I’ve been hearing and reading a lot of Sweden-bashing recently. While we are free to think what we want, I believe it’s all too simplistic to focus on the negative and complain about Sweden or Swedes. It’s very easy to focus on what Sweden is not, rather than what it is.
Recently, I’ve been a lot in Asia and Latin America, far away from Sweden and my family and friends. Sometimes when we’re confronted by new environments, it is then we realize what we appreciate about our home locations. I’ve been putting some thought into it. Apart from my loved ones, what is it that I miss about Sweden when I’m away?
Here are my top 10, in no particular order of priority.
- the feeling that the sky is big and endless, giving a sense of freedom in my mind and spirit
- knowing that I can take a deep breath and fill my lungs with fresh oxygen instead of polluted toxic fumes
- the calmness in my thoughts and that I don’t have to battle with external noises in order just to hear myself think
- my anonymity and just blending in with the crowd
- the certainty of knowing how things function and how I am supposed to behave
- walking outside without interruption, confusion or danger
- the knowledge that I don’t have to keep buying bottled water – I can drink directly from the tap without getting seriously sick as a consequence
- the evening light cascading on the colorful buildings – the umbras, the rusty reds and the deep golds
- the sting of the cold air on my nose and cheeks (never thought I’d admit to that one)
- the Swedish aesthetic – environments filled with stylish modern design, cool Nordic solutions and healthy-looking easy-on-the-eye people
None of this is to say that I don’t enjoy traveling, because I do very much so. I just think that sometimes it’s worth taking a moment to reflect over what you appreciate about where you live.
I’m sure, if you do, you’ll find there’s a lot more than you think.
What do you appreciate about Sweden when you’re not here? I’d love to hear your thoughts – write them in the comments below.
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At a height of 193 cm, I am at the tall end of the man scale. However, in Sweden, I am rarely reminded of it. While I am taller than the Swedish 182 cm average, I still blend in. It isn’t until I visit another country that I become reminded that I am towering over other people and height becomes a source of attention or in worse case ridicule.
This makes me think of visibility in relation to the intercultural experience. Does the more visible we are affect the authenticity of the experience?
I remember my first time in Asia how people pointed at me and laughed. I remember in Mexico how people wanted to touch me and in China how they wanted to take a photo with me. My physicality was strange to them and, as such, my presence was impossible for them to ignore.
I genuinely think that my experience of other countries is coloured by the fact that I can’t hide. I am seen by everybody wherever I go. Shorter people can more easily disappear in the crowd and, as such, can more neutrally observe their surroundings. Through no choice of my own, I am often influencing mine, which consequently makes my surroundings less authentic.
In Sweden, people don’t notice. Or maybe they just don’t care. Or are too polite to point it out. Whatever the reason, I perceive that my feeling of physical sameness rather than difference is something that helped me adapt quickly to Swedish society and acknowledge it as the place I feel at home.
Sitting at gate C15 in Frankfurt waiting to board for Sao Paolo and it’s a whole different experience than when waiting for a plane to Sweden.
The majority of the passengers are Brazilian and it is reflected in the extremely high noise level here at the gate. No quiet contemplation and patient queuing here, but joyous raucous banter.
Then a priest arrives in white collar. He stops and addresses the whole gate with something jovial, a big smile on his face. Everyone laughs and many get out of their seats to shake his hand.
The flight is overbooked. They offer 600 Euros to anyone from economy who wants to give their seat up until tomorrow. Hysteria ensues. Several people want to and clamour around the counter, the remaining passengers start talking to each other in one giant Portuguese conversation.
The situation at Gate 15 is vibrant and alive.
If this is a taste of Brazil, I can’t wait to arrive.