Thursday, June 7, 2012

Is it really June?

So June has finally come around, but sadly it doesn't feel like it when you consider the weather.  That entire week of 25 - 27 C (up to 80F) two weeks ago in May very well could have been the Swedish summer, come and gone.  Nowadays it's only been around 12 - 14C (50s F).

Yesterday, though, was the Sweden's National Day and so everyone had the day off.  It was mostly sunny here in Gothenburg so there were definitely some people outside grilling and enjoying having a day off in the middle of the week.  J and I have been discussing that phenomenon lately, as I've realized in the US we just don't have that occurrence.  Our holidays almost always occur on "the first Monday of September" (Labor Day) and thus people have a 3 day weekend instead of having the work week kind of ruined/split up by having a holiday based on a date instead of a first Monday, or last Thursday of a month.  Lately there seem to have been a ton of "red days" (holidays, where you don't work, in other words) right in the middle of the week.  The 17th of May was a red day, and that occurred on a Thursday.  So what happens?  At least half of the Swedish work force decides to just take Friday off as well and make a nice 4 day weekend.  I'm all about taking an opportunity, relaxing, and making a nice 4 day weekend out of something.  But J has made a solid point when we've been discussing - he can't get stuff done at work that he needs to get done because lately he hasn't been able to count on people to be there.  He has a kind of job where he can't just up and take days off like a common office job would easily make possible.

Nevertheless, yesterday was Sweden's National Day, but we (J and I) didn't really do anything to celebrate it.  We relaxed and enjoyed the day for part of the day (hooray for getting to sleep in) and then I used the day to play catch up on my schoolwork and he used it to play catch up on some actual work work.  It seems to be somewhat of a debatable topic, Swedens National Day, as I read a letter in GP sent in by a reader on Tuesday who was complaining about how Sweden isn't anything to celebrate until there is equality for all in the country.  That's to put it in a nutshell.  For Swedes, they just never had to fight or win their independence from anyone so it just seems to not be much of a deal here at all.  Before 1983 the 6th of June was just known as Swedish Flag Day.  That year, however, the Swedish Riksdagen (Sweden's version of Congress) deemed the day to be called Sveriges Nationaldag (Sweden's National Day).  You would think since then they would have it as an actual red day, or a day off from work, but no.  Only since 2005 have Swedes been able to have the day off from work.

From what I can gather it seems as if they are still trying to figure out how to celebrate the day, as there just aren't really emotions tied to the day the way other countries are about their own national days.  As an American it is quite strange to see a country handle its own national day so nonchalantly.  We, of course, go all out with our grill parties, game playing and last but certainly not least, fireworks.  But I don't think you need to have gone through bloody wars to celebrate your country.  No place will ever be perfect, there are some parts about the US that I prefer to here, and vice versa.  That being said, Sweden has quite a good international standing, some would argue it has one of the best health care systems regarding the fact that all have access to receiving healthcare, and I could sit here and list things on and on that people would say is good about it.  The point is, just take a moment appreciate where you live if you choose to stay because there is a reason you're choosing to stay.  How many people a year come to Sweden to get away from a worse life in their own home lands?  Sweden isn't all that bad, and I hear a lot of criticism and complaints coming from its own native citizens.  I encourage constructive criticism, otherwise how would anything ever improve?  But I suppose as an outsider looking in, coming from another top country, there is still a lot to be happy about and celebrate about Sweden.  Why not have a day to celebrate and appreciate the country?

On a completely different note, J and I have been busy bees lately regarding weekend activities and it seems it won't ever stop until halfway through July!  A couple of weeks ago we went to Skövde to celebrate a friend's birthday.  This past weekend we went to Tibro to celebrate a dear couple's wedding together with them.  By the way, it was my first time to a Swedish wedding and I found it rather lovely.  The ceremony didn't last way too long by the priest being long-winded, and he wisely didn't try to win the crowd over by being excessively cheesy in his jokes.  Sure he threw some jokes in there but they were short and actually funny!  I suppose that's Swedish succinctness for you.  There was the traditional wedding march, but with that came the bride and the groom in together down the aisle.  There were a couple of prayers as a normal Christian wedding in the US, and a couple of church hymns sung as well.  But I liked the hymns because as we got through them they were basically just singing about how happy and glad it is when it's spring and summer time with the trees and flowers blossoming.  Who couldn't be happy about that?  Well besides those of you with terrible allergies, at least the blossoms are beautiful!  The ceremony lasted about 30 minutes and then it was outside to throw rice on the newlyweds and off to the reception.  During the reception we sang some weddings songs in traditional Swedish we-have-to-sing-traditional-songs-that-everyone-somehow-learns-growing-up-for-every-single-occasion fashion.  I still find it delightful and charming that Swedes somehow have these songs for what seems to me every occasion.  My first encounter of this was my first visit here back in the summer of 2010 when J took me to a kräftskiva at his parents' house and they had made their own pamphlets of songs to be sung while drinking schnapps shots.  It was delightful.

