Friday, 25 January 2013

Question 2: What does it mean to you being English/Swedish?

A few of the people I stayed with were born in countries outside England or Sweden or had mixed nationalities, but I've included some of their answers as well.

What being English meant to people in England

Cricket in the summer (I prefer playing to watching).Yorkshire pudding. Full English breakfast. Ploughman’s lunch. Tennis – Wimbledon. Buildings. Great language to play around with. Multiculturalism. Enjoying the seasons. Having a small country with lots of different stuff in it – different aspects of the country, dialects etc. The coast. Literature, poetry. Get a cup of tea and watch David Attenburg’s antic road show. I definitely identify myself as being English, more than British

Not very much really. To be proud of being English is a violent and dangerous thing

A sense of belonging, a rooted feeling of seeing the English countryside

Shared associations, cultural references, shared collected experiences of my generation living in England, all the things I've been part of: the women’s liberation moment, political things, demonstrations

My travelling has made me more diluted than being English. I like a c cup of tea and English food actually. Curry is very English. I’m privileged to be British, the passport can take you anywhere. We have the NHS. We’re allowed to be eccentric, people are more similar in other countries, punk and all that came out of Britain

I’m half Irish, I’m not totally at home with my Englishness. It can mean a high hybridity, a lot of people are half Irish, half Scottish, half Welsh…

There’s nothing but benefits being English. I had great education. I’m not poor. There’s a great health service, NHS is really a great English thing

I’m only half-English, my mum is half Scottish, half Welsh. It doesn't mean much to me… An accident of birth, I happen to be here because of my parents. I’m nor proud or ashamed. I identify myself as British

Well, I’m half Irish. We should be European, integrated with everyone. We were a sea-faring nation, we have the potential of being inclusive of everyone. It doesn't mean much to me really, everyone is mixed up, that’s one thing that’s good about modern Britain, we get a lot of different views and cultures mixed together. I identify as British

We can travel anywhere with our passport. Have not thought about that, am not a massive patriot. The only time it was handy being English was in South America
because they hate the Americans. I only identify as English because of my accent I suppose. We didn't have football in our lives, no church of England religion… We were not segregated out to be English

Well I've never actually felt English, both my parents are South African, both of them had a kind of grudge against the British. Even if they’d decided to live here, there’s always this kind of thing, this pride in not being English. I grew up feeling I’m glad I’m not English. I don’t feel completely English when I've travelled abroad, I've felt a little bit almost ashamed of being English, don’t know what that’s all about, if that’s our history, the whole colonial thing, and the English are mocked for their reservedness

I used to say I was English, but it wasn't very PC, so now I've changed to saying British, it’s almost an abstract feeling, it doesn't differ from being anything else

I feel very proud to be English. People seem to get very excited about English people abroad. They ask you questions about stereotypical things. I like that people have an idea about English things. I love our history, people from the entertainment industry are known worldwide.

What being Swedish meant to people in Sweden

That I have a natural right to be here, that I’m someone who is considered worthy of living in this country

I think of myself as Swedish. What a question! It’s not something I've thought about a lot. It’s good I suppose. Sometimes you can almost feel that people treat you better, Swedes have quite a good reputation after all

I guess I feel like a quite typical Swede, shy and quiet, like Swedes often are. I can feel that I’m lucky to be born here, compared to somewhere else in the world. Here you always got somewhere to live, you’ll get by

That I’m a citizen of a country that is very hypocrite

My mother tongue Swedish identifies me, it’s the language I know best, the language I feel most at home in, and can express myself in

Not more than that I happen to live in the part of the world that is called Sweden. I’m a human being on planet earth. In practise I've grown up here and my behavior and personality is moulded by the culture, you see that when you go abroad. My life philosophy is that it’s important to reflect if I've chosen my country/culture/religion of free will or do I just carry on the way I was raised?

The freedom to room. I've got Finnish heritage, but don’t see myself as half Finish. Although I feel a little bit at home when I hear the dialect, a bit of a home feeling, even though I wouldn't be able to live there

The way I look at it I’m very privileged that I’m born here at this time which means a lot of relative freedom to create and shape your life the way you want it. The privilige to live here in the 2010s. But I’m not very patriotic

A kind of security in a way. Sweden has a safety net, things that work, schools, health care, if something should go wrong you would get help. When I was younger I was often told that I don’t look Swedish. My grandma came here as a little child, she was half Austrian  half Polish Jew. When I’m travelling I say that I’m Swedish, it doesn't go deeper than that

