In my last few weeks in Sweden, I was answering a lot of questions about why I was moving back. Three years of being in the country had apparently had an impact on me. And it was in these last few weeks that I started hearing more and more about my identity through the eyes of others.
I became a sort of sideshow for some of the members of my Swedish family that I only saw sporadically while in the country. I was reminded over and over about the improvement of my Swedish. To the extent that I began questioning my own fluency. At one point I answered the phone only to be met by laughter and a comment explaining that laughter. I sounded Swedish. Apparently, me sounding Swedish was hilarious.
A good friend of mine, who happens to be Swedish, asked me why I was moving back. I explained the whole, time for something different, time to be near the family, time to be near old friends. For some reason that wasn’t enough. And so I explained that final part that has always gnawed at me. I feel more American. I don’t feel completely at ease in Sweden as I do in the US. I don’t see myself as Swedish (unless I decide to use that Swedishness to my advantage like when negotiating at a bazaar in Istanbul during a time when the US State Department suggested Americans not travel to the country).
His response surprised me. Even after three years in the country it surprised me. Because apparently, he didn’t view me as American at all. I was Swedish. Of course, the part of me that loves the sweet smell of freedom that assaults your nostrils at your local Walmart was disgusted by the comment. But I kept that part quiet.
Later, in a quintessentially Swedish conversation about the weather, I was once again called out for being Swedish. Mostly because I said that when the sun was shining during the Swedish summer, it was important to passa på. Essentially to take advantage. The sunshine is fleeting in Sweden so you damn well should take advantage. Again, laughter follows. The comment was just a little too Swedish.
But maybe, most shocking of all, I was called out by my very own parents. They felt it necessary to point out that I had become a tad European. This may have owed to my awesomely tight pants. Or baby blue collared shirt. Or really fast sunglasses. Or maybe it just so happens that they hate freedom. My father is not an American citizen and my mother does not like to eat lamb. You be the judge.
In the end though, it seems I am probably more Swedish than I care to admit. I suppose after several years in the country that shouldn’t come as a surprise. But it does. To me at least. Maybe moving to Swedish-America will be the halfway house I need.
Welcome to Swedish-America. And my de-Swedishanization.
Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden