Acclimatising to Sweden’s (much) colder climate

Mechanical engineering master's student Mohd Shafiq Sharhan bin Zainal shares his thoughts on adjusting to the weather since starting at Sweden's Blekinge Institute of Technology (BTH).

Acclimatising to Sweden's (much) colder climate

Winter is starting to come to Sweden. The low temperature and long dark days are the norm in here. For those who come from a tropical country, this environment is one of life's rare experiences.

As a second-year student, I have an opportunity to experience all four seasons in Sweden. In my personal experience, every season is cool and windy – even during summer! Some of my Swedish friends jokingly say there are five seasons in Sweden with an extra season occurring during the transition of spring to summer. This type of weather is cool and windy with a little bit more daylight. 

Comparing with my country in Malaysia, our weather is constantly hot and humid. We have constant daylight which begins from 7am to 7pm (approximately). We can conduct outdoor activities anytime. We don't need to buy a jacket or sweater and we can use the same shirt for the whole year. The sunny daylight is normal for us. Sometimes we always complain about the weather and say that it is too hot and sunny!

However, the luxury of longer daylight is restricted in Sweden. This privilege happens during the summer only. The weather is rapidly changing time by time. I have to plan different clothes for different weather. Outdoor activities need to be planned properly before the winter begins. I still remember during the last summer, my classmates and I were able to organise outdoor activities such as the barbecue event and swimming at the beach. But when winter arrives, things start to change and the daylight becomes shorter. The return trip from school is always in the dark, even though it is still at 4pm. 

As a Muslim, the change of weather produces new challenges for me. In the last Ramadan month (fasting month) I have to fast for more than 12 hours. The fasting duration in Sweden will begin from 3am to 9pm (approximate). In the winter, I need to adjust the prayer time accordingly due to the change of daylight. If I can compare with my country, I only need to fast for 12 hours per day and have a constant prayer time. Therefore, the experience in Sweden makes me appreciate the longer daylight because it cannot be obtained from countries where there are four different seasons.

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Despite this challenge, I am enjoying my time in Sweden. I have good friends, very good study infrastructure and a clean environment. I take the challenge here as an opportunity to learn and appreciate. This experience makes me more alert with my surroundings, enhances my adaptation ability and appreciate nature more.

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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.