Observing Sweden – 18 July 2013

Culture Shock Phase 2


It’s not so much about Sweden exactly, or leaving America . . . the end of basic things: the culture, ways of thinking, loss of friends with at least the potential of body nearness—almost never happened. Some I haven’t seen in person, twenty years, or more. We keep in touch with e-mails . . . Skype. These new technologies are wonderful – and scary . . . weird. I’m old. The young will never question the reality of Skype. Few stray far from their cell phones, Face Book, texting, SMS, these virtual realities. What’s next? You can be sure that something will be. I’ve digressed.

            The shock, culture and ways of thinking— subtle things. After five months in Sweden my major challenge seems physical. The act of moving kicked my ass. Before the move I was going to the gym two days a week: free weights, machines and swimming. I felt good. Then came the endless days of packing, moving, lifting . . . so much shit we should have left behind. We loaded an entire full sized, container, filled so tight some boxes had to be abandoned, left behind.

            Then in Sweden after two months living on lawn furniture and rebuilding an attic, ten hour days of nailing, sawing, painting walls . . . minor repairs. Then all our stuff arrived. It took four men eight hours to unload, then came the great unpacking and still more ten hour days, lifting, moving furniture, arranging. Feels like I’ve run out of gas and still not reached my destination. Feet hurt. Back hurts. Shoulder hurts. My fingers are killing me after opening some three hundred heavy-duty taped cardboard shipping boxes. Have I got arthritis? Never had this finger pain before. I feel older. Some of you have been here, gained this less than joyous self awareness. Shocking. Guess it has to happen sometime . . . cold hard fact of life.

            A Swede would never tell you all of this. They’d tell you things had gone just great, “Oh ja, was hard work, but we got it done.” That’s all a person really needs to know. They are hard workers, those I’ve met. Dependable, always on time. But this is just a shallow dip into the Swedish psych—a very fast five months. I’m in Phase 2 of culture shock. The honeymoon is over . . . more hard work, getting to know my way around, the Swedish language. Uk, they make such funny sounds. How do they do that? Language class begins September, back to school. I’m too damn old to go to school! I already know everything . . . except Swedish.

            I don’t know how long Phase 2 of culture shock will last. Phase 1 was three months, book says Phase 2 is four of five. I’ve never looked at the Phase 3 descriptions, seems so far ahead. I dream of a white Christmas hoping most of the above will be resolved by then.


About Bruce Louis Dodson

Bruce Louis Dodson is an American expat now living in Borlänge, Sweden with his wife, cat and dog. He is an artist and world traveler who writes fiction and poetry and practices photography in his less than copious free time. His work has appeared in: Barely South Review - Boundaries Issue, Blue Collar Review, Pulsar Poetry (UK), Foliate Oak, Breadline Press West Coast Anthology . The E-buffet, Qarrtsiluni, Struggle Magazine, Pearl Literary Magazine, Contemporary Literature Review: India, 3rd Wednesday, Sleeping Cat Books - Trip of a Lifetime Anthology, Northern Liberties Review, Authors Abroad - Foreign & and Far Away Anthology, The Path, Page & Spine, The Crucible, Sleeping Cat Books -Trips of a Lifetime, Vine Leaves, Pirene's Fountain,Tic Toc Anthology - Kind of a Hurricane Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Buffalo Almanac and mgv2.
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5 Responses to Observing Sweden – 18 July 2013

  1. You are a smart man and you will get the hang of the language in no time.

    Technology is wonderful. So here is a laugh for you.

    A group of school children went to the Telephone Museum (this is a true story) and the tour guide ask if they understood how the old telephones worked, especially since you had to call the switchboard operator and she would dial the person you wanted to speak to, then later a person could dial the phone themselves, then along came the push button phones.

    The children said yes they understood how the old telephones worked.

    When the tour guide ask if there were any questions, one child raised their hand and said, “I understand how these old telephones work. What I don’t understand is how do you text on it?”

    Gotta love the children…

  2. The things is, Bruce, you’re aware that what you’re feeling is part of a process, and it won’t last forever.
    The physical thing will come right – you’ve put your body and your emotional and mental body under huge pressure, and at our age, it does take much longer to spring back… even flu lasts longer !!!
    It all takes time at our age ! But you’re getting there…sounds like you could do with a course with Amber !!!

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