It’s not something you’re ashamed of, it feels good. It feels as if one tries to be a bit more open, many Swedes are narrow-minded and hold on to traditions, so one tries to be a bit more open

Quite a lot, am quite proud to be Swedish after all, that you have all traditions, it means a lot to me. I might as well have a Swedish nationality as any other nationality, but I’m Swedish, all my relatives are form Sweden

Freedom is the first thing I think about. We can live as individuals to some extent. Freedom as an individual, not too much Big Brother. Very liberal. Nobody tells me what music to listen to or what sites that come up on the net

Freedom. The freedom to room. That things are open, buildt on common ground that people can walk on. I don’t need to feel guilt when I walk about, that I’m an intruder. I righteously walk on the streets.

What defines Swedish is up to each person. If you’re from Iraq and have a citizen ship you might not feel Swedish anyway. And you can live here and not have a citizen ship and feel Swedish. I think I would always feel Swedish. It’s up to the individual to decide that now I’m Swedish

It’s really hard, in the States it’s good fun, they like you there if you’re Swedish. You can always be proud when someone says: ”Is that the country where you have high taxes?” Then I say: ”Yes it’s us, we take care of each other over there.”

I’m grateful that I’m Swedish, that I was born in Sweden, when you look at the state of the rest of the world, you have all sorts of opportunities here. I see myself as Swedish with a mix of molecules from outer space, a citizen of different parts. I’m just as home in Egypt or France; when I was there I thought ”I could have been born here”

What being Swedish/English means to me

I can’t get away from being Swedish. Sweden is the country I was born in, so yes I’m Swedish, but it doesn't necessarily mean that I feel Swedish. After ten years in England I feel a bit alienated as I haven’t bothered to follow the Swedish news while I've been away, and I have no idea who different celebrities are or what other cultural stuff is going on. Not that I care about celebrities, but sometimes it would be good to at least have an idea what people are talking about. On the other hand I felt just as alienated in England, never quite understanding the system. And I hadn't grown up with the same TV programmes as my friends.

What makes me feel Swedish is that I have a very strong relationship with nature and forest in particular, but then nature lovers live all over the world. What makes me feel English is that I've lost a bit of my “Swedish moral”, before I was more rigid when it came to certain rules, now I've let go a bit. But it doesn't mean that English people have no moral! It’s very hard to base your identity on national values or traditions. I prefer tea to coffee. I like having an English breakfast. And I only put the light on in the room I’m in at the moment - I don’t do what most Swedish people do: keeping the lights on in rooms they aren't even using. And I say “thank you” every time I order something as the word “please” doesn't exist in Swedish, and I say “sorry” a lot when I bump into people. So I've brought some English habits to Sweden, but then again, it doesn't necessarily make me English.

A lot of the people I stayed with had either lived abroad for a while or travelled a lot and I think that opens your mind. You realise what habits and ideas you carry with you, which ones are good, which ones are not so good.

I’d never say that I’m proud to be one nationality or another. As some people answered: I just happened to be born in Sweden. Sometimes it annoyed me when people in England kept asking where I was from, but sometimes I enjoyed the attention. (But I don't know why so many Englishmen associate Swedish girls with porn! Very irritating!) There are many times that I've wished that I was born in England just because it would be great to have English as a mother tongue. No matter how hard I try, the English language will never feel as easy to use as the Swedish language.

This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing fifteen people in England and fifteen people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What traditions do you celebrate?

Friday, 18 January 2013

Question 1b+c: What would you NOT miss about England/Sweden if you lived abroad and what would you like to change about your country?

People gave very similar answers to what they would not miss and what they would like to change about their countries, so I have put the answers together. I've published the answers in a rough order of popularity.

What people living in England would NOT miss about England and what they would like to change

For people to be more direct, more warm, more open
Wanting people to be warmer to each other and strangers
The unfriendliness. For people to be more respectful of each other in public spaces.
“People can be quite cold, people are not as hospitable as in other countries. People here can be really private, they don’t want to be disturbed.”
“English people can be a bit guarded, abroad people aren't suspicious of strangers right away.”
Bad manners, up-tightness, the British reserve
The non-reliability, people not keeping their word

“There’s a bit of an attitude of looking out for yourself, it didn't used to be, people are making money, not giving it to anyone, not looking out for other people, there’s more of a grabby attitude going on.”

A more positive attitude towards life and other people in general. “It’s not OK to do well in England, you’re looked down on. If someone’s doing well you don’t get enough encouragement.”

