4 Years of Blogging 

On the 8th of February 2013, barely 1 month into my Erasmus exchange study program, I published my first article in ‘Lost in a Cup’. The title was ‘Sweden at Heathrow‘ and talked about my first contact with Sweden on the tarmac of the busiest airport in the UK.

Since then I wrote other 84 articles and published 40 odd pages through the years although most of my work was written in the first half of 2013 during my exchange.
If you want to read more about the choice of title for this website/blog and its chosen content check out the About page.
If instead you want to find out more about me, the writer, check out the Biography page.
Plans for the future are to keep analysing Swedish society and student life as I’m now once again in Uppsala to study although things have changed a lot since 2013. This time I believe I have more direct contact with Swedish people as opposed to last time in which I hanged out mainly with internationals. Also I am now an ‘ämbetsman’ (officer/elected worker) of 2 student nations here which are at polar opposites in the ideals they have and way they function (lots of interesting material, hurra!).
As always keep comments flying in either publicly or in a private message (check out ‘Get in touch’).
Last but not least give a Like to the Facebook page which if you enjoy this so that you will get the latest publications on your newsfeed: http://www.facebook.com/lostinacup
Stay lost and drink espresso!
Alex
P.S. Are you in Uppsala this evening and want to celebrate with me 4 years of blogging? Plan is to have a few beverages at my place, some tea and a good cup of Italian espresso and then off to the student club ‘Valvet’ at Östgöta Nation. Fun times all around!

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Living in Manchester

Pre-reading Dictionary (Northern -Standard English):

Chips = French Fries / Pommes Frites

Footy = Football – Soccer

Gravy = a sauce often made from the juices of meats that run naturally during cooking and thickened with wheat flour or cornstarch for added texture.

Lad = Man

Lass = Lady

Ta = Thanks

Looking back at my days as an undergraduate university student made me think that there is something somewhat philosophical in being rained upon almost every single day of the year.

No matter what you do in life, where you come from, the amount of money in your bank account, when you are in Manchester you will get drenched. It’s almost as if someone wanted to remind everyone that there is nothing one can do to counter the great force of the cosmos and that everyone in that Northern city is in the same boat. You are not alone when you are slowly drowning in greyness, dampness , cold and misery.

manchester-rain

Will you get to work with a clean suit or will a double decker bus go full speed into a puddle and cover you in mud? Every morning people in Manchester leave their homes without knowing the answer to this quintessential question. After all, who are we to know the cards destiny has laid out for us?

However there are some solutions one can take to counter all of this. Finding a pub, which there are plenty of (surprise, surprise), is always a good start. Once inside, choose between a wide range of cheap and pretty good beers (lagers and traditional ales) and order a massive portion of cheesy chips with extra gravy, two things which always succeed in cheering you up, at least momentarily. It’s easy to find friendly people to share your misery with and of course being in England what better way to break the ice than talking about how shitty the weather outside is. Conversation with the lads is likely to cover topics such as footy and how City or United is doing in the league and you might even be lucky enough to talk about Rugby (topics I would not cover categorically as I know close to nothing about sport and am rather proud of this).

manchester-pub

When you reach that point in the night when the conversation starts to run dry you either turn your attention to the lasses or you pick up a fight. If  you choose the first option you might want to try out your well-rehersed pick up lines in the hope you’ll get lucky, remember to keep it classy: ‘Hello gourgeous, what can I get ya?’ tends to be an all time winner. If you would rather opt for the latter the best way of going about it is by shouting out loud something along the lines of: ‘Well, if you think about it, Thatcher was not that bad after all’. The reactions will be epic, guranteed. I, however, did not generally pick any of the above as I prefered going home, having a glass of milk with 2 or 3 digestive bisucuits and hitting the bed.

The good thing is that once you get kicked out of the pub, depending on how many pints you end up drinking, you will not even feel the rain, beer truly is God’s blessing in that part of the world.

I firmly believe it is important for one to strive for more long term solution to the constant, dramatic, sense of submission to God/Mother Nature that becomes your way of life whilst in Manchester. So:”Taxi! TAXI!! – once it eventually stops -To the airport please mate, ta!”

manchester-airport-terminal-1

Up, up, up and AWAY!!

