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»
I try to capture images which tell a story. That story might be an emotional story, or the story of a place, or person. Over the last three years in Göteborg, I’ve captured many beautiful images – flowers, architecture, people, city scenes. I endeavor for my photography to have a certain aesthetic appeal, and this has often translated into showing beautiful Göteborg.
But the city of Göteborg can be a lonely place. I believe that any city can feel this way – regardless of a person’s mindset. But I think it can be especially difficult for expats who often find isolation from friends and family to be nearly debilitating. Göteborg is, after all, a city where just making eye contact with a stranger is frowned upon. For many months of the year, it is dark and it is rainy.
“Every day’s a endless stream of cigarettes and magazines”
Every city has a dichotomy of good and bad, bright and dark, lovely and gritty. I rarely show the gritty, lonely side of the city in which I live. Not because I think the images don’t maintain a certain aesthetic standard, but because I fear that the images might be too private for public consumption – they might tell my story.Read More»
- Health. There are a good many American expats who complain that Sweden provides less healthy choices than their home country. I just simply don’t believe it. While America may provide many more options and brands on their supermarket and retail shelves, Sweden is an extremely healthy culture. To not take advantage of the active and nature loving lifestyle is to miss out on many benefits of healthy living. The air is clean. The drinking water is magnificent. And the foods are not filled with pink slim and chemical processing. This year, I will be pursuing a more healthy attitude. More outdoor time. More exercise. Better eating. Good living.
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»
Jante Law is said to describe Swedish mentality. I think this mindset would be considered quite unusual in other parts of the modern world, but I leave you to consider the following for yourself.
Jante Law in English
- You shall not think that you are something.
- Do not think you’re as good as us.
- You shall not think that you are smarter than us.
- Do not fool yourself that you’re better than us.
- You shall not think that you know more than we do.
- You shall not think that you are more important than we are.
- You shall not think that you are good at anything.
- Thou shalt not laugh at us.
- Do not think anyone cares about you.
- You shall not think that you can learn something.
There is an eleventh “commandment” that is usually called “Jante penal”. It is a veiled threat in the form of “Do not you think I know something about you? ‘.
Jantelagen på svenska
- Du skall inte tro att du är något.
- Du skall inte tro att du är lika god som vi.
- Du skall inte tro att du är klokare än vi.
- Du skall inte inbilla dig att du är bättre än vi.
- Du skall inte tro att du vet mer än vi.
- Du skall inte tro att du är förmer än vi.
- Du skall inte tro att du duger till något.
- Du skall inte skratta åt oss.
- Du skall inte tro att någon bryr sig om dig.
- Du skall inte tro att du kan lära oss något.
- Det är ett förtäckt hot i form av ”Tror du inte att jag vet något om dig?”.
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