Disclaimer: This was written after a tough day. Not every day is tough. But some are.
Sometimes I think to myself: I wish I could ask someone how to do this immigrant-thing I’m doing right now. You know, moving to another country and making it your home and all. I wish there was someone who knows how it works. And then I realize: I am that someone. I’m the one who supposedly is an expert in this. I’ve done it twice before, after all. I should know.
But I don’t.
I know how to learn languages, but I don’t know how to learn to say things in the right tone, so that what I mean actually comes across in the right way and people don’t just understand the words I’m saying, but also my heart behind it.
I know how to make friends, but I’m surprisingly insecure when it comes to cross cultural friendships. I second guess every move I and my maybe-future-friend make, because is this a cultural thing or a personal thing and do I come across as too distant or too needy when I do this or that? Do they even WANT a new friend?
I know how to be a host, but I don’t know how to be a host in a new country where I don’t know if any aspect of the social event I planned is appropriate: the time, the reason, the food, the drinks, the music, the other guests. Because being a host means making people feel comfortable and at home, and those things matter. More than you’d think.
Well people, what can I say. It’s a process. A learning curve. A very curvy one, actually. With ups and downs and a few detours and sometimes the road seems blocked. (but it never is)
So here’s a few reminders for myself and for Sweden.
Sweden. Listen up. First of all, I’m not Swedish. So I won’t get all the social do’s and don’t and sometimes I will make you feel awkward and uncomfortable, but also sometimes I will make you laugh (in a good way) and you know what? I also have things to teach you. That’s why different cultures are so awesome. I’m not Swedish. I’m Ruth.
Secondly, what’s up with eating cake with spoons? It is, has been and always will be forks for me. Deal with it.
Then this: if I pass you on the street and I make eye contact, and you look away. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? So even when you do that, I WILL say hej to you, loud enough so you can’t mistake it for a cough or something. You are here, I’m here, and there’s no good reason to not acknowledge that.
Lastly: it takes time. For all of us.
Sweden, you’re like a family member, like a second cousin. Vaguely familiar, sometimes charming and other times surprisingly confusing and offensive. At times I strongly dislike you, but I mainly love you.
Cause I’m here to stay.
And it will get better.