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Archive for July, 2011

In the land of ice & Converse

I made my first venture out of the country last week. I boarded a plane and 17 hours, 3 plane changes and one misplaced suitcase later, I arrived in Göteborg, Sweden.  Thankfully, my suitcase was only delayed in Helsinki, Finland and not in the Bahamas.  My connecting flight from JFK to Helsinki spent an extra 50 minutes on the tarmac.  Of course, my flight from Helsinki to Göteborg only had a 40 minute layover.  I’m thankful that I wasn’t stuck waiting for the next flight like my suitcase was.

Everyone asks me, why Sweden?  A friend of mine from college is from the area and it seemed as good a time as any to make the venture. A place I’ve never been and a free place to crash.  I was in.

It is true that most Swedes do speak English, I was still surprised by how overwhelmed I felt in the first couple of days.  Everything was a half-step off from what I was used to at home. My host was trying to be helpful when pointing out the differences between our cultures but in a way that was even more overwhelming.  The feeling of almost but not quite was more disorientating than I expected it to be. Even before I got off the plane I felt a little too loud, a little too bright.  A little too American.

The natives tend towards neutral colors.  Lots of white, some variation of beige and black.  And white high-top Converse.   My bright purple and pink were definitely out of sync. As a rule, white is a color I refuse to wear.  I tend to spill something on it, like an entire bottle of Coke.

After the first couple of days things eased out.  A random stranger at the “beach” started up a conversation.  The Amnesty International boys whose faces lit up to talk to a native English speaker.  The girl at the Lush store who taught me to say “my name is Alyson.”  (Jag heter Alyson. In case you’re curious.) I found it easiest to start conversation with a very clear “hello,” there is no mistaking that.  If someone spoke to me I smiled and said “I’m sorry, I don’t understand Swedish.”  Except for the older woman in the yarn store, they were all able to switch to English.

As for being too American, that feeling faded.  My friend shook his head in amusement every time he saw me chatting with some random stranger.  While I am an American, I’ve always been a little loud and a little bright.  I rather like that about myself.

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