8 things about Sweden that I changed my mind about in 2013

As with every other end of the year my social pages were flooded with New Year’s resolutions and tips of how to succeed in 2014.
This morning I sat in front of the kitchen window looking at squirrels and people taking their morning walks while I waited for others to wake up. I realized that I don’t have any “real” resolutions for this year, but I do have so many  experiences that enriched my life and changed it, hopefully for the better. It is those that I would like to share with you, as a way of commenting my life here in Sweden.

So let us have a quick look at 8 things related to Sweden and living here that I changed my mind about during 2013. The list covers both trivial matters such as standing in lines and serious questions such as gender equality.

1. Taking your shoes off when visiting others
I am quite sure that I wasn’t the only one considering this request silly. In Sweden it is common to take off your shoes when visiting other people and in case you forget about it, your host will politely remind you of your oversight.
In the beginning I had some issues with this since shoes were a vital part of my overall look. I used to end up in a full formal attire with bright pink socks with hearts on. Today I look at this custom with joy – I get to skip worrying about buying new (probably expansive) shoes that fit perfectly with my clothes knowing that I will only need one pair that matches my jacket and coat. Instead I spend much smaller amount of money choosing right socks. Practical gain is that you skip cleaning behind your guests, which can be extremely tiresome during winters.

2. Parents and grandparents that feel excluded from the family
This was one of the first cultural barriers that I felt in Sweden. On several occasions have I heard and/or witnessed how people born in Sweden treat their parents differently from what we in Serbia consider adequate. I am talking about setting very strict borders on how much say parents have outside their own marriage, how often they see other family members, how often they help between each other and so on. In the beginning I believed that, being cold as they are Swedish people tried to run away from family relations. I also believed it was a certain lack of respect.
Today, I can see that parent’s life does not end once they get kids and that, as soon as those kids grow up, parents go back to their life. That makes them less centered on what their now grown-up children are doing and more focused on the quality of their own lives.

3. Children being “kicked out” from homes very early
I met so many young Swedes living alone or in different types of communes when I first arrived here. While in Serbia moms still wash their “kids” laundry and make breakfast, lunch and dinner for them, here those same “kids” of around 18 years live alone and do all the chores themselves. Not only do they do chores, they even study full-time and work during summers.
In the beginning I looked at this as a result of the prejudice written under the number 2. Now I think it is because the life standard here is so high that young people here get to choose how to live their own lives instead of being supported by parents till they are 35.

4. “REAL” men
I could write an entire post related to this topic, but let me make it simple right now by writing a list of all the stuff I don’t agree upon (anymore).
I cannot think of living with someone who does not know how to make food for himself because it is not a man’s job to be in the kitchen. I cannot think of sleeping with a guy who does not take care of his personal hygiene and look – even if that means that he uses more skin products than I do. I cannot imagine men who are so afraid their own sexuality will be tested that they need to punch someone to death to prove that they are heterosexuals. I will not have kids with someone who does not wish to share the responsibility of their upbringing with me, diaper changes and cooking food for them included. I find it unthinkable that someone will tell me what I can or cannot do, with whom I can be friends with or what I should wear.

5. Gym obsession
I still have no clue what is the deal with so many gyms or people going to them. I know people that exercise before they go to work, during their lunch breaks and after the working hours are done. How do they find the energy and will for it is beyond my comprehension. The only thing I know is that I finally got my 1-year gym card, new sneakers to take me there and a Christmas present that consisted of gym clothes and necessities.

6. Constant queuing
There is a joke that says that if more than one Swede is standing at a place, a queue will form on its own. This is almost true but I appreciate it. In the beginning it was awfully hard to stand in a 15 people-line just to ask a question that will take one minute, but now I like the idea that everybody in that line is the same. No one gets any privileges, we are all just numbers and we become individuals that have wishes and questions once our number is called. There is something relaxing in standing in a queue.

7. Exclusive dating and living together 
If you talked but once with someone from Sweden, you probably know that it is extremely hard to find a place to live. Therefor many decide to move in together quite fast and cut the costs of living or just skip the endless search for an apartment. No-one here seems to see it as settling for life (as they do in Serbia). On the other side, there is a very scary moment in every Swede’s life when their partner decides to tell them that they are from now on exclusive which does put a definite feeling on a relationship. In this world of extreme sexual liberty, which I think Sweden should be proud of, couples need to make it very clear on how serious they are with each other. Not something that comes easily to many.

8. Online dating
I don’t know one person that would try online dating in Serbia. Here it is a very normal, mainstream way of meeting new people for all sorts of purposes. It has been my wish to write about this for more than a year now and I am making a promise to myself that I will do that. Till then, let me leave you with a thought: if you spend 8 hours of your day sleeping, 8 hours of your day working, around 2 hours eating and/or preparing food, 1 hour getting (un)dressed, 2 hours chatting or meeting up with the people you already know, 2 hours doing something for yourself and 1 hour doing something for someone else – when will you have time to meet new people?

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