Thursday, September 8, 2011

Becoming Swedish

Are you a Swedish citizen yet?

It's a question I get asked a lot. And because I spend way to much time thinking about these things, the answer is 'No, I'm not'.

Depending on when you ask me and my mood, the answer varies.

1) I travel too much. I don't want to surrender my passport for an unknown amount of time and thus be landlocked.

2) Migrationsverket has thus far lost my paperwork every single time I have sent them something. I do not want them to lose my passport too.

3) I just don't feel Swedish yet, I'd feel like a fake.

The truth is probably a combination of all three. Words cannot describe my dislike for Migrationsverket - and if you have never had to deal with them, count yourself as lucky. 

But this whole being Swedish thing, it is something that I struggle with. I mean, why would I want to be a Swedish citizen if I didn't want to be a Swede. And why wouldn't I want to be a Swede, if I like them so friggin much? (which I do).

One of the things about the Sweden Democrats (a Swedish political party considered to be racist) that infuriates me is also something I think that they are sadly correct about in the state of today's Swedish society. The Sweden Democrats describe a Swede as 'anyone who considers themselves to be Swedish and who would be considered by others to be Swedish.' And there in lies the rub. Who is considered to be Swedish by others and why? Is that particular club too exclusive? Would they have me? Do they want someone who speaks Swedish? Someone who is white? Someone who is blonde?

I know. I don't take too much to heart what SD have to say about much of anything. But this feeling I get from so many Swedes around me. The sentences that begin with 'You know that guy from work, he's Swedish, but not Swedish Swedish, I mean he was born here, but his parents are African, I think.' (You may think that sounds strange, but I have heard that or something similar from co-workers, clients, family members etc.) I realize that this is a Swedish dance for saying 'You know that black guy who works with us?' but it makes me feel like I will never be 'Swedish' enough.

Anyways, now that I am raising a little Swede, who will always be viewed as a 'true Swede' thanks to his blue eyes and blonde hair, it makes me wonder - do I belong to this club now? Is it time to sign up? I don't really mind the outsider status, but I don't think becoming a Swede officially will change that status.

Achhh, I guess I just think about it way too much. I would hate to not be able to vote in the next big election. I think that might be the deciding factor.


  1. I wouldn't worry about your swedishness level, it's not scientology, what's holy is the social contract. Care about all the things that make sweden work, and if you disagree with how we do things on a subject, make sure it's an informed opinion, so you're not against something that's actually good because of your "foreigner" baggage.

    Maybe it's just me, but I never think of people as swedish if there's something else avaliable. I regularly have to catch myself to not congratulate my polish origin friend, who has lived in sweden almost her whole life, when poland beats sweden in football, hockey etc.


  2. I understand perfectly how you feel, since I feel the same. But my issue is different: having clearly a non-swedish surname is a minus when trying to find a job. Whatever job. So, sometimes, I'd like to gain the Swedish citizenship, just for the sake to say "hey, I have your citizenship, afterall, what does it matter if my surname doesn't ends with *sson ?"
    But it is of course not a big thing - I know in Italy it is quite "fancy" to be Swedish, so maybe I will do it just for the sake of gaining some "cool-points"

  3. I just see the great things about having more than one citizenship. There are a lot of positive things about it. My husband applied and got American citizenship when we lived in the US (I already had dual citizenship). He actually did not put in much emotional values in it but did it mainly because it was very practical. He will never be a true American but the dual citizenship is still a great resource in so many ways. I agree with this. I think it is great having dual citizenship. It really has given us many benifits in life. So if you got the chance and opportunity - why not?
    You can be just as Swedish as you want and just as much American as you want.
    Have a nice weekend.

  4. One major advantage with becoming a Swedish citizen is that after that you never have to interact with Migrationsverket again (and they are probably the worst run agency in Sweden so tehre are good reason to avoid them)

  5. I know, Desiree - double citzenship is good stuff, it's just kind of weird identification wise. But I have to say Anon#2 that is the best argument I have heard so far. Never having to deal with MV again!

    Good point Aryhan with the name thing. I've chosen to keep my non-Swedish name for a few other personal reasons, but it does effect the CV, most certainly.

  6. I guess it starts when you've been here for some years. When you go back to your home country, you'll start to get annoyed with americans, in a similar way to how you were annoyed with swedes once. (I know you were/are, even if you like us so frigging much ;)

    I have several friends who were born in other countries. India, Chile, Iran and so on. All of them who've lived here for a while, still may get annoyed with us, but when they go back, they notice how much more "home" Sweden has become for them. Someone who complains about swedes being cold, may experience that she likes to be by herself in such a way that her fellow countrymen thinks she keeps to much to herself, but she likes it, even though she didn't when she didn't live here.

  7. Many of us Swedes are very observant to pronunciation and word choicing. For example, we like to tell each other that we know where in Sweden they come from. Based on the small nuances we can tell whether someone comes from Lidingö or Nacka (just 5 km away). Most of my friends would remark that difference, even those that have lived in the northern half of Sweden (Sundsvall and up) their entire lives.

    If noone has told you yet, I'm dropping the bomb: When a Swede talk, he or she is always doing two things at once.

    Firstly, some kind of logical substance and reasoning that tells you... little. If solving a problem, it tells you a lot. But if not, then it tells you little. It could just be something to get a reaction back to find out who you are. A good example of this is when Swedes are speaking of the weather.

    Secondly, the way this Swede chose to say this, tells you everything. It tells you what the Swede want, why he och she wants it and in what mood he or she is right now and why. It also tells you what the Swede thinks is required from you and what level of commitment the Swede has taken on the matter. It also tells you whether you are in agreement or not right now. And if he or she likes you. There are many examples here.

    So it is a very hard nut to crack. My number one tip to work better socially in Sweden, is to start noting the smaller details. Hell, mostly it is more important to hear one of those details than it is to have a wide vocabulary. A tip is to watch some Swedish films. While they absolutely suck, the scene language lifts a lot of Swedish social aspects that you might have missed. And as always; ask someone! Someone that is somewhat analytical.

    Since I'm not an American, I don't know what of the above social interactions we share. But my tip is to dig one level down; note what words are chosen and how they are phrased.

    Wish you the best!

  8. Ha, Thanks Simeon - what you said confirms my greatest fear, and I think shows why sometimes people have a very different experience of me when I speak Swedish vs. English - very interesting.

    And hey, not all Swedish films are bad... Some are pretty good. Although some I really really don't comprehend.