Tuesday, 24 December 2013

English cravings for Christmas

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Just before Christmas I was hit by an enormous craving for England and anything English. Luckily there's an "English shop" in Gothenburg. There I spent more money than on Christmas presents for my family ... In the picture are only some of the stuff i miss from England:
*Christmas crackers (They exist in Sweden as a tree decoration, but there's no "gun powder" inside, just a piece of sweet if you're lucky and you're not supposed to crack it open until you take the tree out.)
*Mince pies (The first time I was offered a mince pie, I said no thanks as I'm a vegetarian and thought that the pie contained meat mince!)
*Mulled wine (I could not buy the wine itself, but I found the spices. In Sweden we have "glögg" which is similar but sweeter and is served with raisins and almonds.)

*Salt & vinegar crisps (There's a Swedish brand of salt and vinegar crisps nowadays but it doesn't even taste of vinegar in comparison to Walkers.)
*Cadbury's chocolate (I'm not a massive Cadbury fan, I just bought this in a flash of nostalgia.) 
*Flap jack
*E45 cream (A bit tragic to miss a cream! But then it's the best cream for dry skin that I've ever tried. Not very fancy, but it works.)
Merry Christmas/God Jul to all blog readers out there!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Happy Winter Solstice!

IMG_4417Hooray! The days are getting longer again! (Well, a long day doesn't sound very positive, but what I really mean is that the days are getting lighter and brighter. I could really do with some sun right now.)

In England I used to celebrate the Winter Solstice by watching the light parade "Burning of the Clocks" that went through Brighton and finished off with fireworks on the beach. It felt a bit empty not being there this year, but I went for a walk along the quayside in Gothenburg and was hit by all the artificial lights.
In the past, in Sweden, 21 December was called "Tomas fylltunna" which means "Tomas pissed barrel" as it was time to try the Christmas beer ... As I mentioned in my previous post, even in the 19th century people thought that Lucia was the longest night instead of the 21st or the 22nd. Unfortunately I have no home brewed beer to try ... 

Friday, 13 December 2013

Lucia: a Swedish tradition with many meanings

lucia
Lucia is only celebrated in Sweden and in some parts of Finland. A couple of times I've been to the Lucia celebration at the Swedish Folk High School at Loxdale Centre in Portslade, Brighton. The English people were amazed and asked what it all meant with people dressed in white and candles in their hair. I wasn't quite sure and now, when I've studied a bit of ethnology, I'm even more confused ...

Here are just some of the reasons we celebrate:
*Lucia means light. The day got its name from the Italian saint Lucia. She refused to marry and poked out her eyes. As a punishment she was sent to a brothel and was tortured to death.
*In the past people thought that 13 december was the longest night instead of 21 december. People thought it was a magical night when the animals could speak. There are also associations to Lucifer.
*Lucia was a feast before Christmas lent. Some people had as much as seven breakfasts! 
*Lucia was a tradition in the West of Sweden where the maids sang for their masters in the morning. Lucia didn't become an official tradition until 1890 when Skansen, a museum in Stockholm made it into a national celebration and in 1920 the first Lucia election was held.
*In the past Lucia marked the end of term at school and the school boys went round people's houses to sing and ask for money for their studies.
*Lucia could have a German origin. Some sources refer to St Nicholaus who gave gifts to children or a similar tradition called Christkindlein where a woman dressed in white with candles in her hair was a part of the Christmas procession.
Soures: God Jul by Lena Kättström Höök and Årets festdagar by Bringéus

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Question 15: What's your Relationship to your Family?

