Temptation. Ever dealt with it? You know, it’s that feeling you get every time the weather warms up, or whenever you walk inside H & M. In my case, it’s also what I deal with when I see anything with a combination of the words “free” and “food.”
But there’s another temptation too. And no, it has nothing to do with clubs located on campus, cheap travel to foreign destinations, pool halls, and/or the worldwide phenomenon known as herring.
That temptation, faithful readers, is the temptation to remain complacent. It’s the temptation to not go out of your comfort zone, to only hang out with people who come from the same country, speak the same language, or wear the same brand of skinny jeans you do.
There’s a lot of sad stories out here in Växjö. Students that come to Linnaeus University and only spend time with other students from their home country, never making an effort to meet any Swedes or even learn a word of Swedish. It’s a dark, lonely existence, and unfortunately happens more than you might think.
Sure, going abroad might be scary. Sure, it can be hard to try and learn a new language. And sure, the typical Swede might not exactly be as talkative as, say, the average Italian. I know this sounds horribly cliché, but that fear can be overcome. Because I did it.
Hey, come closer! Yeah, that’s right: get over here. Now lean over. Closer. Just a little closer. O.K. That’s perfect. Now listen to this. Let me let you in on a little secret: I’m not the only American in Växjö. It’s true. No I’m not lying. But while there are other Americans here, I don’t spend any time with them.
Sounds cruel, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth. The logic is simple: if I wanted to hang out with Americans, I would have stayed in a certain country that happens to have over 300 million of them called America. But in Sweden I prefer to meet, well, Swedes.
Once you take that first step of conquering your fears, everything else seems to fall into place in almost fairy tale-like fashion. O.K. so it’s not quite Cinderella corny, but it’s still pretty cool.
Let me give you two different scenarios. Billy and Bob both came to Sweden for a year from a small college in Kansas. Billy didn’t know any Swedish, but went out of his comfort zone, joined a choir, and now speaks Swedish more than he does English.
And Bob… well, when Bob came back to the U.S. and shared his adventures with me in a fictitious Seattle sports bar, I turned to my equally fictitious server and asked if the place served crow. Alas, the kitchen was closed.
Take my advice. Be bold. Go out of your comfort zone. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with what I hereby christen Sitcom Syndrome – the state of being where you’re forced to watch boring reruns on TV because you didn’t take the chance to live life to the fullest.
How’s that “Lone Ranger” box set treating you, cowboy?