One of the few trips we did with my in-laws together last summer was to Stockholm, Sweden. My wife’s parents stayed with us four weeks, usually enough to get something decent done however we had in between a wedding to manage which took some resources from us. In the end we only managed to go to my parent’s cottage, Tallinn and Stockholm. The trip to Stockholm was already something my wife had planned before but our ever-changing schedule that summer made it nearly impossible to go anywhere.
Stockholm is a place nearly every Finn has visited at least once and this has a very simple reason: The ship cruise! The usual way to go from Helsinki to Stockholm is by ship, either leaving from the capital city itself or going further to the west coast to Turku. This cruise is so popular for Finnish people due to the tax-free store, snus and drinks. During the night hours the ship can be divided into two groups. The one group, made up mostly by families and tourists from around the world, tries to get rest for a day of activities in Stockholm and the other group, mainly consisting of the younger generation of Finnish and Swedish people partying and drinking the night away.
Right from the start we got into some trouble due to lack of parking lots at the harbor. This led to a situation in which we nearly missed our ship. Calls by my wife (as I was too unstable already by driving around the different parking lots) to the service line of the ship cruise company solved the issue right in time. These cruises are for most people something fun, they go around, eat in the restaurants, go shopping in the tax-free, sing karaoke or relax in the bar. This cruise was everything but relaxing for us. You see, once MIL discovered the tax-free store we had to go with her there several times to help her around. During that time she was in some kind of shopping frenzy as she was not able to buy any clothes for three weeks already. This resulted in her looking at each clothing item with manic eyes, trying the same pieces on several times even though she knew they wouldn’t fit or didn’t match her taste. This all didn’t matter to her, she needed to buy something! However even after the fifth time going to the store she could not find anything to buy or got convinced by her daughter not to buy this or that useless item.
As you can see, there was not so much relaxing up to this point for us, so what about going to eat? Oh no, we did not go to eat. We actually wanted but each restaurant we went to my in-laws had only one comment “Too expensive”. Well, there went the good food part of the trip as well. Karaoke? Sorry, nothing for me and I had also no interest in going to the bars so we ended up staying the entire trip (except the many visits to the tax-free store) in our cabins.
Last but not least we arrived next morning in Stockholm and experienced our very next disappointment. We took the tourist bus tour around the city but, unlike in Helsinki where the same company is operating, only a few buses had the tour offered in Chinese and we ended up on a bus without it. This meant a lot of translating work for my wife for the entire time and to make matters even worse, our bus broke down towards the end. Slightly annoyed we made our way from the last station towards the city center to grab some food. All the while my in-laws made the often repeated comments of “It is so clean here”, “Such a blue sky”, “How can they keep their windows so clean” and then one comment we hadn’t heard in Finland “So many people here”. Yes, there were many people in the streets and it felt sometimes as busy as in Xi’an but that could be because anything more than 2 people on the street is busy when living in Finland.
Usually it is fairly easy to find a nice place to eat, especially when you are really hungry. But this does not apply with my in-laws around. Usually it is something like this “We don’t want to eat Chinese”, “We want to eat something new”, “This looks so strange”, “Too expensive”, “Too foreign”, “This looks good!” and as you may guess, this last one is a Chinese restaurant…
With filled stomachs we started our journey anew through Stockholm or let’s say, our journey from clothing store to clothing store, MIL viewing each item with ferocious eagerness. Through some unknown magic she was once again not able to buy anything, making her even more crazy than usual. More crazy as we now started to go through all souvenir shops so she just could buy something, at least something little but now again, nothing. To make her mother feel better my wife came up with the idea to buy chocolate on the ship for her friends as a gift. What a terrible idea but more about that later.
As I knew already that we would spend the entire cruise back to Helsinki just in our cabins I decided to get my family exhausted by taking the long way back to the ship. This meant also we would be walking through the beautiful old town of Stockholm were the Royal Palace is located. As expected MIL had something weird to ask again “Can we go visit the King, I would like to see him”. No comment.
Thankfully we stopped at a supermarket before the harbor to buy some food for the cruise which included some sweet pastries covered in jam. The biggest and sweetest looking one we had planned for FIL (he has a real sweet tooth) but we would not know the fate of this delicious pastry until the next day. Once again on board the tax-free shop mayhem started and this time focused solely on the chocolates. As promised my wife guided her parents to the chocolate section but little did we know about the plans my in-laws had created during the past hours. We expected perhaps ten to twelve 300g chocolate bars for their friends, oh no, we spent in the end over 100€ on these chocolate bars. Can you guess how damn heavy so much chocolate is? Well, it resulted later on to some trouble when packing for their flight back to China, yes, too much chocolate. Furthermore this chocolate shopping easily took us close to two hours as my in-laws were fighting with each over whose friends would get how much chocolate, how much they would keep for themselves and so on. Let’s just say it was a basic fight over useless things as always.
In the end we managed to arrive in Helsinki unharmed. Carrying our luggage I felt like I could open a chocolate store and have supplies for at least a month. I do believe the trip might have been much more enjoyable without my in-laws, at least we could have done everything on our own pace and actually eat nicely. Oh and remember the pastry for FIL? He threw it away as he thought the jam was meat. D’Oh!