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I think my doctor jinxed it. Last Monday when I came to see her for some lab result, she said, “You look splendid!” Less than 48 hours later, I was in bed with a terrible cold, not looking splendid at all anymore.

If you wondered how I spent my 30th birthday, you now know: I sneezed, I coughed, I endured a headache, and yes, I felt a bit sorry for myself. Thankfully, there were factors that alleviated the misery. Like the unexpected flower delivery from Sweden, the fact that A had taken the day off and spent it with me, or the enormous rose bouquet my choir gave me.

The next days I spent actively working on improving my health. I know that a cold takes seven to ten days regardless of what you do (I mean, I’ve had like 4 colds in three months now so I am an experienced sufferer). But I still made ginger shots (without alcohol, obviously), drank hot lemon tea and took a hot bath with eukalyptus. “Until Saturday, I will stick to home remedies”, I informed A. “Because for the weekend, I need to be able to have another level of escalation, a chemical weapon”. He looked at me as if my cold was Kim Jong Un.

But I had to be on my feet on Saturday. Because on Saturday, the party that I had been planning for 18 months would finally happen. The celebration that I had hashtagged #statthochzeit, which means instead of a wedding. The festivity that would bring together nearly 100 guests from all over Europe. The birthday bash that should mark my entering my glorious 30s.

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A helped me get these amazing balloons

It was quite a happening, and I could be part of it thanks to Aspirin Complex. My friends Malin, Michelle, Ingrid and Axel who arrived a day before helped me with all the preparations, blowing up 80 balloons, ordering me to rest and save my energy for the night, transporting rum in a shopping cart and (this was a surprise to me) installing a photo booth.

And then it all happened. You would think as a professional event manager I would be able to visualize 100 people but I kept being amazed when more and more and more guests poured into the party location I had rented. So many friends from all walks of life, my parents, my stepsister, a bunch of “my” juniors, my former intern and my entire maternal family. People I had not seen for years, friends I just made a year ago, and companions that have known me since I was small.

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This is my mom and her sisters. They rewrote the lyrics to “Thank you for the music” and performed a song for and about me. Don’t you wish you had a family like mine?

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These two held a wonderful speech

The brain is, I learned, designed to be able to take in groups of 20 people. Maybe that is why I remember what people said to me but not who said it. Perhaps it’s why I kept feeling I was falling short of actually socializing with everyone who had come all the way to Dizzel for me. But that’s okay because the guests told me afterwards that they had great conversations with each other and how great the music was (thanks to always-amazing DJ Ingrid who never let the dance floor get empty even for just a minute). Upon leaving, more than one requested that I’d have another party like this when I turn 35. (Spoiler alert: I will need to recover from this until I am 50.)

The morning after, we had brunch with those who had travelled from outside of Dizzel. Despite two hours of sleep and a cold, I made it through brunch and through cleaning up the party place (thanks to the help of A, Ingrid and my cousin Felix), but at 6 p.m. I fell asleep.


So. many. presents. And that’s actually not even all of them. Thank you!


I let go of my age by releasing these balloons into the sky. Deep symbolism, eh?


Upstairs, downstairs


“I’ll have to get the blog post done on the train home or I’ll never get around to it”, I told my friend Joraine with whom I spent last weekend in Luxembourg. Well, I did not post anything because already on the trip, my health deterioated (again! still?) and by the time I got home (spoiler alert: you have to take regional trains almost all the way, four hours, to Luxembourg, that, with their commuter train interior, are not beneficial to anyone’s health), I was so sick. The next day the doctor told me I wasn’t allowed to go to work all week in order to spare the co-workers my virus. So my days have been a blur of sleep and going to the pharmacy, starting to clear up somewhat by now – I actually know what day of the week it is today, but I am still coughing like a crazy person.

What can I tell you about Luxembourg?

It’s small. Like, really small. I somehow thought the country’s 600 000 inhabitants mostly lived in the capital, but no. We actually were looking for people all the time and only in the main square we found some while the other streets were deserted at almost all times. Looking for Luxembourgers is generally a difficult game because there are almost none – the population is made up of three thirds foreigners.

It’s high and low. I have never seen a city like this, there’s a upper town and a lower town and I don’t mean this in a socioeconomic way. The difference in altitude is impressive when looking at the whole city and navigating is tricky because Google can’t tell if you are upstairs or downstairs, showing your little blue circle on the same spot even if you just walked 15 minutes uphill. A better way to get up and down is the mountain railway which brings us to:

It has amazing public transportation. I would say I have had a mild interest in public transit even before I met Emily but it is surely due to her enthusiasm that I also got rather excited about getting around in Luxembourg. We used all public transport accessible including the brand new tram with its futuristic light design and a different melody played to announce each stop (however, no written information about the stops was to be found), the elevator, and the mountain railway which we got to use all alone late at night.


