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ALL OF US ARE FOREIGNERS SOMEWHERE
I don't think about the fact that I'm a foreigner and an immigrant very often. I've assimilated quite well here, and frankly it wasn't all that difficult. I've got lots of advantages in the immigrant deck of cards: I'm Caucasian, I'm educated, I speak English. I come from the US and I came because of a Swede. I'm not a refugee, even though I'm jokingly classed as a "love refugee" by a certain subset of expats. I have a job so I can contribute to taxes that keep this country running. I learned to speak Swedish quickly and fairly easily. I LIKE it here, and it shows. I rarely, if ever, badmouth Sweden or Swedish behavior.

We had company the other night and during one conversation in which the words utlänningar (foreigners) and invandrare (immigrants) were thrown about rather casually, in not so flattering ways, I restrained myself from pointing out that I was both. I think it's too easy for people to forget that, sometimes, even though it's all too easy to hear it in my accent when I open my mouth in Swedish.

Because I don't wear a veil or drive a taxi or sponge off the government, I don't earn the negative stripe those labels can, unfortunately, all too easily acquire. Someone made a comment about the fact that all the taxi drivers are foreigners. And I thought, well maybe, but isn't that the same EVERYWHERE? When you come to a country as an adult, especially if you are a refugee, and even more especially if you are from a region that is not looked upon as supplying the right KIND of immigrants, no matter how educated you might be or how hard you try to fit in, driving a taxi might be the only option that opens to you.

And I know plenty of white American educated people here who haven't had it all that easy assimilating: who haven't been able to learn the language well, or find a job, despite years in Sweden. It's easy to be negative both ways when things don't go the way you expect them too, and when people don't fit into your expectations.

I don't mind being an immigrant and a foreigner, though my back does sometimes get up when I hear people (usually at work) badmouthing Americans, as if we're all the same, and their annoyance with someone's behavior somehow justifies their stereotyping. I know my colleagues in other countries probably do the same thing about the Swedes here at our corporate headquarters.

It's too small a world, full of too many people, to allow these kinds of cultural snobberies to dominate. We all have something to give and something to bring to the place we're in. Variety IS the spice of life.

***

The allergy treatment was awful and yet, not as bad as I expected, though it was bad enough, for someone who gags easily. They stuffed anesthetic-saturated gauze up each nostril for 10 minutes and then replaced them with fresh samples for another 10 minutes. I could actually breathe through them, but it was not a good feeling. Then, after the inside of my nose was sufficiently numb, they made me lie down on the gurney and they shot MORE anesthetic into each side with a THREE INCH NEEDLE. I closed my eyes immediately to avoid watching it loom at me. I couldn't feel it at all, thank God.

Then they stuck an electric probe thing inside and zapped the hell out of my nasal passages for a couple of seconds. And THEN, just when I thought everything was over, the doctor stuffed MORE gauze in each nostril, this time saturated with antibiotics to prevent infection and I had to keep it there for AN HOUR. Now I have to rinse my nose 3x a day with a saline solution.

GAH. This had better work, is all I'm saying.

***

And finally, while I was having ten tons of fun at the allergy clinic, Anders and the kids and his family were out driving around the east coast in the sunshine and at some point they stopped along the way and bought some refreshments, and Karin came home with this gum. I can't get a picture of HER wrapper because none of the cameras are cooperating, so I'm linking to someone else's, but WTH? I am equal parts amused and appalled :D Chicle CAMEL BALLS bubble gum. Liquid-filled!
 calm
mood: calm
music: Auburn—Perfect Two


Comments
From Megsie

Okay. That gum is gross. Liquid filled? Eww. But you are right it made me laugh... but still...gross.

I am so glad that your treatment is OVER. I am also glad that it wasn't PAINFUL. Whenever someone is doing something to your FACE it isn't good. I really hope it works for you! How long do you have to use the saline?

