Wednesday, February 21, 2007 it OK if I say this in English?

Gamla Stan, Stockholm
Originally uploaded by Greg_e.
Just got to Helsinki from my two-day visit to Stockholm. This miniature St. Petersburg is freezing: slight wind, snow and approximately 20 degrees minus. Will work a bit on some text for work and see family. Looking forward.

I stayed with my Finnish friend in Stockholm. As we met at the Central Station, she had a big smile on her face:"I am SOOO glad you are here. I have been feeling very small and going by the walls in public places."

First I thought she was exaggerating but after strolling through the beautiful old city and the trendy shops of Södermalm, I really understood what she meant. I felt ashamed for speaking Finnish, my "so last season" clothing, having a Finnish accent in my Swedish and not being able to complete a conversation without some English. I seldom feel as second rate as in Sweden. And not to mention that they are all so bloody tall, pleasant and good-looking.

The biggest literature prize of Sweden was recently awarded to an author called Susanna Alakoski. Her novel Svinalängorna tells a story of a Finnish family moving to Sweden. As my friend started reading the book, I heard her gasping and commenting the book constantly. "This is so awful. I cannot handle these feelings in the book. I want to go to Helsinki" She was also waiting for me to start reading it so we could talk about some parts of the book.

I have it in my bag as well but hesitate a bit with starting it. The reason of hesitation is not the subject - it is the language. I am not sure if I am able to complete a book about Finns as second-rate people in Sweden in Swedish. And if the answer is no, I am sure it does wonders to my self-esteem. We shall see.


Anonymous said...

I also felt myself second-class as I lived in Sweden for one year in the 1990's.

I lived in an immigrant area, which was actually great for me, because as coming from the small Finnish town of Mikkeli I had hardly had any contact with any other nationalities than Finnish so far.

But I was an immigrant myself at the time and I could really feel that. While still at school I thought that I could speak pretty nice Swedish but as I moved to the country it turned out that nobody understood me.

Quite a few people also made constant jokes to me about knives and booze. Throughout the year all of my best friends were immigrants or foreign in one way or another.

Having said all this, my year in Karlstad was very important to me as a project of self-awareness-raising as well as political awareness-raising. And in the end I also learned the language.

beautyforgivenesshealing said...

Yeah, I have heard about this... What is it about these neighbouring countires...