I am now back from my Nordics trip... It was good to come back to Sweden. And I don't think much has changed since the year I spent there - 2004-05. And I got to see Denmark for the first time! It was such a useful week for me - full of impressions and people I met, somewhat dark and gloomy as well - but with lots of candle lights... with some good time on my own, plus with some reflections on the Scandinavian attitude to life.
According to one quite widely spread stereotype the Swedes - and the Scandinavians in general - are quite cold and emotionless people. I don't think this is exactly true, but certainly they know how to control themselves and be discrete with their emotions. It's not considered OK to show your true 'needy' self and complain. In addition to that it is not OK when your negative emotions or feelings are directed to other people and aim at controlling or reproaching them. Interestingly, if you translate the Swedish word 'svartsjuk'(jealous) literally into English it means 'black sick', so jealousy is viewed as a black disease and this is a feeling one is ashamed of and is not supposed to display.
Images by Camilla Engman
Also another quite interesting thing is that being single is regarded as a strength and craving for being with someone is rather a weakness. (And the question here is - is it just a good excuse to cover up the misery of being lonely?). But then lots of Swedes prefer to stay single and open to anything which might come their way in terms of new experiences and they are quite direct in terms of expressing what they want - they don't play games and are just plain honest in saying what they are up to. So the key word here is individualism. For me coming from Eastern Europe with a culture totally different from this, it is quite a difficult thing to get used to. Here we are all so much more 'social animals', we wait for each other to go grab a coffee together, we wait for colleagues to go back from work together, we make plans according to the plans of other people - look just how dependent we are!
Image by Olga
Well, the disarming thing about the Swedes is the dry and self-deprecating humour they have and they do joke quite a lot!