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It likes to strictly forbid things. It seems that the dominant language in the country is French. However, when we got to the hotel, I noticed that the prohibition sign was in German. I guess they pick their languages best suited to the desired effect. In Luxembourg, many things are forbidden, judging by the many signs I saw, and it’s not only prohibited, it’s always strictly forbidden. It’s strictly forbidden to play soccer in the yard or not to sort the trash. Lux and Order!


The national dish? Yeah, not that great.


Luxembourg is the seat of many EU institutions but it really does not feel as EU as Brussels


In the MUDAM, the Modern Art Museum



Maybe my favorite exhibit at the MUDAM, a moving carousel


Yes, they also exhibit potatoes.




Kate was in Luxembourg on a visit recently and since she seemed to enjoy the Luxembourg City Museum, we gave it a go too.


“Did you grow?” “Has your voice gotten higher?” “You’re like a totally different person?!”

Those were the things my friend Hanna uttered yesterday when she came to DĂŒsseldorf to see me after more than five years. We met when studying in Bremen and instantly connected over the fact that people mispronounced our names (calling her Hanner and me Helln). Then, I moved to Sweden and she moved to Korea. Yesterday, she came all the way to see me: after a 20+ hour-journey, she got on a train through half of Germany to see me for one night. That’s what I call friendship committment!

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We went to Gill’s, the bar where I am kind of a regular (let’s say he still recognizes me though it’s been a while)

She experienced what Ingrid calls a dizzelpointment: After a few minutes in downtown, she asked me, “Shouldn’t DĂŒsseldorf be, ehm, like prettier?” We all wish that but instead of taking her to nice tourist spots, I took her home and served her German Abendbrot, something that only an expat German like Hanna can fully appreciate. It’s difficult to catch up on 5 years in a few hours, but we did our best and had a wonderful night. When she had to leave at 7 a.m. this morning, I was so sad to already see her go. But I myself had to get going too because today I spent in Frankfurt, hosting one of my four biggest annual events.

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This also happened this week: my extra co-worker got a hairdresser to come during lunch hours and she cut half of the office’s hair, including mine.

P.S.: It is Nobel Week! As a Nobel nerd, I loved when someone at my event asked during lunch if the laureate for literature had been announced. And what an announcement: ever since I read “The Remains of the Day” in class 12 years ago, I’ve said that it won’t take too long until Kazuo Ishiguro will be awarded the Nobel Prize. I won my bet today – and I still know the first sentence of that novel by heart.

Immortalizing summer

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Today, I saw a sign in a gallery for tasteless photo art that said, “Immortalizing summer”. I couldn’t really understand how it related to the photos but it occured to me that my attempt to immortalize my lovely Swedish summer was kind of washed-up the moment I landed and started, almost compulsively, working off my to do lists again.

Actually, my trip back already began, let’s say, interestingly. I was planning to check in online and add a bag only to find that I was no longer booked on the 12-am-flight with airberlin but on the 9-am-flight with Eurowings. After 52 minutes in their waiting loop, they told me I should have gotten an email about that. Well, I didn’t.

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On my last night, Stockholm saw a lovely rainbow. The end of the rainbow is in Farsta. I am not surprised because that’s where my dear Marita lives.

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This last weekend I also attended my friends’ wedding in Örebro. So much love!

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They had lots of beautiful decorations around the theme music but this one was my favorite. We all had different parts of the song “Vilar glad i din famn” (I rest happily in your embrace) around our cutlery. Internet tells me it was written for Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding. No wonder I like it so much. “I stand holding hands with you / Darkness falls and you shine so […] Where you wander / my yearning wants to live […] Close to you I want to be / calm with your warm soul […] I look for you / I call out your name everywhere/ until I rest happily in your embrace”.

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Malin, Axel, Kristina and I were the Uppsala-choir-friends attending. Malin took a photo of Axel of me that looks as if I had just inaugurated something at Axel’s extremely successful company/super important state authority/very historic family castle.

And now that’s all behind me, the remote lakes, the best friends, the shopping sprees. Work made its demands on me the second I walked in, and it’s a lot these days, but it’s also the place where I was greeted so enthusiastically this morning that it almost makes up for not being Stockhome anymore.

“Jag har faktiskt semester!”


