Ek is gevra om iets oor my lewe in Swede vir Liefie se Johannesburg kantoor se nuusbrief te skryf. Ek post dit dan sommer as my inskrywing vir vandag.
P and I talked about doing a transfer, but that’s all it was, talk. Then suddenly we were in Stockholm on a rainy (and cold!) day in April after we had decided to go to Copenhagen. If you’re confused, imagine what I was feeling.
P got staffed immediately and his life pretty much continued in the same way as it did in Johannesburg. I was left with apartment hunting, deciphering Swedish, Swedish supermarkets (really – someone should do a study there, they need help!) and the life of a housewife. It all sounds very laid-back and low-key, but if you’ve never ironed a shirt in your life, a day gets long. Well, truth be told, one of my terms of the move was that P would iron all his own shirts, that left me with more time to enjoy the coffee shops.
Stockholm is a beautiful city and thanks to the advice of both the Swedish Henriks we arrived in Spring – the perfect time. The days were getting longer, the temperature was picking up and (this was more P’s thing than mine) the girls were wearing less.
We soon settled into our new lives and I was surprised at how easy it was. The occasional societal quirk still caught me off guard every now and again – when I say caught, I mean literally, doors hit me in the face all the time, gender equality and all that – but for the most part we were living the good life.
We were living a scaled down life and it felt quite good not having any real responsibilities. No car, no house, only one set of drinking glasses. Trains and busses run on time, there’s some government department for just about everything you can think of and you pretty much know you are being looked after by someone bigger than yourself – The Swedish Government.
We travelled a lot, got to see some awesome places, got to walk around at night, could afford to not lock the front door. We got used to not having sunshine, even in summer, no Nestlé products and gave up on our mission to speak a fluent Swedish. Winter came. So did the darkness. Snow didn’t come. It rained. A lot. I felt cheated by the lack of snow and the continuous darkness. I started baking. A lot. Someone had to eat the baked goods. I did.
And suddenly, the darkness gives way. We’ve almost been here for a year. We have to go back. I can’t get my mind around having to leave this place and the lifestyle. I think I might be suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
What I learnt:
1. Recognising a Swedish word doesn’t mean you can pronounce it. Swedes will never laugh at the pronunciation, but only give you a vacant stare and switch to English.
2. Buying something and then remarking on how expensive it is doesn’t make it cheaper the next time.
3. Fika is a wonderful custom and should be adopted all over the world.
4. Don’t go out without a beanie in winter – thawing ears are unpleasant.
5. The Swedes make a distinction between nudity and sex. Nudity is natural. Neighbours don’t close their curtains. Ever.
What I wish I had known:
1. “Housewife” is not a generally understood term in Swedish society. The bank told me that I have no purpose and therefore could not have my own account.
2. Stockholm style is, well actually there is no real way of describing the fashion sense, let’s go with interesting. These are the clothes the stores stock and sell. Live with it.
3. Be strong and have a real purpose when walking into IKEA, you can lose days once inside.
4. Rain can last for days.
5. Expecting a country to be expensive isn’t enough preparation for the shock of actually realising how incredibly expensive everything really is.