Tag archives for Vienna

12 Questions about The Globalisation of Love with Wendy Williams

“One of the most profound effects of globalisation is that people from everywhere are falling in love with people from everywhere else.”

–Wendy Williams, The Globalisation of Love


 I first came across Wendy Williams’ The Globalisation of Love in an article called, “Why ‘expat’ is a misleading term for multicultural couples.”

(And no, in case you were wondering, this Wendy Williams is not the talk show host, the lead singer of the Plasmatics, the transsexual pornography star, or the author of The Best Bike Paths of New England. FYI.)

One of Wendy’s central claims is that expat couples are profoundly different from multicultural couples.

As a Canadian married to an Austrian and building a family in Vienna, she is often referred to as part of an “expat couple” despite the fact that her husband and her Austrian-born daughter are both actually in their native country.

As she writes,

Typically, expats enjoy a long list of job perks to deal with the “stresses” of life abroad, so they get free rent, paid trips back to the motherland and private school for the kids. Paying income tax seems to be optional.

Expats are like visitors to a country: they deal with external issues like culture, language, and religion.

A multicultural relationship, by contrast, is one where each partner is from a different country or culture. Multicultural couples… deal with issues like culture, language, and religion within the relationship. [They] do not usually have the job perks of expats.

Most of all, regardless of where they live—or whether they shuttle between their respective countries—in a multicultural relationship

there is a sense of permanence about the geography. The imported partner is an immigrant really, although “immigrant” has taken on some negative connotations in our nilly-willy live-here-work-there globalized society.

As I get closer to the official two-year anniversary of my time here in Sweden, I’ve been thinking more and more about the difference between being an immigrant and being an expat as well as how my experience here compares to the experiences I had as a project manager in Austria and as a student in Italy.

In many ways, I’m still an outsider to Swedish society and I always will be. Nonetheless, barriers between Sweden and me are slowly but surely evaporating.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m still a newbie at this whole “multicultural couple” thing, so I got in touch with Wendy to learn more about the challenges that stay lay in store. She graciously agreed to shed light on some of the issues her book examines.

Wendy Williams, author of “The Globalisation of Love” Photo: courtesy Wendy Williams

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The Low Down on the Love Visa, Part 2

When I first told my family about the existence of the sambo visa, they were pretty amused and immediately started calling it “the loooooooove visa.” Of course, I cleared up any misunderstandings they might have by showing them this video.

Everyone who is granted a sambo visa is required to enroll immediately in samba lessons and travel in a roving samba-sambo pack. Obviously. Then you have to wrestle a drunken elk. (The winner gets to stay in Sweden.)

Now, I’m no immigration expert, but I get a lot of questions on my other blog, Transatlantic Sketches, about the visa process and what my experiences were. So here goes:

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Welcome to the neighborhood!

My first encounter with Sweden came in Italy, when I was a student at the University for Foreigners in Perugia. I started dating a Swede within the first couple of months, and my Italian roommates had some cautionary words for me.

Svedessi sono freddi. Cold, like their country. Just a little frightening.

The man on the right (my roommate Giuseppe) was responsible for the pearls of wisdom about Swedish people, but clearly we're coming from a very different perspective in any case.

I kept dating the Swede, though, and then I went back to the United States for my last year of college. I got used to fielding questions about Sweden and Swedish people, a country I had still only spent five days in.

No, they don’t have Swedish fish (American gummy candy). Yes, they are really quite blond, generally speaking. No, they’re not all crazy socialists (it’s a parliamentary democracy, duh). Yes, they are really good-looking.

I also got to see my own culture through foreign eyes for the first time: to see how different it is to need a car for life in the suburbs, to appreciate how warm and welcoming Americans are, to experience the joy of actually receiving service with a smile and the delight of unlimited soda refills.

My first trip to Sweden, my first Midsummer in Stockholm, my first encounter with herring.

After I graduated, I went to Sweden for two and a half months during the summer, just short of the 90 days I was allowed to stay in the country without a visa.

I fell in love with the warm summer days, the easy-going lifestyle, the fact that the whole country seemed to be on vacation, and the bicycles. I learned that waffles are a dessert item, not a breakfast food, and that the best way to eat them is covered in jam made of cloudberries, a sought-after yellow berry that grows only in the far north of Sweden.

I also brought parts of America with me, in the form of a 4th of July barbeque party, Mexican food nights, and real American pancakes with maple syrup.

Swedish-style dessert waffles at Skansen, an open air museum and zoo in Stockholm. Note the gooey yellow stuff on the waffle: that's the cloudberry jam!

Another summer ended, and I returned yet again to the United States. I worked in Washington, D.C. first as a waitress and then as an English language teacher at an international language school while applying to other jobs throughout the world. I was aiming for a job just about anywhere in Europe so that I could take a step closer to Simon and to Sweden.

It took awhile for me to figure out that I could actually apply for what my family jokingly referred to as “a love visa” to Sweden just on the basis of my relationship with my Swede. It seemed ludicrous at first. I can get a legitimate visa to Sweden just on the basis of “planning to marry or cohabit with a Swedish citizen?” This is clearly a land both inhabited and legislated by starry-eyed lovers.

I filed the application, and in the meantime, I got a job in Vienna, Austria. I moved there in January 2010, and about a week after I accepted a year-long position there as a project manager, my visa application to Sweden was accepted. Of course.

In May, after a few more months of shuttling back and forth between Vienna and Lund, I gave notice at my job and filed my residency papers for Sweden. In July, Simon and I drove halfway across the continent with a trunk full of my things, headed for the land of Vikings and meatballs, crayfish and Aquavit, long winters and long summer days, Maypole dances and government-mandated coffee breaks.

Two friendly Swedes illustrating the finer points of mushroom picking.

For the last seven months, I’ve had the opportunity to be immersed in Swedish culture as an American abroad, and it feels like I have a foot in both cultures.

My friends are almost all Swedish, and they’ve included me as part of their group and done their best to humor my questions and explain what’s going on. (Now tell me again, why does Lucia wear candles on her head? And why are the boys dressed like wizards?) I’ve been enrolled in my free government “Swedish for Immigrant” classes, where I meet other immigrants and learn about Swedish culture from a pedagogical perspective.

At the same time, I’ve been able to introduce my own cultural traditions within my group of friends, with carving pumpkins for Halloween, hosting our very own Thanksgiving, and baking chocolate chip cookies.

Eating Swedish meatballs in Sweden used to be an exotic and photo-worthy happening. No more.

Welcome to my expat blog at Sweden.se! Skål!