Thursday, June 23, 2011


Well I've been home in the U.S. visiting for five days so far. It's a very unique experience being able to see the world I grew up in and knew for the first 23 years of my life with very familiar, and yet very new eyes. Part of me falls right back into going about my city just the way I always did, and another part of me looks at the place with brand new eyes.

For instance, all of the cars here seem huge to me now; not only huge, but excessively so. No wonder the U.S. alone uses up 25% of the world's oil. Isn't that a sad little piece of knowledge? Living in Sweden, I believe, has really turned me on to the green culture. Rather than driving my car to my friend's house who lives in the same neighborhood, I now ride a family bike. It just seems so wrong to me to look around and see the majority of vehicles being so wasteful, with people blatantly not caring about the planet. At this rate, we certainly will kill it and all its beauty.

Even though I know I have had a bone or two to pick with Swedish manners (or lack thereof in several cases), I am easily more irritated with Americans. At least more often. Or maybe I just focus on wherever I am at at any given time and it seems like the home I'm in is the more irritating one. To materialize these ramblings, here are a couple of mini-rants I have about Americans.

1. LEARN TO DRIVE. Today I was on the highway and I checked my rear view mirror and a woman in a van was perhaps only 15 feet (or approximately 4.5 meters) from my rear bumper. Had I put on my brakes for any reason she would have rear ended me. Not only was she that close to me, she stayed there for at least 10 minutes. Not 5 minutes later, a massive pickup truck cut me off while exiting the highway.

2. DON'T BE RIDICULOUS. While eating dinner with my mom this evening we had the local news on in the background. The news anchor moved on to a story of a woman (I believe in California) who was suing McDonald's because she didn't like/agree with how they were marketing their Happy Meals. Do you really have nothing better to do than sue a massive company because you don't like the way they are marketing one of their products?

I believe I have become used to the quiet, sensible way that Swedes tend to conduct themselves. At least that is mostly how I have come to experience Sweden. It's amazing to be able to look at the U.S. with new (dare I say foreign?) eyes. I am much more critical, and yet a part of me still loves the U.S. because I will always, at least partially, identify as American. It's just inside of me. Nevertheless, I fear I will never be able to hold back judgment on this country, however minute the critique. Nothing can improve if it is never critiqued.

Part of me already misses Sweden. Which I take as a good sign - it's become home for me. At first I struggled with having to choose a home, but now I've embraced that I can have two. No matter which country I'm in, a part of me will feel at home, and the other part will miss the other home. I've had to come to terms with this, especially because it was my choice to split myself, so to say, in the first place.

Be on the look out for more post to come! I'm sure I'll post some more before I fly back over the pond. Who knows, maybe I'll have some more rants, too. ;-)

PS - Happy Midsommar to all of you in Sweden! I'm truly sad to miss out on it, but I will have to just wait til next year.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Swedish Scaredy Cat

This past week there have been several thunderstorms, and I have to say, I have loved it! Finally Sweden got some "dangerous" weather. It's really pretty safe here, besides the boatloads of snow we got over the winter. Even the roads stay pretty safe because Swedes are masters of keeping the roads clear, unlike central Ohio. With the thunderstorms came humidity. At first I was excited because it was in the evening and the smell in the air even reminded me of home. Then the days followed and I became crabby - who dare make the air so wet that 22C feels terrible?! The whole business with your clothes sticking to you and whatnot. I've already become spoiled by the dry Swedish climate. It'll be interesting to see how I react to summer in Ohio when I step off the plane this coming Friday. It'll be probably around 30 - 35C and super, super humid! In any case I'm looking forward to visiting home for 3 weeks.

So last night J and I went out to dinner at a local pub with M and her Swede. It was nice, although I think it'll take me quite a while to get over just how expensive eating out is here in Sweden. Over seven months here and I still cringe when I look at the prices. Thankfully we don't eat out often at all, at least in any sit down place like last night where it's practically robbery for a burger and fries.

After we finished eating J was really tired (as always on a Friday night) so we said our goodbyes around 9pm or so. He wanted some of that tasty lösgodis I mentioned in a previous post, so we went to our favorite store for that since, after all, it was Friday night. I decided to pay for the candy and so when the girl (around my age, I'd say) at the cash register told me 82kr in Swedish, I obligingly gave her my 100kr bill. Now, whenever I interact with any Swedes in public I suppose you could say I flip my "Swedish switch" to "On" mode. For most public interactions with Swedes I can understand and respond in Swedish now. For some reason, this girl blurted something to me so fast and in my mind I tried to replay the sounds to understand exactly what it was she said or asked me, and before I knew it "I'm sorry?" popped out of my mouth while smiling, of course. Whenever I revert to English I always kind of smile because I feel somewhat guilty/embarrassed for having to use English! However, this girl was so surprised to suddenly be confronted with the need to use English, she blubbered something else unintelligible, got into her cash drawer, handed me my change with visibly shaking hands, and then said "Thank you!" really fast and threw the receipt away without asking me if I wanted it. J even stepped up to try and save it by saying something to the girl really fast in Swedish but she was so shocked/scared that she just gave me the change without responding to him.

