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

Anas Awad with his "Swedish family" told his story to The Local Voices

Sharing the best of The Local Voices

We told a lot of great stories in 2016. Did you get to read and share them all? READ
Fresh off the back of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the World Women's Handball Championship for the first time since 2001, the Swedish women's handball team have also chalked up a further success after one of their Instagram videos went viral. READ
Arsenal's hopes of Europa League glory will be tested in the last 32 by Swedish minnows Östersund, ironically coached by the only English manager left in European competition and founded the same month Arsene Wenger took over the Gunners. READ
"We stand where we stand, and we’ll keep pushing it, without compromise, that there's zero tolerance for racism of any kind," a leader at Islamic educational association Ibn Rushd said. READ
"Despite the serious subject matter, it's fun to start a revolution." READ
Photo: Erik Gerhardsson

'History will record how everyone reacted to the Syrian tragedy'

Erik, a 21-year-old Swedish volunteer, reflects on his experience helping refugees in Sweden and abroad. READ
Elaborate ice sculptures, an even more elaborate dress, and an abundance of royalty: it can only be the Nobel Banquet. READ
Ian Smith explains why he left a career globe-trotting as a tennis coach to take photographs in rural southern Sweden. READ

This Iranian teaches Swedish online to 10,000 followers

"I’m exporting Swedish to my homeland." READ