Swedish For Immigrants – Week 4 Cultural Insights


I am one! Weird . . . this strange feeling . . . But by learning Swedish, I’ll feel less a stranger. Must be so much easier for me than the Somalis, or the students who have come from Syria, and Vietnam. I hope to learn some of their stories, flights of passage to a world so different than their own. Three more have started class today. They come from Mogadishu, in Somalia, Palestine, and Syria, places we see getting blown to hell on television every night. God, what must that be like? Do they miss home? So many different customs, language, dress. At least they will not be alone. 2000 come through Sweden’s front door every month, more through the back door, via Germany. The total number’s over 50,000 now.
Things European aren’t so different from American experience, but there are differences, and I will always be, “A stranger, in a strange land.” Lao Tzu was first to use that term in his, I Ching – 550 BC.

The Wanderer – “When a man is a wanderer and stranger, he should not be gruff or over bearing. He has no large circle of acquaintance, therefore he should not give himself airs. He must be cautious and reserved; in this way he protects himself from evil. If he is obliging towards others, he wins success.”           Always good advice in the I Ching.



The Somali girls, I should say women . . . they all seem so young. We only see their faces, all the rest is covered, head to toe. Their outfits all the same, except for colored patterns, and designs, some of them stunningly beautiful . . . all wearing exactly the same dress. It’s not a dress, of course; they’re called jibabs.

Jibab 2

They cover the entire body, except for head and hands. Heads are covered by a scarf, called a shash. Men dress the same as they do here. This is a noticeably different culture. I wonder what they think of Swedish winters. Somalia’s average temperature stays in the upper eighties, not much rain, but they seem happy here, perhaps relived to have escaped their homeland. Sweden’s probably the best deal any immigrant can get. Good health care, money for housing, and extra money for each child. Average birth rate for women in Somalia is 6.17. Only 2% live past 65. A man can have four wives if he is able to support them.
Students get paid for coming to class. Those with good attendance receive a check at the end of the month. The money comes from the Swedish steel industry, with the purpose of making immigrants employable . . . as soon as possible. Four hours a day, five days a week. Intense. A classmate asked if there were holidays this morning.
“There are no holidays,” she was told. “Only homework days.”


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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11 Responses to Swedish For Immigrants – Week 4 Cultural Insights

  1. Bruce, written with sensitivity and awareness. Good one!

  2. fascinating Bruce… we have Somalis here, have been coming for the last two decades – they are uniformly beautiful, and I know this, because they wear European clothes, and look amazing !!!
    Loved your i ching quote…

    • bldodson says:

      This is interesting. Did the women always wear European clothes? Or did that happen over time?
      It’s a wonder anyone is left in Somalia. I remember when I was in the Rotary Club, we were talking about getting mosquito
      nets for some county and one of the members saying, “The most useful thing we could give them are suitcases.”
      Some of these places simply seem so played out, used up. Then people turn on each other like starving rats.

      • Love the suit-cases !! Was saddened today to see a map of the world from a few years ago showing countries and their levels of prosperity… Libya was one of the most prosperous countries… and of course, is now a failed state… same with Iraq… would seem that dictators are better than invasion by foreign powers or other armed gangs !!!

  3. Pardon the pun Bruce but it seems like language class has been a big learning curve. It’s always interesting to be around different cultures, being able to take on board their story and circumstances. We have quite few Somalia refugees around the district. There were a few problems with the young men and authority. In their view the police were the enemy and it took them some time to realise that they weren’t going to be shot out of hand. A lot of the younger women dress like we do, the older women seem to stick to the traditional dress. Australia was built on convicts and immigrants, I’m one. No not a convict. So it will be interesting to see what the next ten years brings after a new wave of immigrants.

  4. Judisk Pojke says:

    I love the whole Swedish concept. Instead of complaining and protesting about the influx of immigrants, educate them. Put them to work so they can pay taxes. A lot more productive than bitching about “why can’t they speak English” (USA).

  5. Very interesting. Your immigrant position gives you so much empathy for your fellow students.

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