Garance is a data scientist that has lived in Sweden for 10 years. She came here to study, lured by the combined appeal of great university education, absence of exorbitant student fees, good quality of life, and general interest in Scandinavian culture and society. She is now an integral member of the Newbie Team.
Now that you have been here for a long time, can you remember what about Sweden that you found fascinating?
From the outside, especially from France, there is a lot of fascination and admiration about the Nordic countries and Sweden in particular. What we hear about Sweden sounds almost too good to be true, so I wanted to see it from my own eyes.
What was the hardest to adjust to?
The first experience of darkness during the winter months was difficult but not unbearable. Having moved to Sweden from the UK, I did not really trade a sunny winter for a gloomy one, England has pretty awful winters too. Getting to know the swedes was more difficult. I had extremely few Swedish friends in the first few years, and none of them were really close friends.
Even as I started working, and came out of the university bubble of international students, I didn’t really get to know well more swedish people.
I felt a little disconnect with the swedes. I always had friendly contacts with them, but it was somewhat difficult to get to know them on a less superficial level. That changed a bit with the years.
What do you like about Sweden and Swedes?
Their willingness to find compromises and their attempts to please everyone. It’s true that it has a double edge effect… sometimes the solutions are less than optimal, often it takes a very long time to reach a compromise. But despite the negative side effects, it is a quality that many swedes have that I appreciate, because in the long run, it creates harmony.
The quality of life & the closeness to nature. Even a “big” city like Stockholm feels like a natural park. A walk in the city is almost as invigorating as a walk in the countryside here.
What is your favourite Swedish word?
Skärgården – The archipelago
What do you miss the most from France?
Films and comic books… and the ability to walk into a supermarket at odd hours of the day to buy a bottle of normally priced wine.
What is confusing about Swedes and Swedish culture?
The housing market rules bewildered me at first. I couldn’t understand that home-owners still had to pay a rent, and never really own the flat they had bought.
Even now that I know the system, it still puzzles me that a country that prides itself on the healthy state of its national economy makes no requirements on its citizens to repay their house loans. It is a paradox to me (and possibly a financial ticking time-bomb).
And the Swedes obsession with herrings, and Kalle’s kaviar for breakfast!
Do you have an anecdote about something funny that happened during your early days?
Going shopping at the supermarket was an amusing experience in the early days of living here. I went home with a bottle of milk once, and poured myself a glass a milk at home… only to find a thick white weird smelling substance in my glass instead of the usual silky liquid.
I though the milk had gone bad… went back to the store, bought a new bottle… same thing happened… what on earth were the swedes feeding their cows here (?!?!) and then i discovered the difference between mjölk (normal milk) and filmjölk (fermented milk). ☺
Do you have advice for Newbies?
Go to social events from networks like Couchsurfing and Internations to find local swedes and international expats. And get warm boots, winter jacket and gloves in the winter, and get out to enjoy the nature!