Sunday, December 21, 2014

When Cultures Collide

Living in Sweden has become just "life" and sometimes I have to remind myself that we're in a different country, a different culture.  It's funny the things that jolt me out of "normal": overhearing conversations in Swedish and other languages, having a street musician play his accordion on the tram, reading the mail.  We have been living in Sweden for 10 months now, and so far I've only left the country once, to go to Italy.

It was interesting having been a resident of Sweden for some time before being in Italy, so certain things stuck out to me like how many Americans and other English speakers I overheard.  In Sweden if I hear a conversation on the tram I just tune it out because I can't understand, but it was almost distracting in Italy because my ears heard something familiar and wanted to listen along regardless of what I was doing or thinking about.

Goodies from Sweden waiting to be packed
I came to Sweden without expecting to go back to the States for a visit, but we decided it would be good to be there for Christmas.  As we prepare for spending Christmas back in the States I find myself getting a little nervous.  Will the US now seem strange?  Will I remember how to drive and get around my town?  Have I changed?  Will my friends and I still have things in common?  In college my freshman seminar was taught around the concepts in this book (albeit an earlier edition), and I remember learning about reverse culture shock when one has been gone and reenters his/her own culture.  I recently read this blog post that talks about coming back after living abroad, which makes me think twice about openly sharing my experiences. "When you tell your friends about your trip, they’re interested at first but the more details you give, the more their eyes glaze over. They just want an easy answer. Because the more you go on, the more you just make them a) a bit jealous, b) think they haven’t done as much and c) bored."  Yikes.  I'm still really excited to see my friends, though.

There are so many American things I look forward to doing/having/seeing during our time there, like eating dinner out on the cheap, maybe steak or enchiladas with corn tortillas.  I want to go to TJ Maxx and buy a shirt for under $20.  I want to watch TV and understand what they're saying, even the commercials.  I want to come back to Sweden either refreshed or turned off by America (or both), restocked with cold medicine, and ready to do the expat thing for another year.

I wish all of my (six) readers a restful time of peace this Christmas, good food and friends, minimal family weirdness, and a joyful end to 2014.  God Jul!

Sunrise in Gothenburg around 9 this morning

1 comment:

Molly Cahill said...

I somehow missed this post! FYI - I was not bored when you talked about Sweden on our date, jealous perhaps, but it certainly left me wanting to hear more.

Looking forward to reading your "back from the US" follow up post.

Happy to be one of The Six.