Having lived in Sweden for just over a year now, I have begun to recognise and feel the routines and patterns of life here. Every country has it’s own pattern, woven by people going about their daily lives and more and more often I’ve been finding the threads and following them, trying to fit myself into the pattern with varied success. I have found myself questioning the process though. Do immigrants need to do this? I’ve spoken to friends about the imposition they feel from Sweden to fit in, to Learn the language, get a job, make Swedish friends, be more Swedish. And what of your own identity? The ideal should be that of lagom, not too much and not too little. Finding the middle ground or a meeting point between who you were when you stepped off the plane and who you need to be to fit into a society.
An aspect of life here that has nudged me to the outskirts, though not necessarily unwillingly, is the upcoming election. Somehow I have avoided being approached by the hordes of paper-bearing placard-wearing folk that huddle around the different political party huts. And they have actual huts by the way, some of them probably big enough for a holiday cottage, which for some reason I find very endearing.
I have not, however, been able to avoid sight of the posters that adorn anything that stands still for longer than 5 minutes. I walked 10 metres down a main street in town last week and passed 6 advertisements, all for different parties, hanging off lampposts, bustops and trees.
In comparison to election time in Australia, however, there have been no ads on tv that I have seen and no hint of smearing. Can you imagine an election without one party calling the other a bunch of irresponsible fanatics? I couldn’t until now, and I have to say it is quite refreshing.
The only negative responses have been a comment on an add from the Nya Modereterna (New Moderates, the leader of whom is the current PM) promising more jobs, that ‘you are not only your job’, and an add for the Svensk Demokraterna (the ‘we’re not racist but…’ party) with a swastika drawn on someones head.
Part of me does wish I could vote, if only so that I could be part of this discussion that will, after all, effect me too. The most I can do is give a thumbs up to the Feminist Initiativ folk and enjoy the lack of vitriol.
It often feels as though the moments when I am sitting silently and not engaging with society, that I appear the most Swedish. As I sit on the bus in the morning on the way to class, I feel a strange sense of accomplishment when I imagine that someone across the aisle could look at me and assume I am Swedish. I read my Swedish novel, wear a jacket bought in a Swedish secondhand store and the cons on my feet seem almost to be a uniform here. Of course as soon as I open my mouth the act is finished, but for a while I feel as though I fit in. Sometime in the past year this has become something to aim for, if only subconsciously. Something I would have scoffed at a year ago. The balm of anonymity. Perhaps being an immigrant is about the masks you wear, and how deep they go.