• Sweden's news in English
 
Opinion
'Moving wasn't a choice, Sweden called to me'

'Moving wasn't a choice, Sweden called to me'

Solveig Rundquist · 25 Jul 2014, 08:25

Published: 25 Jul 2014 08:25 GMT+02:00

Love refugees. International couples. Labour migrants. PhD students.

Oh, and me.

Born and raised in a conservative, uber-religious small American town, I replanted my south-western roots in cold Swedish soil when I was 20 years old.

I left my parents, my sisters, my hometown, my friends, and an obvious culture drought.

It was never a choice. Sweden called to me.

But when I told people in the US that I was moving to Sweden, they always seemed a bit perplexed. “Oh, really? Why is that?”

I would gush about the language, the culture, the food, the jovial songs, the way the sunlight hits the water in the Stockholm archipelago, mention my heritage... and then I would add that I was dating a Swede.

Only then did understanding dawn in their faces. “Ah, I see,” they would respond knowingly.

No. No, you don't see.

What I saw, time after time, were social stereotypes, blind patriotism, dusty norms, and gender roles. I saw that supposed epiphany in people's faces so many times, it's a wonder there is still hair on my head. I wanted to rip out every strand in frustration.

Why did everyone insist that my feelings for a man had to outweigh my feelings for a foreign country?

Surely no one would leave their homeland of their own free will, they seemed to say. “You're crazy, but it's fine, because you're in love.”

Here in Sweden, I found my conversations with other expats were not much different. I threw myself eagerly into Swedish culture, but of course getting to know the often-reserved inhabitants was a bit of a challenge. So I associated with plenty of other foreigners and fellow Americans as well – but I frequently found that I couldn't relate to them.

Everyone I met who appeared to be in my situation didn't share my feelings at all. The vast majority had moved for love, and a handful had moved for job opportunities. And they quite openly expressed their apathy for their new country.

“Sweden is where I live, but it will never be home.”

Words that were said on a stage at an American club event which were echoed and applauded with unanimous empathy from the audience.

Part of me still can't even fathom it. How can you live in such an incredible society and not appreciate it? How can you not long to embrace it?

A musical language where it sounds like people are singing all the time – and where they frequently are actually singing, about summer and sunshine.

A subtle, humble pride of the culture and the nation's accomplishments, while maintaining a curiosity and openness to the world and new ideas.

A collective altruism where people take for granted that the greater good is indeed just that – beneficial for everyone.

The fact is that, even though they may not wear it on their thermal long sleeves, Swedes are filled with joie de vivre – which during the summer months generally means plenty of strawberries and cream.

They know how to live, and they love it.

I have learned, of course, that Sweden is not a perfect country. Like any other nation, it has its demons. Globalism has presented certain challenges, and racism still rears its gruesome head from time to time, momentarily tarnishing the glow. Government policies stumble, pick themselves up, brush off the dust, and try again.

And of course the winters are tough – I needed an alarm clock with a sun-simulator to get me through the first one. But the summers are worth it. Sweden, in general, is worth it.

As it happens, I kept falling in love with Swedes as well, and I am still in love with a Swede, although not the same one. And our relationship is wonderful enough that it would be worth relocating for. But the point is that, for me personally, there's no better place to be - Swede or no Swede.

I guess you could say that I did move for love. I had two relationships, one with a Swede and one with Sweden. The first one ended.

My love for Sweden never did.
 

Follow Solveig on Twitter.

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Solveig Rundquist (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Man dies after falling three floors in Swedish nightclub
People queuing outside the Yaki-Da nightclub in Gothenburg last year. Photo: Yaki-Da Facebook

Man dies after falling three floors in Swedish nightclub
3 hours ago

A man in his 30s has died after falling from the third floor inside the Yaki-Da nightclub in Gothenburg late on Friday night.

Julian Assange
British press savages Assange and UN panel
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange holding a U.N. report on the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Photo: Katy Wrigglesworth/AP

British press savages Assange and UN panel
7 hours ago

UK newspaper columnists on Saturday took aim at Julian Assange and the UN panel that found the anti-secrecy campaigner had been "arbitrarily detained".

