Friday, 15 March 2019

Day 2061: How to lose Swedes and alienate people

Have you ever heard someone say that it's hard to make friends in Sweden? It's a commonly held idea. Year upon year Sweden ranks bottom in international surveys of immigrants for making new friends and if you are one such immigrant it's a sure fire phrase to get a conversation going among fellow foreigners. Everyone has anecdotes about their attempts to make friends. Last month in a seminar at university, a Swedish girl told a Greek boy in the class "I saw you on the bus last week, but I thought eh, and I sat further back" which basically means "I saw you and I avoided you because I couldn't be bothered to make conversation for the whole bus journey". Now I have definitely avoided people I sort of know on the bus. But what is key, and I can't stress this enough, is that I DON'T tell that person that I deliberately avoided them.

A lot of really uninformed people get on their soapboxes and shout that not knowing Swedish is a key barrier to making friends.  One of the reasons I decided to study full time for the last two years - in Swedish - was because, at least in England, university is an excellent place for meeting likeminded people. So far I've made one firm friend, who's Malaysian. And I met her on one of the seminars that was taught in English. Sometimes the Swedish seminars were bordering on painful in terms of social interaction. Obviously some facet of Swedish sociality is beyond me. Where am I going wrong? I have a few ideas.

1. I talk "in other people's mouths" (tala i munnen på varandra)


Swedes are really, really loathe to speak on top of each other. "Att prata i munnen på varandra är sällan vägen till ett lyckat samtal," apparently. Of course, it's quite confrontational to talk over someone. If you do it at the wrong time, they'll feel like you hijacked what they were saying or maybe weren't even listening to begin with. It's also domineering, to think that what you have to say is worth overtaking another person's input. Now we're stepping on the toes of the big Swedish No-No, namely jantelagen (everyone is equal). You're not better than your conversation partner, so why are you talking over them?

Well, here's why: because you're showing that you are keen, interested, genuinely involved, brimming with ideas! Timing is key here, you don't want to completely cut off the other person mid-flow. The aim is to rejuvenate the topic as that person is coming to the end of their idea, or build upon what they've said, or supply a word they're floundering after. If the person talking has repeated themselves multiple times already and the rest of the group is losing interest, please for the love of god, cut them off and take the conversation elsewhere. At the other end of the spectrum, people, no matter what they say, do not want the conversation to lapse into silence. They don't want to be the conversation killer. Save them by picking up the tail end of what they've been saying.


2. I'm not "med i föreningen"


Actually I am. I'm in several groups. But they're not the right ones. I tried to join a badminton förening but they are all completely, completely full and frustratingly opaque about annual recruitment. The best way to join a förening is to know someone who is already in the förening. I joined, you guessed it, a (really great, by the way) badminton group full of immigrants. In my first few years here I was in a Swedish conversation group with no Swedes. I set up a French conversation group and some Swedes came, I tried to get them to stay an hour and speak a bit of Swedish; they did not. Many organisations are very insular and cliquey, often consisting of groups of people who have already known each other a while from outside the förening. As one migrant put it, 'Only in Sweden have I ever been told ‘I don't need to talk to you, I have enough friends'. Even if you are in a group and you meet Swedes there, like my book group for example, you'll most likely never see each other outside the designated group times.

3. My Swedish is rude



After the Stockholm marathon I was waiting for a train with my boyfriend when a runner wearing a medal walked past. "Grattis!" I said (congratulations). When he'd walked out of earshot, my boyfriend told me I sounded really sarcastic. Unless you put the right nuance and intonation into what you say, perhaps you are not really saying what you think you are saying.  God knows how many times I've sounded like a total bitch because of my word choice or lack of nuance. A lot of Swedish sounds completely saccharine and overbearingly false to me in much the same way that American English does to my British ears. "Åh vad häääääärligt, gud vad bra". Fuck off.

I state opinions (bad), I swear (in Swedish: bad. In English: helt ok), I talk about the class divide (awkward) and I disagree with people (social suicide).

