Monday, February 21, 2011

Adjusting to Swedish Life (Svenskt Liv) Part 1 of ?

This is a Guest Post From Matilda’s Sambo, Dale!
Disclaimer: When I refer to “America” or “Americans” in these posts I am referring to the United States of America (USA) and corresponding US nationals. I know from past experience, for people from both Central and South America this can sometimes be confusing or offending as they also consider themselves from America and to be Americans. To be clear, I am not refuting this! But alas, I am not sure what else to call myself and I really don’t feel like going by “United Statesman” because than I will get grief from females telling me to make sure I differentiate from Statesmen and Stateswomen. Nor do I want to be referred to as a “United Statesian” or gringo, which I am not even sure are considered actual descriptions. And I am not a Yankee (they are from the northeast), I am not a Southerner or a Midwesterner or a Californian…… I guess I could call myself a Coloradoan, but who will know that internationally? Swedish people do know about Colorado though, can anyone guess why? That's right, Peter Forsberg! They love him just as much as we do, maybe more.... No that is not possible. They also know about Colorado skiing, but this is a rare coincidence and will not change my mind about this.

So, as Americans in Sverige (Sweden) there are some particular adjustments that we have had to make, along with the regular trials that foreigners/aliens experience in countries away from their own.  Who am I kidding? Everyone probably has to go through the same experiences when they move to a different country. We probably have it pretty easy actually considering > 90% of Swedes (Svenskar) speak fluent English! I think it is actually pretty amazing because they would rather speak Swedish (Svenska) to each other, so I always wonder when they practiced to get so good. But from talking with people at work I have found that they have an average of 7-10 years of English in school along with all the other stuff to learn. I think they accomplish this by having some classes in English as well as Swedish. I know that most classes at the University in Stockholm are now held in English (just changed recently). Plus the EU’s official international language is English, so any business between countries as well as major translations will be in English. You still can find older people or immigrants, most commonly from Middle East countries like Iran, that cannot speak English, but I don’t blame them because they moved here and learned the local language first. And learning a new language is very difficult!

(Maps are from
Since the language barrier is not such a problem (it is still an issue), adjusting culturally and geographically are probably the next biggest concerns. Since I am not culturally integrated yet I will have to talk more about that aspect later, plus everyone loves to talk about the weather so we will do that first. I am sure one can imagine that since Stockholm is basically at the same latitude (~59 degrees N) as Anchorage Alaska (~61 degrees N) that it could be pretty cold here. And it is, but I always respond by saying it is not as cold as other cities at this latitude! This defensive response is only half true because they both have similar summer temperatures, which range between 11º and 19º C (52º to 66º F) in Anchorage and 13º and 22º C (55º to 72º F) in Stockholm. But it truly stays warmer in the winter when you compare it to Anchorage. Anchorage’s average winter daytime temperature is -15.5º to -1.1º C (5º to 30º F) where Stockholm’s is only -5º to -1º C (23º to 34º F). Now I have not done an official study of the region, but I have heard that the reason it is warmer in the winter here is the Baltic Sea contributes to the region’s heating more than the sun does at this time of year. And then in the summer the sun does the work. But you wouldn’t know it this week! It has been hanging around -10º C (14º F) and I don’t like it! So all of these stats are just hear say and conjecture. Oh well, we are here and we are from Colorado so it shouldn’t be so bad right?
(Maps are from
Like I said earlier, I will post more about cultural stuff later, but I do want to mention that when I am walking around in Stockholm I fit in quite well. As my boss would say I look Swedish, personally I would revise that to Scandinavian. Since my family has Norwegian blood I guess that is no surprise. But when I told my boss this he said I should be careful with that information and keep it to myself. He was joking of course but they do like to talk crap about each other! Apparently the Swedes refer to the Norwegians as the rich Scandinavians. This is because there is oil in Norway so they have more money, plus there are significantly less people there (~ half). I think the Swedes are somewhat bitter about this. But if you look at history Sweden or Denmark controlled Norway most of the time so I would probably guess that the Norwegians have more reason to be bitter than the Swedes do. I hope I don’t make any enemies posting this, I will let you know later if there is any backlash! 

I have found the history of the monarchies of Scandinavia (which are still technically around like England’s) interesting. The individual countries always had their own kings, or thrones. It just so happened that one person might occupy two or all three at once thus uniting the countries for which thrones he controlled. You will see the Coat of Arms of the Realm of Sweden in Stockholm sometimes on flags or shields or whatever with the Scandinavian flag and three crowns, which represent the monarchies of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The origin of this is debated but this explanation seems to make sense. And it is pretty funny because you might read something that says Stockholm is the capital of Scandinavia and then you will see something else that says Oslo is the capital of Scandinavia. And I am sure someplace it says Copenhagen is also the capital of Scandinavia too. Finland was also included in Scandinavian politics as well so Helsinki might also have some claim. But Finland was also part of Sweden for most of history before Russia occupied them, which sparked their independence later. I think I am getting ahead of myself here and I am also starting to talk about stuff that I really don’t know all that well yet.
All right, I will end my first guest post since it is already fairly long. Originally I was going to take the “You Know What Grinds My Gears?” approach to these posts, but decided to just blab this time. Maybe next time I will go off on some things that have annoyed me here in the first month, but if I do I will try and stay positive! Also, I have put these maps up so people can visualize where we are. Many people have mistaken our new home for Switzerland instead of Sweden. Apparently the locals say this is common and that Americans as well as Europeans that have never been here do it all the time. Some Swedes seem annoyed by it, others seem indifferent…..
Until next time,


Anonymous said...

I liked your guest post. Next time you should do Dale Vs. Sweden with a "you know what grinds my gears" approach. Me Vs. Gore, worked wonders for my stress levels back when he was still pushing climate change on us.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to find a fellow Coloradan adjusting to life here in Sweden! I just did a google search for "hard adjusting to Swedish life" and found your blog! I like how kind you are in your post. I have lived here for 5 years, and am struggling to maintain your positive attitude. Are you planning on staying in Sweden? I am planning to move back in a few months. It has been an experience living in Sweden, and one I am glad I had, but I miss Denver. (Tattered Cover Bookstore, Market Coffeehouse, Chophouse, LoDo stuff mostly, you know...) What should I expect to find back home? Like something out of Mad Max? Sorry to ramble...really so good to find a fellow Colorad(o)an!

Matilda said...

We actually will be leaving shortly too, but not back to Colorado yet. The grey here in Sweden this time of year certainly has me missing CO weather! All of the Denver hits are still there, although tattered cover has a new location, and LoDo is still as spunky as ever. The Highlands just North of Denver is booming these days. I'm sure you'll love it just as much as you remember! Why has your time in Sweden not been as positive?

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