Alessandro is a freelance translator and employee at the Italian Cultural Institute in Stockholm who’s been in Sweden for just over 7 years. He studied Scandinavian Studies at the University and moved to Stockholm after obtaining his degree.
I have always been attracted to small and somehow less known cultures. I studied Scandinavian Studies at the University and moved to Stockholm after obtaining my degree.
What was the hardest to adjust to?
“Brrrrr….. it’s so cold here!” No, I am joking. The Swedish almost artic climate has never been a problem for me. The hardest thing to adjust to was the stiffness of the system. True, the Swedish society works perfectly – as long as you fit in the guidelines. If you accidentally don’t, it can turn into Kafka’s castle.
What do you like the best about Sweden and Swedes?
Sometimes in languages, there are words with a powerful semantic loading. “Allemansrätt” is certainly one of them. It basically means that you have the right (granted by the Constitution) to access nature anywhere you want.
You can fish, camp, pick up berries and mushrooms as much as you want, as long as you do not litter. Compared to my country of origin, I find the civil consciousness of Swedish people really admirable.
What is your favourite Swedish word?
As mentioned before, “Allemansrätt” is probably my favorite.
What do you find strange about the Swedes?
Sometimes I feel that the line between being independent and being selfish is very thin. If you come from a family-based country, you will probably find that Swedes are very independent and try to get by on their own instead of asking their parents or relatives to help them. At the same time, to be absolutely independent is not possible. And even a strong welfare state cannot compensate this, and sometimes it leads to a selfishness I find a bit awkward.
What do you miss the most from Italy?
The ability to react quickly in case of emergency.
What is confusing about Swedish culture?
Maybe because I am a translator, but I have always thought that words and common expressions usually reveal something about the mentality of the speakers. The two most recurrent words I hear in Swedish are lugnt and spännande. “Ta det lugnt” (Take it easy) “Skit vad spännande!” (Gosh how exciting!).
Although these expressions are common in other languages too, in Sweden they seem to be the opposite poles of a certain national schizophrenia.
Everybody is “stressed” and needs to “take it easy”, but then they seem desperately looking for something exciting. Why? Because this society works with special and clear guide-lines that sometimes feel a bit suffocating. Hence, the urge to break free and find something “exciting”. But anything exciting implies a bit of stress. So we are back to the start…
Do you have any advice for a Newbie?
Do not be surprised if you see people queueing outside some shops on a Friday evenings or a Saturday afternoons. There is no shortage of food in Sweden. But alcohol is sold only in special shops, Systembolaget.
Apart from this, do not be surprised if any liquid containing a certain amount of alcohol turn your boring colleague into a funny person. And do not refuse to have a “fika” with your colleague.
Do you have an anecdote about something funny that happened during your first time here?
One of the first times I went to a supermarket in Stockholm. I didn’t know that people behind the counter, before taking your products and place them before the barecode scanner, look at you and say “Hi!!”.
You are just supposed to say “Hi” back. Nothing more. But I said “Hi, how are you doing?”. The girl gave me an almost shocked look and answered “….well…. I am fine… thanks”.