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Curious about the Parents
I love meeting my friends' parents. It's not like I want to hang out with them; I'm just curious about who they are. Sometimes it feels like I don't know and understand a person on a deeper level until I've met the parents. Things fall into place. The relationship is also reversed. I don't think that someone truly knows me until that person has met my family.
Escaping the Parents
However, it was a relief for me to escape my hometown when I was nineteen and meet people who had no idea about who my parents were. I wanted to break free and not to be associated with the safe small-town life. And speaking for myself, I really don't want to judge anyone because of her or his parents but when I've known a friend for a long time, I find it exciting to meet that person's family. No matter what you do, you'll always be shaped by your family conditions.
Different Behaviour Depending on the Situation
During the Swenglish project, I got the chance to meet some of the participants' parents or siblings. Sometimes the real picture didn't match the stories I'd been told. Someone who'd been described as mean turned out to be really nice, but it just goes to show that people can behave differently depending on who they spend time with.
Compulsory Visits
Among the Swedish people 13 of 15 were in touch with their parents every week. Some spoke on the phone every day, others did a compulsory weekly visit. Among the people I stayed with in England only 5 of 15 were in touch with their parents every week, but that was probably due to the fact that 6 of 15 had parents who either lived in a different country or were no longer alive. (By being in touch, I mean speaking on the phone/Skype or meeting up in person; I haven't considered other contact via the internet as I find it dubious whether a "like" on Facebook could count as being in touch.)
Better Relationships with Friends
What's interesting to note is that some people who spoke to their parents several times a week, didn't experience their relationship as close while some people who spoke to their parents less frequently described their relationship as very good. There were also people who had completely cut the contact with a parent or a sibling. Several people mentioned that they had better and deeper relationships with their friends. (I haven't included love partnerships in this question.)
"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in reach other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof."
- Richard Bach

This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What's your attitude towards relationships, sex and marriage?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

World Toilet Day - Carpets in the Toilet

BildI had no idea that it was World Toilet Day when I did an author performance at my old school. Among other things I talked about the Swenglish project and what it was like travelling around, staying with 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden. 
In Sweden a lot of people think it's very unhygienic that there are carpets in some English bathrooms and it's often one of the things they mention when talking about England. (Perhaps people in Sweden are a bit too hygiene obsessed or what do you think ...?)
I've seen a fair share of carpets myself, but none of the 15 people I stayed with in England had carpets in their toilets. (But one person's mum had one and I also saw a carpet in a pub toilet during the project!)

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Question 14: What's your first memory?

IMG_1225Traumatic memories
10 out of 15 people in Sweden mentioned something more or less traumatic as their first memory (everything from a death in the family to pooping in their pants) but only 4 out of 15 people in England shared a traumatic memory. 
I have no idea why it turned out this way. If I'd chosen 30 different people for the Svenglish project the result might have been reversed. That Swedish people mentioned so many traumatic events was perhaps because they felt closer to me as we spoke the same language and grew up in the same country. 
Memories from the pram
What surprised me was that three people (two in Sweden, one in England) mentioned very early memories.
"I'm sitting in the buggy and am allowed sweets for the first time and I thought 'I'll remember this'. It was the first time I could think in that way, I must have been two or three years old. I've remembered all my life that I will remember this."
"My birthday party when I was two. I'm looking out of the window and I see my granddad coming."
"Lying in the pram, Dad singing the Batman theme tune".
Age obsession
I hardly remember anything at all before I was six. It's like my life began when I started pre-school and what happened before that didn't really exist. I had a theory that people in England had earlier memories because they start school earlier, but that theory didn't work out. There were several people in Sweden who had memories from kindergarten. However, the Swedes knew more specifically how old they were when certain things happened.

I don't know if people are more age obsessed in Sweden, but sometimes it seems like that. At least when you read the headlines and it says "29-year old woman" or "36-year old man" did this or that. In England, in my experience, it's not as common to mention age as an important quality even though it might be mentioned in the article in itself.
Abstract and detailed memories
Many writing exercises at creative writing courses or in books ask you to describe your first childhood memory. (And sometimes lie about it.) The Swenglish participants recalled both abstract and detailed memories that inspired me:
"Light playing on the ceiling."
"Eating toothpaste and watching King Kong on a black and white telly." 
My first memory
Funnily enough I remember an old lady visiting my childminder and she told me about breaking a cup and telling me that it's sad that you only remember the sad things ... But I think I was seven or eight then. My first memory is playing with a dark red purse with a zip and that there are thick yellow and red crayons inside and that I'm on somebody's porch. How I found the purse (pictured) again after all these years you can read about in the book some time in the future ... 
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What's your relationship to your family? (I've chosen not to include question 14b "How was your childhood?" as people gave either too general or too private answers.)