Working in a Supermarket

Over a month into my new job as a customer service assistant in a local supermarket I could not resist temptation of writing about it. It has been a challenging experience and oddly enough the longer I’m in the job the harder it gets. Not that the work load changes but the expectations of the people around you increase. Speed is a key element for success in retail and apparently I’m slow, in fact rumour has it I got ‘beaten by a girl’ (she’s so fast that I’m starting to believe she’s a machine), as if a female individual could not be better than me! Another day I was asked if I were a man as the way I was facing up ‘looks like the way a woman would do it’. The thing I get told off most for is, in fact, ‘facing up’. This, I’ve been told, is one of the most important jobs in a shop and it literally means pulling all the items forward and putting them all neatly on the same line. No brainer, the nicer the shop looks the more people are enticed to buy. Thing is I keep missing items on the shelves and I get told off on a regular basis by the manager. Most alarming thing is that he apparently watches the CCTV footage so even when you can’t hear his distinctive cough that announces his presence, you’re still under his scrupulous gaze. He checks the way you work even when he’s not there. It’s like being on Big Brother just that ultimately your job is on the line, as I’ve been reminded on more than one occasion. Gender and the paranoia of being constantly under scrutiny aside, it has been so far an interesting and enjoyable experience.
The customers are obviously the stars of the situation. From the lady that was looking for raw prawns to feed her cat to the man who insists on scanning his own items at the till or to the really short lady who always buys cigarettes asking for ‘the tall ones’. Some people put you in a real good mood like Linda who always smiles and compliments me on my work or others that ask you how you are doing and try to engage with you .Some instead treat you as if you are a machine with total indifference sometimes not even looking at you or are on the phone, others even worse, are plainly rude to you. Like a clear case of racism when one day a lady came into the shop asking for a refund for a light bulb she had bought but did not have the receipt. My colleague who was serving her is of Indian origin and when the customer demanded to speak to the manager on duty she called him, who also happened to be of Indian origin. The discussion on the refund quickly escalated and the lady ended up saying that she had been told that she could get a refund by one of them. When asked by who she pointed out that she did not know as ‘they all look the same’. At that point the manager flipped and threatened to call the police.
When serving customers I’ve noticed that my colleagues and I, change our voices to a special ‘customer tone’ that tends to be more gentle and friendly then our usual voices. Another thing I’ve noticed is the surprising number of people who shop and smell strongly of alcohol or cannabis. This just goes to show how much of a problem excessive drinking is in our society. When scanning items I see what people are buying and always try to understand what their meals and ultimately their lives must be like. Another thing I should really stop doing is judging people by the newspaper they buy, like the builders who buy the Sun or the elderly ladies who opt for the Daily Mail.

 

 

Overall it is an interesting experience, question is how long will I last in there? Time will tell.

Sociological Approach to Assigning ‘The Best Room’

During my second year at university I chose to live in a house with other 5 people I had met in halls the year before. When it came to choosing rooms we all agreed that we did not want to be the standard arguing bunch of second years but wanted to agree peacefully on how to assign rooms. What we did was use a ‘preference system’ which appeared to work at first (as the most easy going where complacent to it) but when it came to dishing out ‘best’ and ‘worst’ rooms problems started to arise.

3 rooms on the first floor were left and 3 housemates (including myself) still needed to choose. Based on preference and agreements I was the only one who had to still decide what room to get with my other housemate, who for the purpose of this article I am going to call ‘Nick’.

My housemate, who insisted on picking up the keys and moving in on his own, had to still choose which of the 2 bedrooms, on first floor at the back of the house to choose for himself and the other one remaining would have been for me.

When he got there he said ‘they were the same’ and sent me a picture of his black Labrador sitting by a pile of boxes with the caption ‘Bella chose my room and anyway they are the same’.

As a result Nick got the biggest room in the house with built-in wardrobe, view of the garden and warm.

I got the room next to his. Same thing no doubt? Well, beyond the difference in storage space there were several cracks on the wall, stains, a £5 desk and mold. As it was facing outside (and not the inside of the house) it was also considerably colder and if things could not possibly get any worse it had levels of dampness which can only be compared to the ones in the ‘Stingray Tank’ room at the London Aquarium.

So, as he used the ‘Bella system’ last year, I thought it would be only fair to use my dogs this time! Unfortunately I don’t have dogs but I was very fond of my aunt’s dog ‘Lucy’ (black and white collie in the picture up top) who passed away almost 5 years ago now. As she was a good bitch she undoubtably will be in ‘doggy heaven’ and although cannot physically assign the rooms I’m sure she would be happy to guide us in spirit.

So, as I’m a sociological nerd, I decided to come up with an objective method to skim down the candidates for certain rooms based on their physical and psychological needs.

Feel free to download the PDF and use it in your household. One can either get their housemates to answer the questionnaire and judge eligibility based on the answers or follow the ‘point system’ which assigns a certain number of points for each answer and then people get classified into a priority list based on the points they earned.