4. I do not live in a flatshare; I do not work with Swedes


We spend a lot of time at work. We spend a lot of time at home. If you share those two places with Swedish people, the probability of you meeting some is substantially higher than if you don't. The only Swede in my workplace is my boss, who is awesome - in a professional sort of way. She's definitely not my friend. The only Swede in my home is my boyfriend and, well, he's already trapped and has nowhere to run.

5. I don't want to talk about Britain


Wow - are Swedes complete Anglophiles. Swedish people are so incredibly interested in Britain, they speak English, they read about it in the news, they watch BBC, they don't dub anything, they invite British comedians over, they take regular trips over there, they study over there in droves, they talk about London like a second home, and as soon as they hear my accent they want to talk to me in English about Downton Abbey. But...I hate Downton Abbey.  I don't want to talk about the queen, I'd rather get rid of the whole bollocks royal affair. I'll talk to you about Brexit if you really, really want...but then you have to be prepared for the rudeness I mentioned in (3). Plus, it's frankly bewildering. Do these Anglophile Swedes realise that most Brits think Sweden is Switzerland?

6. I don't know who the fuck Mikael Persbrandt is...


...And I think I wouldn't care even if I did. Come to mention it, I don't watch Swedish TV and I don't know who any of the so called "celebrities" are. Charlotte Perelli who? Parneviks what? Is Jonas Gardell even funny any more? I went to see Eddie Izzard once in Sweden and they billed me a 3 hour show, only 30 minutes of which was Izzard and the other painful hours were filled with literally THE WORST "comedy" I have ever seen, it was sickeningly, cringeworthily bad. Thank god it was in Swedish so Eddie Izzard couldn't understand how dreadful it was. One section of the show consisted of two women saying cunt over and over again to show how modern their comedy was. Still, I think I'd rather see that again that watch Melodifestivalen (the long, drawn-out preamble to the twattery that is the Eurovision song contest). When Swedes start bandying the names of Z-list celebrities around in conversation it really is time for me to get my coat. If Pewdiepie is your country's highest grossing cultural export then something's definitely going wrong in the art factory.

7. I'm neither here nor there


I'm sure many other people would agree with me when I say that when you leave one country and move to another, after a while you don't really fit in either. It becomes more challenging to maintain friendships with people who come from one place, relate to one place, speak passionately about one place and are unequivocally invested emotionally and socially in one place. Yes, that one place is important to me too, but I've got divided loyalties. I take comfort and support from other immigrants just like me who understand my divided loyalties. So, I work hard at my friendships with people in England and I keep an open mind about friendships appearing with Swedes, but more often than not the Swedes who end up with foreign friends have lived abroad themselves, and they too are two parts (or more!) of one whole. On the positive side, a recent study showed that having friends who are different from you makes you a better, more adaptable person.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Day 2026: Winter wonderland to hellish icescape

A poem about my week

A while ago there was some snow,
and prettily it lay.
But since then, a day or ten,
the ice has come to stay.

And ice is not my friend, no, no.
It isn't either yours.
It makes you slip, it makes you trip
and has you on all fours.

Snow is fluffy, snow is soft
it cushions as you sled,
but ice is solid, ice is hard
it breaks your bones instead.

Stupid o'clock is when you leave
To get to work by 8
'Cos if you don't, you'll shuffle in
broken, bruised, and late.

Don't think of running for that bus,
the fare price is a farce.
The cost is other passengers
seeing you land on your arse.

If you manage to make the bus,
or wait hours at the stop,
you'll find it less impervious 
than you to icy slop.

Neither run trains under the ground,
somehow they're broken too.
People down there are also late,
avoid the angry zoo.

Trudge like a bitch through all that shit,
the option that remains,
go walking thrice or more a day
you'll start to go insane.

Carry also a bunch of crap
that weighs a million tonne
throw off your balance in all sorts of ways.
Play on hard mode, what fun(!)

Get overtaken by old folk
with years of common sense.
They neither lose their studded shoes
nor skate around all tense.

Little children get dragged along
all happy in their sleds.
Fuck them, fuck it, fuck why aren't you
at home with tea instead?  

But home is over there you see,
while you are over here,
and between these two places lies
A deathly, ice veneer.

