No social allowance for you.
Sweden’s Minister of Employment, Sven Otto Littorin, doesn’t want social allowances to be handed out to young people who watch TV and who are too lazy to look for work. “Sure you can play computer games and watch TV,” Littorin says, “but not at the tax payers’ expense. If you want support, then you have to do your share, go to Arbetsförmedlingen (Sweden's National Public Employment Agency) and actively look for a job. That’s not preposterous.” Littorin says he worries about those young Swedes (approximately 100,000) who neither study, nor work, nor are registered with Arbetsförmedlingen. That’s the group he wants to target through, among other things, better collaboration between the municipalities and their local Arbetsförmedling and job markets as well as threats to withdraw the social allowance. “I want these young people to feel that going to Arbetsförmedlingen is worth it,” Littorin says. “Secondly, I think that if you don’t even try to find a job, you really ought to wonder if it’s reasonable that you should have an allowance.”

Mission: Wedding music.
Gustaf Sjökvist is a music purveyor to the royal Swedish court, a “title” he’s had since 1973, when he arranged the music to King Gustaf VI Adolf’s funeral. Now, he’s got the honorable mission to arrange the music for the royal wedding, which will take place in Storkyrkan in June. Sjökvist also arranged the music for King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia’s wedding, 34 years ago. “I used Johan Helmich Roman’s ‘Sinfonia de Chiesa’, Lars-Erik Larsson’s ‘Festmusik’ and a piece by Bach and a piece by Telemann, it was a mixture of Swedish and German music.” Crown Princess Victoria isn’t marrying a foreigner, yet Sjökvist doesn’t want to reveal whether or not he’ll be using only Swedish music. “Everything isn’t set yet,” he explains. “Some things have taken shape, but other things have not.” He would never dream of disclosing the music; it must remain a surprise until the wedding day. Storkyrkan has undergone renovations to the tune of 14 million SEK ($1,923,122.74), and Sjökvist is excited to find out what the sound will be like when the church reopens in May. “They removed fluff from the valves of the organ that were almost 2 centimeters (0.7”) thick, so the echo will be completely different.” Sjökvist, who is a choirmaster, has worked at Storkyrkan for over 40 years, but the royal wedding might just be one of his last gigs – at 66 he is retiring come fall. He says he’s not nervous about the upcoming wedding, rather focused. “The echo in the church might sound differently on the wedding day since it will be full of people. Also, if the ladies wear fur, that too will change the echo. Fur softens the echo a bit.”

The art of sneezing.
When it comes to good manners there’s no one better to ask than Magdalena Ribbing, Dagens Nyheter’s leading expert in the field of etiquette. The question is, what does one do when somebody sneezes? Says Ribbing: “If you are the one who sneezes, you should apologize, whether you’re sneezing because of a cold or because of allergies. If somebody else around you sneezes, it’s considered good manners to say a discrete “Prosit” (“Bless you!”), whereupon the sneezer should say “Thank you.” Now you know. Another issue that really gets Ribbing going is a problem she refers to as “plate smelling”: “The embarrassing habit of smelling the food on your plate has gotten more common over the last years. It’s difficult to stop, I think, because even people who are experienced with the ways of the world do it. Perhaps it is all about a new interest in gastronomy and culinary refinement, but it doesn’t make it any better. You should never smell the food on your plate! Ever!”

The art of breaking up.
Princess Madeleine and Jonas Bergström just did it, but she was far from the first royal to do it. In the late 18th century Gustav IV Adolf broke off two engagements, and Danish Crown Prince Fredrik broke off with Princess Olga of Greece in 1922. In 1902 Maria Annunziata of Austria and Siegfried of Bayern called it quits and in 1518 Mary of England (King Henry VIII’s daughter) got engaged at the age of two, with France’s Crown Prince. That engagement was later broken. But how does one entangle oneself from a fiancé or fiancée with some kind of tactfulness? Writes etiquette expert Magdalena Ribbing in Dagens Nyheter: “During the middle ages an engagement was called betrothal and it was a promise of faith, meaning a man and a woman promised in front of witnesses to live together for the rest of their lives. A betrothal was legally binding and neither of the partners could leave the other without having to pay for the damage. In Sweden an engagement is no longer legally binding and hasn’t been legally binding for a very long time. What is legally binding is the marriage. You need not be of age to get engaged, you can be engaged for five minutes before getting married, or you can remain engaged for the rest of your life. An engagement can be broken off at any time. No rituals are required. But how do you do it? Do you send an sms? Do you call? Of course not. In spite of the absence of the law, an engagement is a big step, by getting engaged you show to the world that you’re an established couple and that you intend to live together. To break off an engagement via a text message is a cowardly thing to do. A meeting and a discussion to break off the engagement is the decent thing to do. In the old days, people wrote formal letters to each other, and perhaps that’s the thing to do today as well. It’s also common courtesy to give back the engagement ring, unless both partners agree to do otherwise. Other gifts of importance, such as heirlooms or something costly, should also be returned. One should also make sure to inform family and friends about the decision. The engagement was public therefore the break off must be public. And it is a wise person who breaks off his or her engagement, or is the person left in the lurch, and doesn’t speak ill of his or her former partner.”