The Assumption List

It occurred to me a couple weeks ago that I move through life in Sweden under several various assumptions of disadvantage. I just had a moment where I was explaining some situations to a non-Swedish friend, and I realized that I was telling him "how things were" but under my own sensitive assumptions.

Here are the Assumptions:

1) I will never be accepted when I speak Swedish. People will always think about and point out my accent, think it is funny, and think about how I am a foreigner.

2) I won’t ever be considered as close a friend to my Swedish friends as they seem to be with each other. Since I’m not Swedish and I am not fluent in Swedish. 

3) When people meet me or become my friend here, even though they may really like me, they don’t really see me as a long term friend possibility. Because the assumption is that I am just passing through, for however long that may be. 

4) When I start a new job or join a committee, I won’t be seen as a possible long term friend or addition to that environment because of the same reasons as above.

5) If I speak English to someone I don't know that has the possibility of helping me, I will be seen as a bother, and/or it will fluster them to have to switch languages.

6) Guys here don’t want to get serious with me because I am not Swedish.

7) Neighbors will automatically think that I will be less favorable to deal with because I am not Swedish. They won’t expect to become friends with me. And I just "won't know how to do things". 


I had a tiny bit of a pity party for myself when I first made this list. To be honest, rarely ever in my life before Sweden did I ever have sustained negative assumptions about how people would receive me in social interactions. And look at all these I deal with now, I thought! Then I snapped out of it and went clearly through them, acknowledging which ones still exist and are substantially supported, which I have dropped and which ones, though maybe true, don't really stop me at all. Respectively so:

1) This assumption I gained after being here for awhile. And it is not entirely true. Yes, Swedes on average are way less accommodating and much more judgmental to people learning their language than native Spanish speakers anywhere seem to be when you're learning Spanish. But there are many around me who are effortless teachers and guides, who gently correct my grammar as if they were simply brushing a speck of lint off my sweater. Those watch in genuine admiration if I go ahead and speak more than a sentence. It's time for me to zero in on that, and not the rest... so regardless of the truth in this assumption it needs to stop being the one that holds me back the most by far.

2) This assumption I developed in California before I came, based on real and perceived relational aspects I experienced in the years of knowing Swedes over there. And it was a big part of the reason I found myself crying on the floor surrounded by a pile of moving boxes in the last couple days before I left Santa Barbara for Lund. I know that the whole uprooting my life of 10 years in SB and quitting my job and saying goodbye until who-knows-when to all my friends was playing a part too of course, and I was bound to break down at some point. But when one of my Swedish friends stopped by my place and found me that way and I told her this statement, and said, What am I doing? Leaving my deep friendships for a place where I won't be able to break through to be more than a 2nd tier friend? She said some powerful things to reassure me that it wasn't true. And I believed her, and reminded myself that it wasn't true many times my first semester in Lund and my first autumn in Stockholm. And I do believe I've nearly moved completely past this unhappy assumption. I've certainly never really acted like it existed, in hindsight.

3 & 4) These assumptions I developed from my experiences living here earlier on, but I do also believe that I've now also overcome them, or at least disregarded them. I've happily had much more evidence to the contrary now, as with # 2 :) 

5) This assumption no longer applies in most areas except for when I seek help from public service places where there is likely to be older Swedes working, like a bank or something. I've learned that sometimes, as this other foreigner said, that "if you need or want something from a Swede, speak English." At the nightclub that I frequent, as I tried last autumn to figure out how to navigate the mysterious, tacit shitshow that is getting into some Stockholm clubs, I would get on the guestlist beforehand but upon arriving make a friend ask about my name. I didn't want to speak English (or foreigner Swedish) to them. I finally gave that up when I figured out that they didn't care, they came to know who I was anyway, and that I was welcome. 

6) Haha. This assumption is pretty much a fact, with limited evidence to the contrary from others' situations :) It's been established by verifications directly from guys to me ("It's not reasonable to get serious. I belong here, you don't"), from their friends to me ("He's hesitant because you're American"), from other foreign girls, from Swedish guys discussing their involvement with other foreign girls ("It's just a fling since she's not Swedish"), and from a non-Swedish guy friend who's been here forever ("Yeah of course they don't. You're too much work"). After I wrote this about Swedish guys preferring Swedish girls, I heard from more than a couple guys that it was pretty true. Perhaps everyone has their assumptions, or even real preferences, that may or may not hold them back, I suppose?

7) This one I still assume very strongly and must come to terms with or be more active in overcoming.

Living abroad probably provides many, and definitely me, with a rollercoaster through changing assumptions, victories and defeats, and pride and despair. Most of the time if I boil it down, I believe things will turn the way I hope they will, and any assumptions I have that may or may not be true will bend and then break.
Because, first of all, though I am sensitive I am very competitive, and if there is a disadvantage that I have in anything, historically I don't freaking care, I will win :)
And second, and more importantly... I've loved Sweden already from day 1. A friend said he could tell this recently from reading my first blog posts back from August 2010, and he is right. And if you really love someone (or somewhere), you persevere.


  1. #6. Seriously though. But we've talked about this :)

  2. Exactly the way I feel when I am in stockholm.


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