I was astonished at how afraid she was to suddenly have to speak English. I'm glad I was able to keep my face composed! As soon as we were out of the store I said to J, "Did you see how scared she was??" because I thought maybe I was the only one to notice. But he completely agreed with me and could not believe at all how frightened she was by me and how her hands were actually shaking! We had a really, really good laugh in the car on the way home. For once I was the one who wasn't afraid of the Swedes (about language) - they were afraid of me! I almost felt guilty for scaring her so badly. J even said he didn't catch what she said to me in Swedish, so I felt better for not understanding her the first time she spoke. Usually I can catch simple things. Of course when she began fiddling with the change in the drawer I immediately figured out that she wanted just 2 more kronor so that she could give me an even 20 bill back, but by then she was chaotically counting out my 18kr.

It's quite interesting gauging how different Swedes will react to an American speaking English. At first I used to be so shy of speaking English in public, it made me feel guilty/embarrassed and of course it made me stand out! Which I really don't like. I'm completely over that fear now. And besides, like I said, I can usually get by in Swedish now. But it's always interesting to see the different reactions. Sometimes you can tell they get really excited to be able to show off their English skills to an American. There was a woman in one of the local post shops, it also happens to be a gift/decoration store, who overheard my friend M and I once talking about something and the woman jumped in on our conversation in English. Then there are times like yesterday where they are so shocked to be confronted by English that they become tongue tied and super shy!

If anything, J and I had a really good laugh.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer is here!

Things are moving along!

First of all it's June, officially a summer month here in Sweden! Hooray for summer!

I have passed course C in SFI with flying colors, yay! On to course D! I'm especially excited to have received new books/study material. Already they've appeared much more difficult so I'll be learning a lot again!

Other big news: I'm traveling home for 3 weeks!! I'll be gone mid-June to early July. So I may not have many (or any!) posts here within that time period as I will not be in Sweden and thus not be able to blog about Swedish life! But we shall see. One thing I am somewhat sad about is I'm going to miss my first opportunity for Swedish Midsommar. I guess no dancing around a giant pole and eating lots of herring for me. I could always belatedly eat herring, I suppose. However, I will get to celebrate the 4th of July and my birthday while at home! So I guess it's a trade off.

On yet another note, we have a 5 day weekend here in Sweden! I'm sure some people don't have the glorious 5 days and will actually have to work tomorrow. Today is a national holiday called Ascension Day, or Kristi himmelsfärds dag. Again, my suggestions for Google Chrome or Google Translate. Tomorrow is just a normal day, but the Swedes have dubbed it klämdag, or literally translated, squashed-in or clamped-in day. It makes sense if you think about it after you've had a bit of a chuckle. It's the day squashed in between the holiday and the weekend. Some will be required to work. But if you can, might as well take the day off!

Also this coming Monday is Sweden's National Day, basically their version of the 4th of July for Americans. I don't think they celebrate it nearly as robustly as we celebrate our 4th of July, but I'll be sure to report back later on that one. I say hooray for a 5 day weekend!

This past Monday J had a meeting in Göteborg in the morning, so I decided to tag along and plug along with my Swedish books while he was in his meeting. In the afternoon we spent some time in the city. The weather was beautiful and warm. Here are a couple of pictures to leave with you:

This is the ferry boat you take across the...harbor?, so that you can get to the other side and go downtown from the island we were on. They're basically like city buses but for water!

As we were walking to the ferry landing I noticed the big ship going by. I realized I've never seen a cruise ship up close. Many run out of Göteborg to go to Denmark or Norway or the such.

I liked the houses perched on the giant granite rock. These miniature mountains come out of the ground everywhere on the west coast.

The nice, brand new apartment complexes in the Sannegården area of the city.

There are many of these little canals in the city. Little tourist boats called Paddan go around and under all the really low bridges telling about the city. J and I may like to go on one sometime.

These last 3 pictures are of the Haga district. It's a fun old part of town where there are many shops and little cafes to sit out and enjoy the weather or have a nice fika.