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Not even just the pizza: 10 things that surprise Italians about Sweden

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Welcome to the cashless society

In Italy you almost feel guilty when paying by card and sometimes even apologise to the shop owner for the inconvenience of them having to pay the commission fee for using the car reader. In Sweden it’s the complete opposite. Many cafes and shops display endast kort (card only) and will not accept cash, or even if they do they would rather you pay by card or Swedish mobile payment app Swish

Curry, kebab or tacos – on a pizza?!

Many Italians have heard a lot about British cooking and the eyebrow-raising Carbonara with cream, but Sweden brings the Italian cuisine abroad experience to a whole new level.

The moment you walk into a Swedish pizza place and look at the menu you first see ordinary pizzas, perhaps with some exotic ingredients such as pineapple – not entirely approved yet still tolerable. When you keep scrolling down you find unusual combinations such as Taco Pizza (minced meet, taco sauce, sweetcorn and tortillas) or Kebab Pizza – literally an entire kebab on your pizza with slices of meat, jalapenos and kebab sauce. Perhaps the most off-putting is the extremely popular Curry Pizza, often served with extra banana slices.

So can you find good pizza at all in Sweden? Yes. In the big cities you find pizzerias, often run by Italian expats, which only have the classics, however they tend to be more expensive. For many Italians, it is still a price worth paying to avoid surprises.

How much did you say that espresso was?

The price of an espresso coffee in Sweden is what Italians would overdramatically call un furto (a robbery). The 30 cent overcharge at Italian airports alone is considered by many Italians to be “morally questionable”, so you can imagine the reaction when asked to pay 35 kronor (3.42 euros) for a single espresso.

If you know where to go, you can find some Italian espresso bars where a good espresso can cost only 15 kronor, but there are not many places nor are they easy to find.

Waiting in line

The best comparison is at the airport gate for a domestic flight at Stockholm airport versus the one in Rome. In Sweden there tends to be an orderly line that might be very long but that everyone seems to respect. You tend to understand who stands in front of you and who is behind you; this differs greatly from many lines in Italy which look more like a mass of people desperately pushing to get in front. 

Noise levels

Even during rush hour, Stockholm is considerably quieter compared to non-rush hour Rome. This is partly due to there being fewer cars and more people on bicycles and public transport (even if it’s cold!) but it is also the style of driving and the amount of socially acceptable beeping that makes a whole lot of difference.

People forming an orderly queue to a festival in Sweden in 2013. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Talking to strangers

Perhaps the hardest thing to get used to for an Italian is that small talk is very rare in Sweden and often frowned upon unless there is a purpose for initiating the conversation. If you start talking to a stranger in Sweden their immediate thought would be “what does this person want from me? Are they trying to sell me something?”.

The exception to the rule is Gothenburg which is famous in Sweden for people being open and friendly to strangers; even starting a spontaneous conversation on a tram is not unusual there. Could it be because many Italians moved there in the 50s to work for Volvo?

A trusting society

People in Sweden tend to trust each other a lot more than in Italy. Even in the very busy central station in Stockholm you find pastries and coffee on display at a kiosk at a considerable distance from the cashier’s gaze, yet there is no real concern that someone would grab a pastry and walk out without paying for it. This also applies to forgetting something on public transport, you often tend to find it at the lost-and-found office the day after, even if you forgot your wallet or a bag with your computer in it. 

Tobacco

You tend to see fewer people smoking on the streets in Sweden and it is illegal to smoke in restaurants and bars (even outdoors). This comes as quite a shock to many Italians who especially in summer enjoy smoking a cigarette on the open-air dance floor, while in Sweden you would need to go to the designated smoking area outside the venue, leaving your drink inside.

On the other hand many people in Sweden use snus which is a nicotine-rich pouch that you put under your lip and keep there for a while. Many in Sweden are addicted to it and you cannot buy snus in Italy or in any other EU country. The prospect of switching to a snus+coffee combination as opposed to sigarette+espresso is something many Italians find odd. Then again, winters are cold and fixing the nicotine addiction indoors is somewhat efficient if you look at it that way.

A man puts ‘snus’, the Swedish tobacco, underneath his lip. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Trust in authorities

Many Swedes have a deep sense of trust in the authorities and the government. They feel that those who work there are experts or the politicians have been elected to make decisions, so it is up to them to think of the best solutions. This might be due to the fact that corruption is not seen as a problem in Sweden (at least in general, which is not to say it is not a problem at all) and the rare times something pops up everyone vividly remembers it, like the Toblerone scandal – more than two decades ago. 

Unfortunately this cannot be said for Italy, which over the past decade has had much bigger scandals such as the Bunga Bunga saga or cases of politicians receiving bribes from the Mafia. Therefore, Italians tend to be more critical towards the government and authorities in general, as there is a sense of mistrust because of the many corruption cases that have been exposed. When the mistrust is not due to corruption, a preconceived bias of incompetence kicks in; this is partly due to suspected nepotism in hiring the people working there in the first place. That’s why many in Italy also listen to their gut feeling and that of their family, beyond what the authorities say. 

Swedish-Italian pop culture

Once you familiarise yourself with the language and popular culture, you find that quite a few Swedish celebrities actually have some Italian in them. The queen of Swedish pop, Veronica Maggio, was born in Uppsala to an Italian father and included a few words in Italian in some of her most prominent hits.

The Ingrosso family in Stockholm brought to the spotlight TV star and influencer Bianca, her younger brother Benjamin, who is a singer-songwriter, and their cousin Sebastian Ingrosso, who is part of the Swedish House Mafia trio. Other notable musicians are pop singer Oscar Zia, born in southern Sweden to Italian parents and world famous DJ, Alesso (full name Alessandro Renato Rodolfo Lindblad).

So what have we learned from going through ten things that surprise Italians about life in Sweden? Though they are located on polar opposite sides of the continent there is a two-way fascination of Italians who move to Sweden and Swedes who do the opposite both in search for something they do not have at home. After all, they say opposites attract each other.



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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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