It is something that millions of us might aspire to – the adventure and romance of living abroad. And while for some, it is all of that, with travel to nearby foreign countries, new friends and new languages, there are ways in which living abroad can break your heart – no matter how effortlessly you have managed to fit in to your host country.
Being away means exactly that. So when there are funerals or weddings which take place in your home country and you can’t go, either due to work or financials, it can be a devastatingly lonely event. It might not even be something as traumatic as a death or as joyful as a marriage. It could simply be that one day you are walking down the street and are struck by a memory – an all consuming heart-wrenching knowledge that someone you love very dearly is 3,582 miles away.Read More»
When contemplating a move to Sweden, one can be quite mistaken in thinking that the Scandinavian culture will be somewhat similar to one’s own. This, I find, is especially true of expats and foreigners who come from the US, Britain, Australia, and Canada. We assume that we are moving to a country which will allow us to integrate with ease into a multicultural, white – yet diversified – and progressive society. When we find that cultural mores and differences stand in stark contrast to our own, confusion reigns. There is complaining. Many experience culture shock. There are those who rebel. Some of us become very depressed, and some just get lost between the cracks. Integration into Sweden does not come with a guide book or instruction manual. Until now …
Julien S. Bourrelle, founder of Mondå, seeks to connect people and provide a light in which to guide Swedophiles toward a more satisfying and successful integration. His new book, A Social Guide to Sweden, is a much needed resource for people hoping to understand Sweden and her sometimes rather odd character. Not only for foreigners, the book also shines a light on Scandinavian nuances which will enlighten many a Swede as to how they are perceived by the outside world, and it illuminates the challenges faced by those who seek a new life in the Nordic nation.Read More»
It’s ugly to think about domestic violence. It’s uglier to experience it.
For many months, I have had this post on a back burner – not because the topic isn’t critically important, but because every time I began work on the post I found myself without the strength to continue. It’s time to write about it.
I want to share this information because I’m sure many of you will find the statistics on domestic violence in Sweden surprising. More importantly, I write because I know the readership of this blog – most in my audience are those who are contemplating a move to Sweden or have already arrived. There are those who might need the following information – desperately. It is for you I write.
Abuse comes in many forms. All are abhorrent. It can be physical, mental, emotional, or verbal. It is carried on in secret. It happens behind closed doors. It leaves its victims shattered, and forever altered. And it is extremely prevalent in Sweden.
The European Union published their report, Violence Against Women Across the EU, March 2014. “The highest percentage of victims of violence against women are in northern Europe: Denmark (52%), Finland (47%) and Sweden (46%).”
Euronews reported on Feb 22, 2013, “Until a few years ago, violence against women in Sweden was almost a hidden subject even in a country often rated number 1 when it comes to gender equality. Violence is on the rise. Every three weeks a woman is Sweden is killed by a man close to her. Last year, the police said a total of 35 thousand cases of violence were reported.” (See the video here.)
In America, we have 24 hour DV hotlines with a full-time staff. Support is immediately available. In Sweden, we have “calling hours” and more often than not hotlines are merely answering machines. Most crisis centers are not manned on weekends or holidays – exactly the time when crisis centers should be manned.
There are two national hotlines, one is available 24 hours a day. There are 161 women’s shelters and at least 631 shelter places available. A recent study showed that currently (as of 2014) 32% of the recommended sheltered places are absent. During 2012, 2,287 women and 1,961 children were accommodated, while 4,089 women and children could not be accommodated over the same period. *This information provided by Women Against Violence Europe in their 2014 report.
In 2014, I placed phone calls to two Gothenburg help centers. I explained to their voice mail service that I was a journalist working on a story in which to provide women-in-need the verified phone numbers and website addresses to their organization. Neither center returned my call. I followed up with emails. Neither center responded.
Here is a video of a “social experiment” conducted by Swedish organization STHLM Panda showing people ignoring domestic abuse witnessed while riding in an elevator. Fifty-three people got on to the elevator, only one reacted to stop the abuse.
Much has been written about the number of refugees and immigrants arriving in Sweden. They come because they have had to flee their home country. They come for love. They come for promises of a better life.
