that english girl

Misfortunes, mirth & mischief of an english girl living in Sweden….

Mind your p’s and q’s

December 10th, 2009 by thatenglishgirl

My Parents always taught me to mind my p’s and q’s when I was a child.  I had to make sure I always said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ copious amounts of times to aging relatives and the like who at Christmas and birthdays, proffered gawdy hand knitted items of clothing and selection boxes of various well know chocolate bars such as Mars, Twix and Marathon.  Such was the type of Christmas gift in my day!  What a luxury it was to have 6 different types of chocolate bar to choose from and gorge on.  Imagine a child of today getting a Crunchie and a Bounty for Christmas….and being happy about it!

As a product of my Britishness I fall over myself to be pleasant and polite and always mind my p’s and q’s: excuse me, pardon me, forgive me, please may I have, please can you help me, I would be ever so grateful if, thank you so very much, I am eternally thankful, appreciative, indebted, beholden, and so on….One side of our language in Britain is entirely dedicated to being thankful, courteous, considerate, polite and of course sorry.  We are absolutely sorry to have disturbed anyone or anything for anything or anyone.  Upon disturbing someone…maybe as an example, to buy a pot of tea in a teashop we might say  ‘So sorry to disturb you’ and then morph into gratitude itself where no amount of thank you very much indeed for helping to quench our thirst, is considered too few.

We are sorry when we bump into someone in a crowded place, sorry if we fail to hold a door open for someone, sorry if we get served before someone else at the bar, sorry when we stand on someones foot and EVEN sorry when somebody stands on OUR OWN foot.  Ridiculous, but it is the first thing that pops out of a Brits mouth…Opps SORRY! I didn’t see you there…No I am SORRY my foot was in the way!

Swedes though on the other hand, or to be fair I should probably say Scandinavians, do not have this burning need to be so polite all the time.  That is not to say that they are rude, it’s just that the language is more direct and without so many frills as English.  Swedish does not even have a direct word for ‘please’, in the form we use it when we ask for something.  They of course just cut straight to the thanks (Ett kopp te, Tack).

My family visited me this weekend and following a number of restaurant dinners and shopping expeditions they came to the shocking conclusion that waitresses and shop assistants were being quite rude to them!  Having lived in Sweden for quite a few years now I didn’t feel that at all, people were ‘normal’ as far as I was concerned.  But thinking back…I did remember feeling exactly the same thing when I first moved to Sweden.  I explained to my family that it was not so much Swedes were rude more that they weren’t overly polite like we in England.  We ordered an apple juice and the waitress said ‘NO, we don’t have apple juice’.  To my brothers delicate English ears that appeared rude because of course she forgot the obligatory magic words…No I am SORRY but we don’t have apple juice, but PLEASE can I offer you Orange juice instead? yes ok. THANKYOU’

The language in Sweden is more direct, more efficient you might say, certainly without apology and at times lacking helpful suggestions or alternatives, but does that qualify someone as rude?

I must have been here far too long because I think not.  It’s just a matter of adaption for the Brit to get over the inborn desire to be sorry, polite and then thankful in everything we do.  Maybe realising that the rest of the world is not so bloody sorry about anything that is not personally their fault. But maybe the Scandinavians with their excellent English abilities and kind natures can also help international relations and remember to mind their p’s and q’s when faced with manner obsessed Brits…In the words of Caroline af Ugglas… snälla, snälla!

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Booty call

December 3rd, 2009 by thatenglishgirl

Swedish advent has arrived and the onset of the countdown to Christmas can mean only 2 things to Swedish boys and girls: One, it’s time to put up your advent lights (7 candles arranged like an arrow) in your windows and two, it’s time to hit the Border Shop!

Most of you in living outside planet Sweden probably don’t know this but, alcohol in Sweden is sold only through a state operated monopoly called ‘Systembologet’.  So as you can imagine, any self respecting treasurer is not going to do tax payers any favours buy offering any attractive buy one get one free deals or ‘BOGOF’ as we have lovingly come to know them in UK.  Under the guise of protecting our health the Swedish government keep the prices of favourite tipples at a premium in a bid to keep consumption low and presumably ease the strain on the liver transplant waiting list!

