Tuesday, August 18, 2009

School's Back

Yesterday marks the beginning of the new school year which is bittersweet in many ways. Sweet because my kids are going to a wonderful school , in an excellent environment and learning so much about the world around them. Already, my daughter is in her element. I think I will have a hard time ever getting her back into a public school. My son, who is normally, apprehensive about any change is also doing remarkably well.

Bitter because I am losing my summer accomplices. My son has been largely my compass. At eight, he knows pretty much where all the buses go and how to get everywhere for the all too common instances when I am absolutely clueless. My daughter, as always, is the adult in the trio. She keeps us on task. They have both been my extra arms and legs with the, now bane of my existence, trips to the grocery store.

I have selfishly had them all to myself for the entire long summer with no intrusions and not having to share them with the outside world. It was a memorable summer, one I am sure we will always carry with us and I am thankful to give them this opportunity that so few children get to experience. They have put up with my complaining, my constant philosophizing, my soap box styled rants, this terrible apartment and a giant upheaval in their lives with hardly a complaint.


  1. (Hurray, I finally managed to create an account and log in!!:D)

    To begin with, for me as a Swede, your blog is not only entertaining but also informative.

    Please keep it going!

    Americans and Swedes DO have a lot in common, but in certain areas we are definitely worlds apart.

    I'm not especially surprised there both are aspects of Sweden you find dissatisfying and annoying, as well as other ones you find appealing and fascinating.

    I've often come across Americans living here with a pretty similar attitude.

    I'm really pleased to hear you have found a nice school for your children. Few things in life, if any, can substitute a good education and a happy childhood.

    But back to the issue of differences between Swedes and Americans.

    Sweden and the US are both highly industrialized nations with many similarities regarding consumption patterns.

    However, certain things American consumers take for granted are more or less considered anathema in Sweden.

    For instance; if a typical, stiff, boring, Swede visits a dentist who hands out t-shirts and has a waiting room with a 50" plasma tv etc, he or she would immediately:

    a. Conclude that "it is I, the patient, who gets to pay for this in the end"

    b. Lose confidence in the dentist as these "attributes", from a Swedish POV, would signal that the dentist in question is not taking his job seriously.

    The list goes on. Americans want big cars, Swedes favour safe and rather luxurious cars like the best selling Volvo V70 which is rather small from an American perpective.

    Americans want "new" shiny furniture, while most Swedes prefer to spend fortunes on antiquities (especially ones that appear to be good investments).

    Despite such differences, Swedes and Americans often get along well on the personal level and that's a fortune!

  2. Hey J,

    Good to see you.

    First off I think Sweden is a pretty dynamic place. Many entrepreneurs and forward thinking people. Many not so much, but isn't always the case everywhere? I could only imagine what the place would be like if they were allowed to keep much more of the fruits of their labor.

    Second about the dentist office: I look at it a bit different. I see it as competition resulting in better services, products, etc.

    As a society we have gotten so much wealthier, we can sustain dozens of dentists in one single zip code. When I was a kid, there were a handful of dentists.

    Look at the cosmetic procedures available! Barely anyone had this type of work done 20-30 years ago. Now it is commonplace. I must know 20 women my age, including myself, who have had teeth straightening treatments. That didn't happen 30 years ago. Kids were lucky to get braces.

    Dentists offer deep discounts, free whitening FOR LIFE, etc. to attract your business and very comfortable, upscale environments. It's the competition a free market at work. (not so much insurance and government intervention in the dental field as the medical field)..

  3. Hello again,

    I definitely agree competition is benign to society. Most Swedes, just like most Americans, are intelligent enough to realize this.

    The field of dentistry is no exception.

    However, the American style of marketing is not seldom associated with things like humbugs and frauds over here. No offence, I'm not wishing to say we view Americans as dishonest in the domain of business. We do not.

    We Swedes are simply much more of squares than you:)

    I don't think this has to do with Swedish 20th century Socialism. Sooner, it is connected to a spirit of distrust and scepticism that has existed since the days of Fred Flintstone here.

    In one way, we are very open and xenophile, but often this is combined with pretty much of intelligence, scrutiny, assessment and I would also say an ability of discernment. I just wish there was more of this when dealing with immigration issues in my country..

    Even though Swedes are very secularized compared to Americans, we are even more of strict Lutherans. Receiving health care is a s-e-r-i-o-u-s matter to us. According to our ideals, it should not be reminiscent of visiting Disney World (even if we consider that experience a "must" while visiting Fla - been there myself:D)

    The best way of marketing yourself as a dentist in Sweden probably is to keep your tools clean and put on the facial expression of an undertaker.

    But actually, I recall getting rewarded with toys by my dentist when I was a small child. Maybe there isn't so much of a difference between Swedish dentists and Happy Meals after all (- furthermore, where I live there is a Ronald McDonald House adjacent to a nearby hospital and no one in my city regards this as "American humbug and fraud").

    By the way, In what part of Stockholm are you hoping to find a new home? I know these things can be difficult. If you don't fancy living in a small inner city apartment, places like Stockholm, Manhattan, Paris, London, Rome etc are really depressing. Lots of cultural events and nice restaurants, yes, but too little of living space.

    Many small Swedish towns are great in the way you can easily find an inexpensive, well built house in a nice neighborhood.

    Stockholm is not a small Swedish town and you need double Stockholm incomes to buy a decent summer house in the archipelago:(

  4. We are living in Odenplan area of Vasastan. It is OK but I much prefer Nacka. I really do not care for the city much.

    We went to a friends home in Bromma and it was very nice. Actually, it was Isandstorget. So yes, everytime I visit the nicer suburban areas, I get mad that I am stuck in the city..But it is a good sized flat and in a decent area so it is what it is.