Newly landed in Sweden: Expat or Immigrant?

It took me forever to accept that I was an ‘immigrant’ in Sweden. Over the years I’ve pondered, examined, deliberated, researched and ‘played with’ the common struggle with word choices and terminology usage.

I didn’t associate myself as an immigrant for many years. The word ‘immigrant’ from popular usage while growing up was used to connote ‘poor or suffering people who want to live in my great country to make a better life like our forefathers did.’ It never meant white people from Europe unless they came with the WW2 wave (my parents were/are immigrants). My friends with parents (or themselves) from Armenia or countries where Armenians lived were immigrants, but our classmates with Irish or Italian parents were ‘off the boaters’…since they were from ‘the old country’ rather than trying to get away from ‘bad’ to arrive at ‘better.’ Immigrants made desperate decisions to give it all up for a ‘chance’ and ‘others’ were like I am now…relocated due to meeting someone from ‘somewhere else’.

It is my position of privilege as a wealthy westerner who met a life partner who happened to live in another administrative region that wasn’t in a treaty with the one I was from. We call them countries today, we now regard countries to be nearly exclusively nation-states. But (ok, this whole paragraph is more academic than debate but can add a dimension to the discussion nonetheless) the notion of ‘ethnic nation states’ is relatively new and certainly not applicable across the board.

What does that all mean? Well, that despite how we’ll argue the dictionary defines ‘expat/expatriate’, immigrant, migrant, migrant/guest worker etc, the whole reason we debate the nuances of the usage is to distinguish between those with privilege and those without.

Advertisements

No. Not all Swedes can [sic] English

Swedes are great at English. Pretty much every Swede manages proficiently in English. And most are rather fluent. Speakers. Readers. Understanders.

Writers? Not so much.

Writing is a skill, a craft. That’s true for native users of a language, too. Writing is is the trickiest of skill areas within a language because it’s recorded. This is why we hire writers, editors, professionals of the writing sort to assist with the written word. Especially if it’s the written word of a government minister. Specifically, in this case, Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Ms. Margot Wallström has got herself into hot water before for the things she’s said. In those instances they have been for the content. So I guess poking some fun at her for her Swenglish will deflect off into outer space. But on a serious note, I do think Sweden has enough money to provide their foreign minister with a budget enough to run her tweets through before they’re public.

What exactly is a civil society actor? Non-unionized?

Today’s giggle from a random Twitter account

The word ‘Sweden’ has its Twitter feed on my Tweetdeck. It used to be a good source of random events or facts about Sweden. Sometimes it flagged an event currently in the news. Sometimes a fascinating image from a bygone era that prompts some research.

Of late, most of the posts are regurgitated erroneous propaganda factoids. Sweden’s once liberal welcome to refugees (a bygone day with the reintroduction of ID checks crossing from Denmark – not done in over 50 years) has placed it as the anti-Muslim, anti-refugee whipping post.

The warning is “Sweden took in refugees. Now look at the carnage. Let’s learn from their example and not follow.”

This evening’s eye-catch was:

And the geeky grammar stickler in me giggled thinking of ways to complete the threat: “We will kick UR sorry asses 2 the street & cut U balls off be4 the cops get their”

  • get their donuts
  • get their guns out
  • get their game on

So I read a bit more in the feed seeking more chuckles. It didn’t take many tweets. I could even forgive the spelling error for the deliciousness of the irony.

And perhaps the following tweet is taken out of context. Or maybe true patriots die for their countries by proxy via their relatives.

And now I am sure the intentions are noble, but just having read a run of acerbic tweets hating on pretty much every group out there (and especially Obama)  I just couldn’t help myself anymore when I read this one:

So I had to write it up. And so I did.

That is all.

One Swede’s Trash, One Immigrant’s Treasure.

We junked our car today.

20 years old, failed inspection and repair costs exceeding its worth and value to us. We tried to give it away to a poor soul in need of car willing to shell out a few thousand and maybe put in some elbow grease.

photo-3

No takers.

So I found an enterprising company, based way out in Strängnäs,which not only picked up the car but also paid me 500kr for the privilege to dunk the junk. A closer-to-home business would have taken the car for free if I could get it to them. If it had to be towed, it would have cost me 500kr.

I liked the gumption of a company offering a service to take the trash off my hands, sure they could profit on the salvage, and throwing me a bone for knowing it, too.

Win-win trumps me-lose.

I got to talking to the repo man, Safi, as he loaded the car. I was curious how the business worked. As you expect, they profit on the parts and scrap. My heap would turn them a profit of somewhere over 5000kr.

