Odra is from Guatemala and came to Sweden in September 2016 as she had fallen in love with Tomas, an amazing Swedish guy. We started by asking her what she found hard to adjust to.
My home country has very generous weather so the hardest part is the long, cold and dark winter. And obviously being away from the family and friends.
What do you like about Sweden and Swedes?
I really love the fact that I can go wherever and whenever I want without feeling scared that something bad will happen to me. Here we can go jogging in the woods in the middle of the night.
Swedes also have many virtues, such as: kindness, honesty, strong respect for women, punctuality (it is almost a crime to be late), organized and many more. In brief, Swedes are reliable people.
What Swedish word is your favourite?
Sjuksköterska (it is a joke, I cannot even pronounce that word). My favorite word in Swedish is fika. I like to fika a lot. Also, smörgåstårta: I love both the word and the dish.
What do you find strange about Swedes?
I have heard that Swedes are antisocial but I think they are shy instead. It is true that they avoid any kind of contact with somebody they do not know well. But after breaking the ice, they are really kind and nice.
What do you miss the most from Guatemala?
I miss my family so bad, every single day. In Latin American we are very close to our families so for me this has been really hard.
What do you find strange about Swedish culture?
I have been in coffee shops where the tables are so close to each other that you can almost hear other people breathing. I like to laugh and obviously do not want other people to listen to my conversation, so it feels a bit weird. Swedes are extremely reserved people and do not laugh much.
Who helped you to settle and feel at home in Sweden?
Well, my boyfriend is an amazing guy. He would do whatever it takes to make me feel comfortable here. (Thanks, honey, you are the best <3) His family has been so nice to me too; His dad and his dad´s couple take me out when Tomas is working so I do not have to stay home alone.
I was very lucky because there is another Guatemalan girl living in the same city as me so we have become very close, we go out for fika, she helps me with the Swedish language and so on. I have met some of Tomas´friends which is nice because I can feel I am starting to have friends here. My group at SFI (Swedish for foreigners) is the best. I hang out with some of them.
Do you have an anecdote about something confusing that happend during your first time here?
I was complaining with a Swede because at that time I had been living in Sweden for two months and I had not even seen my neighbors; he quickly asked: ”but why do you want to have contact with your neighbors?” I could not believe my ears. It was a bit strange for me because in my country we are quite friendly.
Why did you and your partner decide on Sweden?
It is a bit funny because I had the chance to live in France during two (non-consecutive) years . I loved the country but I decided that I would never live in Europe again. And here I am back in Europe. We decided that I would move to Sweden because it is easier for me to find a job here than for Tomas to find a job in Guatemala. Besides, we want to have babies so we want them to grow in a safe country.
What did you find difficult socially when you first arrived?
The fact of not having friends. Now I have some so I am happier now.
What is difficult and positive in a culturally mixed relationship?
Tomas and I communicate in English which is not our own language so even if our level is quite OK, sometimes we do not find the suitable words to express ourselves. But we can learn from each other. Tomas has taught me to be more practical and less spoiled while I have taught him that it is important to have a close and warm contact with the family.
What typically Swedish trait do you find adorable in your partner?
In Sweden, housework is shared by the man and woman. I find adorable when Tomas says to me on a Sunday morning, for example: “Rest a little bit more I will prepare breakfast”; I just love it.
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