic dictionary I bought yesterday doesn't help me at all. It does not have an entry for any of these words. Actually the dictionary has only 20,000 words in total. Since it translates into 29 different languages, it boasts 580,000 words on the package. A pocket Swedish-English dictionary on sale in a bookstore contains 32,000 words! What's the point of an electronic dictionary then? I'll definitely return this dictionary. It's called 29L Global Translator. Never ever buy this.

Several minutes later, the girl, coming out of the Åhlens store, speaks to me: There is no Ikea bus on weekends.

Changing today's plan, visit NK department store, probably the Swedish counterpart of UK Harrods. Its lower ground floor is another temptation for design addicts. In addition to Design House Stockholm, Bookbinders, Ording & Reda, and Kosta Boda (see yesterday), it also has Granit, which is a bit like Muji but offers products either in white, black, or the mixture of both. Find a tempting shower curtain (last night I found that the shower curtain already furnished in my flat allows water to spill out) and a black laundry bag. At Ording & Reda, I buy paper clips of black and white stripes.

Time Out recommends NK's bookstore as it offers books in English. But to me it's not very useful. Where can I buy Monocle magazine here in Stockholm?

After having lunch at the NK canteen, I stop by at Clas Ohlson in Gallerian (see yesterday) and buy a measure tape. I need this to know what size of furniture I need to buy before going to Ikea etc.

Then I head for R.O.O.M., yet another furniture store in Kungsholmen of western Stockholm. It displays quite a few living room furniture suggestions, which is enlightening to learn what colour and texture combination looks great. The store is very large, and also has a small item section. Find a tempting soap dish here.

On the way home, stop by at my office in the Institute. Log on to Tyda, an excellent online Swedish-English dictionary. It's better than Lexin, which everyone seems to recommend, in terms of the speed of translation. I check what "går alla vardagar" at the Ikea shuttle bus stop means; "går" means run, "alla" every, and "vardagar" weekdays. I'll definitely return the stupid 29L Global Translator.

I also track my UPS boxes online. It's not updated over this weekend; so I don't know whether they will deliver tomorrow. I need to call them up tomorrow's morning.

Day Five: Stockholm Design Store Tour

*** You may need to change your browser's language encoding to properly display Swedish alphabets (å, ä, and ö). ***

As UPS is off duty over weekends, I take a tour of design stores in Stockholm all day. As most stores in Stockholm close by 4pm on Saturday (and often all day on Sunday), I leave home by 11am when most stores open.

The tour starts at Stadion tunnelbana station. Walk down on Sibyllegatan street takes you first to Jacksons, recommended by Wallpaper* City Guide. It's a classy atmosphere with expensive chairs and glass and ceramic bases. Not my taste.

Next Asplund, both Time Out and Wallpaper* recommendation. A very cool store with cool music in the background. Find a stylish beige pepper mill. And a white designer globe without latitude and longitude lines, reminding me of why every globe has such lines which are rarely important, aren't they?

Further down on Sibyllegatan is Modernity, another Wallpaper* recommendation. Well, it sells furniture and bases which are not my taste.

Now I'm on Östermalmstorg square, where a stylish outdoor cafe/bar/restaurant called Lisapatorget is found. Outdoor cafes tend to be boring, but this one is different. Next time I will try.

Now walk down on Nybrogatan street. Time Out's recommendation, Nordiska Galleriet on the west side and a branch of DesignTorget on the east side, both of which turn out to be very interesting and even enlightening. Nordiska displays a wide range of light, chairs and sofas, and tables for living rooms. This branch of DesignTorget, unlike the one I visited last Thursday, is full of temptation. A black oven mit, pop art alarm clocks, a toilet roll stand with an eye, a designer door mat, and a mouse-shaped socket extension cover cloth.

Walk further south to the sea, and visit Carl Malmsten and Svenskt Tenn on Strandvägen street. Not my taste. The latter is recommended by almost all Stockholm city guides, but its focus on bright flowery patterns is not my cup of tea.

Now walk up northwest on Birger Jarlsgatan. Find a store called Kartell (which appears to be Italian judging from its website address) specializing in pop art style lighting and chairs. Then an amazing Orrefors and Kosta Boda (both in the same store), recommended by Wallpaper*. This store is for very stylish glasswares, and the price is not that high.

