Sunday, May 27, 2007

Polarbear Podcast: Everything Swedish But the Meatballs

Sweden has always seemed to me to be a country of laid-back, easygoing people who don't take themselves too seriously. I don't know if that image is correct but Andy Nyman, the host and creator of the Polarbear Podcast, fits right in with my perception.

[UPDATE, Sept 26th, 2012: I'm pleased to report that, after going dark for a few years, the Polarbear Podcast has returned! Doing a podcast is a lot of work, so for this reboot Nyman has taken out a number of the special segments of the previous podcast, and is looking to make a shorter podcast that comes out more frequently. The first new episode came out in late August, and another one has appeared already. See more information at the Polarbear Podcast website.]

Banner of the newly rebooted Polarbear Podcast.
The podcast offers a fun and relaxed look at happenings in Sweden, and a Swedish perspective on the world. The fact that Nyman doesn't take himself too seriously is evident in the podcast's name: He realizes that folks outside Europe may not know too much about Sweden except that it's very far north and is cold, and so they may think that polar bears live there. (To help further clear up confusion about the country, there's a link at the top of the podcast's Web site that reads, "Sweden, Not Switzerland.")

Polarbear Podcast offers interesting and often humorous glimpses of Sweden as seen through the eyes of an average Swedish family guy who wants to help listeners learn a bit about his home country.

My favorite episode of the Polarbear Podcast came last December, when Nyman described the customs of a Swedish Christmas and New Year's Eve, and told us about his family's preparations for the holidays. To me, there are few vacations I'd love more than a Swedish Christmas.

The show features several regular segments. There's a brief travelogue description of interesting historical or cultural spots in Sweden—not the typical sights you'd read about in a tourist guide, but places that Swedish residents know of.

Another segment called "Swe-News" offers short new tidbits involving odd or scandalous news items from Sweden.

There are a couple of segments from regular guests, both from the U.S. One is "Email from America," from a listener who'll sometimes contrast American and Swedish approaches to issues. In another segment, a Swedish woman living and working in the U.S. gives her insights on being a Swedish expat wife and mother living in America.

The podcast has recently begun offering brief lessons in the Swedish language. (In keeping with Nyman's self-deprecating style, the segment is called "Swedish as a Seventh Language.")

Each episode also features a few new podsafe songs by Swedish artists in each episode. Often they are mellow folky tunes, but Nyman recently gave listeners a shot of adrenaline when he played a song by a heavy-metal band.

If you've ever been interested in learning about Sweden and life in the country today, check out the Polarbear Podcast. It's a fun glimpse into life in contemporary Sweden.

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