Julian Assange
Assange: 'Today is a significant victory for us'
Julian Assange's press conference on Friday. Photo: Mattias Areskog/TT

Assange: 'Today is a significant victory for us'
1 day ago

Will Julian Assange be able to walk free?

Julian Assange
Swedish rape activists slam UN on Assange
The board of Swedish women's refuge lobby Roks. (Zozan Inci front left). Photo: Roks

Swedish rape activists slam UN on Assange
1 day ago

“The UN thinks that the justice of the women who have been assaulted and raped is less important than the right of a possible offender to walk freely in the streets.”

Ikea loses right to own trademark in Indonesia
What four yellow letters can Ikea put up at its store outside Jakarta. Photo: Flickr/BxHxTxCx

Ikea loses right to own trademark in Indonesia
1 day ago

You thought that Ikea was a Swedish purveyor of flatpack furniture? Well not in Indonesia it isn't, at least not any more.

The Local List
Four fab facts about Sweden's 'Melodifestivalen' mania
Måns Zelmerlöw won Eurovision song contest 2015. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Four fab facts about Sweden's 'Melodifestivalen' mania
1 day ago

Christmas, Midsummer and Lucia are all important holidays in Sweden. But there is one event that is bigger than them all.

The Local music
Ten fantastic Swedish songs for February
Maja Francis. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

Ten fantastic Swedish songs for February
1 day ago

February brings a haul of great new Swedish pop - let our music writer, Paul Connolly, take you through the very best.

Elderly Swedes arrested in Thailand for playing bridge
Stock picture of playing cards. Photo: Ingvar Karmhed/SCANPIX

Elderly Swedes arrested in Thailand for playing bridge
1 day ago

A game of bridge had an unexpected ending for 32 club members in Thailand, including three Swedes.

Swedish Volvo's offloads costs for big profit rise
A Volvo trucks plant in the US. Photo: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Swedish Volvo's offloads costs for big profit rise
1 day ago

Truck maker Volvo reported a big profit boost on Friday following a massive cost-cutting programme.

Swede finds 86-year-old condom at grandma's
The condoms were made out of silk. Photo: SVT

Swede finds 86-year-old condom at grandma's
1 day ago

Would you trust a silk condom?

Sponsored Article
How to set up shop in the 'Silicon Valley of Sweden'
International
Who exactly is Julian Assange?
Sponsored Article
US taxes and FATCA: 'The time for hiding is over'
Travel
Stockholm's eight REAL no-go zones
Gallery
People-watching: February 3rd
Blog updates

4 February

City Runs (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Since moving to Stockholm I’ve been blessed to live next to the Djurgarden, and to be…" READ »

 

3 February

An amazing month for The Local as Europe thirsts for news (Globally Local) »

"Here at The Local, we shy away from blowing our own trumpet – but sometimes if…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Swiss hospitality: The ladder to your international career
National
'How confronting the man who robbed me gave me closure'
Sponsored Article
Ice magic at north Sweden island lodges
National
TIMELINE: All the twists and turns in the Julian Assange case
Analysis & Opinion
DEBATE: Why are Swedes so obsessed with Nordic skiing?
Culture
See which Swedish museums are now opening up for free
Sponsored Article
Just landed? Here's the secret to finding work in Stockholm
Gallery
Property of the week: Insjön, Nacka
Sponsored Article
Stockholm's secret ski resort: Kungsberget
National
VIDEO: Tensions caught on camera inside Swedish asylum home
Gallery
People-Watching: January 29th - 31st
Sponsored Article
Luleå: 8 winter must-dos in Sweden's far north
International
How will Sweden deport up to 80,000 failed asylum seekers?
Sport
When you gotta go... Swedish racing dog does poo and then takes gold
Sport
Guess who just got a HUGE pay rise?
Travel
WATCH: Five top tips for safe ice skating on Sweden's gorgeous lakes
Gallery
People-watching: January 27th
National
'Sweden could be at war within years'
Gallery
Property of the week: Öjersbo, Kungsbacka
International
Why is the Pope coming to Sweden?
Travel
Ten must-see Stockholm museums
National
He created Sweden's huge snow penis
Culture
The historic moment when Abba reunited on stage in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
OPINION: Why I can't embrace Sweden's obsession with hugging
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Mamma Mia The Party show opens in Stockholm
3,440
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se