“Jag har faktiskt semester”, I am actually on vacation, is my signature line since Michelle and I arrived pĂ„ landet, at the countryside, two days ago. When I am walking slow, when I am sleeping in, when we buy lots of Swedish strawberries, I half-ironically inform that I am on vacation and have every right to do so. Michelle laughs understandingly and picks some more blueberries for me in the forest surrounding us.

We are not that far from town, but far enough to relax. I am not good at vacationing but I found that being in a cabin on the countryside is one good way to unwind. Yesterday night, Malin joined us and now complete for two days, we spent our time eating, lying in the sun, cycling to the Baltic Sea with one on the rear rack and hardly functioning brakes, an audacious adventure on the gravel roads. Sometimes a deer walks by our cabin that lies only some hundreds meters from a secluded lake. Bathing is the main point on our to-do-list, especially Michelle is eager to do morgondopp, lunchdopp and kvĂ€llsdopp, three daily bathing opportunities. “It looks good today”, she says about the bathing schedule, because we spent most of the day at the beach. Reading light literature, a seagull in the sky, the sun beaming down, the glittering blue of the Baltic Sea within eyeshot, I heard the delighted voices of children following the familiar sound of the ice cream truck, and I didn’t take off my bathing suit all day.

Becoming German


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Quite a few of my friends and acquaintances have changed nationality these past years. Some time ago, many European countries changed the rules about naturalization and no longer make you choose whether you want to be French or Finnish,  Swedish or Spanish, Danish or Dutch, Belgian or Bulgarian. This is an interesting psychological issue because I have never met anyone so far that would readily have relinquished their original citizenship despite the fact that it wouldn’t actually disadvantage them in their lives that they live in another country than their home state anyway. Dual citizenship is now the thing to have, it’s like the prolongation of Erasmus in a way. Just like I’ve almost never been to a wedding where two people from the same country married each other is an effect of the internationalization efforts of the EU so is the taking on new passports.

Now it was time for my friend Anthony to take that step. Coming from Britian almost ten years ago, he has integrated in Germany ideally. He married a German girl, he learned German up to level C2, he keeps a large map of Germany in his study, he recycles his garbage like a pro and he hands in his taxes on January 1st. I told him that if he, in the process of applying for German citizenship, needed someone to testify that he was a very suitable to become German, I’d gladly be called to the stand.

With Brexit upon us, he applied to become German last summer and it almost took a year for them to grant him citizenship. Hello, what happened to German efficiency? Now finally, however, he is one of us. A national, allowed to vote! Last Monday we went out to celebrate this milestone. I made him a card honoring this special occasion that was heavily inspired by the card I received years ago from my dear friend Malin when I acquired my personnummer in Stockholm. I also threw a big party then, something I am still trying to convince Anthony to do, too. In the meantime we celebrated with burgers at my new favorite bar. They charge 18 euros for a burger, which we noticed afterwards. Talk about a worthy celebration!

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This is what a German looks like, I guess!

Stockholm Social Race

“But you did manage to really do a lot this weekend”, my friend Marita said this afternoon during the 23-minute-lunch I could have with her at her home. Staying with her is really such a wonderful thing because I get to come and go as I want and she’s taking care of me with advice, food and most of all an extremely understanding attitude towards my day time absence during most time of my stay.

Other people run marathons. I do the Stockholm Social Race. I’ve been doing that for many years now, several times a year, but I feel my performance is not improving. I am still a time optimist and I still try to fit in too many people into too little hours. Because what am I supposed to do, who am I supposed to say no to if everyone is such inspiring, cosy, beloved company? As I only had 72 hours this time, of which I had to work almost one whole day, I already missed two thirds of the people I would have wanted to hang out with, too.

For being able to see the remaining one third, among them my French friend Laure exemplifying that if you don’t meet regularly you’ll miss serious life changes ( since we last met a few months ago, she managed to get married and is due to become both a mom and a Swedish citizen shortly), I cut down on sleep this time. I’m sure that’ll haunt me until next weekend, failing to catch up on rest, but it was worth it. My first night I got to spend a calm, much needed girls’ night with Marita on her sofa, the next day after work I hung out with Bianca. We headed to Gallerian and ate a foccacia because that’s one of our earliest memories of our friendship from seven years ago. Back then, she convinced me to dye my hair blonde and introduced me to the Italian toast, all in Gallerian. If they were not constanly rebuilding and opening and closing shops in Gallerian it would have felt just like back in the day.

Friday evening saw even more nostalgia when we had a somewhat unexpected Uppsala reunion. What had originally been planned as a dinnner with Tabea and me turned into a lovely meet up of my former room mates William, HĂ©lene and Paul – first time in four years in that constellation!

