Help yourself to a Slice of Swedish Hospitality

Mia, David and Oskar from a Slice of Swedish Hospitality

The little blond two-year-old boy with an angelic face lifts his little arms up to me, motioning for a hug.

We’ve only met a couple of hours ago, but in the short time I’ve managed to secure more high fives than normal and gotten those adorable little kid giggles to come from him.

A smile lights up my face, and I reach down to Oskar and scoop him into my arms.

“Good night,” I whisper into his ear and wrap my arms around him.

Then, his mom, Mia whisks him and his older brother, David, off to bed.

“I’ll be back in a little and we can sit and have a beer,” she promises before disappearing down the hallway of her apartment in the heart of Malmo, Sweden.

After a long day of paddle boarding, exploring the eco-city in the West Harbour and dinner, I sink into one of Mia’s butter yellow leather couches with a beer in my hand and feel my body unwind.

This … this is perfect.

The balcony is perfect for summer evenings and beer with A Slice of Swedish Hospitality

A cold beer and beautiful balcony? Yes, please!

I know how lucky I am. And realize how amazing the opportunity Mia is providing me.

A Slice of Swedish Hospitality, started by Mia and her mother, Eva, promises to give guests just that — a true taste of what life as a local is like.

“This is about getting to know us Swedes, for real!” says Mia. “We believe the world can become a better place if we meet eye-to-eye and get a more humble feeling towards different cultures, social systems, political and religious views. New perspectives make me grow as a person and hopefully we can learn from each other.”

Having people over for supper is nothing new to this mother of two. In fact, as a child, living with her gardener parents, there were always people coming over for meals. Her mom always had an extra plate at the ready for guests stopping by.

The charming set up with A Slice of Swedish Hospitality

Ready for dinner?

Before the Slice of Swedish Hospitality was started, Eva and her husband (Mia’s father, Anders) would rent their house for tourists, often times inviting those visitors over for meals or games.

Mia recalls it fondly. “We would have a lovely time discussing life in our countries and how we got the everyday life together. We still stay in contact. For these people, it was the best experience during their vacation.”

So, who is this experience good for? My answer: anyone who wants to get a better understanding of life as a Swede. For me, it gave me insight into great places to visit while in the country, as well as a beautiful look at the culture.

The program matches visitors with a network of the company’s hosts and allows them access to a family’s daily life in their own setting — a private home. Whether a family with children who wants to meet a local family with children, to young couples and beyond, there are matches to create that perfect Swedish evening.

“When do you ever get the chance to learn about Sweden if you don’t already have friends here?” Mia asks. “Here, you have conversations for real and get a chance to ask questions about Sweden, try the food we eat, have Swedish coffee …”

As for the future of the Malmo-based program — the sky is the limit.
“We would like an even wider range of ambassador families to open up their private homes, and to be able to do even better matching,” says Mia. “We have a range of hosts from 24-year-old girls who are single and study to families with young children and teenagers, to retired ambassadors, gay, single dads and more.”

Before I leave for the night, I empty my wallet of American money.

A little time later, I get a note from Mia: the boys, even now, still play with it. I like to think for as much of an impression the family left on me, there is a little of me left in Sweden, too.

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden was courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy. Want more on Sweden? Follow along in Twitter and Instagram, #myswedentrip.

 

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Getting naked in Sweden

What it's like to get naked at a bathhouse in Sweden

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My name is D and I used to be, as one friend put it, “a big, girlie prude.”

Never would I think of even taking off my shirt in a public, or semi-public place. In fact, when I first stopped at the baths in Budapest, it took everything I had to shimmy my swimsuit bottom off while strategically keep my towel from covering up the rest of me. I was not ready to take anything off. Getting naked in Sweden? Not. Even. A. Thought.

In Barcelona, I had to prep myself for going topless while on the beach.

In Morocco, I gathered a bit more courage and actually took off my top and walked around (gasp) topless while at the bath.

But, something happened to me between Morocco and Sweden: I got confident. The idea of stripping down to skin didn’t seem to bother me nearly as much. While my body had not changed, my opinion of myself had.

So, when it comes time for me to head to Kallbadhus Ribersborg, to take part in the traditional Swedish bathhouse experience, I don’t even blink. In fact, when Anna tells me she reserved a towel for me, I ask her for details about what I am going to do.

The entrance to the historic Kallbadhus Ribersborg | What it's like to get naked at a Swedish bathhouse

“Well, you take off your clothes … if you want … and then have a sauna and then go in the water,” she explains.

My mind skips back to the day before when I plunged into the Baltic Sea in a wet suit during my attempt at paddle boarding.

“What do the other people wear at the bath house?”

“Oh, most of them wear nothing,” she says.

Decided. Then I will wear nothing, too.

I don’t know how to explain it, but en route to the bath house via the long wooden walk over the soft thumping water of the sea, I am actually skipping and smiling at the idea of getting naked.

