• Sweden edition
 
Opinion
'Moving wasn't a choice, Sweden called to me'

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

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

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 stories about Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Solveig Rundquist (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
National
Anti-Israel graffiti 'not a race crime': Court
Photo: TT

Anti-Israel graffiti 'not a race crime': Court

A teenage boy who painted anti-Israel slogans and symbols on the Concert Hall in Gothenburg has been convicted for the damages he caused, but he walked free from racial agitation charges. READ  

Politics
Israel's ambassador recalled from Sweden
Israeli ambassador Isaac Bachman. Photo: TT

Israel's ambassador recalled from Sweden

Israel has recalled its ambassador from Stockholm "in irritation" that Sweden has officially recognized the State of Palestine. READ  

Entertainment
A closer look at Sweden's rising stars
Swedish actresses Sandra Huldt and Julia Ragnarsson. Julia (right) has been nominated for a Rising Star award. Photo: TT

A closer look at Sweden's rising stars

Like to be ahead of the game when it comes to the next big thing on the silver screen? We find out more about the Swedish nominees for the Rising Star award to be presented at Stockholm's International Film Festival next week. READ  

Science
Swedish women in two-year sex pill study
Contraceptive pills have been linked to mood swings. Photo: Shutterstock

Swedish women in two-year sex pill study

Three hundred women from across Sweden are taking part in a study designed to demonstrate that modern contraceptive pills don't lead to decreased libido or mood swings. READ  

National
Stockholm 'sinking' oil spill ship safe
The ship was rescued on Thursday. Photo: Swedish Coast Guard

Stockholm 'sinking' oil spill ship safe

After fears a ship carrying around 52 tonnes of oil could sink in Stockholm's archipelago, Sweden's Coast Guard said the vessel had been towed to safety. READ  

National
Dog attack policewoman acquitted on appeal
A scene from a video of the attack published by Dagens Nyheter

Dog attack policewoman acquitted on appeal

A policewoman accused of letting her dog attack a drunk man while she repeatedly hit him with a baton, has had her conviction overturned by a court in Stockholm. READ  

Entertainment
What's On: October 31st - November 7th
Uma Thurman will soon be on her way to Stockholm. Photo: TT

What's On: October 31st - November 7th

Halloween fun and an international film festival are the big events hitting Stockholm this week. We cast our eye over the capital and the rest of the country for the best activities to check out this week. READ  

International
Pirate Bay Swede found guilty in Denmark
Gottrid Svartholm Warg. File photo: TT

Pirate Bay Swede found guilty in Denmark

Sweden's Pirate Bay Founder Gottrid Svartholm Warg was found guilty of hacking crimes in a Danish court on Thursday. READ  

National
Malmö loses out as rare toads move in
The European green toad. Photo: H. Krisp (WikiCommons)

Malmö loses out as rare toads move in

After a rare species of toad moved into southern Sweden's Malmö, builders have had to tone down massive expansion plans in the area. READ  

Politics
Palestine recognized as state by Sweden
Sweden's Foreign Minister is Margot Wallström. Photo: TT

Palestine recognized as state by Sweden

The Swedish government has officially decided to recognize Palestine, with the move announced in a speech by the country's new Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
Stockholm's shocking take on Halloween
Sport
Top ten quotes from Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
People-watching: October 30th
National
Sweden remains fourth best for gender equality
Blog updates

29 October

Scariest day (Blogweiser) »

"This is what’s frightening me on Halloween. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4OFZVCu8J0&list=UUJu5J7jG4uoYSjWbpFsJBuQ Follow my posts on FB. ..." READ »

 

24 October

Editor’s blog, October 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Get ready to read our weekly digest of Swedish news in less than 60 seconds. The..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Sport
World Cup ski race on 'fake' Stockholm slope
Society
An Arctic tradition: hunting and handicraft
Society
Stockholm taxis offer free therapy sessions
National
The Local meets Health Minister Gabriel Wikström
Gallery
Property of the week: Österåker
Society
Homeless turtles get Stockholm police ride
National
Construction worker has 'Sweden's best beard'
National
Italian musician jazzes up Sweden's Lapland
Gallery
Zlatan's career in pictures
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching: October 25th and 26th
Lifestyle
'Swedes are funnier than they think'
National
Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

970
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
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:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN