Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our Swedish daycare does not lock its doors

Schooling in the US these days seem light years away from what I grew up with. These days there are locks on the doors, metal detectors, sign-in desks, ID cards, registered visitors and a ton of other security measures that makes the schools sound less like places to gain knowledge and more like prisons.

Little Swede’s preschool has a door that opens directly to the outside world. It is never locked if they are in the classroom. If they leave the classroom, they lock that door and post a sign saying which room you can find them in. This door is also unlocked.

If someone else is picking up Little Swede I just tell them at the beginning of the day. The people who pick them up have never had to show ID.

There are playgrounds with lots of low trees. On any given day you may walk by and see some of the older kids climbing these trees.

Sometimes I bring friends or family to pick up the kids. Sometimes they go on long walks. They get to know people in the local community – the local librarians, the cafeteria cooks, the people who work at the grocery store.

Some of the kids scream at the passers-by – “Vem är du?’ they ask over and over again. No one tells them not to talk to strangers.

I am grateful for this. I hope it lasts a bit longer. I don’t want my child to be afraid of everything that moves. I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to lock my child up.

That said, the other day, one of Little Swede’s friends saw me outside the pre-school and swung the door open shouting ‘Little Swede! Your Mama is here!’ (but in Swedish of course). And that is a whole other can of worms now that the kids are tall enough to reach the oddly positioned door handles. I can totally imagine this kid (who is totally fab in every way and very persuasive) leading a mass preschool exodus while the teachers are looking the other way.  I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Becoming an American in Sweden again

I’m a white girl with fair skin living in Sweden, let’s just say I ‘pass’ pretty well here. Throw in the fact that I have a rather odd accent when speaking Swedish (people have asked if I am from Gotland several times) and most immigrants assume I am Swedish – and many Swedes have said it took them awhile to realize I am foreign. Fine. OK.

But then I had Little Swede – and I went from speaking a large percentage of Swedish all day, to speaking English out in public ALL the time. After 10 years of passing, I stick out again. And it is weird. And people’s reactions are weird.

There are those who are freaked out – like the librarian who went around telling everyone in Swedish that there was a play in the other room if they wanted their children to attend. The one who avoided me at all costs until everyone else had left the room. (We knew about the play and were not planning to attend). Now my dilemma – do I say something off-hand to her in Swedish to relax her? Finally she came up to me, after walking back and forth to our table 3 times before she said in English that there was a play going on.

There are the frustrated Iranians – Seriously, I don’t know if it is only me, but many Iranian men want to stop and talk about politics when they hear me speaking English. This is not a bad thing, I love talking politics. And I am always interested in hearing their stories. It is a strange thing to be asked ‘Are you American?’ after 11 years of living in Sweden, but when I answer yes, I am always surprised by the stories they tell. Most are Mujahidin disappointed in the lack of American support.

Scaring the other foreigners – I don’t know what it is about speaking English, but I speak it louder. And when I am speaking it with an American other than my son, I speak it much louder. And sometimes, when I am totally relaxed and letting my Swedish social guard down? I speak it like I would at midnight at a diner, where we have stopped after having a few drinks, over a cup of coffee and some curly fries. That is pretty loud. This behavior sometimes gets me some odd looks from other foreigners. Or they markedly lower their voices and thus, I am reminded ‘I am STICKING OUT’ again.

It is strange to ‘become American’ again – and as much as I try to ‘keep my voice down’ it is who I am. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Signs you are raising a Swedish/American kid

So Little Swede is now 3, and showing signs of being a well-integrated Swedish-American kid. What are some signs you may be raising a Swedish/American style kid?

Ketchup on Pasta – Yes, I tried in vein to prevent this culinary disaster, but Little Swede loves ketchup on his pasta. And hates macaroni and cheese. How did this happen to my child? I do not know. 10 points for Sweden, 0 for the USA.

Peanut Butter and Jelly – Any time we go anywhere and sandwiches are served (open-face of course), Little Swede requests peanut butter. And guess what? No one ever has any. Not only does Little Swede LOVE peanut butter. He likes it with jelly, too. And when we are out of jelly, he will demand it with marmalade (???? British touches here?). No crusts allowed from the time he could speak. Kid is even more American than I am. I hate PB&J and go for straight up PB. Seriously. Every day for lunch, for the first 5 years of my schooling, I had peanut butter on white bread. (Yay for American schooling and no cafeteria) 0 Points for Sweden 5 Points for USA

Makes a mean pancake – Yes, by the age of 3, my Little Swede already knows how to whip up some killer pancakes from scratch. No we don’t let him flip them on the stove himself yet (he isn’t Pippi Longstocking – athough he wishes he was), but we do let him make the batter and keep an eye on everything. I still do not know how to make a decent Swedish pancake. But that’s OK I make a mean American Mickey Mouse pancake and THAT gets bonus points for me. 5 points for Sweden that the kid even knows that food is cooked in the kitchen not the restaurant.

Mamma says ‘cawfee’ – in perhaps the best thing ever, Little Swede shows off what little is left of my Jersey accent by telling everyone that Mamma drinks ‘Cawfee’ and Pappa drinks 'kafe'. Cawfee kicks kafe’s bottom. I think this about ties things up for America and Sweden, don’t you? 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Dear Swedish Housing Market: I HATE YOU!

So we are just your average Svenmerican family, with 2 kids, a pretty decent income, a good sized nest egg in a BSCHCOL area in Sweden. And we want a house. But we are not willing to risk our entire financial future on the biggest purchase of our lives.

Basically we are fucked.

I have vented about the Swedish housing market before. I know. But it really pisses me off that those of us who have really tried to make smart financial decisions are the ones who are left out in the cold, and those who are willing to play financial roulette are the ones who have nice homes.

The price of homes in Sweden has doubled in the last ten years. DOUBLED where we live. NO ONE is amortizing their homes. A recent call for home owners to require amortization to 75% of home value was rejected by major Swedish politicians. The conservative ones.

Everyone only looks at the monthly cost – which is interest and fees. No one actually talks about the fact that you are borrowing half a million dollars and then NEVER paying it back.

And the houses? Does no one in Sweden have more than 2 children and work from home? Yay for open plan houses, but all of the new houses in our area have a maximum of 3 bedrooms and some only have one large open area that is supposed to be livingroom/dining area/play area – and these houses start at 600,000 dollars. We need an office/guest room and would love to have 2 kind of open areas – one for kids.

The housing market is starting to slow down a little bit. But it is just depressing. Of course we can wait. But if we are going to do this house buying thing, I would like to do it while the kids are little – so we can enjoy a yard.

And of course the bank is ready to throw money at us. Because who wouldn’t throw money at people they hope will pay interest for the next 30 years on a 500,000 dollar loan. They are combing in the money.

This housing model cannot be sustainable. I do not get it. But then again, I am not an economist.

I don’t want the bottom to go out of this for the sake of the Swedish economy, but when people with our income and with decent money to spend don’t feel like they can afford a house – who is left to buy up all these houses?