Turn left and turn left again after one block. Norrlandsgatan street has three interesting stores. First, Bookbinders, a stationery store. Then Pause, an audio-visual store with its display very elaborate. Finally, Salming, a stylish underwear maker's store. Turn left on Smålandsgatan and there is Design House Stockholm. Although neither Time Out nor Wallpaper* mentions this store, it does offer quality design furniture. The display presentation is also good here. I'm tempted to buy black doughnut-shaped ceramic salt & papper containers with a rectangular wooden tray.

One block south runs Hamngatan street. Walk to the west and opposite to Stockholm's top class department store NK is The One furniture store. Again neither Time Out nor Wallpaper* recommends it, but it's a very distinctive store because its theme on the ground floor display is Gothic. Shop attendants wear a red T-shirt with a white cross, acting like an emergency helper. The store display teaches me that I may want to buy olive green bed sheets.

Further to the west is Gallerian shopping mall. It is rather like those London boring shopping malls, but go upstairs and there is Clas Ohlson, a recommendation by "Sato memo", a Stockholm city guide written by Japanese medical researchers living here. This store lacks in style, but its range of products is amazing, almost everything you need in daily life (e.g. socket extensions, screw drivers). Customers are much more male-dominated than the stores I visited so far. :) I ask the shop assistant if they have a socket converter. I need several of them to use electric appliances that I brought from London. He tells me a surprising fact: socket converters are BANNED in Sweden. As stupid Americans moving to Sweden who are unaware that different countries adopt different voltages, often used a socket converter without changing electricity voltage, I'm told, the Swedish government decided to ban it for the safety reason. A bad example of having a big government.

Next door is another branch of Teknik Magazinet. I ask for the electronic dictionary translating Swedish to several foreign languages, the one I saw last Thursday. The shop assistant is friendly enough to allow me to use it for a while. I now realize that one of the foreign languages is Japanese. And it can be used as, say, a Japanese-Arabic dictionary as well. I decide to buy it. It's less than 500 krona (about 20 pounds).

Now I'm hungry. Have a light lunch at Coppola Caffe on the ground floor of Gallerian. Its sweet bread (winerbröd) is excellent. But mozzallera and tomato salad is mediocre. Mozzallera doesn't do a job at all. By the way, you can take bread for free here. Is this a Swedish way?

Walk further to the west and arrive at Åhlens department store, a Swedish equivalent of UK's Selfridge's in my opinion. The second floor has a reputable homeware section. Design House Stockholm (see above) and Japan's Muji are part of it. A stylish kettle I saw elsewhere sells at a cheaper price here. And it also sells another cool kettle. Sleek bathroom scales are on sale as well. The lower ground has a stationery section where Bookbinders (see above), Ordning & Reda, and again Muji are part of it. I buy a Muji pen which I will use in the kitchen to take note of what to buy next time I go to a supermarket.

Now walk up to the north on Drottninggatan street to visit Pub department store partly because I want to use a toilet. Five krona (about 30 pence) is required for using it. Another reason to visit this rather boring department store is to take photos of my face at a photoshop for the forthcoming ID card application. Once I obtain my personal identification number from the Tax Agency (see 23 August), I can get this ID card from a bank or a post office which can be used for the identification purpose in Sweden. Six passport size photos cost 159 krona (12 pounds). It's expensive, but given that I don't understand Swedish, having someone (who of course speaks English) take photo is easier for me.

Walk further up north on Drottinggatan, and there's another branch of Ordning & Reda. Find a cool mouse pad. It seems that these design stores probably limit its product range on display on purpose in branches housed in department stores like Åhlens.

Further north on the same street. Find a store called Eden. It's not that cool, but its range of products on offer is diverse including probably all the toiletries available on the market. An instant shoe shine, a wooden chopping board, and a designer toilet brush are tempting.

Next door is Bo Concept, an expensive furniture store.

Then turn right towards Japanese foods shops (mentioned in the Sato memo) on Tegnergatan street. Turns out that both are closed. They are open on Monday to Friday from 10 to 18, Saturday from 10 to 14, and closed all day on Sunday. They are NOT Japanese! :)

On the way back to a tunnelbana station, find a supermarket chain Coop Konsum. Finally I manage to buy wheat flour as there is a shop assistant to ask in front of the shelf. I also find tagliatelle which is not available on the nearest grocery store to my place.