A view of the Western Harbour from the beach |  What it's like to get naked at a Swedish bathhouse

You’d have no clue just to the left of this photo that there are people naked in a bath house!

Like, I’m super stoked beyond belief. I blame it on the new, improved version of D after my shamanic session.

The point is, I am thrilled to put myself to this test, to prove to myself it is OK to shred the clothing and just hang out naked in the open.

Self-portrait of Diana Edelman |  What it's like to get naked at a Swedish bathhouse

See … don’t I just look like I want to take my clothes off?!?

I walk up to the counter of the creaky old (and still magnificent) Kallbadhus Ribersborg. The large dining room and reception area immediately conjures up images of grandeur when the bath house was first built. I can imagine groups of men and women flocking here on a warm summer afternoon to gossip and dip their toes into the fresh sea.

“I have a reservation,” I announce to the girl at the counter. She produces a scratchy and small white towel and directs me to the woman’s side of the bathhouse.

The changing rooms of Kallbadhus Ribersborg |  What it's like to get naked at a Swedish bathhouse

Little changing rooms open to the Baltic Sea at Kallbadhus Ribersborg.

I open the swing door and am greeted to wooden platforms a top the water. Lining one side of the boardwalk are little changing rooms — some with doors, some without.

I feel like I have stepped back in time.

Around me, there are a few women lounging naked, soaking up the morning sun.

I walk quietly around them and pick a changing room without a door and stand in front of the mirror.

Here you go, D. Time to get naked.

This time, I don’t even hesitate. I pull my shirt off, my pants down and stand in my little room stark naked. I care so little about being in the nude that I actually take the time to fold up my clothing and place them in a neat little pile on the bench.

 What it's like to get naked at a Swedish bathhouse

See? I am thrilled to be wrapped in a towel!

Then, with my towel wrapped around me, I head over to the sauna.

So, I’m not quite ready to strut around, but still.

As I walk by a bench filled with naked older women, I feel their eyes on me and remember a conversation I had the previous day with Anna: they may look at you strange if you don’t get naked.

I brush it off and sit in the baking warmth of the sauna for a few minutes, letting a few beads of sweat drip from my brow.

And now for the next part of the tradition — a dip into the sea.

I know it’s cold, but after letting myself bake in the heat of the sauna, I am ready for the cool water to jolt my body back to a more normal temperature.

I walk down the little boardwalk to a ladder, covered with seaweed because it likely has not been used since last summer. I tie my towel on the railing and dip my toes in.

Holyshititscoldwithoutawetsuit.

Shivers shoot through my body and it instantly becomes hard to breathe. But, I persist. I climb down another rung and let the water lap at my thighs.

Still absolutely freezing.

Then, I go for it, dunking my body into the salty water.

I last for about 15 seconds, but what matters to me is that I did it.

Huge smile on my face, I exit the water and pick a post on the wooden planks to lay for an hour. Naked.

At first, I feel weird. It’s just not the norm for an American to lay out without anything covering up anything.

But, as I see more and more people emerge from the changing rooms and splay themselves in the same fashion, I grow more and more comfortable.

I’m laying naked, tanning, in Sweden.

A smile lights up my face and in that moment, I could not be any cooler or happier.

For more information on Sweden, check out these books:

Sweden – Culture Smart!: the essential guide to customs & culture
Lonely Planet Sweden (Travel Guide)
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sweden

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden was courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy. Want more on Sweden? Follow along in Twitter and Instagram, #myswedentrip.

 

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Daily Wanderlust: A view from the Baltic Sea

 There is no shortage of breathtaking vantage points in Sweden. On my last full day in the magnificent country, I headed back to the water on foot (as opposed to stand-up paddle boarding).

The crisp spring air, the cloudless sky and the Baltic Sea — which transformed from aquamarine to a deep royal blue — created the perfect moment of bliss on the coast of Malmo, Sweden.

The view of Copenhagen from the Baltic Sea

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden was courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy. Want more on Sweden? Follow along in Twitter and Instagram, #myswedentrip.

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Sunset in Malmö, Sweden

There is a magic that comes with sunsets.

When that giant ball of red sinks deep into the horizon. When the colors cast are so vivid, you’d swear you’re in another reality. When you can almost hear the collective sigh of every other person around you as daylight gives way to twilight gives way to night.

In Sweden, this happens later than Las Vegas — to the tune of a few hours.

After a gorgeous dinner in the sustainable enclave of the West Harbour in Malmö, Sweden, my new friend (by way of paddle boarding), and I took some time to soak in the last sips of daylight on the boardwalk.

The sunsets here are prolonged, as if the sun just decides to hover where it is for hours, giving people permission to enjoy the day even longer.

On this night, that is precisely what we did.

Even after the sun disappeared behind the Baltic Sea and Denmark, I sat, staring at the beautiful remnants of the day, taking the last wisps of light and burning the memory of the Malmö sunset into my mind.

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.

 

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