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Question 13b: How different is your life now compared to how you would like it to be?

IMG_4003MORE TIME
"Not having to work as much as you do."
"Would like more time to be creative."
"Would like much more peace and quiet, harmony/.../wish that more time was spent on my music."
"Would like more free time, spend more time with the kids and myself."
"I could do with more time, I haven’t finished what I want to finish every day, that’s quite frustrating."
I could give you even more examples of a wish for more time. Time to make, create, write. But also more time with friends, family and kids, more time to just be and work less. About half of the Swenglish participants, a bit more in Sweden, expressed that they wanted more time when I asked them how different their life was compared to how they would want to live. Three people also mentioned more money.
A SELECTION OF THE OTHER ANSWERS:
"I would like to gather my friends from all over the world and put them in the same place, then I would be happy." 
"They only thing I miss sometimes is to have someone to share my life with."
"I guess we'll have to go there after some wine."
"I think I'd like a relationship, but I have myself to blame for not working on it."
"I don't want to think about that; it just makes me frustrated."
"I'm half-way there maybe. I make tentative steps towards where I'm going, but am not as confident as I could be."
"I'd like more close friends around in my daily life".
"I'd like a life that didn't include anxiety, panic attacks and worries about another breakdown." 
"It's not too different apart from having a man and babies."
"I'm content, but at the same time there's this underlying feeling I want to be closer to nature". 
BASIC INCOME
Five people spontaneously expressed that they lived the life they wanted to live and didn't have much to add. A longing for close relationships, as you can tell from the answers above, was a wish among many. However it was TIME that people mainly lacked. I've taken an interest in the question about Basic Income which could change society in such a way that people work less, have more time and feel better. You can read more here. And here you can sign a petition if you'd like the European Union to raise the question.
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What's your earliest childhood memory?

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Question 13a: How Different is Your Life Now Compared to What You Thought it Would Be Like When You Were Younger?

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What I thought ...
When I was a teenager I thought that I would lead a "boring, stable life" when I was 30. That I would live in Jönköping (a smallish town near my hometown) in a flat that I owned together with a boyfriend and perhaps work at the local paper. In reality I wanted something different, but I found it difficult to point my finger on it.
Some kind of "rock 'n' roll-lifestyle" (as a metaphor for adventure, parties, travels, romances, writing and other artistic endeavours). And I did experience a lot of rock 'n' roll in my twenties even though it was more poetry than rock 'n' roll. I would never have guessed that I would be into Poetry Slam: I didn't even know what it was as a teenager. I would not have guessed that I would spend so many years in England either. Or that my first book would win a prize for the best debut novel. But then this "early mid-life crisis" hit me, the crisis that resulted in the Swenglish project
Rock 'n' roll is fun, but yet I yearned for a more stable life than the life I was leading when I approached my 30th birthday. I was fed up with being a constant lodger, moving around, doing day jobs, drinking too much beer, messing about and being far away from my family and my very very best friends. 
Now I'm renting my own flat in Gothenburg and am studying ethnology. It doesn't sound very rock 'n' roll. But the most important thing in my life is still my writing. The novels. The poetry. The performances. And I've started blogging for a local paper ... However, now and again a bit of rock 'n' roll happens (when I did a poetry gig in Gävle for example!), but the bottle of vodka that I got from an Englishman back in September is still untouched. That would never have happened ten years ago. 
What the Swenglish participants thought ... 
About half the people in Sweden and a bit more than half the people in England expressed that their lives were very or pretty different compared to the life they had envisioned when they were younger. Most of them, especially in England, had a better life than expected, but a few would have thought that they would be more successful in their jobs.
Six people (all above 30) thought that they would be parents by now. But there were also two people (above 30 as well) who were surprised about being parents at all.
Five people had not thought very much about the future when they were younger and had nothing to compare with. One participant expressed it in this way: "When I was a teenager I thought I would be dead when I was 27, everything after that becomes some strange bonus that I hadn't expected".
Seven people claimed that they had always followed their ideals, even though their lives looked different on the surface compared to what they had thought. Another person said: "I've made my life into the life I wanted it to be even though I couldn't express what I wanted". 
It's interesting to note that in some cases (my own case for example) there's a difference between how people thought it would turn out and how they wanted it to turn out.
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: How different is your life now compared to the life you would like to have?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Swedish Train Custom

