“We don’t like to talk about these things,” a Swedish friend tells me. “It only upsets us … and none of my friends would want to talk about it either. Please, let’s just leave it alone.”
This quote was provided as a friend and I were attempting to discuss immigration and politics. My friend wishes to remain anonymous, but this mindset seems to be a popular one here in Sweden (and one that I’ve heard before) where it is better to not talk about such things. The conversation, or lack thereof, resulted from a story I had recently read at The Local – Sweden.
The article in question was an op-ed piece written by Iranian – Swedish politician, Sepideh Erfani, who didn’t know how to respond to her daughter when asked “Mum, I’m Swedish, right?“. It was stunning to me that this woman would not know how to respond to her child, and it highlights the identity crisis many are facing here …. Either you are Swedish or you are not.
It’s just not that black and white. I say this as a Polish, English, Welsh, Irish, white American expat now living in Sweden.Read More»
My Swedish Valentine. Tonight, my man and I will be celebrating Valentine’s Day or Alla Hjärtans Dag. We are a multicultural couple; him a Finn born in Sweden, and me born and raised in the U.S. We enjoy embracing the celebration of each others holidays. This makes for a lot of celebrating, but that is just fine by us.
There are already quite a number of holidays celebrated in Sweden, so you wouldn’t think they would need to adopt another one. But that is just what they did. Much like the adoption of Halloween here in Sweden, Valentine’s Day is a relatively new holiday, albeit not an official one.
Alla hjärtans dag began here sometime during the 1960s by florists hoping to promote sales, but it wasn’t until the 80s when the holiday began to be popular. The notion of florists hoping to increase sales is surprising to me because I see flower vendors and floral boutiques on every street corner in Gothenburg. Ladies and gentlemen, often carry bouquets to and from the city and it doesn’t seem to matter if a holiday is involved or not. The purchase of flowers appears to be a beloved cultural past-time in Göteborg. I fully support this!
There are those among us who reject Valentine’s Day believing that is it over commercialized and simply another excuse for holiday spending. Commercialization of the holiday is quite true in the U.S., in fact, you just can’t avoid it there. But here in Sweden the holiday takes on a sweeter and more romantic feel. A quiet evening spent together, flowers, a bit of champagne, or maybe even an evening out for dinner. We are not hit over the head with the holiday … Just a few reminders in store front windows and the occasional newspaper advertisement. But make no mistake, it is a popular holiday indeed.
Of course, every day should be a day of appreciation for those we love. I’m not here to argue the ethics of Valentine’s Day. For me, I adore it. I also appreciate the awareness which the holiday brings to those who might sometimes forget to let their loved ones know how much they are appreciated. But for today, without analysis or complaint, let’s just celebrate Love.
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone! – Glad alla hjärtans dag allihopa!
And a special shout out to my beloved, Jag älskar dig.
Sweden is on a multicultural learning curve. With a liberal and accepting policy on immigration, Sweden opens it’s arms to thousands of immigrants and refugees from around the world. People flock here to find relief, a better life, work, and the opportunity for Swedish utopia. But once attempting to make a life on the Scandinavian soil, some immigrants find they flounder. It isn’t necessarily because of a language barrier or because they aren’t trying to look for work.Read More»
I always seem to forget how wondrous New Year’s fireworks can be. I don’t even give them much thought until I hear the booms and pops which commence maybe 15 minutes before the stroke of midnight. This is especially true for me here in Gothenburg.
My guy and I usually stay home and celebrate the coming new year in a quiet way. A little champagne, some snacks, and then I usually fall to sleep. I am always awoken by Tapani as he strokes my arm and wishes me a Happy New Year. Outside I can see the flashes of fire in the sky, both near and far away. The explosions which send my kittens for cover, remind me that a bright new year is in store for us.
In our neighborhood we get the effects of the night sky celebration from our immediate neighborhood and also from the celebratory show coming from the city. Green, pink, red, and blue descend on us from every direction. Even our next door neighbors are out in the night, setting off their own versions of rockets and sparklers. We all gather together on our balconies to gaze at the sky. It is a night filled with promise.
