So after my failure to be a Swede I have changed my tactic and tried to understand Swedes. I scrupulously elaborated my plan of action.
Step number 1: learn Swedish.
As you may have read in the previous post, I can argue during hours why you should learn Swedish. What amazes me the most in this language is when I hear Swedes speaking to each other I have the feeling they are imagining themselves in a theatre play: the way they talk and pronounce sentences is really performative! And I was so excited to go to Sweden that I started learning Swedish in… June. By myself. With a book. And CDs. Repeating “Hur måååår du?” 10 times a day by the swimming pool in Italy. I admit, it was quite absurd. My dad was laughing at me, my sister called me crazy but when I arrived in Stockholm 3 months later I could at least understand some signs and some ads and was able to have a basic conversation. Funny thing, I was finally hearing Swedish, spoken in live, by Swedes, in Sweden.
Through a tandem program of Stockholm university Student Union I found a language buddy. She was a girl from Umeå studying French and we got along very well. One thing for sure, to learn a language you need to practice. Books, grammar… all that is good, of course, but a language is something that needs to be used. What is funny is that I thought I understood Swedish somewhat well when I was talking to my buddy… but when I tried to speak to a Stockholmer I understood why they were making fun of Swedes from the Northern part of the country: indeed, they speak like 3 times slower! (which is good when you start learning Swedish).
Step number 2: discover Swedish culture.
When I arrived to Stockholm I found out that this year was ” The Strindberg Year” as it’s been 100 years since the death of the famous writer August Strindberg. So I thought: why not try to read some of his works? I started with the play “Fröken Julie” and “The Red Room” (I read them in French, don’t take me for a genius). I really enjoyed both and went to see the exhibition at Nordiska Museet, dedicated to him. Short after this, one of my friends gave me the book “Doctor Glas” of Hjalmar Söderberg. This novel became one of my absolutely favorites! Even if today the topic wouldn’t be seen as revolutionary, the writing style is a true poetry. Read it if you haven’t. It’s short and great. During this year I also watched a lot of Bergman’s movies. Being a real cinephile, I fell in love with his movies that are about the complexity of the human being. Bergman is reputed for his dark and long works, and to be sincere a lot of times I just don’t really understand what he wants to say, but somehow I guess it can speak to your unconsciousness. Nevertheless, if you want to see just one movie, watch “Persona”. Or “Wild strawberries”, if you’re afraid of being depressed.
Step number 3: find a Swedish boyfriend.
If you read my first blog post, you may know that, of course, I came to Sweden to meet Alexander Skarsgård. But being reasonable I thought that it could take a while before he comes to Stockholm from Hollywood and that he wouldn’t mind if meanwhile I met some other Swedish guys. One problem was, and as I already wrote it, that it’s quite difficult to make acquaintances with Swedish people and especially with Swedish guys. But I was lucky: on the very first introducing day at Stockholm university my friends and I went to the Student Union to get a membership and… there he was, a tall, blond, green eyed Swede sitting at the information desk. Two months later, we were dating.
First of all, having a Swedish boyfriend doesn’t mean that you’re going to be fluent in Swedish. Not at all. Yes, unfortunately, he speaks better English than you do, so first you have to catch up the gap. And then… maybe… Having a relationship with a Swede is a real experience of intercultural communication. Of course, I can’t speak for all, but from what I’ve experienced, Swedish boys are far from the ruthless, hot-blooded Vikings you can imagine. One Swedish particularity for sure is that they hate conflicts and try to avoid them as much as possible. So a Swedish boyfriend can make compromises just to get round a conflict and without you even knowing that it was a compromise for him. With my Russian blood that was craving for some passionate disputes, with broken plates and tears and a happy reconciliation at the end, a Swedish boyfriend will arrange everything peacefully and calmly. However, there is always the last drop that makes the cup run over and when a Swede gets angry… well, yeah, he gets angry. So watch out. Nevertheless, being in a relationship with a Swede, as I’ve lived it, means having someone self-assured, in a good way, next to you. And it feels good.