To register or not to register, that is the question!

NFGL member Alev Karaduman from Turkey, currently studying at Lund University, asks an eternal question that seems to have major consequences for her time in Sweden.

To register or not to register, that is the question!
Photo: Pixabay

It was only my second week here as a student when I received “the” question from a Colombian friend: “Why Sweden? Is it because of how advanced it is? Or is it we who make such a big deal out of it?”

She kept asking; and finally finished with the “real” question: “By the way… Have you registered for the street party?”

The answers of all her questions were hidden under the last one: Seriously, had I registered?

How would you even register for a “street” party, I wondered? And how many occasions had I already registered for something since starting my Sweden adventure? How many “Sign up” buttons have I clicked?

Of course, there are many situations in which registration makes life way easier, especially issues related to bureaucracy.

However, experiencing occasions like “registration for a street party” was indeed new and strange for us. Therefore it became a major topic of daily conversation among us new students.

In the beginning, it was just the topic of a joke among friends: Registered for lunch? Registered to spend the night with your boyfriend? Have you filled a claim form for fika?

Because if you plan just to knock on my door, forget it!

Our jokes were getting more fun and creative, but I couldn’t help but think about this particular action – registering. Most of my friends and I come from cultures where you do in fact just show up: constantly, spontaneously, and mindlessly show up!

I thought of a chat I had with a Brazilian friend. He was feeling lonely here in Sweden and therefore considering adopting a cat. But he gave up the idea almost as soon as he mentioned it

“Well, here I probably need to register for thousands of things. Back home you just find couple of kitties in the street, make a Facebook post, and kitties are in their new homes within a day!”

When asking Swedish friends, why and how they register for all these things without even thinking anymore, their answer was: “Because it’s working! Registration works perfectly to solve daily matters and to make a more sustainable society!”

Thinking more about their comments, perhaps we can assume that registration is really about having more long-term attachments.

And considering Sweden, with all its achievements, it can also be said that this is a country with long-term plans and goals; long-term demands and promises.

Things are obviously working well, but what about the power of the unexpected, unplanned and unpredictable?

The power of being spontaneous that we managed pack into the 30 kg of luggage we brought to Sweden?

In his lecture about “Swedishness” at the SI Kick Off, John Alexander mentioned “could do cultures” and “must do cultures”, adding that Sweden is in the second category.

My redefinition of this would be more like “somehow cultures” and the “others”.

Or perhaps another variation of this concept might be “long-term” & “short-term” attachment cultures.

To make a long story short, I’m talking about “registering cultures” or “showing up cultures”!

It didn’t take long for us to understand that if we resist showing up, we would miss everything. Ironically, this led us later to register for anything available!

But while trying to play by the “Swedish rules” of the game, we started to violate another rule: not showing up for something we had promised to.

Our home-grown “could do” cultures were still heavier than our 30 kg of luggage and keeping us from behaving well. We were forgetting that sometimes trying so hard can ruin more.

So, here we are, a bunch of bright yet confused minds, trying to explore a new culture. We keep asking each other “Is it we who are making such a big deal out of this?”

But the point here is, if we already start asking these deep and critical questions, can’t this be seen as the beginning of adopting our own “long-term attachment” culture?

Isn’t it the way of “registering” with a culture in our own minds?

Isn’t it clicking on the “maybe” button instead of “yes” or “no” and still being a part of a work in progress?

And isn’t is the “spontaneous” realization of how far we have stepped in; how much “lighter” your luggage actually gets?

Isn’t it finally the way for us to say, “I still cannot guarantee that I will stop spontaneously showing up, but I can promise that I will register more.” 

Alev Karaduman comes from Turkey and is studying Applied Cultural Analysis (MACA) in Lund University


Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.