Wafa Saif is an asylum seeker from Yemen who arrived in Sweden with her husband in 2015. They were forced to flee their country as her husband was a human rights activist and his actions against the Houthi rebels put them in an dangerous situation. Now she is expecting her first child and discovering the Swedish language and culture.
You have been in Sweden for almost 11 months. What do you like about Sweden so far?
So many things! But from a personal experience, I see the maternity healthcare as one of the best things in Sweden. I’m so blessed to have my first baby here. The second thing that comes to mind is the government’s attention to children’s education. Giving children a good education is what in the long run creates an educated society. I’m also impressed by the effort and resources that are given to asylum seeking children in Sweden; enabling them to go to school before they get their residence permit.
Which obstacles do you experience?
We are, as asylum seekers in Sweden, not able to study Swedish at a SFI school, and we are also staying at a refugee camp that is quite isolated, so it is difficult to meet Swedes, join activities and practice Swedish. But we are eager to improve our Swedish and learn more about Swedish culture. We use self-learning tools to learn Swedish but it would be more efficient if we could meet Swedes and practice our Swedish with native speakers.
Many find Swedes a bit reserved. What has your experience with Swedes been like?
It is not easy to break the ice but once you get closer you find that they are very kind, humble and generous. I’m also impressed by their commitment to their work. My midwife treats me as a daughter not just as a patient: she is doing her best to make me stay positive. She encourages me to trust myself and my strengths and she gives me peace of mind regarding the birth of my first child, telling me that it will go well.
I’m also amazed with Swedes ways of decorating their homes. Even with small tiny details like candles and lights on the windows shelves.
What is your favourite Swedish word?
Oj! Nej. Jaha? I like the way they pronounce it with special tune.
What do you find strange about Swedes?
Their daily life ends so early. Where I live, no shops are open after 8:00 pm.
What do you miss the most from Yemen?
We miss our lovely family, friends, the noise everywhere and Bakhour. Bakhour is a tradition in my country, it is a kind of fragrant that you place on a hot coals and it causes a perfumed smoke. It’s usually done around 1:00-3:00 pm after having lunch. I really miss that smell and I can’t do it here in Sweden due to the smoke alarm systems.
Do you have any advice for a Newbie?
Just work as hard as possible to learn Swedish – as it is the key of success both professionally and socially in Sweden.
Do you have an anecdote about something funny that happend during your first time?
The first day we arrived in Stockholm, we went to the supermarket to buy water. Mistakenly, the first bottle we bought was a soft drink, that we had never tried before. Then we looked for another normal water, which cost about 30 SEK! I was surprised about how expensive it was. Later I told my friend about it and she started laughing saying that there is no need to buy water, you can drink the tap water. It is free, clean, fresh and cold! We felt stupid that we didn´t know this.