My experience with the Swedish language is a topic that I could probably write a book on. I’m not saying it would be the most compelling or best-selling book in the world, but I think I could come up with enough material to fill a couple hundred pages at this point if my life depended on it. I wrote more about the mechanics of the language in an earlier post, but here I’m going to focus more on some of the linguistic quirks I’ve noticed both from others and myself during my time in Göteborg.
My first observation is one of the most surprising to me: some days I feel like my English is deteriorating more than a little bit, which I was honestly not expecting. I sometimes forget words that I haven’t used in a long time, and I also tend to unintentionally appropriate speech patterns and sentence constructions that aren’t very common in the US.
Unrelated but delicious. It’s semla season in Sweden. Photo: B. Seward
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Now that I have officially finished my requisite master’s coursework and have just started my thesis, I feel like this is the perfect time for me to reflect back and offer some of my impressions of the Swedish university system and general classroom atmosphere here at Chalmers. I personally believe that my feelings and opinions are held by a lot of international students, but keep in mind these are still just one guy’s experiences at one specific university.
Anyway… one of the very first things I noticed upon arrival over a year and a half ago is that the hierarchical/organizational structure is very flat at Chalmers – and at most universities in Sweden I would assume. It seems like there are typically only a few levels of administration between the average professor and the university president.
Chalmers – “Avancez”. Source: http://www.chalmers.se/en/
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I was going to try to come up with some well-argued rationale for centering this entire entry on food, but then I realized that ethnic food, from the perspective of a non-Swede, is in itself intrinsically interesting. This makes a trite or forced analogy unnecessary. So with that, I’ll get straight into it.
Over the past year plus that I have spent here in Gothenburg I have sought out some tasty, yet inexpensive places to grab a quick bite to eat; I’m on a student schedule and budget after all. Apart from the reliable and surprisingly affordable dining options in the Chalmers Student Union building, I have found a couple of delicious and uniquely Swedish places. Yeah, you could always take the easy way and pick up a generic pizza or kebab – as I have done quite a few times myself – but the places I list below are worth the extra effort in my opinion.
First up is the only food truck in Gothenburg – or at least the only food truck that I’m aware of in the downtown area. Strömmingsluckan has a simple concept: fried herring, potatoes and lingonberries. This is about as Swedish as you can get, and it tastes great when you add some mustard and horseradish to the herring, which oh by the way is full of tiny but edible bones (I ate the bones at least).
Fried herring with Dijon, horseradish, lingonberries, and potatoes. Photo by B. Seward.
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I’m convinced that it takes two years to figure out and begin to enjoy the manner in which Swedish society operates. After a trial year of discovering the intricacies of Swedish banks, immigration offices, personal numbers, housing queues, etc., I’m finally ready to act upon some of the lessons learned. But just because I understand how the system works now doesn’t mean that I acted soon enough to reap the benefits. Yes, I’m going to be talking about housing again.
My stubbornness and (false?) sense of independence were my greatest weaknesses in procuring a place to live for this fall. I tend to sometimes think that I’m capable of figuring things out on my own, even when multiple people advise me otherwise. Thankfully I ended up getting lucky and finding a nice, affordable place after an intense two week search, but things could have very easily gone the other way. Hopefully I’ll be able to help other incoming students avoid a few of the missteps that I made with regards to student housing (or lack thereof) here in Sweden.
The view from my new apartment. Photo by Brett Seward.
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