IMG_3910In Sweden there's usually a quiet area on trains and you can book a "quiet seat" in advance as well which I did last weekend because I wanted to study. I only had time to enjoy the peace and quiet for five minutes. A girl who was talking on her mobile took a seat near me. I thought that she would finish her call as the train pulled out, but she didn't. People around me exchanged looks and started to move about. No one said anything.
In the end the people around me annoyed me more than the girl on the phone. It was so frustrating that they kept quiet even though it was clear they got disturbed. I took a deep breath and asked the girl if she knew that she was in the quiet area. She didn't and finished her call. The other passengers didn't show any appreciation of me. Back to silence.
Usually I'm also one of the passive people on trains, so I'm very proud that I said something. I wouldn't say it's just Swedish people keeping their mouth shut instead of acting. It would probably happen in the UK too, or what do you think?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Question 12: Where Do You See Yourself in One, Five and Ten Years Time?

IMG_3860"Where do you see yourself in one, five or ten years time?" is a question that famous people often have to answer in interviews. Many of the Swenglish participants found it hard to look into the crystal ball ... ("It never turns out that way anyway.") I couldn't see any clear differences between England and Sweden when it came to future visions, so I've put the answers together. 
What's interesting to note is that 9 of the 30 people I stayed with have moved (or are about to move) since I stayed with them last year! Perhaps I set something in motion ...
In One Year
16 of 30 people thought that they would be living a similar life. However the majority of these people thought that they would have developed more workwise and most of the people who were into something creative hoped that they would have finished a book/a record/other creation.
6 of 30 people thought that they would have moved. Either to a place of their own or moving in with someone.
2 of 30 people thought that they would be trying for children.
3 of 30 people hoped that they would have found a partner.
In Five Years
Most people just wanted "more and better" of the same. Earn more money and work with what they really wanted to do instead of just doing a day job. Get more recognition for what they were good at. Someone wanted a more international life. Travel more. Some people mentioned buying a house. A couple mentioned kids or "more kids". 
In Ten Years
"I could be dead".
"If I haven't burnt out and am on sick leave I will have carried on with x and y and have specialised in some area."
"Then I've been married and am divorced".
Not everyone came up with "dark" answers. Once again many mentioned loving relationships and children and development in the area of their passion. One person didn't think of himself at all: he just thought about where the world was heading: "This civilisation is either gone or we will live in a completely different world".
9 of 30 mentioned that they wanted to live in a house and 7 of those 9 people wanted live in the countryside either with their family or in a community.
6 of 30 thought that they would live or work abroad or at least have a holiday home abroad. 
5 of 30 people hoped and thought that they would be more confident or have better self esteem. 
My Future Vision
In one years time my Swenglish book will be out in the shops, my English novel will be on its way too, I'm studying something, perhaps literature, psychology or anthroplogy and I'm doing performance poetry.
In five years time I'm working with several writing related projects, perhaps international somehow, and I'm madly in love in a good way.
In ten years time I'm laughing at the person I am today. And live I will. Close to nature. 
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: How different is your life now compared to how you thought it would be when you were younger?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Question 11b: What Do You Think About the School System?