I'm worn out when I'm back at home. But it was a pleasant journey. It's just amazing that an enormous number of interior goods stores is on offer here. And I haven't visited Södermalm, where another cluster of such shops can be found, or the world's famous Ikea store.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Day Four

*** If you haven't read, please start reading from the 21 August post.***

Wait for UPS to come all day. As I can't go out, I think of how to make my flat look nicer. Put the television set and an uninspiring carpet into the wardrobe. Move the bed sofa to create a space for quality speakers that I plan to buy. Move the dinning table in the living room to use it as a desk. Think of what color should define each room of the flat, given the colour of the wall and the furniture already provided. It's just fun.

UPS doesn't show up by 6pm. Giving up, go to the ICA grocery store (and still unable to buy wheat flour), cook dinner, and go to the Institute to use the Internet.

Starting a new life in a foreign country is not that easy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Day Three

Meet Christina at Slussen tunnelbana station at 9am. She takes me to the Tax Agency where I apply for my personnummer, or my personal identification number. Without this number, you can't open a bank account, set up a phoneline, etc. I'm told it will take a couple of weeks. Christina says, "That's quicker than the average."

Go to the Institute. Unpack one of the boxes shipped from London. Change my email address for email alert of top 5 economics journals.

The lunch bell rings. Have lunch at a restaurant by taking a 10 minute walk in the middle of nowhere to the east with Torsten, John, Harry, Christina, and two more people whose name I don't remember. Sweet chili salmon (85 krona) is not too bad. I'm asked whether my PhD thesis defense will be public. In Sweden, I'm told, the viva is conducted in public, where any participant can ask the doctorate candidate.

Come back to the Institute. When I'm about to leave around 3pm, David, a PhD student at the Institute, drops by, inviting me to a drink this evening.

Take Tunnelbana to T-Centralen. Visit Kartcentrum, a map store, and buy Pocket Street Map. In the end, there seems to be no A to Z map in Stockholm. This pocket map covers a very small area of Stockholm. But other maps in the book format covering larger areas are too big to carry around.

Then I visit Teknik Magasinet for electronic Swedish-English dictionaries, because a shop assistant at another electric appliances store told me to visit this store yesterday. It's a tiny shop where customers cannot browse products unless they ask a shop attendant at the counter who appears to be knowledgeable of all the products they sell. He introduces me to a large pen-shaped device which scans words in print and shows translation. But this one only translates from English to Swedish. He then shows me another flat device, just like all those Japanese electronic dictionaries, which translates 66,700 Swedish words and phrases into more than 10 other languages including English. But he doesn't know what dictionary this device uses. I can't decide to buy this one as reliability is doubtful...

As I'm in the city centre, my tour of Stockholm design stores begins. First Lagerhaus. They have a wide range of stationery, bathroom items, and kitchenwares.

Then Visit DesignTorget. I find this place just eclectic and selling mainly fun stuff.

Go home once, and find a card from UPS. They came to deliver my personal belongings from London today even though the web tracking yesterday said the delivery was scheduled to be tomorrow. What's worse, I don't understand what the card says (all in Swedish)...

Go shopping at ICA, the nearest grocery store. Want to buy wheat flour, but can't find one on the shelf. Today there is only one shop attendant who is busy handling customers queuing at the till. Ask a couple of other customers. Turns out that they are not Swedish and have no idea. Seems like people living in this area are mostly foreign students... Go home without flour and cook dinner.

Beef tastes better here than in London. Beef burger that I cooked yesterday was excellent. Today I simply cook a thinly sliced beef steak, and it's just juicy. Milk is also tasty here. Another relief from London.

Go to a bar David told me. Meet Katrin, a classmate of mine at LSE who also just moved to Stockholm, and several PhD students both from the School and the Institute. I ask one of them what the UPS card says. It says, "We are coming at the same time tomorrow." Great.

We then move to Tranan bar/restaurant. As I can't drink anymore but didn't have vegetables when I cooked dinner at home, I end up having an expensive goat cheese salad (120 krona, or 9 pounds), which is not too bad.

Go home around midnight.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Day Two

Go to the Institute. It's a 10 minute walk from my flat. For the first time since my primary school days, I commute by walk, something almost impossible in Tokyo and London. (I commuted to secondary school and university by taking one-hour train ride in Tokyo.)

Visit Christina. After briefing basic things at the Institute, she takes me around to see people at the Institute who are already back from holidays.

