Yesterday, I sat in a café just off Karlaplan with a microphone perilously close to my chin as Sophie, a journalism student who was working on a radio project that involved the concept of alien, asked a whole raft of questions.
She wanted to know what is alien about Sweden to those of us coming from the outside.
I answered, in my halting Swedish, all of her questions, telling her about meeting the husband in Barcelona, how Spain is more foreign than Sweden to an American, that Sweden is deceptively Anglo on the surface but in fact the culture is decidedly non-Anglo, a consensus culture as opposed to the individualist culture of my native land. I told her that I didn't think I'd ever really be Swedish, but I didn't care. I told her that I felt most Swedish when I was in the U.S., where I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the overabundance of, well, things. And I felt quite Swedish when Anna Lindh was assassinated. I told her that the first thing that struck me when I moved here is how people bump into each other on the street and they don't say "excuse me" or "sorry." But I hardly think about things being alien any more, because they aren't any longer.
I'll be most curious to hear what I sound like when you finish, Sophie.
The Swedish word for the day is främmande, which means, of course, alien or strange.
- by Francis S.