Saturday, 7 August 2010

Home thoughts


Being back in your home country can be equally as tricky as being a foreigner - immigrant - abroad.

First of all there are all the emotions that family re-unions can ignite. Sometimes they are beautiful and lovely, sometimes an old, deeply buried resentment raises its ugly head and bites the homecoming queen in the bum. The least said about this the better.

Then there are the small cultural differences that you've forgotten about. When I come anywhere near any of the Nordic countries, be it Finland, Sweden or the Åland Islands (where we are at the moment), the first thing that strikes me is the lack of general politeness and social consideration. No-one holds a door open for you. No-one greets you with even the slightest of  nods, whether you are the only other person walking along a deserted country road or not. Very few people smile.

It takes me a few days to remember that these people are not miserable, nor impolite. It's just the way they are; serious and private. Finns are more extreme then Swedes; Ålänningar lie somewhere in between. They say what they mean, they don't speak unless it's necessary to say something. They arrive at parties on time and they expect you to do the same. But the consequence of this sincerity is that ferries run on time, bank cards arrive a day before they were promised. Everything works and you can trust that if a person says they're going to do something, it'll happen.

While we were considering the Big Move, both Stockholm and Helsinki were mentioned. But however much I love being able to catch a train and know it'll arrive on time, or walk along a street and know it'll never be as crowded and claustrophobic as Oxford Street on any given Saturday afternoon, I don't think I could cope with the insular Nordic character. Of course not everyone is like this - I'm generalising terribly. My friends and family are completely different; besides they know my English ways and pander to them.

But I believe that if I'd moved back, after a few months in either Helsinki or Stockholm, I'd be that crazy woman shouting obscenities at passers-by, venting my pent-up anger at my fellow countrymen. In other words, I've become too English, too corrupted to leave the UK. It's just simply too late for me to go back. And that, ladies and gentlemen, makes me very sad indeed.

7 comments:

westendmum said...

I'm sure it's to do with temperature, it's warm in Italy and they think nothing of patting stranger’s bottoms. How's that for a generalisation!
WEM xx

mettebassett.com said...

Great post! And one that I can totally relate to.

When I'm in Denmark I instantly turn into that crazy woman, yelling at non-service minded waiters in Copenhagen and going on an on to my friends about how rude and confrontational the Danes are compared to the Brits. But then again the Brits and their sometimes not-very-sincere politeness can drive me insane as well. Yup, I'm generalising too :-)

I think that the saddest thing is that now I don't feel 100% at home in either country and probably never will. Guess that is the prize you'll pay for broadening your horizons. xx

Anna Maria said...

Funny, because I always felt like a foreigner in my own country (Poland), I feel quite English now (I have been an Anglophile since childhood), but I felt most at home in Denmark (maybe I was Danish in my former life:-)?). I love the fact that Nordic countries are very egalitarian - none of that class divide and deprivation that still persists in England. The more equal a society, the happier it is and Denmark is much happier England - that's why Scandinavians always come on top in all international surveys. By contrast, social mobility in the UK has stalled and the gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider by the day...

Robin Wilton said...

On the other hand, I've found that Scandinavian 'directness' also means a lot less "social politeness": if someone says "you must come to dinner" or "no apology needed" they mean it...

Wildernesschic said...

I can relate to this on a city basis.. I feel like a foreigner when I go to Liverpool, I know it is where I was born... yet I feel no connection to the people there anymore. I have changed so much ..its quite sad really. xx

Metropolitan Mum said...

No empathy for you lady, sitting on a boat somewhere in the Archipelago, sipping on Swedish snaps and stuffing your face with Skagentoast.
Sorry, I am a teeny bit jealous.
I hear you, I can't move back either. Neither to Austria, nor to Switzerland, let alone Germany. I was born in the first country mentioned, grew up in the latter and always considered Switzerland my home country of choice, but I guess that me too, I have spent way too much with the English to ever go back. Spoilt.
Have a happy rest-holiday!

FortyNotOut said...

I had heard others say this but had never really given it any thought. I feel like a stranger back in my own town... and most definitely with some members of my own family! I wonder if I was adopted! Anyway, we're glad we've got you! x