Sometimes I feel very much like a foreigner. It’s becoming less and less often but there are moments when I just have to look back on what I have done and laugh. Mostly at myself. Just the other day was a prime example.
I had decided that I was going to take a day off from work. I wanted a long weekend to head down to southern Sweden and meet up with some of the family. I decided that the end of April or beginning of May would be a perfect time to do this. It just so happened that the first of May was a Friday. Perfect. I could leave Thursday after work and drive down if I was feeling up to it or just get up early Friday morning and make the drive. My plan was fool proof.
It was not however idiot proof. And if this blog has taught you anything, it is that I am, in fact, an idiot. Because I went to my boss and asked for the day off. And that day off was granted to me. Luckily. Turns out that the first of May is a red day.
As anyone who has ever worked in Sweden knows, a red day is a coveted day by those with a job. Red days are public holidays. You don’t go to work. On the Swedish calendar, all public holidays that result in a day off from work are written in red. It’s a very visual reminder.
The first of May is May Day. In the US you leave little baskets of goodies on someone’s door step, ring the doorbell, and run away. In Sweden it is International Laborers Day. So obviously you don’t work. I had no idea.
Public holidays in my very American view are days of consequence. You know, Christmas for example. Not May Day. But May Day is also a day for the common laborer. Which is what I have become. A common laborer. What makes it a little harder for me to laugh at myself is the fact that last May there was also a May Day. And I feel fairly confident that I didn’t go to work that day. I think. I hope. But it made me think.
Before I had a chance to think too much though, my co-workers all had a laugh at my expense. Hell, I laughed to. But it really made me realize that even after nearly two year here, there are still things that I just don’t get. What’s even scarier is that I speak the language. It made me realize just how easy it would be to take advantage of immigrant workers. Not just in Sweden necessarily, but in any country. The US and the migrant workers from Mexico in the Colorado fields. The numerous Poles who went to the UK for work. The asylum seekers here in Sweden.
It would be easy to get lost in a world of going to work and trusting your employer. Trusting that you are working when you are supposed to. Trusting that you are getting paid what you should. Trusting that your employer is an honest law-fearing person. In my case, it’s not that I trusted anyone too much. I don’t have any excuse. I just struggle.
Welcome to Sweden. Where May Day is a public holiday.