With Germany less that 3 hours away by car it didn’t take long for the savvy Germans to spot an opportunity or two and soon open up massive floating hypermarkets at the ports that service ferries between Denmark and Sweden with Germany.  Welcome to Border Shop phenomenon where Swedes and Danes alike fill their boots with boozy booty, blatantly ignoring their governments attempts on liver preservation.  What’s that theory now….something about forbidden fruit was it…

My Swedish boy asked me if I fancied a little jaunt across the waters, stock up on some Xmas booty and take in a night in Lubeck famous for its marzipan (another favourite at this time of year). ABSOLUT! I replied.  I love the way that Swedes answer questions affirmatively whilst simultaneously demanding shots of their own branded vodka!  I think this gives further evidence too, to the fact that alcohol starved Swedes have booze on the brain.  It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, you are guaranteed to hear at least 10 ABSOLUTS a day. And that’s before they have even started on the snaps.

You see, this restriction on alcohol just doesn’t seem to work, does it?…the intentions are good…but…it’s basic economics, supply and demand…restrict the supply and the demand shoots through the roof.  Still the Germans don’t mind at all and it makes a nice day out.

So off we went, short drive across Denmark…2 hours…short ferry crossing…45 minutes…and Voila! You are in Germany, oh wait a minute that’s French…well never mind that now, we have got other things on our mind.

Lubeck is a charming town bursting with Gothic churches surrounded by calming waters and in December the center is home to bustling stalls selling all things Christmassy. It’s quite wonderful.  We was really looking forward a truly GERMAN experience but everywhere the quaint roads twisted and turned,  all we could hear were lots and lots of, um, Swedes!!  ABSOLUT! they all seemed to be exclaiming simultaneously. It appeared we weren’t the only ones with booty on our minds this weekend.

Feeling right at home we got stuck in to the German/Swedish Christmas market experience, gulping down hot gluwein laced with Ameretto from mugs emblazoned with snow scenes and santas and munching massive foot long bratwursts that were accompanied with the smallest piece of bread I have ever been served.  Next we headed to one of the famous marzipan shops and joined the throng of people all clambering to get there hands on the sugary booty shaped like any kind of animal, fruit, vegetable, object or effigy that you could possibly imagine .  It was like the end of the war and rationing had finally been abolished and the shops had just got their first delivery, such was the apparent panic buying and surge of people in the shop.  As I am partial to the taste of marzipan and this is supposed to be special stuff, there was no alternative but to join the heaving mass of Swedes and try to snatch up my own box of goodies and make it to the checkout in one piece.

Things were more civilised at the Border shop, probably because we chose to go there on a Saturday eve, when everyone is out in the bars drinking the stuff not shopping for it.  We stocked up for Christmas and probably Easter too.  Every now and then the floor seemed to sway a touch making me wonder about how much Ameretto was in those mugs of hot gluwein.  Had I totally lost count of the number of tiny sample cups of box wine I had tried….It wasn’t until we came out again that I realised that the Border Shop is actually a boat! A huge booze boat! You gotta hand it to the Germans, genius.

So laden up with stocks of red, white (& no blue) wine, beers, salami, cheese, tea, marzipan, cakes and goodness knows what other booty Germans are renown for providing, we hot footed it back home again with the rest of the Swedes.  Happy, fed, watered and ready to begin the advent to our Christmas. :)

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Back to school again…

November 25th, 2009 by thatenglishgirl

Not content with one terms worth of fumbling Swedish pronunciation and being made to feel like a 5 year old, I returned to school for the spring term.  And I was very glad I did.

Not only was I reunited with a lot of my old classmates but at the front of the class was a totally new creature…and she had a welcoming smile on her face!  My name is Kristina she beamed.  But you can all call me K.  What a breath of fresh air to feel such positivity and friendliness.  Despite this, being in this new class took a little getting used to and I slowly began to realise that I had actually been quite traumatised from my previous experience!  I don’t mean to overdramatise my situation here.  You can’t exactly compare a 35 year old being made to feel like a 5 year old with loosing half your family in a war and becoming a refugee or anything, but it had affected me. By comparison my classmates; Tunisian Tariq, Thai Thongchai, Filipino Fay, Serbian Selma and Iraki Iman, didn’t seem to be very fussed about mean ol’ Eva in the slightest.

