January 16th, 2010



American Liz - "You never want to say that you are the best, even when you are!"

Then & why I came here: My dad was in the military and our family lived quite awhile in Europe when I was a teenager. I longed to go back. Luckily, I fell in love with a European, a Swedish man. We met in Chicago, USA and in 1997 decided to move to Sweden.

One of the first things I learned when I came to Sweden was the word "fika". I've never met a people with such a love of cookies and pastries. Even the coffee breaks at work included sweets. A very pleasant habit, I think! The only time it goes overboard is when you have just eaten a delicious 3-course meal...and then fika is served. But, we just HAD dessert (and why doesn't anyone else react?, I wonder quietly to myself).

Swedes are really good at working together and getting things done. Although it can sometimes take awhile to get going...because you always have to get everyone's input before you can begin. No one wants to make a decision and tell the others what to do.

Another job-related thing: Casual Friday doesn't exist here, and it's not needed, since it's okay to wear jeans to work every day. Fantastic! I like the Swede's relaxed relationship to clothing. People aren't as obsessed with their image here.

On the other hand, I don't understand why salaries are not related to performance when it comes to raises. It feels like raises are a little random. No matter whether you do an excellent job or a half-bad one, it seems you get about the same raise regardless.

The Jante Law is the absolute strangest idea I've ever heard of. First I thought it was a joke, because it goes against everything you learn in the US. In America best is always best. Here you shouldn't consider yourself better than others, or be proud of having better grades or say that someone has a nicer house, even when it's newly painted, even if it is clearly nicer than the neighbor's old facade. And those who say they are good at something are bragging, which is considered ugly, even if they are only stating a fact. The strangest example of this is when you are job-hunting; not even then should you say that you are better than others. But uuuh, how are you supposed to get a job then?

My American girlfriends and I have talked about this before and still haven't figured out how one would formulate a truly Swedish resume.

Another strange custom that goes on here is celebrations. Why do Swedes celebrate every holiday the evening before? They celebrate Christmas the evening before, on Christmas Eve. Same with Epiphany, Easter, even Midsummer! I don't get it.

The Swedes' relationship to church is also peculiar. One should absolutely get married in, and have children baptized in, the church, even though at the same time no one wants to admit to being at all religious. Hmmm...

If there is any completely sure conversational subject in Sweden, it's talking about the weather, probably because it actually does change every five minutes. Money, on the other hand, shouldn't be discussed. Asking someone what they earn is taboo. It is in the US as well, but that doesn't stop anyone!

What Liz Thinks

Best About Sweden/Swedes: The Swedish system. In comparison with America, it's not at all as stressful here, and you have more time for your family.

Strangest Thing I Discovered About Swedes When I First Moved Here: When everyone at a party goes around and introduces themselves to everyone else, no matter how many people have arrived before them.

Most Peculiar Thing About Swedes: That so many love "shlager".

Most Irritating: That some people think all Americans think the same. "Americans are like this" they say, and I get the blame for what the politicians do. They demand, even at a party, that I defend American politics. But will they take responsibility for everything Reinfeldt or Sahlin does/says?

Bizarre Swedish Tradition: Watching Donald Duck Disney Special on Christmas Eve. Most of the segments don't even have anything to do with Christmas...

How to Shock a Swede: Be loud. Dance and sing in public—people will think you've lost your mind, haha!

Strangest Swedish Food: Salt licorice. Completely incomprehensible.

View/Read the article in Swedish
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