You may wonder as you waddle
where all the money went
that was to pay for snow free roads
and gravelled pavement.

That's a mystery for certain,
it's never to be solved.
One thing's for sure though, and that is this:
once I get home I'm not fucking going out again, no. Even if I have to concoct some weird bollocks from the dredges of the bottom of the freezer and that weird jar at the back of the fridge it's better than venturing to the shop. And I know I signed up for a class but they've got 30 people and they certainly won't notice if one person is missing. I haven't taken the bin out for about a week and it smells like old oranges but, just, I can put it outside the window for this evening. What's the temperature? It's 4 degrees that's good do some thawing, oh unless it drops to -10 in the night and freezes all the thaw into sheet ice, then I really am fucked. Right, just don't think about that now.

ONE IMAGE CAN'T DO JUSTICE TO THE ICE HELL SO HERE'S STOCK PHOTO ICE



Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Day 1925: IS TOO EARLY

IT IS TOO EARLY FOR:


LUSSEBULLAR.

THESE BUNS ARE FOR LUCIA ONLY!

 JULMUST.

 IT'S NOT TIME FOR CHRISTMAS YET

 TEMPERATURES LOWER THAN MY FRIDGE.

I DON'T WANT TO COMPARE THIS WITH THE EXTERNAL TEMP AT BREAKFAST
 AND GIVE UP ON MY DAY BEFORE IT HAS BEGUN, THANKS.

WEARING A COAT NOT A JACKET.

 DEFINITELY INTERESTED IN ONE OF THESE COATS...FOR LATER.

DARK. DARK. DARK. ALL THE TIME DARK.

A PIC FROM MY BEDROOM WINDOW

DARK WHEN I WAKE UP.


IS IT THE INSIDE OF MY EYELIDS, OR MY ROOM, OR BOTH?

DARK WHEN I LEAVE WORK.

 THIS IS THE BUS STOP WHERE I CATCH THE BUS

DARK WHEN I LOOK OUT THE WINDOW.

 OH, THERE'S A BIRD. I THINK. 

TRICK OR TREATERS.

SWEDISH PEOPLE DON'T KNOW WHEN HALLOWEEN IS
KIDS JUST TRICK OR TREAT FOR ABOUT 3 WEEKS.

BALD TREES.

SERIOUSLY, I SNEEZED AND THE LEAVES WERE GONE.

VINTERDÄCK.

WHY ARE THE ROADS ICY ALREADY?

RECIPES TRYING TO REINVENT THE SAME OLD CHRISTMAS FOODS.

NO I DON'T WANT MAYONNAISE IN MY SAFFRON BUN.


PEOPLE ASKING ME WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS

I DON'T KNOW 


SNOW. 

YEP, SEEN SOME ALREADY. NOT YET PLZ.


THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Day 1908: Literal bird is literal

The arrival of a new bird in the garden, a Eurasian Jay, inspired me to break my 188 day silence and share with everyone the joy and lunacy of Swedish bird names. 

1. NUT SHOUTER (Nötskrika, Eurasian Jay)


2. NUT WAKER (Nötväcka, Nuthatch - Ok that one's funny in English, too)


3. TRIBUTE SNEAK (Gärdsmyg, Wren)



4. STONE CRACKER (Stenknäck, Hawfinch)




5. BLACK-HAIRED BUSH-SPLASHER (Svarthakad buskskvätta, Stonechat)



6. WHERE BIRD (Varfågel, Grey Shrike)



7. STORM BIRD (Stormfågel, Fulmar)



8. QUACK DUCK (Snatterand, Gadwall)


9. BROWN GLAD (Brun Glada, Black Kite)



10. GREAT STAIRCASE (Stortrapp, Great Bustard)



11. COAST BEEPER (Kustpipare, Grey Plover)



12. ROSE CHAP (Roskarl, Ruddy Turnstone)



13. FAT FOOT (Tjockfot, Stone Curlew)



14. TOWER SAILOR (Tornseglare, Swift)



15. NOTCH CROWBAR (Hackspett, Woodpecker) 



16. JUDGEMENT GENTLEMAN (Domherre, Bullfinch)