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For Saturday, I had vowed to not go through all the shops I usually roam. I can nevertheless inform you that le derni cri is flounces at the shoulders and pleated long skirts. Instead of buying those, I looked for a new pencil skirt – an item I actually needed. ÅhlĂ©ns has taken out all my favorite brands so after Malin, who had come up from Karlstad to see me, and I left there empty-handed, she said, “You know, Helen, I’m thinking, as you like old ladies’ stores, shouldn’t we check at Dea Axelssons?” Ouch! Dea Axelssons is really an old ladies’ stores. Even for me. However, Dea Axelssons also had the greatest skirt. So I guess now that I’m getting closer to 30, it’s come that far, I’ve passed that Dea-frontier.

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Since I fell in love with Haymarket last time, we ended up there again this time. They have scones that definitely exceeded my expectations.

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My dear Malin, with what I call a bit of a Noora-facial-expression

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Happy Spring – let’s all continue to dress in black

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Malin attacking a hipster lego man (notice his hat)


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Malin had planned quite a happening for Saturday night: she’d booked us into a karaoke room and invited her former co-workers to come. I was very impressed with the performances to say the least. These (impossible-not-to-like) guys could sing, even without previous alcohol intake. In Germany, you can hardly find a man who will dare to sing in the comfortable anonymity of a choir let alone get on stage and do a whole-hearted “Circle of Life”-show. There is no denying it, Sweden is a singing nation and I love that. I think I personally mostly excelled at the schlager with “Det gör ont” being my most expressive act.

Somehow the night kept continuing even after the karaoke and I fear that all the money I saved on not buying new clothes went to buying alcohol. On the list of things I do not miss about Stockholm goes, apart from the gravel on the streets between October and May that keeps getting into my shoes, the following: alcohol prices (15 euros for a tiny cocktail), ridiculous admittance policies at clubs, artificial shortage of seats (in pubs), space (in clubs) and housing (in general). Going out is so difficult in that city, it made me appreciate the German culture and especially the Rhineland ways of going out. Maybe it was that that prompted a sudden emergence of #dizzelpride because I started selling DĂŒsseldorf to everyone around me. Inexpensive wine, 25 degrees and sunshine, relaxed people hanging out by the water, excellent affordable sushi – Malin remarked surprised that I’d never advertised my city of residence this well before.

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We concluded the night at McDonald’s after the casino strictly refused to let us in. (I had hoped to win 4 million Swedish crowns to be able to afford a two-room-apartment in the outskirts of Stockholm.) Going to the casino meant going back and forth between the South and North Island which gave us the opportunity of analysing all the advertisments in the subway. I will probably never cease to be intruiged by Swedish advertisement and I tell myself I managed to instill at least some enthusiasm among my company.

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There is something greater than Stockholm, this ad by the Swedish Forest Initiative tells the inhabitants of the capital. Other posters read, “There is something greater than fredagsmys, Friday night coziness”.

I came home at 5 am which makes that night quite a milestone in my Stockholm history. Also because it was the night I at first try correctly identified a southern SmĂ„land dialect in one of Malin’s friends and another of her friends misidentified me as being from the north of Sweden, something Malin non-chalantly commented with, “You may give me the credit for that”.

Needless to say, Sunday was a hungover, tired day but any possible I’m-gonna-die-feeling was blown away by the radiance of Andrea who I met at Cafe String. (Which my phone kept autocorrecting to Cafe Strunt.) Because Marita lives in the south, I’ve put most of my activities this time on Södermalm to shorten my commute. The funny thing is though that I barely ever hang out on Södermalm so I literally have to check google maps not to get lost. (So does Andrea. We must have looked like tourists but really we just rarely left Östermalm/GĂ€rdet/City, I guess.) That did not stop a German girl to ask me for directions though, something that made me very happy as I apparently still have an air of I-know-where-I’m-going. I succefully pretended to know where Bellmansgatan is located. Also, I deeply impressed her with my German language skills.


Last tea before departure with Bianca on top of Stockholm

Despite the flight being overbooked, I made it home. In the security check, they frowned confused at my eclectic collection of imports: cheese, colored feathers, paper easter eggs and snus. Things change: before, I always would’ve brought the Amelia magazine and I’d always have been heart-broken to leave. Today, I buy VĂ€sterbottensost and I’m relatively okay with returning to spring temperatures. Relatively.

Citatsamling del 31, Stockholmseditionen

Hen Àr tysk, men trevlig.

Hennes efternamn Àr som en tagg i mitt öga.

Du Ă€r en riktig hetspelle. – Det kan jag ta. Det Ă€r faktiskt nĂ„t fint!