taking kids to schoolI didn't go to school myself during the project, but I walked kids to school and also picked them up in the afternoon. In England there are loads of "lollipop ladies" stopping the traffic and making sure the kids can cross safely. When I went to school in Sweden the older pupils had to take on the job as traffic wardens. I even think we got paid for it.
Sweden_Grunge_Flag_by_think0What people in Sweden thought about the Swedish school system:
It's good up until secondary school and then I think it's bad.
The best school I went to was a private school even though I'm not into privatising.
I don't think you should have ratings, too much pressure early on in life. Social contexts play a big role where you end up.
When I went to school it was very good for me, but it doesn't look like that today. I went to a school in the countryside where the pupils loved their school and their teacher.
It's obsolete to learn things by heart, for example in what year something happened. Now when we have the Internet it's totally out. 
There's so much control and it's not control that one should have.
It feels like pupils don't feel well. You forget what motivates people to learn.
Good, many good teachers, good curriculum, many good people within the school. You know how hard people work.
I think we are a bit lazy in Sweden actually. Many other European countries have much tougher schools, but other countries don't get further in the working life anyway.
There aren't enough resources. More staff is needed, more adults when you think about the school environment. The teachers have to take so much responsibility apart from the actual teaching. 
It should be totally state run. The school system doesn't get better by having more private schools. But you should be able to make choices. People should do what they are good at. Private schools are all about money, it becomes a class question.
The level is higher now. It's hard to get help for the kids who need help. Too big classes. Already from pre-school things are evaluated. Social skills didn't exist when I was little. 
It becomes a class questions if you want to change schools.
You should think about all the ducks in the pond, the ones who want to swim by the shore should be able to do that and the ones who want to use their wings should be able to that as well. If you can't cope with a 80 minutes maths lesson you should be able to find another way. 
It's too uniform and not enough pressure from the teachers.
stgeorgeflag1What people in England thought about the English school system:
I learned very little at school, but I'm sure school is more interesting now, yo can make history more exciting for example. Internet for one thing.
Kids don't get the chance to develop their talents.
Free education is a good idea. And even home education.
They are prisons for children. If I had children I would home educate them. The school system supports bullying. Schools are dangerous places.
The school system is quite bad in the way they focus on measuring everything and are obsessed about evaluating even small children.
Children seem to have less general basic knowledge. And the insularity in England is a big problem compared to other countries.
To be tied in is the biggest problem. I would rather go travelling and read books by my own.
I'm happy with the education system, but it's suffering from the cuts.
Education should be a right - not a privilege.
It puts a lot of pressure on young people. You're locked in from an young age, all the testing and different grades.
It's really good. People moan a lot, but it's better now. But I don't like it that you have to pay for everything.
I'm delusioned with the school system that's why I want to home educate my kids. Children enter into formal school too early, it's not child led.
I didn't like school, didn't see the point. The teachers didn't deal with bullying. 
It was good when it came to degree level, but I came out of school not understanding how to do maths. But it's better now. My daughter is miles better than I was.
Our generation would benefit form doing more hands on, like craft activities.
My thoughts
In England children start school when they are four years old. In Sweden when they are six. In England the children have to wear uniform and call their teachers Mr and Mrs and Miss. In Sweden you can wear whatever you like and call your teachers by first name. In England the schools are surrounded by fences and have locked gates, in Sweden they are usually open. So perhaps it's not so strange that some people in England referred to school as a prison and feeling locked in. A few preferred home education. But I don't think it's that much stricter in England compared to Sweden. The schools I've visited (when doing poetry projects) have been pretty lively.
It's funny that only Swedes mentioned the class question. Personally, I think it's because the class differences between schools is part of everyday life in England (which I experienced when staying with people and have written about in the book), but it's just recently that the class differences have become visible in Sweden due to privatising and cuts. A lof of the people with young kids were worried about picking the right school.
Before I thought that IF I against all odds have children, I would not want them to go to an English school. I wanted them to grow up in Sweden and go to a Swedish school because I knew how it all worked. How narrow-minded of me. I don't know how it works in Sweden anymore. There are 24 years since I started school. It's easy to say it was better in the past. I think that a lot of things have become more fun and modern, but at the same time it's scary that the class question has become such a big issue. Both when it comes to private schools and the size of the actual classes!
Question 11a was about university education and then people were more positive.
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: Where do you see yourself in one, five and ten years time?

