Thursday, 28 November 2013

Question 15: What's your Relationship to your Family?

Curious about the Parents
I love meeting my friends' parents. It's not like I want to hang out with them; I'm just curious about who they are. Sometimes it feels like I don't know and understand a person on a deeper level until I've met the parents. Things fall into place. The relationship is also reversed. I don't think that someone truly knows me until that person has met my family.
Escaping the Parents
However, it was a relief for me to escape my hometown when I was nineteen and meet people who had no idea about who my parents were. I wanted to break free and not to be associated with the safe small-town life. And speaking for myself, I really don't want to judge anyone because of her or his parents but when I've known a friend for a long time, I find it exciting to meet that person's family. No matter what you do, you'll always be shaped by your family conditions.
Different Behaviour Depending on the Situation
During the Swenglish project, I got the chance to meet some of the participants' parents or siblings. Sometimes the real picture didn't match the stories I'd been told. Someone who'd been described as mean turned out to be really nice, but it just goes to show that people can behave differently depending on who they spend time with.
Compulsory Visits
Among the Swedish people 13 of 15 were in touch with their parents every week. Some spoke on the phone every day, others did a compulsory weekly visit. Among the people I stayed with in England only 5 of 15 were in touch with their parents every week, but that was probably due to the fact that 6 of 15 had parents who either lived in a different country or were no longer alive. (By being in touch, I mean speaking on the phone/Skype or meeting up in person; I haven't considered other contact via the internet as I find it dubious whether a "like" on Facebook could count as being in touch.)
Better Relationships with Friends
What's interesting to note is that some people who spoke to their parents several times a week, didn't experience their relationship as close while some people who spoke to their parents less frequently described their relationship as very good. There were also people who had completely cut the contact with a parent or a sibling. Several people mentioned that they had better and deeper relationships with their friends. (I haven't included love partnerships in this question.)
"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in reach other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof."
- Richard Bach

This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What's your attitude towards relationships, sex and marriage?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

World Toilet Day - Carpets in the Toilet

BildI had no idea that it was World Toilet Day when I did an author performance at my old school. Among other things I talked about the Swenglish project and what it was like travelling around, staying with 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden. 
In Sweden a lot of people think it's very unhygienic that there are carpets in some English bathrooms and it's often one of the things they mention when talking about England. (Perhaps people in Sweden are a bit too hygiene obsessed or what do you think ...?)
I've seen a fair share of carpets myself, but none of the 15 people I stayed with in England had carpets in their toilets. (But one person's mum had one and I also saw a carpet in a pub toilet during the project!)

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Question 14: What's your first memory?

IMG_1225Traumatic memories
10 out of 15 people in Sweden mentioned something more or less traumatic as their first memory (everything from a death in the family to pooping in their pants) but only 4 out of 15 people in England shared a traumatic memory. 
I have no idea why it turned out this way. If I'd chosen 30 different people for the Svenglish project the result might have been reversed. That Swedish people mentioned so many traumatic events was perhaps because they felt closer to me as we spoke the same language and grew up in the same country. 
Memories from the pram
What surprised me was that three people (two in Sweden, one in England) mentioned very early memories.
"I'm sitting in the buggy and am allowed sweets for the first time and I thought 'I'll remember this'. It was the first time I could think in that way, I must have been two or three years old. I've remembered all my life that I will remember this."
"My birthday party when I was two. I'm looking out of the window and I see my granddad coming."
"Lying in the pram, Dad singing the Batman theme tune".
Age obsession
I hardly remember anything at all before I was six. It's like my life began when I started pre-school and what happened before that didn't really exist. I had a theory that people in England had earlier memories because they start school earlier, but that theory didn't work out. There were several people in Sweden who had memories from kindergarten. However, the Swedes knew more specifically how old they were when certain things happened.

I don't know if people are more age obsessed in Sweden, but sometimes it seems like that. At least when you read the headlines and it says "29-year old woman" or "36-year old man" did this or that. In England, in my experience, it's not as common to mention age as an important quality even though it might be mentioned in the article in itself.
Abstract and detailed memories
Many writing exercises at creative writing courses or in books ask you to describe your first childhood memory. (And sometimes lie about it.) The Swenglish participants recalled both abstract and detailed memories that inspired me:
"Light playing on the ceiling."
"Eating toothpaste and watching King Kong on a black and white telly." 
My first memory
Funnily enough I remember an old lady visiting my childminder and she told me about breaking a cup and telling me that it's sad that you only remember the sad things ... But I think I was seven or eight then. My first memory is playing with a dark red purse with a zip and that there are thick yellow and red crayons inside and that I'm on somebody's porch. How I found the purse (pictured) again after all these years you can read about in the book some time in the future ... 
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What's your relationship to your family? (I've chosen not to include question 14b "How was your childhood?" as people gave either too general or too private answers.)