This is a picture of the church where the wedding was held.  It was built in 1839, so really it's a relatively new church.  I enjoyed the architecture, the inside was simple yet still had a beauty to it.

This coming weekend it's back to the Tibro/Skövde for a third time in a row!  This time we're in for a kusinträff, or "cousin meet" if you want to be literal about it.  J's dad's cousins all wanted to have a big get together since it's been so long that they've all seen one another.  I like J's family though, they're a bunch of fun and jokesters, so at least it's not something to dread the way traditional family reunions seem to be, in the US anyway (or am I alone on that?).  Then in the upcoming weeks we've been booked by J's parents who want to come down to the GBG to visit us here, also there is a big Midsommar celebration in the middle there where we are invited to a summer house located out on the west coast about an hour and half drive from where we live, and my birthday/good friend M's bachelorette party will be coinciding on the same day in the beginning of July.  Lastly, we've heard about a get together a couple of our friends in Norway are wanting to throw in the middle of July, so there could be a good chance for me of finally getting to see that lovely country, as well.  Talk about a full plate!

J says he may have me work a bit today as well, but at least that will be from home where I won't have to spend time commuting back and forth (when I take the bus, or buses, to work it takes about 50 minutes each way, whereas a car ride takes about 15).  As I'm a bit behind on my schoolwork, though, I think I'll be getting to that!


Fredrik Andersson said...

I read the same letter in the paper. What a load of whining!
When it comes to the lukewarm celebrations it has to do with politics. The left in this country has at least since WW2 viewed every overt form of traditional patriotism as suspicious. They've based their own smug form of patriotism on the merit of their reforms (välfärdsstaten/folkhemmet) and not on a more subjective sense of love of home and togetherness as a people. That's why alot of Swedes often brag to foreigners about how Sweden is so great because of X material thing that the government provides while at the same time composing air headed letters to papers complaining about how Sweden is a rotten place because the latest batch of left-wing reforms haven't been implemented yet. I hope that this hollow and jingoistic ("our way is superior to all other societies and the world should imitate us") form of Swedish patriotism will disappear and give way to the more traditional form. The slow increase in events on June 6th seems to indicate that things are changing in that direction.

Jessica said...

I agree, Fredrik, it was a load of whining!

I've taken that up with some Swedes that I know, how it seems like a two sided coin sometimes from what I can see - people do say Sweden is great to foreigners and yet then they turn around and really complain about the government or how something is just crappy. What I've come up with several individuals is that some Swedes seem to feel a sense of entitlement, that the government will and should take care of everything for them and when it for some reason doesn't is when they begin the whining and complaining.

But that article in particular I remember reading about the writer complaining about equality between genders and stuff more like that. I think Sweden is one of the very hardest working countries towards gender equality, far more so than the US. It almost feels overkill with how much women are expected to be strong and all that comes with it. Ok, well, overall we agree it was just a giant load of whining =)

Fredrik Andersson said...

I'm glad we're in agreement. :)
Maybe the proverb "mycket vill ha mer" sums it up pretty well.

Anyway I wanted to comment on the church as well. It's what's called (with some derision) a Tegnerlada after the poet and bishop Esaias Tegner (and lada=barn). He lived and worked during the first half of the 19th century during a time when Swedens counrtyside population was increasing rapidly. Many old (often medieval) churches were becoming too small for their parishes and were demolished to give space for this type of large church, often with very plain interiors in contrast to earlier churches. Tegner was a strong proponent of these new churches and today they are probably the most common type of church in Sweden. I find most of them boring compared to my own parish church (built 1727), where the whole ceiling is painted with images from the Bible complete with a hell where drunkards and card-players end up. Whenever you're bored with the service the building provides you with a comic book, it's great! :D

Jessica said...

That's a nice little history lesson! I love finding out how things came to be. Driving between Skövde and Gbg I've noticed countless churches like that. I've also noticed a rather old church here in town over in the Örgryte area I believe, a bit southwest of where we live. I forget exactly the year it was built but it's definitely an older one...

Just outside of Skövde there is also Våmb church which is still standing, it was built in the 1100s. I suppose I just enjoy comparing all the architecture Sweden has to offer =)