Friday, 13 September 2013

Do you Celebrate Friday 13?

IMG_3719One of the Swedish Swenglish participants claimed that she celebrated Friday 13.
"I like Friday 13 because then it's a bit scary. You can have bad luck without it being any problem. If something bad happens you can use Friday 13 as an excuse."
However she didn't tell me how she celebrated. If she had 13 ice-creams or did some other 13-related stuff. Perhaps it would be a fun tradition to create. Run round the house or block 13 times for example. 
One of the English project participants really disliked Friday 13 and would never fly on that day. But he had no problem booking a flight for September 11 ...
England and Sverige have a few common myths around Friday 13, but Wikipedia tells me that in Spain Tuesday 13 is an unlucky day and in Italy it's Friday 17 that is considered unlucky.
If you have a story relating to Friday 13, please get in touch!
PS. The picture is from my Swedish diary and if you wonder about what "Sture" means it's a male name. In Sweden every day has a name and some people celebrate their "name day". Mine is on August 25.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Free Coffee Refill is Not Flirting

kafffeLast week an Englishman visited me in Gothenburg. He went for a walk (on his own) and ended up in a café. When I asked him how his morning went he said that a waitress had given him a free coffee.
It took a while before I realised that he was talking about "påtår" which is an old Swedish word for coffee refill and is often included in the price when you buy a coffee. My friend was a little bit disappointed. The waitress wasn't flirting, she was just exposing him to a Swedish custom. Also when you go for lunch in Sweden coffee or tea is complementary and is called "kaffe på maten" ("coffee on top of the food").

It would have been awkward if my friend had returned to the café, hoping for something to happen with the waitress. On the other hand this cultural clash could have been the beginning of something romantic.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Project Week 30 Revisited: The Heart, the Crisis

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The last project week I stayed with an artist who I'd only met briefly a couple of times before. As I was supposed to live her life I spent some time with her in the studio and made my own painting. Then I had no idea that my work would be exhibited a few months later! 
IMG_3544
This weekend I went to look at Laila Norss's (with Joakim Norss) exhibition The Big 5 and other fun things in Torkladan at Eksjö Museum. It was a good feeling to see my painting, The Heart, the Crisis (the one by the chair) on the wall and already the first day a woman wanted to buy it. I was so taken aback that I said it was not for sale. The painting is like a symbol for the whole Swenglish project and means a lot to me.
I also contributed to the chair that Laila has painted and decorated with a pistol and a toy car (there are some puns in Swedish that are impossible to translate, but think "car seat"). What I did to the chair was simply writing "Move your arse" on the seat. On top of that I've written a poem on the chest of drawers below.
IMG_3558
This piece of furniture (in a different colour and without the writing and the Barbie doll) once stood in my gran's house (where the artist's son now lives) and now it has found a new home. And the chair. It will end up with me.
You can look at more of Laila's work here. The titles of her work are all in English, something I find interesting. Perhaps she wants to reach outside Sweden. She has already exhibited in France. Hopefully it will be England next time!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Question 11a: What would you like to study if you had the chance?

