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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Observing Sweden 18 July 2013

Culture Shock – Phase 2

It’s not so much about Sweden exactly, or leaving America . . . the end of basic things: the culture, ways of thinking, loss of friends with at least the potential of body nearness—almost never happened. Some I haven’t seen in person, twenty years, or more. We keep in touch with e-mails . . . Skype. These new technologies are wonderful – and scary . . . weird. I’m old. The young will never question the reality of Skype. Few stray far from their cell phones, Face Book, texting, SMS, these virtual realities. What’s next? You can be sure that something will be. I’ve digressed. 

            The shock, culture and ways of thinking— subtle things. After five months in Sweden my major challenge seems physical. The act of moving kicked my ass. Before the move I was going to the gym two days a week: free weights, machines and swimming. I felt good. Then came the endless days of packing, moving, lifting . . . so much shit we should have left behind. We loaded and entire, full sized, container, filled so tight some boxes had to be abandoned, left behind.

            Then in Sweden after two months living on lawn furniture, construction, ten hour days of nailing, sawing, painting walls . . . minor repairs. Then all our stuff arrived, a long day, took four men eight hours to unload, and then the great unpacking, still more ten hour days of lifting, moving furniture, arranging. Feels like I’ve run out of gas and still not reached my destination. Feet hurt. Back hurts. Shoulder hurts. My fingers are killing me after opening some three hundred heavy-duty taped cardboard shipping boxes. Have I got arthritis? Never had this finger pain before. I feel older. Some of you have been here, gained this less than joyous self awareness. Shocking. Guess it has to happen sometime . . . cold hard fact of life.

            A Swede would never tell you all of this. They’d tell you things had gone just great, “Oh ja, was hard work, but we got it done.” That’s all a person really needs to know. They are hard workers, those I’ve met. Dependable, always on time. But this is just a shallow dip into the Swedish psych—a very fast five months. I’m in Phase 2 of culture shock. The honeymoon is over . . . more hard work, getting to know my way around, and Swedish. Uk, they make such funny sounds. How do they do that? Language class begins September, back to school. I’m too damn old to go to school! I already know everything . . . except Swedish.

            I don’t know how long Phase 2 of culture shock will last. Phase 1 was three months, book says 2 is four of five. I’ve never looked at the Phase 3 descriptions, seems so far ahead. I dream of a white Christmas, with most of the above resolved.

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