So I have been doing A LOT of traveling lately. I don’t know when or if I’d ever be back to this side of the world so I’m trying to see as much of it while I can. A few weeks ago I took a trip to Stockholm, Sweden. My family immigrated from Sweden to America nearly 300 years ago so I wanted to be able to really connect to this distant heritage.
“heritage” is a strange thing in America. Back in the U.S, no one really considers them self “American”. Everyone is French, Italian, Spanish, Irish . . . Yet for many their family has not been to these countries in generations, they don’t know the culture nor the language or practice any traditions of such alternative “heritage” many Americans claim.
Lady Liberty being a typical American living in the fast lane and dreaming big with M.L.K. (at God’s own Junkyard)
Being in England I have come to realize just how “American” I really am. Just talking to my classmates they often are exclaiming “OMG, that’s so American” when discussing the things that surprise me in the UK. For instance, trying to find pre-made cookie dough like Toll House to make some quick cookies -it does not exist in England. And think again about going to a drug store or grocery store to buy office supplies (like Wallgreens or CVS). I went into Sainsbury’s grocery looking for adhesive wall mounts (like Command Strips) only to be told that I must go to a “specialty” store for that. At the same time it’s kind of nice; I feel this specialization tradition allows for “mom & pop” type stores to flourish in England when compared to the United States.
I’ve also come to realize how big American pop culture is. When talking with British friends or even in some Uni lectures it’s all in reference to American pop culture. In references both good and bad.
What does it mean to be “all American”?
It’s really quite strange and made me realize what is truly “American”. Americans live life fast, expect everything instantly, and have big dreams . . . particularly of fame. So yeah, Americans in general can have big egos compared to their European counterparts. Back home I have several friends who’s biggest ambition in life is to be famous. They talk of the reality shows that need to be made about them or what they are going to do when they are famous. I assumed that’s just how youth culture is everywhere these days but in London I have yet to meet one person to speak of fame this way.
Being abroad I’ve discovered how shallow American heritage can be but I still longed to learn my deeper more ancient heritage. So off to Sweden I went.
First off, winter is not the best time to go to Scandinavia. It is pretty much dark all day. The sun never rises fully in the sky, it just seems to skim the horizon when it’s “daylight”.
Day light in Stockholm!
Yet Stockholm is still a beautiful city even in the darkness. I didn’t realize how the city is made up of so many islands all connected by infinite bridges. Just to get to the Moderna Museet (museum of modern art) I had to walk across 3 or 4 islands from my hostel. But it was worth it.
Art at the Moderna Museet
Next I went to Stockholm’s old town which was so cool! The streets are dark, narrow, winding and lined with small boutique type shops. Yet these old town streets were a bit creepy because they were always dark from being so narrow and especially with the lack of sunlight at this time of year.
Darkening streets and alleyways in Gamla Stan (Stockholm’s Old Town)
Yet outside the old town everything is very modern with a huge shopping district, parks, statues, street art and holiday windows.
Open air modern shopping outside of Kulturhuset (a.k.a the culture center)
Statues in the park and on the street
Street art variations on old mail boxes
Cute and creepy Christmas windows
But what really makes Stockholm/Sweden special at this time of year is their holiday decor.
These stars hang in practically every window of shops and apartments. You will see far more of these stars than Christmas trees. This is probably a tradition tied to Sweden’s history of paganism. And it reminded me of my grandma who collected these sorts of stars. Now I understand why she loved them so much; it reminded her of our Swedish heritage.
Although I was only in Sweden for a short weekend, I loved it! The people were so pleasant, even if you don’t speak Swedish everyone I met spoke perfect English and they were all so nice. I wish i could speak Swedish though. It is such a cute sounding language. But the only Swedish I picked up while abroad there was “hej” (pronounced “hey”) which means “hello”. Easy enough to remember. I would love to go back again and recommend anyone considering visiting Stockholm to go! But maybe just go in the summer when there is day light.