The "foreigners" discussion is so interesting. I never really thought about how you ARE ONE. (Probably since I am an egocentric American...) I completely agree with your assessment. Differences are hard to overcome when everyone is homogenous in your surroundings. Minnesota is much more diverse than when I was growing up. Back then it probably looked a lot like Sweden! I think my parents have a harder time with dealing with differences than I do, and my kids will have an easier time than me. (I hope!) All I can do is teach tolerance, and hope that their experiences teach them that everyone deserves respect and acceptance.

I still can't stop thinking about that gum...LIQUID FILLED...EWW.

Re: From Megsie

Karin said it was good (the gum) :) But I think I'll take her word for it.

I have to use the saline 3x a day for a week. It's DISGUSTING. How do people stand using neti pots?? ICK.

Minnesota was settled by lots of Scandinavians so I imagine it must feel, to a certain extent, like Sweden. It IS weird to think that i am a foreigner. :)

Southern Sweden makes me so sad sometimes, and I don't think I'll ever be wanting to live there again. I grew up there as a Swedish looking immigrant kid. My parents had thick polish accents and worked hard. Today, it is almost sort of considered nice to be a Polish immigrant in Sweden, particularly if you're educated and in professions as those of my parents..but I can tell you for a hard fact this was not the case 25 years ago and earlier. Today we have the middle East immigrants who can take the "heat" off from us "whiter" "blattar".

I would not have wanted to sit there with your in-laws either, I know exactly what it sounds like. And my father drove a cab while I was a little girl and while he was finishing his engineer degree.

I've had kurdish and lebanese and Iranian cab drivers recently in Sweden (middle sweden, thankfully, not Skåne) tell me about their background. One was a dentist, one a doctor and a third a teacher. What they have to put up with, driving clueless and self absorbed people around every day, I can't even imagine...

They weren't overtly horrible or racist about it...they were just commenting from their perspective. They're in their 80s so their feelings about foreigners don't surprise me...they've certainly seen a lot of changes in their lives.

I really appreciate your comment and perspective.

Edited at 2011-07-02 04:40 pm (UTC)

So glad to hear the allergy treatement went alright and was doable! How long for will you need to rinse your nose? That sounds like an odd thing to do! /giggles Bit like gurgling (how is that spelled anyway?) but then through your nose??

The gum made me laugh and I just had to show it to S. who went Eeeww! If I ran into something I like that I'd be like Anders and the kids and I would just have to buy a pack. I know who I would gift them too as well haha!

Immigrant/foreigner discussions can be tricky, and I never am one who likes them much. People too easily stereotype or speak before they really think about what it is they're saying.

3x a day for a week. UGH. It's so gross.

I agree with you about the trickiness of immigrant/foreigner discussions. It's not a subject I usually bring up, but it really struck me for some reason the other day.

(Anonymous)
Hello there

Your in-laws did not refer to you, which you noticed. They referred to the “third world” immigrants. You noticed in 2006 (at a homepage for Expats) that there were a rising dismay of African and MENA-immigrants. For being a (extremly) assimilated white American expat living in a middle class suburbia you were early and quite correct in your analysis. On the other hand do you live in Scania were xenophobia (I see it as a neutral concept) was rising early, especially in your municipality.

The reason why the concept “immigrant” is used is because the American discourse about “race” is taboo in Sweden; instead “immigrants” are used to describe people of other ethnicity then “Nordic-European”, including the religion and culture that follows.

The history of this country is that it has always been “Nordic”, when it has come to both people and culture. In 1970, Sweden was pretty much ethnically homogenous. The Swedish elite class, especially the media may not like that, but that is how Sweden was. Your in-laws lived in that Sweden and they have Sweden turned into something rather close to American demographics - were "race" has becoming a important political and social wathershed. It is natural, that they see, even third generations immigrants (not as fellow Swedes) but as immigrants.

Very few Swedes are racists in its orginal form, which World values survey show, but Swedes are concerned about a net immigration of around 100 000 people a year, many from non-western cultures, which many will never will assimilate.

In fact, it is the Swedish policy since 1975, not to assimilate immigrants; instead a policy best described as normative multiculturalism was institutionalized. This means that all immigrants should keep (and are encouraged to do so) their cultural and religious identity. There are two words for it “Ethnic separatism” or “cultural separatism”.

