Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Being a foreigner

Living life from a foreigner/immigrant's perspective is quite a special thing. Not ever did I expect to BE the foreigner.

Yesterday was the first day of our "real" SFI class. The first three weeks were just intro. Last week we took a test and were placed into different classes according to our skill/understanding. I, along with four other of my classmates, was placed into the highest/most advanced group. This class is quite different insofar as you basically teach yourself and go at your own pace. They gave us textbooks and work packets and said basically to work through it, and when we think we're ready, take a test, and then we move on to the next chapter. I like that I can go at my own pace now, instead of becoming bored at times in the intro course when the teacher must go slowly in order to make sure everyone could follow. That's another different thing, at least so far - the teacher yesterday didn't really teach, as we're teaching ourselves. We'll see if this becomes a trend or if she just wanted it to be more of a work day.

Back to my first two sentences of this post. For the first time, I went to lunch with several of my classmates. The five of us from the intro course that placed into the higher class decided during our one hour lunch break yesterday to go to China Town for a lunch buffet. I don't know why we waited several weeks to have lunch together, but no sense in speculating there. It was so enjoyable from my perspective because for once I was out with other foreigners/immigrants. Yes, it's fun to go out with J to a restaurant or even other Swedish friends of mine, but I still feel inside somewhere slightly like an outsider. The only reason I can come up for this is because where they interact with other Swedes working at the restaurant, I'm the one outsider who generally doesn't understand the interactions (although SFI is changing that, thankfully!). Yesterday, walking down the street being the loud foreigners, and then once inside the restaurant being the only louder group (and speaking English on top of that) was such a treat. Swedes are so reserved, I distinctly remember thinking how loud we sounded walking down the quiet streets on the way to and from lunch. It was just nice to be out with others who don't know much Swedish. Even though all of us are from different parts of the world, I didn't feel like an outsider. The commonality of being from elsewhere made it inclusive.

Another thing that I've pondered over is the fact that even though we are all from the different corners of the world (the five of us hail from the U.S., England, Singapore, Latvia, and Thailand), we understand each other and have a lot of fun just being people learning, or eating lunch, together. The fact that almost all of us have different mother tongues doesn't matter - it's so cool to see a language used as a common ground. Maybe I'm making such a big deal over nothing, or something that seems normal to a lot of people. Coming from the United States, however, it's definitely eye-opening and an experience I wish many more could have. The United States can be, and is, so isolated. Here in Europe everyone is close to everyone and they travel like there is no tomorrow. It's normal to come across foreigners and find the need to speak a foreign language to get your point across. In the States, it's learn English, or better luck next time.

Sometimes I miss being in the majority, like at home. But other times, I really enjoy the special point of view that being in the minority gives me. You see the whole world through a different light, and it really lets you see things that you would never think about or notice previously. Like I said, it's an experience that everyone should get.

1 comment:

sapphire said...

Welcome to Sweden!

I hope SFI treats you well and learn a lot. Practice, Practice, Practice!

Lucky that you have a car, but I guess you also live outside the city. How I miss my car!

There are a lot of Americans here and if you want to meet some, check out the Expat meetup group on