Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ask Swedish Sloth: Skeeved by the Swedes

E.D. wrote:

Dear Swedish Sloth,

I saw your site because I googled "american living in Sweden"—it's very funny, thank you for explaining filmjolk which I put in my coffee a few weeks back and was completely skeeved by. The fact that no one in the household could really explain to me what it was skeeved me even more.

I'm thinking of moving to Sweden with my boyfriend, who lives in the US now but really wants to go back to Sweden. He wants to move back there obsessively, he misses his parents and his summer house, etc.

I went there for the first time for vacation with him two weeks ago for 10 days. While I was there, I tried to assess the situation. (Like you, I was completely mystified by summer house hype .)

The country clearly has a lot of things going for it, and I've lived in Europe before, so I figured I could hack it. But walking around Stockholm, I did *not* get the feeling that:

-I could possibly get a professional job
-It would be easy to make new friends there
-It would be easy to learn the language and assimilate

This is all based on /feeling /though, and you actually live there, and deal with these issues every day. What do you think about this, especially the getting a job part?

(I am a 29-year old ad copywriter, with dual EU and US citizenship). Have you found a job? Do you know Americans who have?

Any advice is much appreciated.



Dear E.D.,

What a great letter. Thanks!

Sweden is a relatively easy country to live in for Americans. It is modern, clean, and organized. It's really closer to the US in culture than even the UK is if you ask me. It's hard to find a person who isn't fluent in English and into Americans (although they hate the politics of the USA). I heartily encourage you to give it a try. Especially if you plan to live in Stockholm. I find the rest of Sweden a bit provincial really. In fact, if you plan to move anywhere besides Malmo, Gothenburg, or Stockholm I might be more hesitant to recommend it.

The major concern I had when moving here 18 months ago was my first long cold winter. It was not a problem at all! I had a much more difficult time getting used to Seattle winters actually. The cold, crisp weather does something positive for the work ethic I think. And the city is beautiful all covered in snow. I hate being at work when its sunny and warm. Moby once had a song called, "When it's cold outside I want to die". When it's cold outside I want to work. When it's warm outside I like to drink beer and lie in the sun.

As an English speaker, learning anything beyond basic Swedish is unnecessary except for the amusement of the Swedish relatives. Swedish as a language is very similar to English once you get used to it. Although the vowel sounds are a bit funny sounding and and the lack of 'J's' can be disconcerting. I encourage you to speak a little every day with your bf, and take some classes. The 'Teach Yourself Swedish' book available in every book store is excellent (although hard at first). Rosetta Stone also makes a great CD-ROM but it's a little pricey at about $199. There are also 'Easy Swedish' books available in any big bookstore in Sweden. They are really funny and good.

There are also Swedish courses in the Stockholm area. I attended both the pay Folkuniversitet courses (wonderful) and the free government classes from FSI (less wonderful). Sign up for classes right away because it can take a while to get it, especially the free FSI courses.

As a practicing English copywriter, you should have little trouble finding a job in Stockholm. I have even seen posts like that advertised. I found temporary teaching work at first and then landed myself a full time in my field (web programming) within 9 months. I really am not too worried about employment or money any more. These results are typical for American expats. Sweden especially needs technical and well-educated English speakers for their expanding global markets. If you fit that profile then it shouldn't be a problem to find work if you actually look.

Socially, the Swedes LOVE native English speakers, both UK and US and finding friends won't be difficult. Swedes are warm and many will want to 'adopt' you. You may need to join a few clubs at first. I am a member of the American Club of Sweden, and there are other expat organizations as well if you feel the need to be around your own countrymen. Check out the ever popular Amerikanska forums for more details.

There are some bad things about Swedes as well. For me the worst is their 'Little House on the Prairie" dreams that they relive each summer at the summer cottage. Living without electricity and Internet to me is not fun. My boss once told me without any irony that the company was going to go out into the country and pick some mushrooms one weekend. I was like, "yeah, right, have fun." The only mushrooms I can get excited about picking are the magic kind and I was assured that wasn't in the plan. Declining an invitation is still perfectly okay here, but they will look at you and wonder why you don't want to spend a day picking berries or pitching hay or something.

I hope this helps!

- Swedish Sloth

Do you have a question for Swedish Sloth? Write a comment or email me

1 comment:

Sloth said...

Oh yeah Swedes are cute and often beautiful as well :)