There is always something amazing about immersing yourself in a new culture, country, and language.
Sweden is notorious for its beautiful nature, generous social benefits, Fika, IKEA, and ABBA. What’s not to love? As a junior in high school, I decided I wanted to immerse myself in Sweden. So, at 17 years old, I packed my bags and moved to a country I had never been to. Not to mention, I was going to immerse myself in a language I didn’t speak (minus a few Rosetta Stone phases). Plus, I’d be moving in with a family I had never met and stay there for 11 months.
People from my program picked me up from the airport and took me to a camp, where I stayed for three days before meeting my family. Then, picked me up from the camp, I moved into their house, and became their new American daughter and sister. My host mom brought me to the new Swedish school I would attend, where classes were held in Swedish. The next day, my host dad showed me how to navigate public transportation to get to school. I wouldn’t be riding a big yellow school bus but instead taking a bus and a tram for an hour, every morning and afternoon.
I learned a lot about the Swedish culture and language while I was there. For one, I immersed myself in the Swedish tradition of fika. Fika is taking a break in the afternoon, either at home or in a café and grabbing a sweet treat with a coffee or tea. Fika happens at least once a day and my school cafeteria even had a café so that we could take a fika during one of our breaks. The most important aspect of fika is making time for friends, colleagues, or peers during the day.
Swedes are also known for lagom. A word that translates to ‘not too much, and not too little’. Lagom is common throughout Swedish culture, used to describe the way Swedes dress, the way they talk, their houses – everything. Essentially, this is a way of life that puts emphasis on finding balance in all aspects of life.
We also enjoyed Fredagsmys, which translates to ‘cozy Fridays’. My family and I would have a big dinner, eat chips, and watch movies. Then, every Saturday, I would walk down to the grocery store, COOP, with my little sister and brothers to have Lördagsgodis, or Saturday candy. Swedes take their food very seriously and even have national days celebrating their food! In fact, the favorite meal of Swedes is kanelbulle translating to cinnamon bun. However, this does not look like the American cinnamon bun but instead, a bun with cinnamon sprinkled on top.
These are just a few of my favorite Swedish traditions that I encountered. There are countless other traditions that are important to daily life in Sweden. The common theme is the importance Swedes place on friendships and familial relationships. There is a reason Sweden is known as one of the happiest countries!
By Cate Feldkamp