In the Swedish political discourse you are branded as a “racist” if you argue for assimilation. This makes no sense if you view it as an outsider, because USA and France have always had an “assimilation” policy. Maybe not towards national minorities, but well towards immigrants.

USA and France see ethnic separatism (which is the opposite too assimilation) as racism and those parties that argue for “ethnic separatism” are described as “extremists”.

In Sweden ethnic separatism if motivated through multiculturalism and therefore in the political mainstream. In contrast to USA and France, parties in Sweden (only one) that argue for assimilation are branded racists. In most countries civic (liberal) nationalism is in the mainstream – in Sweden it is regarded as “racism”.

One could make it more complex and a bit more political incorrect, though, but this is not a political blog so I let it be.

My point is just that your in-laws is not referring to you, they are referring to “third world” immigrants, because of those immigrants (as a group)tendencies not to assimilate. For the moment Sweden is going through an identity crisis – and as political sociologist specializing in “Multiculturalism” and “ethnic relations”, I’m pretty sure where we are heading and it will not be pretty.

But you, as an christian european-american, including all (ethnic)europeans living in the diaspora do not have to worry about anything, even though, european nationalist politicans and regular people speak negative about"immigrants". Personally, Im worried for my african born fiancee and our one year old son. But I also share the concerns for swedish cultural identity and the challange of descriptive multiculturalism.

But you all know this. :)

Erik H

Re: Hello there

Thanks for your comment and perspective. Food for thought, indeed. I think you are spot on about the way Americans view racism vs the way Swedes do. It's very un-PC in the US to bring this kind of thing up the way it regularly comes up here.

(Anonymous)

OMG ROFL send Bryce some!!!!

Seester

I don't know where it was she found them, but if I see them I definitely will. John could probably use some as well, right? :D

Eew is right! WHat were they thinking? And who thinks up these kinds of things anyway?

Yikes on the allergy treatment. Sounds invasive. I sure hope it works for you after all that gauze. DO keep us posted.
I rinse my nose & sinuses everyday (nearly) with a saline solution in a neti pot. It helps.

Interesting grist for the thought mill, your comments here about foreigners.

I would NEVER NEVER NEVER do this saline rinse if I didn't have to. I do not understand how you can stand to do the neti pot voluntarily every day! ICK EW ICK! haha! So many people swear by them and ...no. Just no.

its not so bad...
but not every day.

Try THREE TIMES every day. aaagh.

Re: Socialist!

Swedish overlords! hahahaha!

(Anonymous)

OMG That gum!!!!

-Heather

Karin brought home another pack yesterday. They are really brown. Disgusting!

nose torture

ohhh honey bunny-- I am so so sorry for all that nasty treatment--- after all that, I think Colin Firth should be in the recovery room to give you a nice foot massage, yes?

Re: nose torture

SOMEONE should certainly give me a foot massage! :D

(Anonymous)

I think that you are viewed as a "different immigrant" because you are white and from the US.
On time in my life, I also dated a Swede and was supposed to move to Sweden but my experience with the ex in-laws was different from yours...I was not accepted at all.
They were in their 70's and I was treated poorly by them. Unfortunately, my ex did not do anything about it and he never told me from the beginning that his father viewed all immigrants as people who come to "take advantage" of what Sweden has to offer.
The different between you and me is this: I am brownish Hispanic American (oh yes, I am a US citizen) and even though I was coming from the US, educated in the US, spoke English, they only saw my skin color and the fact that I was born in a Third World country.
So, I was not surprised by your in-laws comments because I experienced it personally.
Another thing that happened to me was that I ended up having to defend the US and Americans often because people (including my ex) badmouthed Americans and the US...even though I am still Latin American and I view myself as that in the US, I became an "American" in Sweden for some people.
Sweden has a reputation of being open to other races/cultures but there a pockets of hidden racism and discrimination if you look really close to it.

I KNOW I'm viewed as a different (read: acceptable) immigrant because I'm a white American. I think that is a sad commentary, however, since it would be the same in lots of places, not just Sweden.

There are pockets of hidden (and not so hidden) racism and discrimination everywhere; it's not just here by any means.

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