They were all pretty much indifferent to whether a teacher was good or bad.  I don’t mean that they didn’t have an opinion, it’s just that good or bad teaching made no odds to them as long as the passed the course.  Without the certificate  ‘Gymnasium Swedish level B’ life in Sweden was a sort of no-mans land.  Coming from countries such as they did, they just HAD to learn Swedish as no-one could speak their languages. Although I too lived in this ‘no-mans land’ of not totally belonging, at least I had the emergency parachute of speaking English if I got into sticky situations.

As I got to know my class pals much better over the year and heard their hardships and for some, tragic past lives I did reflect a little on my cotton wool wrapped western upbringing and my maybe slightly oversensitive western demands (slightly I say!) .

There was no doubt that I had been having a hard time fitting in to the Swedish way of life with its different ways and foreignness on many levels.  For the first year I felt like someone had pressed the mute button, they had directed the remote control at me and turned off my usually more than active mouth.  I couldn’t explain myself fully in Swedish so tended to stand back and observe rather than participate.  This lack of understanding mostly led to my mind wandering away from conversations totally and start wondering about such things like whether I should buy the princess cake with the green icing or the pink icing next time at ICA Maxi.  Hearing Swedes talking Swedish around me resembled nothing like the words I had been learning at school, it was just like white noise and so I just tuned out to it, content in the knowledge that, yes!, I had in fact decided I would get the cake with green icing. (For those residing elsewhere Princess cake is a Swedish cake topped with jam, then thick custard, then lashings of whipped cream, then sturdy green (or pink) coloured marzipan-like icing.  Well if you are going to have cake may as well go the whole hog!)

People told jokes around me and laughed without explaining to me what was so bleeding funny, which led to a paranoid delusion that, it was in fact me that was the joke.  Maybe…  Well OK! No! Probably life’s not ALL about me, but when you are feeling down and insecure your imagination does get carried away with itself.  Before you know it you are locked in a small cupboard somewhere, sobbing about feeling like an alien with a large spoon in one hand and that strange lard laden green cake in the other.

But if my experience of adapting to my new life was difficult, what the hell must it be like for those without English, without Swedish boys (or girls), without standard levels of education, without financial means and without the privileged knowledge of western culture.  Not forgetting that most of them were additionally afflicted by some real type of trauma such as war, death, poverty, persecution….  Looking at my class mates made me realise that life could be much much harder, so I better blow my nose, dry my tears, stiffen that upper lip and pull my socks up!  Like them, I needed to show some fighting spirit.

So with my renewed perspective on life’s hardships  and the strict, but wholly more approachable K coaxing me to utter perfect Swedish sentences I am starting to adjust to this new Swedish lifestyle.  I am even starting to understand some of that white noise around me and reduce my cake dependency.  School as an adult is not so bad after all, you just have to show some good old fashioned British reserve and keep your chin up…and not let one bad experience overtake you…slowly things start making sense.

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Gaff of the week

November 23rd, 2009 by thatenglishgirl

In my ever expanding knowledge of Swedish I learned a  new word this week when I made a bit of a gaff at my sister-in-laws birthday party.   My other sister-in-law had a wonderful plait in her hair that started at one ear and went over the top of her head to her other ear, it looked very classy but very difficult to do. Nonsense she said, it was, in fact, very easy to do and she proceeded to demonstrate by fixing my unruly mop in the same style.  I was made up and rather embarrassingly so, thanked her very much indeed for putting a ‘lesbian’ in my hair!!  To which my Swedish boy cracked up with laughter.  (Swedish tip:  its fläta not flata).

They say that we all learn from our mistakes!