Let me know if it works!

Student Traditions

The concept of ‘Student Tradition’ is something that if one asked me a year ago I would never have imagined it being of such importance let alone a possible topic to write one’s dissertation on!

What are these traditions?

They are a series of rituals, costumes and ‘ways of being’ that have distinguished the student population from the ‘normal people’.

In some old universities you can still feel this atmosphere but it is not easy to get into these closed communities and if you are not a student you can see only the outside of it.

J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter captivated the world with beautiful the castle and student traditions songs and rivalries that pick up a lot of authentic traditions in the university world.

My mission is to try to uncover the past of these traditions and comparing the differences between the various universities and the different countries.

Did you have student traditions in your university? What were they like? What did you enjoy most?

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The London Murder Map

Image

The London Murder Map

This is a map created by an independent fund who collected data from Police records, media and court cases to put together a detailed map on murders committed around London in the past 100 years.

Most murders were carried out by using knifes, if you are interested in finding out more go to the website http://www.murdermap.co.uk to read about the individual cases and see who, how and possibly ‘why’ the victims were deprived of their life.

My deapest condolences to the family of the soldier who died but let’s look at how many others were murdered for reasons that were just as futile.

2 crazy idiots kill an innocent man in east London yesterday and wave around a knife shouting something about Allah and asking people to take pictures and upload them to the internet. Is that normal behaviour? Can we seriously call this terrorism or are we talking about 2 idiots that wanted to be famous for something different then taking part on the X-factor?

The police and the media call it a ‘terror attack’ but the gangs that murder as part of their ‘initiation ceremony’, don’t get the same coverage. After all, they are not even half as scary if they don’t follow Sadam, Bin-Laden or Voldemort’s orders.

21/03: Equality Day

Today, 21st of March, the entire planet  has the same hours of light and darkness. There is no distinction between North and South, centre or pole we are all the same.

We could call this ‘Equality Day’ instead of Equinox.

Swedish society is very conscious of gender equality. which also extends to social classes. This country is well known for its advanced gender-equality policies that are truly light years ahead of the rest of the world (as far as I believe).

A series of laws over the past 50 years have  notably shaped this society. Before there used to be the same ‘breadwinner society model’ we are used to in Europe but thanks to a reform that taxed the individual (not the married couple) many women were forced into the labour market. With these laws everything has changed. This economic reform made women wage-earners and contributors to both the State and family’s overall wealth. This gave them power to be more independent, free and create another life outside the circles of friends and family.

Equality, not a battle but a project.

There is no need for women to wear the feminist uniform and chant their slogans, most of which were written in the 60’s and 70’s and force them to surrender their individuality to open fire in a battle against the oppression of men.

Instead what we as a society need to do is self-analyse ourselves and understand what we are doing wrong and how we can avoid it and ‘change our ways’. A bit like going for counselling, every one of us should spend some time thinking about the problems related to sexism and discrimination and try to find ways in which they, as individuals, can change things.

Things need changing: both in broader society such as laws and policies but also in our everyday lives.

I’m no expert in social engineering and laws that could change society but a lot of inspiration could be drawn from the Scandinavian countries; what I can try to point out are a series of common sense everyday things that both men and women need to do to truly obtain equality.

End the Gentlemen-era

  • Men should stop letting ladies on buses first to be polite as the entire concept of ‘ladies first’ is patronising and not flattering.
  • Men do not necessarily need to ask a woman out on a date but vice-versa could occur
  • Scrap Valentine’s Day, anniversary and all the massive expectations that most females have about Romeo organising (and paying) for a romantic dinner or holiday, why can’t the opposite happen too?

Change in the Clubs:

  • If a woman gets a drink from a guy she should offer to pay the next round. This is what girls do in Sweden and it is done so that nobody feels psychologically ‘in-debt’ or ‘inferior’ to someone else and this ensures that equality is guaranteed.
  • Girls should hit on guys: it is odd to think this, but automatically the thought of a girl asking for a guy’s number or buying him a drink is seen as a move of desperation or a new level of slutiness in Europe but in Sweden it is totally normal and that is how it should be.
  • Send the right signals! Body language is key in many situations and sometimes problems arise when there is a misinterpretation of signals.
  •  Refuse to go to clubs or bars where there are only female (or male) ‘professional dancers’.