David Cameron
A system that pretends it’s democracy, the deception of politics
The zeitgeist culture, the way this country is run
Insularity, Anglo-centricity
The Xenophobia, “It’s not so apparent in Brighton, but a lot of the country is quite racist”
Get rid of racism “People think you should get stuff just because you’re British, people just want things for free and aren't willing to pass it forward,  there’s a racist culture, because the they want someone to blame, they've got this idea that it was better in the old days, I’m not sure it was really.”

The bureaucracy. “There are a lot of forms to fill in.”
Red tape bureaucracy, all the rules for everything, lack of being able to do what you want, applying health and safety to everything.
The nanny-state, ”my friend couldn't take a picture of her child in the swimming pool,
is everyone a pedophile?”

“The establishment is too entrenched with public school and the royal family, it feels a bit oppressive at times.”
The way some people have gone about the Jubilee, “stop putting so much emphasis on the royal family”

Council estates, chavs
Binge drinking
The class system “I can’t bear snobbery”
The snobbery “I hate the facade English people put on, they say one thing, but mean another. They talk behind each others backs”

“Mainstream British poetry is apathetic and dull and it’s all Larkin’s fault. I would
like people to be more critically engaged and interested."

Less of a youth culture, more mixing between the ages

TV celebrity culture, the negative news, Daily Mail, gossip magazines, the British Press, “some countries have newspapers that print news”

Small living spaces

Unpredictable weather, long wet grey wintertime, the weather, the crap summer weather, “I like having seasons, but would like to have seasons that do what they say they do”


What people living in Sweden would NOT miss about Sweden or what they would like to change

Move Sweden further South. The Weather, the rain, the cold, the winter. The cold and the darkness. The summer should be longer and dryer, wanting the Swedish summer to really be summer. ”In winter you’re so aware that the weather is shit, but you’re prepared for it, it’s more frustrating in summer.”

”It’s a bit too moralising sometimes, but it’s not only a bad thing it depends on how much I agree.
”Sometimes it’s annoying that Swedish people are so obedient, there are so many rules and that, abroad people don’t queue and they smoke everywhere, there’s more freedom, but sometimes I can miss the Swedishness, there’s a bit of hypocrisy.”
”There’s a lot about the square thinking that annoys me but that I also appreciate”.

”That Swedes are so smug and gullible and think that Sweden is so fucking great and that everything works in such a blind way, you think that authorities are right just because they’re authorities.”
Narrow-mindedness, ”many people think Sweden is the centre of the universe and that everything revolves around us”

That everybody has to be the same and that you’re not allowed to be good at anything
The bitterness, the apathy, that there’s no spark.

The racism, the growing suspicion against foreigners, a growing “we and them”-feeling, the segregation
“Multi-culture is an area where we lack debate and information.”
”Sweden should be much bigger. You should bring a million Chinese people here, it’s so fucking small everywhere. There should be more bigger cities that are exciting to explore.There should be more of everything.”

”Political debates should be kept at a relevant level, not about voting after the wallet and things like that.”
Fire 75% of the politicians. The conservative government.

The pubs and bars. ”It’s so much nicer to go out abroad”.
Expensive to go out and have a beer, expensive to go out an eat
The Swedish non-spontaneity, to just be able to meet after work. ”Here everything needs to be planned, it kills the spontaneity, limits the social life”
For people to be a bit more open and sociable. The quietness, that we’re so suspicious.

People should be better at taking care of old people

The stress, Christmas eve

My thoughts: Warm and Cold

Everybody knows that English people are traditionally known for being polite, that’s why it was interesting that so many people living in England wanted people to be more warm or open. But then being polite is not the same as being warm and open… Swedes wanted people to be more sociable as well, but it wasn't as high on the list. For Swedish people the weather and the winter seemed to be the biggest topic for dislike and change.

Racism is a problem in both countries. English people seemed slightly more upset about the system and how the country is run. Swedes have mixed feelings. And for the moment I’ll leave it to someone else to analyse the rest of the politics.

What I don’t miss about England is the cold inside, the cold houses. Not a single English person mentioned cold houses: they’re used to it. It’s just me, born a fussy spoilt Swede with no right to complain… What I’d like to change anyway is the housing situation, making it cheaper and easier for people to find a good place to live.

What I don’t miss about Sweden is … yes, the cold outside, the long winter. And I would like people to be more polite and say sorry when they bump into you.

In both cases my list could be quite long, but I just wrote down the very first things that popped into my mind, and that’s how most “Swenglish people” answered the questions.

This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing fifteen people in England and fifteen people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What does being English/Swedish mean to you?

