Sunday, 30 June 2013

Question 8c: How Settled do you feel in your Neigbourhood?

IMG_3343I don't know the street names. Don't know the short cuts. Don't have my local café or pub. I'm not recognised when I go to the shops. Basically, I haven't lived here long enough.
Thursday night I passed a café with live music. There was a nice atmosphere, people hung out in the street with paper cups of coffee and cans of beer. I stopped, listened to three songs. I could have stayed longer, but it felt as if I was a visitor, an observer. A tourist even. However, that's quite a nice feeling and I should enjoy it while it lasts.
Most of the Swenglish participants felt more at home in their city in general than in their neighbourhood in particular. But there were a few exceptions. A person in Malmö said that she felt more at home in the Möllan area than in Malmö itself. And in Brighton a couple of people felt particularly settled in the Hanover area. Perhaps it's easier to feel settled in an area that's got a specific character or it could just depend on for how long you've lived somewhere. Or if your friends live in the same area.
Many people mentioned neighbours. The ones who had a good relationship with their neighbours - or at least said hello to them on a regular basis - felt more settled in their area. I'd thought that people in England were more friendly towards their neighbours, inviting them over for tea and stuff, but through living with the Swedish Swenglish people I realised that there's not a big difference in Sweden. It mostly depends on where and how you live. If you live in a house in a village it's more natural to chat to your neighbours than if you live in a block of flats in a big city.
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 settled do you feel in your flat/house?


Sunday, 23 June 2013

First Swedish Midsummer in 11 Years: Herring Cruelty and other Traditions

IMG_3281Excited and ecstatic. That's how I felt during the Midsummer weekend as I haven't celebrated a proper Swedish midsummer for 11 years. I have celebrated the summer solstice in England though by going to Stonehenge and taking part in other hippie activities, but I'd almost forgotten what Midsummer in Sweden is like. It felt like New Year's Eve; I waited for the clock to strike midnight and thought that something magical would happen. It didn't.  
IMG_3286Lunch time was exciting enough. My friends and I were invited to a traditional midsummer lunch on an island outside Gothenburg. I forced myself to try the pickled herring (disgusting, normally I'm a vegetarian) but luckily I got a snaps (spiced vodka) to wash it down with. We also sang  Helan Går and other classic snaps songs. Apart from the herring you eat new potatoes with dill and sour cream.

Dessert: strawberries with cream and ice-cream. In my family we usually have the strawberries with milk and sugar.
IMG_3310We danced around the midsommarstång and finished "the little frog song" just before it started to rain. Rain in particular seems to be a Swedish midsummer tradition. 
Another tradition is to pick seven different kinds of flowers and put them under your pillow - you will then dream of the person you are going to marry. I didn't pick any flowers, but I passed on my own tradition of picking words at random in a book and then reflect about them for a while. Colonisation and shingle machine were some of my words, but when we tried our luck with the tarot cards I got cruelty (in that particular deck of Swedish cards). I interpret it as cruelty against the herring. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Question 8b: How settled do you feel in your city/town?

"Sometimes I feel like my only friend is the city I live in, The City of Angels, lonely as I am together we cry" - Red Hot Chili Peppers, Under the Bridge
I've never felt as settled as I did in Brighton & Hove. After just a few weeks there as a 19-year-old, it felt as if the city was my friend - just like the Red Hot Chili Peppers song - and one of the people I stayed with during Swenglish said: Brighton treats me well, as if it was truly a character.
Most of the people I stayed with in England lived in the Brighton area and a majority said they felt very settled there and couldn't imagine living anywhere else in Britain. Funnily enough no one was born in Brighton and only two had lived their as kids. The rest had moved there to study - or in many cases just ended up there because Brighton had a good vibe. Open-minded and friendly were words that turned up time and time again.
Of the Swedes, 8 of 15 felt very settled in their current cities or towns. Especially the ones who lived in Umeå (both of them from Småland) seemed to be in love with their city, but also 3 out of 4 people in Stockholm (none of them native) felt very settled. So you don't have to be born and bred in a certain place to feel settled. Only 7 out of 30 people lived in or near their hometown.
My dilemma is that I feel more settled in Brighton than in Sweden, but I feel more settled in Sweden than in England ...
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 settled do you feel in your neighbourhood?

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Question 8a: How Settled Do You Feel in Your Country?

Thursday was the National Day of Sweden and since 2005 it's also a public holiday. So what? I thought. It just felt like another Saturday, an opportunity to get out of town and into nature. I felt no desire to run around waving a flag. To be proud of a country is quite artificial. Just because you were born somewhere you can't give yourself credit for that country's goodness or whatever. And feeling ashamed of a country doesn't feel relevant either unless you're part of the government.
The reason for celebrating the National Day is that 6 June is the date when Gustav Vasa was made King and Sweden became independent. England doesn't have an official National Day, but some people celebrate St George's Day 23 April in the memory of the patron saint's death date. How exciting.
To feel settled in a particular country is a different question. You often feel at home in a country just because you're used to a certain culture. And sometimes you can feel at home in another country without knowing why. Maybe because you like the food or the climate or the people.
Most of the Swedes (13 of 15), who were all born in Sweden, said they felt very settled, and even though they sometimes longed to move abroad they didn't want to leave Sweden for good. Here are some of the answers that stood out:
"I'm not 100% settled ... If I get to travel now and again I enjoy it very much, but if I stay in Sweden for too long it gets boring. It's just that I really want to experience other cultures."
"I find it quite easy to feel settled, if I stay somewhere for more than three months I feel at home."
"I'm very settled ... I almost think it would be a good thing, not feeling so settled. There's so much you feel secure with here, it's hard to build up that in another country."
Of the people in England, where 6 was born outside of England or hade parents from other cultures, there were 9 of 15 who felt very settled, and of the 6 people with other origin than British, there were as many as 3 who felt very settled. The people who felt the least settled were the ones who had travelled a lot. Here are the answers that stood out from England:
"I'm pretty settled after I've decided not to travel so much. I've limited myself to only travel for a month at a time; I've made more roots here now, I'm not in a hurry to move to another country." 
"I'm never settled, if someone gave me the opportunity to move outside of the UK, I'd definitely think hard about it."
"I have fantasies of going abroad. A fortune teller once told me that I will live and die in another country and it makes me happy thinking of that."
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 settled do you feel in your city?