Back to school. A banner that is to be seen in every shop at the moment. However there are still a couple of weeks until the university courses start. There were only 4 of the 30 people I stayed with who had NOT studied at university. (2 in England and 2 in Sweden). A majority had done a degree, a few had studied short courses. Even though most participants had studied before, I asked what they would like to study now if they had the chance.
What people in England would like to study:
MA in art
Critical theories
PhD about the truth in poetry or comedy or both, comparing it
Creative writing
Learn to fly a plane or mathematics or "gaming physics"
MA in art history
Ethnology, oral history, looking at history within different cultures and communities
PhD in creative writing, learn Russian
Music and language, pick three instruments and learn to play them properly
Therapeutic writing
Philosophy
Journalism

What people in Sweden would like to study:
National economics
History and religion
Something to do with music
"The Author school"
Study a specific author
3D-animation
Queer theories
Something within visual arts or photography or gold- or silversmith or something with textiles 
A design degree
Ethnology
Something within the worker's union and the political
"The Author school", publishing, literature history
Latin, political science, quantum physics, astronomy, more art
Money matters
Most of the people who had studied, no matter the country, were happy or very happy with their university education. I followed people to uni in both England and Sweden and can't say that I experienced any massive differences in the lecture halls. But if you look deeper there are a lot of differences. in Sweden all education at university is free. In England it could cost as much as £9000 per year. And that's one reason I'm in Sweden right now.
"Become something"
Inspired by the people I stayed with, I've decided to give the foundation course in ethnology a go, a course that a couple of the participants in Sweden had studied and found rewarding. And what do you become then? I hate that question. (And in my experience, talking to friends and people in pubs, Swedish people seem more obsessed about "becoming something" and sticking to it than English people do.)  
There were a lot of the people who had studied who did NOT work within the field they had studied, but yet they had learnt something and developed as human beings, gained knowledge that had shaped them to the people they are today. If it costs £9000 there might be more pressure to "become something", but whatever you study I think it makes you stronger as a person and if you become stronger it's more likely that you'll find something to work with. At least ethnology will inspire my writing in all genres. But if I had the chance I'd also like to learn how to sing!
Alternatives
Before I was quite anti studying and have had a romantic view of being self-taught, but thanks to the Swenglish project, I realised that the academic world wasn't as difficult and intimidating as I thought it would be. But I'm not saying that everyone has to study. There are alternatives. In Sweden there's something called folkhögskola ("folk high school") where you can learn things in a more organic way without getting any grades or tests, more evening class style. I was very fed up with school when I was 19, but I did two "folk high school" courses (one term English in Portslade, Brighton and three terms writing workshop in Stockholm). It didn't feel like studying at all, I just had fun. In general I think there should be more work experience as part of any education and more collaborations with "the real world".
The picture is from Halmstad when I followed a person who studied bio medicine with focus on physical exercise.
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What do you think of the education system?

PÅ SVENSKA

Monday, 12 August 2013

Question 10: What's Your Dream Job?

IMG_7607One insight I gained through the Swenglish-project was that not everyone wants to become a bestselling author or a rock star. There are people who dream about becoming archeologists, lawyers and land-surveyors. And there are people who don't even have a dream job in mind.
Jobs that People in England Dreamed About

Author is very popular after all. 9 of 15 participants in England wanted to work with writing, but only 2 of 9 answered novelist - the remaining 7 also wanted to work as journalists, poets or combine their writing with running creative/spiritual workshops. The ones who didn't dream about writing wanted to do comedy, make clothes, work with film animation and being part of a team that developed new apps.
Most people were pursuing their dream to some extent (even though they didn't make much money from it), but only one person answered that she already had her dream job: being able to make art, creating in different ways - just wishing for her own studio. And one person didn't have an answer; once upon a time she wanted to become a West End stage girl, but realised that she needed to use her brain a bit more and started to study biology.
Jobs that People in Sweden Dreamed About

Among people in Sweden only 3 of 15 people picked writing (in different genres/combinations) as a dream job. Someone wanted to make music and affect people politically, another wanted to "do something creative that is positive for society" and a third wanted to make art in a massive studio - "the world's biggest toy house". Apart from that the dream jobs were more tangible: librarian, lawyer, archeologist, interior design communicator, land-surveyor and union rep. They already worked or studied within these fields, but had different dreams relating to their job/career: they wanted to move forward and develop themselves.
The remaining three people didn't have any specific dream jobs. One of them (an admin worker) described herself as a restless person who slipped back and forth and had to find new things and constantly challenge herself, but the other two (a carer and shop worker) expressed that they had never had any big ambitions or occupations they were attracted to. Something I  - who live in the world of dreams - find hard to grasp.
Artistic versus Traditional Dream Jobs

Looking at my little study it turns out that people in England had more creative/artistic dream jobs in mind than people in Sweden; the Swedes were more focused on traditional/tangible jobs, but I don't want to state that as a truth in any way. I think that's more to do with the fact that my network in England - and above all in Brighton - is different to my network in Sweden.

