I was standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus the other day when it occurred to me how uncomplicated life in Sweden is. No fuss, no quarrel and no stress. Everyone will get on the bus calmly using the front door, and the baby strollers will also follow in an order of priority. Since the bus only has space for three strollers, I will be glad yet another time that there is space for baby and me. And that feeling of little gratitude sums up my experience as a foreigner in Sweden, a feeling that I suspect that other foreigners and immigrants share.
It is the little gratitude you feel for getting a seat on the bus. Your little gratitude for living in this quiet and functional apartment, where nobody will try to break in if you don’t double lock the door or even knock your door to complain. Gratitude for getting an allowance from the state for being a parent.(even though you did not get the job). It is that half smile on your face, half relief and half resignation to all that is offered and all that is denied.
Little Gratitude has the face of a white stingy old lady all dressed up-hat and everything- to go for her grocery shopping. She grants favors with a nonchalant,over-entitled grimace on her face; fuchsia lipstick sloppily applied around her wrinkled mouth.
If the American dream is about mobility and re-invention, the Swedish dream is about staying put, or rather redefining who you are by being molded to fit the one place reserved for you in the Swedish society. It is about little daily gratitudes, “stress free” compromises and staying unchallenged with what is being offered. It is more than anything a Nordic hibernation as you are being lulled to this deep lethargic winter dream.
Whether the deal is worth taking depends on your circumstances, needs and priorities. It can be heaven on earth and it can be your prison. After all there is a lot of joy in small daily pleasures, if little pleasures, security and stillness is what you seek.
If your blood is boiling, however, there is risk that you might explode like an over pumped balloon and splutter your sanitized, dull, perfect surroundings with your deep red audacious guts.