Change in Society:

  • Abolish single sex schools and teach everyone in the same way.
  • Promote sport amongst girls and boys in the same way and create mixed sex teams.
  • Stop using sexualised bodies for financial gain.
  • Discourage the lad culture and competitive aggressiveness.
  • Abolish gender roles, expectations including blue and pink ribbons.
  • Don’t generalise by saying men and women (although I’m doing it myself in this post) but referring to individuals.
  • Scrap the figure of ‘Woman’s Officer’ but create the institution of the gender-equality officer.
Only in Sweden (courtesy of Thomas Weber)

Only in Sweden! (Photo courtesy of Thomas Weber).

Women

  • Are not sluts if they chat up a guy or ask for his number.
  • Can dance with a guy instead of waiting for him to approach them.
  • Should become good at DIY and not be considered dikes for doing so.
  • Should not accept that men always carry the shopping or lift heavy weights. There have been scientific studies that have proven that men are naturally predisposed to having stronger bodies then women by only 6% so the fact that guys are stronger is down to a series of habits not nature (you can’t lift it? Go to the gym!).
  • Do not all have massive tits and are waxed from head to toe.

Men

  • Can have emotions and should not need to repress them to be respected.
  • Are not sissys if they show emotions.
  • Can have Justin Bieber on their mp3 players which does not necessarily state their sexual preference.
  • Still have a dick even if they aren’t part of a football or rugby team.
  • Are allowed to be shy.
  • Can cook, clean, take care of children and it is patronising of women to think that they do it best. A man isn’t a failure if he is a househusband whilst the wife does a 9 to 5 job.
  • In case of separation should be allowed by law to spend the same amount of time with their kids as the mothers does
  • Should not be expected to be more polite and understanding towards women as that too would be patronising them.
  • Do not all have a 6 pack, athletic figures and a massive dick.

These are just a few ideas but overall the number one rule is:

Love and respect yourself before expecting other people to do so and always try to use your common sense.

What is Happening?

One afternoon not long ago,

I was walking down the street going from Engleska Parken (humanities campus) to the main library and as I walked people appeared on the side of my path and kept shouting at me trying to hand me flyers, loads where chucked on the ground and similar posters littered the surroundings. Another person went along with a loud radio, 2 guys were walking up and down with a massive sign. This had never happened before! Loads of people were shouting, I could not understand what they were saying, but honestly neither was I interested…

The day was grey, it would not stop raining, a bus driver carelessly sped through a puddle and drenched me in muddy water.

As a consequence my light-coloured trousers were stained, but nobody took much notice, I think… There was a girl with a smartphone in her hands, that might have been taking a picture of me. What if she did?! No doubt I would most liked post on ‘Spotted’..

Once I got to the PC cluster I immediately had to check the all-telling page. Nothing there, possibly a comment could apply to me, but no way to be certain; at least there were no photos!

So many people surrounded me, a feeling of self-conscious paranoia prevailed, as if everyone was judging each other.

I decided I could take it no more and decided to leave.

Outside there was a starless sky, the cold darkness and dampness surrounded me together with a sense of unease and fear, as if something bad was bound to happen.

The people I saw earlier had disappeared instead they had been replaced by others: some were puking; people were pissing on the street;rude, aggressive gorillas were arrogantly perched outside the over-rated club doors like giant gargoyles…

You get the picture?

Soon after, a group of blokes in hoodies with glass bottles in their hands congregated.

They glared at me, why?

I did not know…

They started to edge closer and closer, I felt powerless, so I started running, panic stricken I ran and ran but couldn’t keep going…

They started punching and kicking me;

What did they want from me?

I gave them my phone, my wallet, my bank cards, the pin codes and even my jacket but still they didn’t stop…

What more could they want?

I gave them all I had but they kept punching and kicking me, angrily, as if I had something they could not have.

The final blow was strong, I lost my balance and whilst I fell I realised that what I had was ‘hope’, a ray of light that maybe one day I might succeed in building myself a bright future, as I want it, something they all didn’t have and by hurting me and depriving me of my belongings maybe they wanted me to be the same as them…

My heart was beating fast, I kept on falling for a surprisingly long time, I wondered when I would reach the ground, then with an odd sense of relief I hit the pavement.

Press Play on The YouTube Video for musical background.

My Student Room

I jolted up and as I opened my eyes, a ray of sun-light blinded me. I saw the familiar east-facing window with the half-open blinds, I realised…

It was all just a dream Alex, nothing but a nightmare. You are still in Uppsala, it is nowhere near and nothing like the gorgeous city in which you normally live and study.

This fictional dream is dedicated to the ‘Manchester Study Abroad Team’ that are doing an AMAZING job in encouraging students to take the opportunity to go on exchange somewhere in the world, far far away from the charming city I know and love.