My own Dream Job
My own dream job is and has always been to become an author, but the dream has taken different shapes over time. When I was around 20, I wanted to write novels 24 hours a day and isolate myself from the world. I don't want that anymore. Now my dream is more abstract: I want to write in different genres. Everything from creative non-fiction to writing for stage. And like most other creators I'd like to make my whole living from my writing. But I'm not prepared to stick to one genre and "produce" one book a year.

Author AND ?
I've also realised that there are people who are authors AND teachers or authors AND psychologists or authors AND cultural workers. That they are happy with that and want it that way. For me that's a new new thought. (I mean it's unusual that someone has two demanding "brain jobs" at the same time for example doctor AND computer programmer). I've always believed that if you're an author you can only be an author and if you don't make enough money from it you can only do "unqualified" jobs like shop assistant, cleaner or waiter - jobs that don't demand too much brain power and gives you time to think about the writing while you're "day working". But it's also possible that a more "qualified" job can give you inspiration and feed the writing, that you become more specialised within one subject and gain "free research". At the same time "an ordinary day job" can be inspiring and make you write out of frustration.

Work Less
It's hard to know what works best, but slipping back and forth, finding new things and challenging yourself, as one of the project participants said, seems to be a good strategy. And I've always been a fan of working LESS. If everyone worked part time and consumed less and lowered their standard I think we would have a happier society. (There's a movement that has raised the question about unconditional basic income.)
The picture of me is taken by the 3-year old in the family I stayed with during project week 12.
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What would you like to study if you had the chance?

Monday, 22 July 2013

Question 9b: What are you Most Embarrassed about in your Home?

IMG_3405Even though most homes that I visited in Sweden were of a better standard than English homes, the project participants had similar opinions about their homes: it was the mess they were most embarrassed about. However, I thought that most people had an acceptable level of mess.
People in Sweden had more luxury problems compared to people in England. A small bathroom is better than a damp bathroom ...
(The picture is of my own sink as I don't want to embarrass the people I stayed with by showing pictures of their mess.)
Sweden_Grunge_Flag_by_think0What people in Sweden were most embarrassed about in their homes:
The floor in the hallway and the bedroom
The bathroom is a bit too small
The garden, the stairs that are falling apart
That I don't have any skirting boards in the kitchen
That the laundry place is outside
That we haven't decorated yet
The oblong rice lamp
A tendency to let everything become chaotic, bad organising
The messy kitchen
That it's always so messy
The flower on the wall, that they've painted the wall red and finished half-way through 
That I should wash the windows
The wallpaper by the bed, you can see greasy spots from the guy who lived here before 
That I haven't used my hoover
That the laundry room is in a mess
stgeorgeflag1What people in England were most embarrassed about in their homes:
The window in my room is dirty
Some DVDs, "some people judge me by my films, but some of them belong to my old housemates”
The damp upstairs
The damp in the kitchen and the bathroom
The location, the surroundings aren't that nice
My landlord's girlfriend ("It would upset me if I treated her the way she treats me.")
My family calendar
A vase I piss in when I can't be bothered (The person had a looong way to the toilet)
It could be tidier
The messyness, things we still need to be doing
That my plumbing is only half-finished
The clutter
The massive telly (that belongs to my housemate)
The carpet in the front room
The dripping tap
The only thing I'm embarrassed about in my new home is that one of my two plants is about to die. I don't know if I've given it too much or too little or water of if it just had a sunstroke.
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What's your dream job?