But what happens when that immigrant comes from their home country to find their dreams annihilated by abuse. The woman from Thailand who was promised marriage and an idyllic lifestyle in utopian Sweden, only now to find herself isolated, threatened, and bruised. The 27 year old who comes from Australia for love and finds herself not yet knowing the Swedish language or the culture and is unable to call for help. The man from Canada who relocates and now finds himself humiliated, or perhaps even beaten, and is lost on how to express his situation. Abuse in a relationship often happens fast – perhaps not in time for the immigrant to learn the language, the culture, or to create a support system.
Those who have been granted a temporary residence permit based on the status of their relationship are often afraid (or unable) to report the crimes of violence for fear of being deported. This is known as the “Two Year Rule”. Should the relationship terminate, the immigrant’s residence status is put into jeopardy. She finds herself between two very bad alternatives – Be deported or deal with the abuse. So many stay, they endure, some feel they have little choice. They hope they can survive until they are granted a permanent residence permit after two years.
While you can read many articles and many reports on this topic – they provide statistics and ideas for improvement – they rarely provide resources.
Here are the resources. May you never have to use them.
• Sweden Emergency Phone Number: 112
Hotline: 020-52 10 10
Besökadress: Lorenbergsgatan 18
Postadress: Box 53268, 400 16 Göteborg
Terrafem is a nonprofit organization working for women’s and girls’ right to live without male violence and dominance. The organization was formed in March 2000 and operates the only nationwide hotline for women of foreign descent. Terrafem also has a lawyer on call and offers assistance apartments.
Hotline: 020-50 50 50
A national helpline for people who have been subjected to threats and violence. If you are a relative or friend you are also welcome to call. We are open round the clock and you call us for free no matter where you live in Sweden. Your call will not be visible on your phone bill. The staff is Swedish-speaking but will use an interpreter when necessary. Please hold while the interpreter is being connected. It may take up to 15 minutes.
If you are American
Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center
International Toll-Free 866-USWOMEN
Embassies by Country: http://www.government.se/sb/d/5616
Writer/photographer Lisa Mikulski. Available for print or online publications and business in the Nordic region, Europe, and the U.S. Editorial, features, marketing copy, and public relations. Contact me here or at lisa @ 2sweden4love.com
The following conversation is one between myself, and two North American expats, Nelson Neville and Jenna Lee Iwanchuk. This chat was in response to several of the recent articles I had written regarding foreign educated immigrants and Sweden’s learning curve on multiculturalism. Nelson is a resident of Sweden, presently living and working in Borås. He has lived in Sweden for 19 years and originally comes from Baltimore, Maryland. Jenna Lee Iwanchuk has lived and studied in Göteborg for the last two years. Her home country is Canada. She has recently started her own business.
Lisa Mikulski: We all come from countries and environments where open opinions and ideas are very much valued. It is still my whole hearted belief that conversation, and the exchange of ideas, is a good and true start toward any given problem and its ultimate solution. Recently the Gothenburg Daily called into question as to whether Gothenburg is a “Dead City.” The article was based upon a recent report published by Västsvenska Handelskammaren, entitled Tron på Göteborg. Västsvenska Handelskammaren’s report sights many issues which plague the harbor city in terms of immigration, infrastructure, housing, and a general lack of openness to new ideas, people, and cultures.
Nelson Neville: Lisa, I agree with the issues you have raised in your articles and have been saying the same for months. Despite Sweden’s good intentions, there are some fundamental issues which I see as having gone awry here in Sweden.
The first thing is that Swedes really don’t want to talk about anything that can turn emotional or into a disagreement. There is simply an unwillingness to discuss an issue to acknowledge its existence or what can be done, as individuals, to help in a larger movement.
Secondly, race and multiculturalism are two separate things and both are foreign to even the most liberal of native caucasian Swedes. They have not been exposed personally to either of these things because they have had such a homogeneous population for untold generations. This is all new for them. And in all things unfamiliar, you can only speak from a third-party perspective until you are involved in the life and exposed to multicultural environments.Read More»
Ahhh… the holidays. It’s always a peaceful time for me. I’m not sure why but when December rolls around, I find myself falling into place. A gentle seasonal biorhythm, if you will, where I assess the past and regroup for the future. It is calm knowing.
I do a lot of dreaming, thinking and planning. I do a lot of writing and reading. And, I include the use of The-Done-List, a creation of my own making. I wrote about the beauty of that here. Rather than a to-do list, which I also use, The-Done-List, shows me a list of everything I’ve accomplished. It’s like a to-do list in reverse, and it’s wonderfully empowering not to mention satisfying. You can create a Done-List for the year, to see your accomplishments. Or for a day.Read More»