 

Forgot to Write a Campaign Motto

People say that Student Union elections are shallow as they only focus on slogans and cheesy photos without having any real substance.

I totally disagree. I believe the philosophical background, skill and poetical depth that goes behind an election motto is a true work of art, sign of ability and passion incomparably superior to the greatest of theories and ideas.

Many candidates in the Manchester SU elections spent lots of time and effort creating the most eye-catching slogans but I forgot.

Anyway, as it is one of the most important aspects of the electoral campaign, I feel the necessity to write down a few.

You can choose the cheesiest one by voting in the poll at the bottom of the post.

If you have any further motto suggestions leave a comment!

Here goes:

  1. Vote Maxia for #1 community! Imagine combining an authentic Italian pizza, with Swedish meatballs after a night-out in Sankeys.
  2. Value for Votes: why go for small or regular if you can have MAXia for the same vote?
  3. MAXIAmising your student experience and improving the community
  4. If you are hungry for change in your community get A. MAXI(a) portion of community. 
  5. Vote MAXia, because size matters.
  6. Let Alexander the great become  your community mate.
  7. ‘Latinized form of the Greek name Αλεξανδρος (Alexandros), which meant “defending men” from Greek αλεξω (alexo) “to defend, help” and ανηρ (aner) “man” (genitive ανδρος).’ Oh WOW Alexander, defender and helper of the people, is running for Community Officer! I know who I’ll vote..

But my all time favourites are the UrbanDictionary definitions, some are so accurate! LOL

Click here to read up about my ideas to improve Manchester’s Student community.

Rewarding Loyalty and Participation

Working together with the entire exec team in the Union, I would like to create 2 point-based reward systems:

  1. For students who work voluntarily at the Union on a regular basis.
  2. For those who often use the services (Cafe’, Shops, Union-Bar, buying tickets for socials and events…).
  3. Student Community Award; a rare prize that rewords people giving as much as the Union possibly can to the few who prove outstanding bravery, selflessness  and community spirit.

REWARDING PARTICIPATION: for all the Students that work in the Union life and are creators of the ‘Student Community’

WHY BOTHER?

  • Incentive people to work voluntarily for the Union and RAG
  • Encourage societies to improve and achieve higher ranking.
  • Promote growth within the Union’s Student Media and motivate its contributors to participate more actively.

Getting involved in our Student Union should be a rewording experience: a place to socialise, learn new skills and try something new.

All of this is only possible thanks to many great people, that without getting paid dedicate a lot of time and effort to create a great experience for students in Manchester.

From society’s committee members, to organisers within the ‘Residence Association boards’, RAG volunteers, student-media contributors and student workers for the union’s services; everyone should get recognition for the work they do.

Starting from a ‘basic card’ with minor advantages, one can build-up points to obtain higher ranking cards that would give more bonuses.  Criteria would need to be established regarding  the amount of points given for an hour of work or for carrying out a certain project or covering a certain position of responsibility within the Union.

Different levels of involvement, different cards.

The more you work, the more advantages you get. From minor discounts and special offers to considerable reductions and free meals,entry passes and so on.

  • Basic Involvement: Anyone who works as a volunteer for 3 shifts (6-8 hours long) or writes 6 articles for the Mancunion, is involved in the production of 6 radio or TV show episodes. It has a validity of 2 months.
  • Considerable Involvement: For those who holds a position of responsibility and spend around 16 hours per week working for the Union.
  • Outstanding Involvement: For those who for one reason or another is voluntarily working for the Union for 25 or more hours per-week.

REWARDING LOYALTY: for all who regularly use the Union’s services 

WHY BOTHER?

  • To increase the number of people in the Union, making it an even bigger student social centre.
  • To Increase Revenue and re-invest it in funding activities and lowering prices

There should be a basic reward system in which you get points for every purchase you make within the Union or on the website, whether it is for buying food and stationary or a ticket for a social, every time you make a purchase you should get some points, that once reached set targets could give you freebies from the Union. Possible examples: drink and food vouchers, tickets for gigs and Pangea, shop vouchers, free entry pass for the club night… 

‘Student Community Honorary Award’ Card:

  •  Awarded exclusively to students of our university who prove outstanding bravery, selflessness  and community spirit.
  • Very few students will receive the award as it is meant to be something unique and an immense privilege.
  • The idea is that who receives this card was willing to give everything for a good cause and the Union, as a sign of gratitude, would try to offer for free every service it can afford (food, drinks, event and social tickets, society membership fees…).
  • Lasts for the entire duration of the card-holder’s studies.