So I’m sitting here and thinking about my outcome?
I often get asked “Which do you like better, the U.S. or Sweden?” It’s not an easy question to answer, but I have a few thoughts. Mostly, I think that feeling torn between two cultures is a real joy in life: two choices of location, language, identity, you name it. But it has its complications too!
In general, I am really happy in the US and in Europe, for different reasons. In the US, I love the “anyone can do it” spirit, the multiculturalism, the comparative lack of class-consciousness and the pervasive culture of hard work and optimism. In Europe, I love the slower pace of life, the sense of history, the value placed on arts and culture. Here are only a few specifics that spring to mind.
When I’m in Europe, I miss:
- Small talk. I know this is classically American and kind of superficial, but I prefer it over being considered invasive and inappropriate when striking up a conversation with a stranger.
- The non-smoking culture.
- American opening hours. I know, this is another lazy American thing, but it’s really hard to get into the mindset of planning the day around when the grocery store is open
But then again, when I’m back in the US, I miss:
- That touch of European class. Coffee in a china cup, with a napkin and a little chocolate so that you don’t have coffee breath. Real food made with real ingredients, even if you’re in a hurry. Train attendants in pressed uniforms. Pastries wrapped up in fancy paper and sealed with a fancy sticker, even if you’re going to eat them right away. The absence of sweat pants and sneakers outside the gym. The absence of dollar stores.
- Public transportation that goes everywhere. I know, the US is too vast for a European solution to this one. But it’s just such a huge difference.
But what triggered my thinking tonight was the election that just took place in Sweden. It made me think a little bit more about how privileged I am to have two great options to where to reside. It’s been close to 20 years (!!!) since I packed my suitcases. Sometimes it feels like time has flown, sometimes like it’s been so many moons ago. I can’t say I have experienced any internal conflicts of where home is…. I used to laugh when flying to Sweden as I would say “I’m going home” but would use the exact same word when flying back to the US. That was about the extent of my geographical existential confusion, if you will. But tonight, it’s been a day or so since Sweden had their governmental election and I followed many discussions on Facebook, realizing then that I wasn’t quite tuned in. I have had a jist of the politics over there. Sweden’s economic growth has been much higher than that of the rest of Western Europe, or the United States, since 2006. Sweden has one of the lowest inflation rates in Europe; it runs a budget surplus every year; its corporate tax rates are considerably lower than U.S. rates; and it spends more on research and development, as a share of its economy, than we do. Its firms are highly competitive in the world economy, and it runs sizable current-account surpluses. Last night as people were waiting up for the final count of votes, I realized just how divided the country was and how most Swedes had very strong feelings around this. But I couldn’t chime in to any length.
So for all this time that I have lived here in the US I have not been able to vote since I am green card holder, not a citizen but have failed my rights as a Swedish citizen to vote from afar. What is the right thing to do? Did I just bail on my responsibility or have I done the right thing since I’m not in the loop? Should I be ashamed of not being taking my rights seriously?
Why do I say that [so nonchalantly you may add]? Glad you asked. I know I have a choice and for that I am glad. I also know that all of us have control of how we react, no one can tell me I am not taking it seriously and hurt me because I know that is not true. There is an “Event + Response = => Outcome” formula I operate by and if we all did the same and took responsibility for it, this crazy world would still be doing it’s world- thing but people would realize that they have control of how they think, do, react etc and perhaps the blame game would stop.
I love my outcome. I love my options and the opportunity to vote for the next election in Sweden if I choose to. Mostly, I think that feeling torn between two cultures is a real joy in life!