This year, I have done a lot of thinking on what I envision for the upcoming year. I have a much better grasp of my new reality here in Sweden and a positive outlook on how I will make my dreams a reality. I have goals … not those stupid new year resolutions that no one can seem to keep, but actual real life goals with deadlines, plans, and action points. I will meet my goals.
How about you? If you could light a fire in the sky, what color would it be? How are you going to emblazon your own personal new year?
Gott Nytt År Alla!
It was many years ago, when as a teenager, I told a friend, “I don’t watch the news”. The reply I received was, “That’s because you are uptight.”
I don’t know why but this statement has stayed with me for a lifetime. At some point after the “uptight” statement, I became, like my mother, a news junkie. I loved the rush of breaking news and the behind-the-scenes glimpses we got via our news casts. I loved that via the news I could travel anywhere in the world and learn something new. I consumed a daily diet of the stuff, on a variety of networks, pretty much on a 24 hour schedule. Yes, I even listened to CNN while I slept.
And then something happened. I realized that the sounds in my house consisted mostly of explosions, sirens, and political shouting matches. I was getting really REALLY anxious. Was I uptight, I wondered? Four years ago, I ditched my cable TV subscription and switched to written news via the numerous sources on the Internet. Reading the news was a much more quiet activity and I was allowed to select which articles and videos I wanted to digest. It was often an issue with me on how the American media broadcast only those stories of American Interest. I sought a much broader spectrum of information. The Internet gave me this.
On December 14th, a Friday in the late afternoon, T and I sat in a cozy pub drinking wine and discussing what our plans were for the upcoming weekend and week ahead. We spoke of work, cooking, and wrapping Christmas presents. There was snow on the ground, a bit of a chill in the air, and for all intents and purposes, a lovely holiday atmosphere embraced us. It wasn’t until I checked my cell phone upon arriving back at our apartment that I saw the breaking news alerts from Newtown Connecticut. I have always been aware of an odd feeling when learning of a tragic event knowing that at that given point in time, I was sipping wine, perhaps shopping for new slippers or some other menial task, and the world was experiencing a life shattering event. I opened up my computer and sat on that Friday night for the next 8 hours watching the news streamed to me from the US to Sweden. I was mindful of my client who lived in Newtown. I watched the news for glimpses of her face, praying I would not see her, and I sat stone cold not knowing if I should contact her or not.
Saturday and Sunday saw the same thing. T and I sitting in front of the computer, SVT and whatever other news source we could find, gathering bits of information and trying to piece together how on earth this event involving 20 first graders could have come to be.
By Tuesday, I couldn’t take anymore. I shut down the news and went to work instead. Am I uptight, I wondered? Wednesday morning, checking the news via my Facebook account, I am confronted with updates to Newtown, a photo of a burned puppy requesting donations for animal care, several articles on mental illness and gun control, photos of 20 little faces, and news from Göteborg about a student uprising. There comes a point when it all just becomes too much.
We have become overly burdened with too much input and sometimes I think we don’t know well enough when to shut it off. Can we, in fact, shut it off? Back in the day, we were exposed to bad news via our TV, radio and the news stand. Today bad news and disturbing images assault us from everywhere. Of course, these issues of gun control and mental illness must be discussed and the news provides us information and learning (if indeed we can sift out the hype), but as individuals we need time to process. We need time out. We need space for quiet reflection and yes perhaps to even go and bake some cookies. In the words of my client who posted on Monday, “Give a hug, plant a flower, sing a song, or paint a picture – bring beauty back into the world!” Yes.
As I sit here writing this post, I am torn between two paths of action. 1. Shut down the news, social media and my cellphone. I have done this in the past and enjoyed the sound of silence and a gentle peacefulness of mind. It was therapeutic. Or 2. Head to my accounts and post beautiful photos of happy things to share with the world. I think I’m going with option #1. There will be plenty of time to discuss, learn, argue and maybe even post something lovely in the days to come. But for now, I think we should all take time to clear our heads, process the grief, and thoughtfully consider the future.