No, it’s not a new business concept, but in wealthy countries like Sweden (and more so in Sister-in-Sw-land, Switzerland), people more often dispose of the unwanted, albeit in a recycling kind of way, than try to repurpose.

Safi, like the owner/entrepreneur, Ali, are from Afghanistan. The other 7-8 employees are all immigrants from Arab countries. It’s the success story of determined immigrant creating a business and employing newcomers.

I asked the delicate question of income and benefits.Turns out, Ali paying Safi a decent salary, does Business Like a Swede. 

Ours was one of the oldest and least “fresh” cars Safi has picked up. He told me that recently they took a 2011 model that had been in an accident. The owners didn’t have enough insurance to make it worthwhile. That car turned a nearly 50,000 kr profit when they fixed it up and sold it.

I’m glad that a fellow immigrant will make some money on my trashed car. I’m even more content that it will provide jobs for immigrants who would struggle to gain access to the job market. And it’s good for the environment.

I never thought I would get so much out of sending a doomed car to the crusher.

.Swedish boy

Not anti-Semitic but…Swedish media oblivious to its passive anti-Semitism

Swedish media mean well. They really do. Unknown-1

They’re a fading breed of champions for the downtrodden, the impoverished, and the misunderstood. They aim to slay socio-economic injustices and inspire the collective to repent when our societal stragglers fall behind. They might think they speak for the collective social conscious of Swedish society. Whatever the motive, they mean well. But then, defenders of the perceived moral majority don’t always get it right. And maybe it’s because their hearts are in it that the righteousness sometimes backfires. And when you know that you fight against evils like anti-Semitism, you’re probably among the last to realize that you contribute equally to anti-Semitism.

The road to anti-Semitism is paved with good intentions. Olle Wästberg seems to agree. In his February 2015 newsletter, which came by email today, under his headline, “Anti-Semitism – Swedish blind spot” he writes, “Sweden lacks self-awareness when it comes to seeing anti-Semitism.”

Nothing has been more obvious than just after the Copenhagen attacks, Sweden made worldwide news when a reporter from one of its state-sponsored media arms, Radio Sweden, asked the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman,“Do the Jews themselves, have any responsibility for the growing anti-Semitism”?

Yikes.

Upload the uncensored interview and listen here.

Since the interview the reporter, Helena Groll, and the editorial leadership of Studio Ett from Radio Sweden all apologized for the line of questioning. The apology goes so far that in a historical decision, Sweden Radio has edited the archived interview. The insensitive question was ‘doctored’ to remove offense. The sentiment is right, the censorship is questionable.

Apologies were certainly in order, but has this moment opened up Swedish media’s eyes and will help prevent future passive anti-Semitism? I doubt it.

One of her peers in Swedish media has come to her defense. Mats Svegfors writing in Sweden daily, Dagens Nyheter, defended Groll for her use of  “journalistic] method to ask contradictory questions.” After which, he quickly qualifies, “I think it’s hair raising to hold ‘Jews’ or ‘The Jews’ individually or as a collective, responsible for the political decisions of the State of Israel or for the opinions of a number of confrontational Jewish activists express.”

Exactly.

Two nations. Not the flag of Jews in Sweden.

Two nations. Not the flag of Jews in Sweden.

But why doesn’t he or nearly no one else query the Swedish media’s choices when representing Jews in Sweden or Denmark? Why was Studio Ett interviewing the Israeli Ambassador at all? And why did Aktuellt use an image of the Israeli flag when discussing the rise in anti-Semitism in Sweden?

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 23.32.06

Jews in Sweden (and Denmark) are NOT Israelis and the Israeli flag is NOT the Jewish flag. A proposed flag of Jews in Sweden A proposed flag of Jews in Sweden

The one voice bucking the trend is in an opinion piece in Sweden daily,  Svenska Dagbladet written by Maria Ludvigsson. Its headline says it all, “There is no Jewish flag“.  Ludvigsson was critical to the passive anti-Semitism during a Swedish Television Aktuellt news broadcast from Copenhapen when the Aktuell reporter, Thomas Lundström called the Israeli flag, “The Jewish Flag.”  Ludvigsson wrote, “The ignorance seems widespread and a most often needed reminder that not all Jews are Israelis and all Israelis are not Jews either. That this ignorance is also reflected in our public service channels is bad.”

I don’t live with a daily threat of being hated, threatened or attacked for being a Jew because, well, I’m not Jewish. Not ethnically. Not religiously. Most Jews are both.

I’m not an expert on anti-Semitism, but the “good guys”, even if they mean well, have got to educate themselves and stop the passive contribution to the growing anti-Semitism plaguing Sweden, the Nordics and the rest of Europe.

Now.