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Question 1a: What would you miss about England/Sweden if you lived abroad?

Most English and Swedish people naturally mentioned family and friends, but apart from people and pets this is what they came up with:

What people living in England would miss about England

The English humour, the British character, the banter, having a laugh, taking the piss, talking bollocks

Cups of tea, proper tea, tea and biscuits

Pints, real ale, the pub culture

Baked potato, Marmite

Some beautiful places, the nature, the landscapes, the greenness of English countryside, the four distinct seasons

The cultural diversity

Great things happening in summer, festivals, camps and events

Going to London to see shows and art exhibitions, free galleries and museums

English bookshops, Waterstones, Newspapers, the Guardian, Music, club nights

Supermarkets, Sainsbury's

The familiarity, knowing the ropes, associations, the history of growing up here

The convenience and ease of public transport, free health care

What people living in Sweden would miss about Sweden

Understanding the system, going to the bank and understand how it works, not having to compromise and getting used to the ways of another culture, knowing how to handle situations without having to think

How society is structured, that everybody has an okay standard of living, pretty well organised, not so much corruption, the security, the safety net, the stability, the reliability

Feminism, questions about gender identity, freedom, freedom of speech

Some comforts, the Swedish standard, that things are fresh and clean, our washing powder

Nature, the lakes, swimming outside, the freedom to roam, the forest, space

Snow in winter, the seasons, the Swedish summers

The Swedish traditions, Lucia, Christmas, crayfish-parties, midsummer

Salty liquorice, mayonaise, pizza salad, pizza, kebab, Christmas smörgåsbord, meatballs, Marabou chocolate, bread, crisp bread

The coffee

Hearing your own language, different dialects, to be able to read really fast

Friskis & Svettis (an amateur gym)

Similarities and differences: Humour and Pizza

Both people in England and Sweden would miss the nature and the landscape they are used to which wasn’t very surprising, but it seemed more important to Swedish people probably because there’s more forest in Sweden.

What surprised me most was that a majority of Swedish people are very attached to security and are obsessed about knowing how the system works, only one person living in England mentioned “knowing the ropes” and feeling familiar with how society is structured. Perhaps English people feel more alienated from the so-called system and don’t value it as highly as Swedish people do. And I must admit that I really missed the Swedish standard with warm houses when I lived in England

About half of the English people I stayed with would miss the pubs, not a single Swedish person mentioned anything about drinking culture. And not a single Swedish person mentioned anything about a sense of humour. I don’t want to conclude that there is no drinking culture and no such thing as humour in Sweden, but the English are definitely better at pubs and cracking jokes.

Quite a few English people would miss “proper tea”, no one in Sweden  would miss tea, but one person would miss coffee. On the other hand Swedish people seem more keen on their food, and even though pizza isn’t originally a Swedish dish that’s what most people would miss.

People in Sweden wouldn’t miss any cultural things like museums and art galleries, but on the other hand they would miss traditions that are typically Swedish, like Lucia.

I found it very funny that one English person would miss Sainsbury's, but the other week I found myself missing Tescos’, not the supermarket itself, but just certain products and knowing where things are on the shelves. That good old familiarity …

What I personally miss most about England is the English language and the politeness, and when I’m away from Sweden I miss the Swedish language and above all the nature.

This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing fifteen people in England and fifteen people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What would you NOT miss about England/Sweden if you lived abroad?

Friday, 4 January 2013

Happy New Year - 2013 is yet uncut

1 January I was too tired too think, but I spent most of 2 January in tears, crying because Swenglish was over. Because of my project, 2012 was probably the most structured year in my life since I went to school. I knew where I would be from week to week, and yet I was in the hands of other people and didn't have to make too many decisions of my own as I was living someone else's life.

And here I am with a new year and no plans. Well, that's a lie. My big goal is to complete the Swenglish book based on my project and find a publisher for it. While I'm writing I hope other things will become more clear. I know that I want to write and that I want to study, but I don't know what and where to study. I still stand with one foot in the forests of Sweden and one foot on the beach in Brighton&Hove.

A part of my project was to ask each person I stayed with 30 questions, hoping that 30 different (or sometimes very similar!) answers to each question would help me looking at my own life. My plan for the blog this year is to discuss one question a week and publish some of the answers (anonymously of course).

So look out for the first question coming next week: What would you miss about England/Sweden if you lived abroad?


PS. The cake is a vegan dark rye bread cake with seaweed and is now a NYE tradition, lovingly made by "big sister".