Susana is a project leader in system development, business development, change management and portfolio management originally from Bolivia who arrived in Stockholm in April 1994.
I met a Swedish boy, we fell in love and got married. We lived in Bolivia, he had problems with his visa and I studied architecture in the university. Then one day my husband wanted to go back to Sweden for a good job offer and we decided that I would stay in Bolivia but some little bird told my husband that is not good to leave your wife alone. I was not alone, I lived with my family. Anyway we sold everything and moved to Sweden.
I was hopeful and excited about the new place. I like to move to new places. My father is a missionary and we used to move every year to new places when I was little.
I had a plan to learn Swedish in one year and start my studies in the university after that. One year was for me long enough. Unfortunately the Swedish was not easy to learn especially when you are not good at grammar in your own language and my English was not enough. My frustration and impatience created many fights with my husband and eventually we got divorced.
My plan took longer than expected. I learned Swedish in 4 years and then I realized that my education from Bolivia wasn’t enough to apply to university.
I needed to match the Swedish level and the level for architecture was too high. I worked 8-17 and I studied 18-21, four days a week under 3 years. At last in 2000 I managed to get into university. I studied Spanish to maybe become a Spanish teacher but I was not so happy with that goal. I wanted a better challenge, so I tried to find some other career. In 2001 I applied to MIT (management with IT in Södertorns Högskolan) and I got in.
At that time I was lucky to have my two friends Astrid and Michael – A German couple that I met in my Swedish class in Folkuniversitet. They coached/mentored me under my integration process and they always offered me security. I call them “my German parents” today and without them I would probably have ended as an unhappy wife in Bolivia.
My father wanted me to go back to Bolivia after my marriage ended as is the tradition. He told me that divorced women have a tougher live and that I would be alone if I stayed in Sweden. I was scared to go back and I was scared to stay in Sweden alone.
I’m glad that Astrid and Michael helped me and they still help me. My ex-husband was also very nice and supported me when I decided to stay.
He helped me find my own place. I rented a room with a Swedish family that was kind and caring. I still have contact with them.
Today I have a perfect life thanks to the opportunities and support I got from friends and contacts, I have a wonderful husband and two beautiful daughters. I am also grateful to have the opportunity to develop my own organisation.
What was the hardest to adjust to?
The hardest was to fight my own personality, values and traditions. Many thing were different here in Sweden. I tried to copy some attitudes and mannerisms at the beginning but I failed every time as it was not in my nature. I needed a lot of practice and preparation.
I learn continuously every day how to be Swedish. The advantage was that I not only learned to adapt to different situations, I learned every day something about myself and I also had the opportunity to work with myself alone without the influence of my family and traditions.
Then I contacted my sister who lives in Italy and we discovered that our values and upbringing were difficult to change. We help each other to learn how to handle them, so they don’t destroy our lives and happiness.
In the process of learning this new place with new cultures and habits you meet a lot of obstacles and failures that form you in a new way, in bad and in good ways. The main thing is that I’m a fighter and I had to work hard to make my dreams a reality.
What do you like the best about Sweden and Swedes?
The free expression, the security all around (much better than in Bolivia), the summers and the snow. I find Swedes to be uncomplicated and simple like their language. Simple and straight. Friendly and generous.
What is your favourite Swedish word?
“Lagom är bäst”
What do you find strange about the Swedish people?
Their silence and the isolation when they are not feeling well. They have difficulty expressing their feelings. And they plan everything because they are afraid to make mistakes.
What do you miss the most from Bolivia?
The food, the happiness and the spontaneity
What is confusing about Swedish culture?
They want to be best in everything. Sweden has the highest index of knowledge but they have a right-wing party in the parliament, they drink so much alcohol but they want to be healthy.
Do you have any advice for a Newbie?
My advice is to have patience and find a coach/mentor who can help you to reach your goals.
Do you have an anecdote about something confusing that happened during your first time here?
I used a lot the expression “I will kill you” in Spanish, but translated to Swedish it sounds really bad. “Jag ska döda dig”. I screamed that phrase to my ex-husband in the mall once. All the people around me gave me the evil eye, that I will never forget ☺
How did you meet your partner and why did you decide on Sweden?
I meet my new husband at a party at the university and as my husband is Swedish we stayed here because we have children together.
What are the difficulties of a culturally mixed relationship?
A lot of misunderstandings and culture clashes.
What are the positive aspects of a culturally mixed relationship?
He/she will help you to integrate in the society more easily if you are together with a Swede or a foreigner that is integrated in the society. And of course beautiful and smart kids is also a plus:-)
What typically Swedish trait do you find confusing in your partner?
They are naïve in some situations. They live in a bubble, in the Swedish protected bubble. I’m the opposite, so we create a good balance together.