My admiration for Stefan Edberg ( I was not yet born during the Bjorn Borg era) had led me to my fascination about Sweden. Many many many times during my childhood I dreamed of going to Sweden and met Stefan. The opportunity to study in IKEA land was opened to me when I received a confirmation of study scholarship.
I honestly did not know what to expect when I first arrived at Arlanda airport, Stockholm. It was 19th January 2006, my first time in Europe, far far away from home (Indonesia).
Before my departure I did my research about the Swedes and their culture. Most of the information I gathered mentioned that Swedes are reserved people, meaning that they might not be that outgoing and friendly. I found that to be untrue though.
I was happy to see a friendly face, Lizette Naucler, who voluntarily picked me up from the airport. I met her when she did an exchange studies at my college in Malaysia. From the airport she took me to Täby where I stayed there for a couple of days at Joakim (Jocke) Svärling’s superb apartment! (he had lots of musical instruments, it was really cool!). They took me to their friend’s party and I felt honored because everyone at the party started to speak English knowing that I speak no Swedish at all! They didn’t have to do that for me, they could speak Swedish to each other, yet they chose to speak in English so that I also understand their conversation.
Lizette took me around Stockholm as well. We visited several places and museums. In one of the museums, I mistakenly left my camera in a restroom. A nice young women called me up and told me about my camera. I was amazed to find my camera was still at the same place where I put it. That would probably not the case back in my home country. Things will “mysteriously” disappear if you leave your things unattended even for a second!
In one evening, I went out for a quick bite at a fast food restaurant. While eating my food, I saw how people clear up their table after finishing their food. That was a bizarre view for me as I was used to leave everything on my table and someone else would clean it up for me. Looking at the Swede’s behaviour, I quickly picked up the lesson. From that moment I learned to clear up my table, a habit that I still do up until now.
My first time to ICA was also a learning session. When I was queuing at the cashier to pay for the stuffs I wanted to buy, I saw how people put their stuffs by themselves into their bags. In Indonesia, normally we have 2 staffs at the counter; one is the cashier and the other one is a helper that put all the things bought into a bag. As a client, you will do nothing except making the payment. At that time I was not used to pack my own stuffs, thus i found it a bit strange. When I returned back to my apartment I realised how efficient the Swedes were.
When I started my studies at Jönköping International Business School (JIBS) I tried to interact with the locals as much as I could. I joined the host family programme that was arranged by JIBS. I was paired with Margareta Böhn, a wonderful and inspirational Swede. Together we went biking around Visingsö. I also borrowed her bicycle to do a 3 days cycling around Lake Vättern with a friend, Patrik Jonasson. I biked, I camped, I appreciated the wonderful nature that Sweden had to offer.
As the Jerussalem of Sweden, Jönköping has lots of churches. While in JIBS I decided to join the Pingstkyrkan i Jönköping. I met a very friendly church member, Thevathason Rufus. He then introduced me to the church music team and I joined the team as a guitarist (not that I was great at it!). I also went for small congregation gatherings with the church group led by Rufus. To my surprise, I met Stefan Edberg’s former coach in one of the gatherings! It was really wonderful to meet the locals and interact with them.
When i was in Jönköping there was one time when I was very sick and couldn’t get up of my bed. While majority of my friends sent a text saying “get well soon”, my Swedish friends were beyond that. One person lent me her guitar (so that I can play it in my room), another brought me his stereo (in case I’m bored with the guitar and prefer to listen to music), others brought me fruits and medicine. It’s interesting because in the land far far away from home, I actually felt like home at that time.
When my studies ended and I had to returned back, I was really really sad. It was difficult for me to say goodbye to the country where “lagom” is best. Honesty, efficiency, respect, and caring are some of the lessons that I learned from the Swedes. Furthermore, the Swedes had taught me to appreciate nature and environment, something that unfortunately is still very low in my country. All in all, I would forever be grateful for my Swedish experience. Thank you Sweden, thank you Swedes.