It’s all a bit confusing with the 3 types of ‘A’ in Swedish for those coming from a language that only find necessity in the one version. Before anyone starts, I know that  ä, å, and a are three separate letters of the Swedish alphabet but I just can’t seem to see the difference when I read them and automatically the English aaaahhhhh sound comes out of my mouth.

Then before you know it I’ve got lesbians in my hair, still I am sure my Swedish boy could think of worse things….

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Back to School

November 18th, 2009 by thatenglishgirl

So fate dealt me the ‘go back to school card’.

My first lessons were at Folk Universitet, which, for those not dwelling in Sweden is a school you have to pay to attend.  I did an intensive Swedish language course and it was all very civilised: friendly, helpful, fun, all the students were grown-ups and we all had some input into the classes, all what you would expect of an expensive adult education program.

After 5 months the intensive beginners course came to an abrupt halt.  Namely because we were no longer beginners anymore (yes really!) and there was no more levels to study.  So there was only one option left…I had to join the state run program.

In other words I had to REALLY go back to school.

Bearing in mind that I was under the impression that I was at school already, I was in for  A HUGE SHOCK.  Gone, was the modern environment of desks arranged meeting style.  Gone, was the smiling friendly teacher.   Gone, was the understanding nature that sometimes people miss class.  Gone, was the adult work ethic of adults working together to learn something.  Gone, was the communal cups of tea at break time.

My first day at school saw me wandering along the corridor, that’s proper long school corridors crammed with young students loitering around, gossiping and fighting.  Proper classrooms too, with the desks laid out like in high school so that those at the back can’t see the board.  I was joining the class 1 week late, but I didn’t realise this.  So I was totally unprepared for the onslaught I faced from the teacher who reprimanded me in front of everyone for missing the first week.  Eva took an instant dislike to me.  I was 5 years old again being told off for being a naughty girl.  I was like that geeky kid who smelled of wet dogs and everyone felt sorry for but they were too embarrassed to talk to or stick up for.  Actually someone did try to stick up for me (bless them), but they was quickly shot down by Eva’s wrath.

Eva had a small screwed up face with tiny black eyes and grey hair and had a penchant for hand knitted woolly jumpers, I couldn’t help but liken her to a koala bear in a novelty jumper, you know, the Australian souvenir type that you can clip to things by pinching their arms.  The image helped me considerably to get over my personal outrages throughout the term.

I did seriously consider not returning after the first day! But I thought I am and adult GODDAMMIT!! I can’t let this happen to me.

The teaching style was completely alien to me.  I thought teachers are supposed to be warm, generous, fun, helpful, encouraging, understanding and intelligent, especially teachers of a class of adults.  There is no need to treat 25-45 year olds, most of whom have their own kids, like naughty children. Is there?

Apparently the answer was yes, there is a need.  Here I was, a grown up with a university education, with 15+ years work experience, 30+ years life experience sat in a lesson and being treated like a 7 year old.  And there is something about the human condition, that when you are treated like a 7 year old you start acting like one!  So within a matter of weeks the whole class morphed from a collection of sane adults into a bunch of rowdy teenagers who didn’t do their homework, who came late for lessons, who missed lessons, who didn’t revise for tests, who constantly talked in class….It is hard to say if this was as a result of our being treated like 7 year olds or whether hard experience had taught Eva that all humans in a school situation ultimately behave like this.  Whatever the reason, Eva was there every step of the way to berate us for every misdemeanor, mistake and mispronounciation. What ever I did wrong, my furry koala friend would be there constantly clipped to the edge my text book muttering ‘USCHH!’

Personally I don’t ever recall any teacher being so mean spirited even when I was 7 years old!   Thankfully I passed that class and moved up to the next level where a much nicer, more forward thinking and welcoming teacher awaited me. Phew!  I do still feel a little like a child just by the very nature of being at school I guess.  But now I feel more like an 18 year old student who is being treated like an adult but is not quite given full credit because after all I can’t even speak fluent Swedish yet, so I suppose I am part child.

