I have a split personality. Not the kind that talks to you. Or the kind that convinces you that there are unicorns in your closet. But the kind that comes with speaking two languages at a relatively advanced level.
The more time I spend in this country as an adult, and the more time I spend in the US as an adult, the more I realize that straddling the two countries, sliding into my Swedish persona while in Europe and my American persona while in the US isn’t as hard as it once was. Because no matter what anyone tells you, if you speak two languages relatively well, you most likely have two different personalities. Eventually, hopefully, they meld into some sort of super personality making you incredibly successful, irresistible to attractive women, and even more awesome than you already are. Or something like that.
Chances are though, instead of being that super person you will find yourself sitting around at dinner parties thinking of all the witty remarks you’d like to make. And don’t. Or wanting to join in on that discussion about politics. But by the time you think of how to say what you want to say, the conversation has moved to discussing people’s least favorite punctuation mark. Mine is the comma. You may have noticed. I don’t use them. Mostly because I don’t really know how to use them properly. And I hate them. Stay focused.
It’s a frustrating realization though. Not the comma usage, but the split personalities. Mostly because it takes such time. And if you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time going back and forth between two cultures. It sounds like a good idea. It is a good idea. But it leads to frustration.
This hit me the other day after having been back in Sweden for a while. I have two very distinct group of friends. I have English-speaking friends and I have Swedish-speaking friends. I have a few that cross over for whatever reason, but I find myself, even in Sweden, floating back and forth between my English personality and my Swedish personality.
I’m getting better at melding the two. The more time I stay here, the more I learn about the country the culture, and the language, the more comfortable I am cracking jokes. Discussing politics. Even making fun of people. I’m a horrible person, I know. But doing all those little things that form a personality worth knowing. Or not. I’ll leave that up to other people to decide.
Those split personalities though are the thing I watch other people deal with. And discuss. And eventually meld. It’s hard as hell. It’s fun as hell too, though. Because all those little things suddenly are worth so much more. Like the first time you crack a joke and people laugh. In a different language. Or the first time you can actually hold your own in a discussion about complicated issues that you care about. In a different language. Or the first time you can make fun of the guy wearing a bright green polo with the collar popped and red jeans. In a different language. It’s a wonderful feeling. And it’s what makes going abroad so amazing. And what makes learning a different language so worth it.
Welcome to Sweden. And multiple identities.
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