Aussies in Sweden

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THE X-FILES

SWEDISHNESS

In Search of Swedish Nature This is a list of topics which talks about Swedish stereotypes and also ways of dealing with and understanding how Swedes are. (E)

Absolutely Swedish is an essay from the Smorgasbord site outlining the national character of Swedes (as seen by themselves, I might add!) (E)

Lagom - The Very Unofficial Guide to the Swedes is a book written by Christer Amnéus who says that it is the book anyone interested in Sweden simply needs. You can read excerpts from the book on-line, check out the images and order the book on-line. At 125SEK it is well worth buying. It's interesting to read insights into Sweden by a native Swede. The style is wry and chatty. (E)

The Xenophobe's Guide to the Swedes is a book by Peter Berlin that comes highly recommended. He claims it is "a guide to understanding the Swedes that takes the chill out of their cool exterior and reveals the warmth of their inner selves". You can read reviews here

Modern-day Vikings: A Practical Guide to Interacting with the Swedes by Christina Johansson Robinowitz and Lisa Werner Carr is another book worth visiting before you visit the country. Read some reviews here(E)

WHAT IS A SWEDE?

Believe me when I say that the following joke will NOT be laughed at in Sweden!

Q: "What do vegetarian cannibals eat?"

A: "Swedes"

Most Swedes were astounded that I thought a swede was a vegetable. Well, not really, but the word for that vegetable in Swedish is kålrot. As them to look it up in the Swedish-English dictionary and see the look on their face!

So what is a Swede?

The Typical Swede This particular essay has been doing the rounds on various internet sites. As usual with these generalisations there is a basis for them, but you judge for yourself just how accurate you think it is. (E)

Sweden and the Swedes This from Sweden.se - The official gateway to - Sweden outlines the nature of Swedes. It is a mix of serious and lighthearted (E)

Colin Moon is a Pom who has been living in Sweden for a few years and studying the natives very carefully! You'll find him on the - Sweden and has two excellent books about Swedes. They are hilarious - essential reading for anyone contemplating moving to Sweden. The titles are "Sweden - The Secret Files" and "Sweden - More Secret Files" (E)

ETIQUETTE

The Global Etiquette Guide about Sweden offers some brief notes on behaviour in - Sweden. It's written for the job seeker, but has some good general observations (E)

Swedish Etiquette The Kwintessential Guide

becoming Swedish is a blog aboput living in Sweden, and has a section on travel etiquette there.

CULTURE

An important part of Swedish culture is naturally based on their traditions. The extreme variety in the geography of the country has meant that customs and traditions differ from place to place in Sweden.

Swedish holidays and traditions Elisabeth's very pretty website is in Swedish and it outlines all of the traditional holidays in Sweden - Advent, Lucia, Christmas, New Year, Easter (and the all important semlor!), Midsummer etc

Swedish Traditions This is in English and it outlines tradition in Sweden and the way it is incorporated into life here. There are descriptions of major events throughout the year. Very informative. (E)

Major Holidays There seem to be a plethora of holidays in - Sweden. The Expat website outlines the dates and names of these many holidays, as well as a small description of what the holiday is for. (E)

The Traditions of Sweden is another colourful site that outlines Sweden throughout the year, taking a season at a time. They are more general summaries, but still a pretty site (E).

Swedish Holidays, Traditions and Customs This sheet from the Gothenburg branch of AWC has explanations of these days and some information about shop openings etc. (E)

CULTURE SHOCK

People's negativity can often be placed in context when you think about which stage of culture shock they might be in. It's also very useful to know that the negativity and homesickness you feel is also only temporary.

Culture shock sounds like something you get when you go to Sibera or Kashmir or somewhere, but you can just as easily get it when going to to -Sweden , the -UK and the -USA or -Canada - they are after all, different cultures.

There are four stages of culture shock: Honeymoon period, Rejection, Regression and Isolation, and Acceptance. Everyone goes through them to different degrees and at different speeds.

Phase 1: Honeymoon Period

While preparing to relocate and during the first days or weeks in the new country, a person will experience a Honeymoon Period during which he or she will feel extreme joy and enthusiasm. Responding to the new environment with fascination, an individual will enjoy the differences in fashion, food, social customs, etc. This period is exhilarating, full of observation and discoveries, lasting a few days to a few weeks. Like most honeymoons, however, this stage eventually ends.

Phase 2: Rejection

The next phase of culture shock is referred to as the period of Rejection. This stage is marked by criticism, resentment, and anger. When an individual sets out to study, live or work in a new country, he or she will invariably experience difficulties with language, housing, friends, schoolwork, and understanding the idiosyncrasies of the local culture, often resulting in frustration. The Rejection period can be triggered by the realisation that, as an outsider in a new culture, language or misunderstandings of cultural cues can often make the simplest task seem like a daunting challenge. Furthermore, because the high expectations set during the Honeymoon Period appear much farther out of reach, the individual feels disillusioned.

Phase 3: Regression & Isolation

The extreme letdown experienced during the Rejection Period prompts the individual to become critical of his new environment--of the people, their culture, and of all the perceived differences with the culture at home. This letdown often propels an individual into the stage of Regression & Isolation. In this stage, the culture from which the individual has come is idealised. For example, an Australian student studying in - Sweden for a semester may indiscriminately view his Australian university, past experiences or friendships as superior, regardless of any problems inherent to those relationships. The student risks further isolation from the new environment. Symptoms exhibited during this period include anxiety, sadness, homesickness, and anger. These feelings manifest themselves in changes in behaviour: inappropriate anger over slight delays and minor frustrations, changes in sleep patterns, compulsive eating and/or drinking, irritability, poor concentration, and unexplainable crying. The stage of Rejection and Regression is variable in length but can last up to 6-8 months.

Phase 4: Adjustment & Adaptation

Gradually the crisis of regression and isolation is resolved allowing the individual to begin recovery in the Adjustment & Adaptation stages. To resolve these feelings, the individual has to employ particular skills and resources essential for adjustment. Involving oneself in local activities, joining a sporting club etc or simply getting to know fellow countrymen in your area (essentially to get together to have a good whinge) can be of great benefit.

A FINAL WORD

After a few years here, it's my observation that an Aussie will have either a good or bad experience in Sweden based on several factors:

1) Expectations - If the person is expecting Sweden to be the same as Australia, they are much more likely to have adjustment problems. Australia and Sweden have different cultures so there are going to be differences. Neither is right or wrong or better than the other - just different.  
2) Standard of Living Reference - Australians typically measure standard of living by measuring material wealth and comforts. Swedish natives typically measure standard of living by measuring time with their family, outdoor experiences, and time to do things either alone or with their families. This "point-of-reference or perspective" is typically culture based and can cause conflicts when there is a change.

3) Social Interaction - Australian and Swedish natives form social interactions differently as a result of differences between the two cultures. As a general rule, Australians form friendships faster - but at the same time these friendships tend to be more transitory. Swedes form friendships much more slowly, with many of their friendships formed in childhood - these friendships tend to be "friends for life" relationships.

In General Australians that enjoy living in Sweden tend to be those who have realistic expectations, have prepared for the differences between the cultures and values of Australia and Sweden, and that keep themselves open to change.

It is very important to recognise that leaving one's native country and moving to a new country - especially one that is culturally different, is always going to have difficult issues that need to be overcome. Most people that emigrate to - Sweden will base their "happiness in - Sweden" on their financial situation, support circle, and the ability to get a job or be socially active. A weakness in any of these three areas can have a drastic impact on how a person feels about moving and residing in Sweden.

Attitude will also have a major impact... the first few months will be exciting with many new people to meet and things to do, the next 3 to 6 months (and especially the first Swedish winter) are trying for most people - especially for those that are not either working or socially active. The more alone a person is, the harder this phase of the adjustment process is (having family, children, or other people around to interact with is important).

The biggest problems that many people run into is that they:

1) Do not do enough research on what relocating to an unfamiliar environment is going to be like.

2) They overestimate how fast and easy it will be to fit in.

You must be realistic on what the overall experience is going to be like and how hard the transition will be or you will more than likely end up very unhappy. Pie-in-the-sky dreams are no substitution for reality... careful planning, realistic expectations (formed by careful research), and having a job or other social activities planned out, and making sure that you are prepared financially (and have realistic "wealth" and "standard of living" expectations) will tend to make the transition much easier.

           WELCOME TO SWEDEN!

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You know you've been in Sweden too long when ...