The Swedish schooling system for Immigrants does seem to hold up peoples development to my mind.  If the very nature of the system is to treat grown adults like children and remove their personal responsibilities its no wonder they flounder and become dependent on the nanny state.  I am all for staying young at heart but its time for adult language education for immigrants to grow up and be a responsible, interactive and progressive environment.

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It’s Fate, yes….?

November 12th, 2009 by thatenglishgirl

About 18 months before I  decided to come to Sweden I went to see a Tarot reader.  I have always been very interested in the notion of fate ruling our lives and if this thing we call ‘life’ is all predestined, could a 45 year old woman wearing far too much blue eye shadow and an amethyst necklace really see into my future….

Curious about this but also very skeptical I went along with my good friend Brenda one Sunday morning to The Mystic Fair, where a whole host of kooky looking folk had assembled, ready and willing to part with their hard earned cash for future insights and messages from beyond the grave. ‘As seen on TV’ and ‘Psychic to the Stars’ claimed some of the readers signs.  They sat behind tables covered in purple velour monogrammed with moons and stars and all it seemed had a penchant for that blue eye shadow. My reader told me that I would take a train from a big city maybe Rome with a guy that spoke English with a strange accent, she thought he maybe came from New Zealand…but couldn’t be sure…maybe there could be romance…and who is it that is pregnant she asked? Whoever it was, would maybe have some minor issue with the pregnancy but I should assure them it would be OK. Finally she could see me studying, I was going to go and learn something, I was surrounded by books she said.

Honestly I thought ‘what a crock of shit!’

The likelihood of someone somewhere in my life being pregnant and having a ‘minor’ problem was not exactly a genius forecast rather more a normal part of life.  The whole ‘romantic stud from New Zealand or somewhere’ was all a bit too vague and could easily be interpreted as taking the train home from London one night with a drunk Kiwi slurring in my ear. And finally there was no way in this world I was going to be going back to school. Been there done that, thank you!  When I updated PSychic Sue on my CV and suggested that maybe I had been to school and University for enough years already, she was adamant that I was indeed going to have my head in the books in the not too distant future.

As I handed over my 25 quid, I felt sorely ripped off and skepticism turned quickly into the realisation that this whole psychic tarot shebang was no more than old ladies predicting that people would have babies and maybe, just maybe, it would require some sort of medical attention in the process.  I don’t really know what it was I was hoping for personally…I did momentarily think that maybe I should try to see what Rita, the lady who reads tea leaves says instead… but… NO!  From then on I took the view that we make our own destiny.

Note there was not even a whiff of predictions about me moving to a new country, albeit a cold country with much the same climate as England, but all the same an exciting new life lay ahead….ooooooohhh. No. Nothing.

Fast forward to life in Sweden…and here I am sat at my kitchen table surrounded by cups, glasses, pots and pans…and…um…ohh…books!! Swedish grammar books, concise guides to common Swedish verbs, text books, exercise books and note books full of scribbles from my days at school.  SCHOOL!!!  Can you believe it? I sure as hell can’t believe it still.  I am actually back at school studying.  After all that protesting to PSychic Sue about enough schooling, she was right after all it seems.

And of course, now that I come to think about it my sister-in-law did have that small problem with the birth of her son, and it was all OK in the end.  And I actually did have the misfortune to meet 2 very drunk Kiwis on the train home from London one night with my good friend Becky (remember that one hon?) But far from being romantic studs, they had mullets straight out of the time when Jason Donavon was still in Neighbours and were deluded into thinking that the train journey was an episode of Jackass, kicking each other, farting and p**sing into used throw away coffee cups.   They said they were longing to head home so they could become butchers. Nice.

I am still not totally back on the side of the psychic, I think that they use such ambiguous language that you can end up reading anything into what they say and matching it to your actual life experiences. Ahem!

But, of course, say if, maybe, my Swedish boy (who speaks English with a strange accent doesn’t he?) was to take me off on a romantic little trip to Rome and we happened to take the train on to Florence thus leaving the big city of Rome by train…..maybe, just maybe, I could be won over again…..and get rushing down to Revealing Rita and her tea leaves to see what lays ahead in the Fuuutttuuurrreeee!  oooohhhhhh!.