Following the lunch bell at 11:30am, have lunch with Christina, Mats, and Harry at a university restaurant. At the Institute, someone rings the bell at 11:30 to invite colleagues to lunch.

Go to the city centre by Tunnelbana (Stockholm's underground) to look for an electronic Swedish-English dictionary and a Swedish equivalenet of A to Z map to carry on. I end up finding several interesting shops for interior goods, including Bang & Olufsen for designer speakers, Village (at Kungsgatan 27) for household accessories, and Stockhome for household goods.

As several creative-type friends of mine in London told me, Stockholm appears to be an interesting city for those into design.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Day One

Move to Stockholm exactly five years after I arrived in London.

Fly with SAS from London City Airport. Unlike Ryanair, SAS allowed me to check in online smoothly. Unlike any other London airports, boarding on the aircraft at London City is very smooth. I'll definitely book a flight arriving in London City next time I come to London.

Yumiko-san kindly comes to the airport to see me off with a piece of quiche she baked. This is very helpful as having dinner on the first day of your stay in a foreign city can be very difficult. (I ended up at McDonald's five years ago.)

The airplane arrives at Stockholm Arlanda Airport on time. The passport control is easy to pass without being asked anything, after I pass my passport with the work permit page shown. My check-in luggage returns to me without any difficulty.

My apartment keys were sent to the airport bagport by Christina, the Institute's super-secretary. ("The Institute" refers to my new workplace hereafter.) After learning where it is at the information desk, I pick up my keys at the bagport by paying 30 krona (about 2 quid) in cash (I bought a large amount of Swedish krona in cash at M&S in Convent Garden, London, yesterday. With your passport shown, you can buy foreign currencies by debit card).

Now start feeling hungry. Stop by at a Seven Eleven store in the arrival lounge and order mezewrap. It's surprisingly tasty. I'm delighted by the fact that I no longer need to suffer from stupid London sandwitch shops.

Then I take a taxi to the apartment. By reading a Stockholm travel guide obtained in the SAS aircraft, I've learned Taxi Stockholm and Taxi 020 (so named because its contact number is 020 20 20 20) are the most reliable. I find a Taxi Stockholm taxi. I notice that minor taxi company cars imitate Taxi Stockholm car's appearance.

About half an hour, I arrive at the apartment building. It first looks like a London's council flat building. When I enter, it smells of smoke as there was a fire in the basement last week. My apartment is on the first floor, but I don't know whether Sweden follows the British or American convention of numbering floors. On the ground floor, there is no door indicating my name. Walking upstairs, I find my apartment. The smoke smell continues.

Opening the door, I learn what my new place to live looks like. The spacious entrance hall has got three wardrobes. On the right, the door to the compact kitchen. In front, the door to the spacious living room with a very comfy sofa. Next to the living room is a bed room with two single beds and a study desk. Between the bedroom and the kitchen lies the bathroom. At the centre of the flat is one more wardrobe.

Read through the apartment instruction provided by University Accommodation Center. Learn that while the standard voltage in Sweden is 230 volt, bathroom sockets must be 110 volt by regulation.

And this instruction tells me where the nearest grocery shop is. After eating Yumiko-san's delicious quiche, I visit the shop. Three surprises. First, when I want to buy salt, pepper, or butter, it's hard to tell which one I should buy. I can't tell the difference between different types of, say, salt as the package description is in Swedish only. Second, there is a machine accepting used cans. It appears that you will get a receipt after returning cans and get refunded. Finally, plastic shopping bags cost 1.5 krona (about 10 pence) each!

Staring a new life in a foreign country may be tough, but it's also full of stimulation for curiosity.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Beware of Ryanair's online checkin system

I booked a Ryanair flight to Italy a month ago. By paying a bit more money (4 pounds), I opted for online check-in (and priority boarding).

Two days before the departure, I got email reminding me of the online check-in.

Then I realized that the online check-in system is only available for passengers with an European passport who are NOT travelling from Italy to UK.

Well, I still enjoy the priority boarding, but I feel like I was cheated...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

PhD Thesis Submitted

I submitted my PhD thesis today. In economcis, the PhD thesis is rather a formality. The effective examination of your thesis is already done during the job market process. But, I don't know why, I feel more strongly today than when I got a job offer that I have done something. Formality does have some meaning, maybe.