A voice for newcomers in Sweden

Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens

Ratiba says living in Sweden will "give a new meaning" to her life.

Published: 19.Oct.2016 13:49 hrs

Ratiba Hanoush, 28, left Syria for Turkey in 2012 before arriving in Sweden last year. She admits that she still feels like an outsider, but explains why she is happier here than at home.

Why did you move to Sweden?

It wasn’t an easy option to leave Syria from the beginning, however, just like others we had to leave. We considered 17 different countries, and finally decided on Sweden.

We simply wanted to secure a better future for our children Karam and Julia.

What have you done since moving to Sweden?

Since I moved here, I've very hard to understand Sweden and to set down roots. I learnt the language, took culture-oriented courses, and joined different internships, all while taking care of my children.

Now I am working at the institute for language and folkloric dialect in Gothenburg. I am very happy with my job, I feel like I am in the perfect place, it fits me and my experience with literature and language. Now I am conducting a research on Sweden’s first names, and their origins (folkloric archive).

How do you feel living in Sweden?

I actually love living here. Many people talk about alienation and loneliness, but I haven’t experienced any.

Nothing has changed for me; I felt like I was a stranger in Syria and the same feeling followed me here to Sweden. Nonetheless, alienation feels better in Sweden - since people here are from many different backgrounds, I find myself a stranger among scores of 'aliens'.

Still, in the end I’m part of a group (of outsiders), which I wasn't in Syria.

My mum is Russian and my dad’s Circassian, at home we spoke Russian and most of my Syrian friends had foreign mothers. That made me always feel like I’m an outsider within the Syrian community, although I consider myself a Syrian as well.

My Syrian Arab schoolmates used to run away from me after school, or in our neighborhood - people called us "the Russian family". I felt like I was a stranger, with very few similarities between me and others.

Aleppo’s people were so closed, and we the Circassians are a closed community as well. This made it very hard to understand each other, despite the fact that strangers were warmly welcomed and taken care of by Syrians.

What observations have you made about Sweden and its society?

I have no problem with Sweden’s weather, I love winter and am not much a fan of summer. 

In our Syrian community many values were written on papers, and not practiced in real life. Here it’s the contrary. 

The difference is that here, nothing is concealed, people express everything frankly, fearlessly. We don’t. The Swedes’ honesty is better, even if it hurts - I don’t need to befriend you if I simply don’t like you. 

These people are intimate, and are warm-hearted. They have a kind of intimacy I’ve never experienced before, but nonetheless, they’re not always ready to express their sentiments. But once they’re out, the Swedes’ emotions are abundant. 

Do you feel settled in Sweden?

Living in Sweden will add a value to my life, it’ll give me a new meaning. My children are going to have Syrian, Russian and Swedish traits, and for me as well as them, that’s richness. 

However, I’ll never become a Swede in my lifetime, it’s just not that simple to forsake one’s history of two decades and become a new human in no time at all.

Note: Ratiba's story is also featured in MIG Talks, a joint communications effort initiated by the Swedish Migration Agency. Read more here (in Swedish).

More Stories

Antonio hopes to use pornography to change the perception of Syrians and refugees.

Antonio, 19, is a Syrian refugee and porn actor hoping to change perceptions of refugees

A 19-year-old refugee is hoping to change people's perception of Syrians and refugees - by making porn. READ
The Local talks to an American Donald Trump supporter on what it is like living in progressive stronghold Sweden. READ
Written in 1969, the script is 'up to the standard of his best', according to the Ingmar Bergman Foundation. READ
Sweden has been criticized for its unsustainable consumption of the planet's resources in the latest edition of a major WWF study. READ
The Swedish Hollywood actor will strap a camera to his head, stream it live and allow viewers to interact with him this weekend. READ

'I dream of a world without borders'

Artist Nada Ali saw her creativity stifled by the trauma of Syria’s war, but relocating to Sweden to take part in a leadership programme helped put her career back on track. READ
The Swedish central bank said that it will take longer than expected to reach its inflation target. READ
A dog helped its owner fight off a creepy clown chasing the pair in southern Sweden. READ
Tech-savvy Swedes? Perhaps not. A new study suggests that at least a million of its residents feel the pain of the digital divide. READ
Malmö FF have their eyes set on the Champions League after winning the Swedish league for the 19th time. READ
Swede's Employment Minister Ylva Johansson, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, and US Ambassador Azita Raji. Photo: US Embassy

How can refugee women make their mark in Sweden?

Swedish ministers, the US ambassador, and organizations promoting gender equality and refugee integration met in Stockholm last week to discuss the role of refugee women inin their host country. The Local Voices was there. READ