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The art of pronunciation

November 5th, 2009 by thatenglishgirl

Attempting to converse with Swedes in their own tongue requires a stepping out of ones comfort zone a degree or two.

It is necessary to put oneself in the direct firing line of humiliation and ridicule.  Fun will be poked as attempts are made to pronounce peculiar words that require the mouth to move in a completely new alien way.  The sound ‘sj’ is something that does not exist in English and sounds something like the noise you make when blowing out your birthday candles. ffffffuuuuuuu.  It took me quite some time to master this sound and now feel I am qualified well enough to say ‘sjuttio sju sjuk sjömän sjunger i det sjukhuset’ (Translation: fffuuuteee fffuuu fffuuuk fffuuumen fffuunnger e de fffuuuk huuset) It is of course not sooo common to find 77 sick sailors singing in the hospital, but it does happen here in Sweden from time to time and so knowing the correct pronunciation is critical!

Apart from silly sounds to contend with, problems also arise with plain simple words too.  Many times I have being trying to articulate a word such as ‘cat’ lets say.  I say the word in the sentence and the listener stops me, mmm cat? whats that? You know cat!  A blank look on their face appears.  At this point I try different attempts to pronounce the word again…cat…kat…caat…caauuttt…ffffuuuucat!! Somewhere in amongst the noises I am making, something rings a bell of recognition in the ears of my listener and they suddenly say ‘Oh! You mean CAT!’ Well YEESSS, that is what I said in first place I think.  Sometimes it does feel that the joke is on me and the listener understood all along and is just having fun seeing me struggle and look foolish. Of course I meant bloody ‘Cat’ what else would be purring while I stroked it!

Moving on….There are many words in Swedish that have a similar spelling for example ‘glas and glass’ and of course they must be pronounced differently.  I have a real problem with this and I am often unable to identify the correct way to utter these words.  So much so that I am often found ordering 6 high ball ‘ice creams’ at the hardware store and asking the ice cream man for a Dime bar flavoured ‘glass’.

When guests come over for dinner I ask people if they are ‘dangerous’ at the end of the meal while warning small children not to touch the hot oven because ‘it’s finished’.  Like some goddess with other worldly powers I offer guests ‘light’ to drink (in addition to tea of course) and I have the ability to turn fruit ‘juice’ on.  I scream ‘FREE’ at people when it is there birthday and question ‘it’s congratulations?’ when I get a free bus ride, causing female bus drivers to touch their stomachs and embarrassingly shake their heads.

But my favourite language faux pas is the fact that for months and I mean MONTHS I have been wandering around Sweden exclaiming ‘IT’S GINGER’ here there and everywhere in my kindly, easy going nature. Why no one has bothered to tell me that ‘No problem’ was not pronounced like that I will never know.  I guess its all just part of the fun of learning a new language.

However, I do fear that it’s possibly some sort of condition that runs in the family though.  My mother told me that my brother had just bought a new car ….and …’s a Swedish car she marvelled….you guessed it, he bought a Vulva!!

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Brits Abroad!

October 31st, 2009 by thatenglishgirl

Sometimes one of the greatest things about being able to speak a different language in a foreign land is the no one understands you.  You can therefore have a certain degree of privacy in what you talk about with your compatriots.  I am a little envious when I overhear people on the bus, in restaurants, on the street, in England babbling away in Spanish, Turkish, Urdu, even Swedish occasionally.  Always a tad curious about other peoples small talk I do enjoy to listen in, but sadly feel left out and unable to partake in this little ‘hobby’ of mine when confronted by those that speak in the tongue of a far away land.  Its a secret and impenetrable world of which I can only imagine and guess the subject.  To my ear the unknown language is fast, punchy, snappy, a rattle of notes and pitches, a blur of sound from which no individual words can be identified.  Sometimes it is musical, an enjoyment and other times it is just a noise that seems to irritate the inner ear.  Always though it brings an element of the exotic, the unknown.  Images of far away places, sunshine, bright colours, sights, smells, differences.

Enter the Brit abroad.

Us Brits (and Yanks for that matter) are a privileged lot because we have the luxury of speaking a language that most of the world have at least some knowledge of.  We can be understood wherever we are in this rich and great world of ours and that is a big advantage.  The one disadvantage though, is that, well, we can be understood!

We can rarely have those moments of ‘secret squirrel’.  The pleasure of chatting away in a tongue that no one can fathom and people admire from afar is lost.  We are not exotic or unknown.  There is no sunshine, colour or difference about our language.  It is just a extension to many other peoples vocabulary, words that ring in their ears and mean something to them.

Some time ago my family were visiting me in Sweden, we sat in a cosy cafe drinking tea and dipping biscuits and reminiscing about a family friend that had passed away.  It was a sad story, he had lived his whole life with his mother, taking care of her and her ailments.  He never married or spent any of his hard earned wages on excessive living, apart from the odd holiday to Thailand.  He saved all his money up only to go and die 6 months after he retired. Dying even before his sick mother. Safe in the comfortable surrounds of my family in this discussion I brazenly speculated that he was gay, afterall he had never married and maybe those trips to Thailand were a little suspicious, and there was that camp ‘John Inman’ air about him….the discussions tempo went up a notch as we pondered on whether this could be true of our unassuming friend.

From the corner of the cafe a 50+ aged man with his elderly mother got up in haste and cast me a disgusted look.  I had obviously offended him and he wanted to show me his outrage by storming out of the cosiness in a flutter of drama!

Maybe he didn’t appreciate us gossiping about the dead or maybe he too lived alone with his mother and took odd trips to Thailand.  I have no idea.  (I might add here that I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with anyone who does want to live with their mother and enjoy the Thai weather once a year!) But one thing is for sure that Swedes speak very good English so be careful…they can understand….and they also enjoy the ‘hobby’ of listening in on other peoples small talk.

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October 21st, 2009 by thatenglishgirl

or maybe it should be Hej!

An English girl meets a Swedish boy…. and what do you know, suddenly you have English girls running amok all over Sweden trying to fit into the Swedish ways of life.  Or maybe its more the case of Sweden trying to learn how to accommodate all these foreign lassies who like to drink tea with milk and paint everything red, white and blue.

As a newcomer to a new land there are always going to be awkward and amusing situations to endure as two try to become one.  So I am taking the opportunity here to share some of the situations I find myself in and try to offer up some wisdom on events but more than wisdom I suspect, this blog will just be about random acts of cultural misunderstandings that face us all.  Not just the Brits.

So lets kick this off….

As a good immigrant to Sweden I am of course attending Swedish lessons.  One such lesson raised the interesting concept of ‘Självsabotage’ and it became the subject of our class discussions, if you can call our mediocre Swedish abilities worthy of the word ‘discussion’.  But that aside for now, my understanding of this term self-sabotage and the article in question was that we sabotage ourselves and our opportunities to integrate into a new society by continuing to speak our own language with our own ‘people’.  We do not dare to utter the new and strange sounds our mouths are not used to forming and feel much more at ease talking to someone who speaks our language.  Of course.  (as Local readers we can relate to this i think!)

But the interesting thing that amused me that day was that a large proportion of the class understood this term to mean something quite different altogether:

They thought that it was BECAUSE we learn to speak another language and move to a new country and integrate ourselves in that new country that we actually sabotage the true person we are…or was, in our motherland.  We effectively are loosing our natural selves as we become Swedish.  And they didn’t really like the idea!!

After some wrangling in pigeon Swedish and much pointing and gesturing we managed to make them understand what the concept really meant.  But after the class I was left with odd thoughts racing though my mind .  What if they were right??  What if my embarking on this Swedish voyage was self sabotage and my Englishness was at risk of elimination?

How was I going to be able to acquire a taste for pickled herring and still enjoy a large battered cod and chips.  How could I manage to sip Expresso House chai lattes without being unfaithful to my Earl Grey tea with a spot of milk.  How could I wave the blue and yellow flag without offending my Queen and country……..

Only time can tell what will happen, when an English girl meets a Swedish boy…….

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