As the sun sets over the tall wispy trees blowing in the wind, my host mother breathes in the open air. “Våren,” she says. It means “Spring.”
I live on a little farm in the south of Sweden, where horses run free with the dogs, and a night at home is spent with a warm cup of tea, as I snuggle with one of the many cats and books that live within our home. As I settle into my comfortable Swedish lifestyle, I am surprised to find there is still more to this country I must learn.
Starting with the importance of cinnamon. Cinnamon is the staple of Swedish cuisine. From their precisely baked “kanelbullar” (cinnamon buns) to the spicy winter drink of “Glögg” (mulled wine), cinnamon seems to be something I have an inability of escaping here. I have no complaints. One of my first meals when moving in with my new host family was a seemingly normal meal of spaghetti and meatballs. This time however, the sauce was much richer in flavor. I was surprised to learn that cinnamon was even included in my dinners.
There is no end to my love for Swedish confectioneries. Sweet and warm — preferably eaten with the company of good friends, or in Swedish, “vänner” or “kompiser.”
When I’m not enjoying cinnamon in every meal, I listen to some of my favorite Swedish music.
Of course you’re thinking ABBA (which is my favorite). There is also the Cardigans, Blue Swede, Håkan Hellström and Veronica Maggio.
Moving to Sweden, you must be able to learn all the words to the song, “Jag Kommer” (I’m coming) by Veronica Maggio, which is sung at every teen and adult house party. Friends from school are always excited to show me their childhood songs. One of the many they show me is the Electric Banana Band, a popular band from back in the 90s.
Another thing I’ve learned is that warm clothing is important. One of my favorite Swedish sayings goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad dressing.” It’s a sweet sight to see small children in snowsuits and boots walk in the mud. We are starting to get April weather in March, which means rain coats and rain boots for everyone. More importantly, I am staying warm and safe when there are 27 mph winds against me when I bike home from school. The weather is unpredictable, but with the right clothing, you can be safe from the cold and ready for the sunshine.
I am so happy to finally have the sun back. It shines brighter to me now, and the endless summer days back in Moab, Utah, seem a distant memory. One of the benefits of having more sunshine is being able to leave school while it’s still light. Friends are more excited for “fika” (afternoon sweet with coffee and friends), and making music or movies together. And there is more time to spend going to the “Naturum” (Nature Park), or “Teatern” (theater productions) or museums.
In the nature park, you get to learn about how Sweden is dedicated to being a green country without waste. Sweden also has something called “Allemansrätt” (every man’s right), which is a law that allows all residents and non-residents to the right to explore nature. In other words, it is the “freedom to roam.” You can go all places, as long as it is respectful to residents of the land and to the land itself.
Theater is much like theater in the U.S. More and more of the productions I watch are made by students who go to my art school. Students are given the tools needed to explore their creativity. From the schools’ resources of cameras, costumes, and different instruments — to the monthly allowance of $150, given to students who go to school every day — there is always support for students.
My project is a film to be written and directed by me, and my friends will be acting and filming.
I fall in love more and more with Sweden as I continue to live here. I even love the feeling of the city while also returning to the peace of the countryside. There is a sense of mindfulness within my life.
It’s not glamorous all the time. I miss my buses, trip over shoelaces and forget my phone on tables. (Sorry, mom and dad.) But at the end of the day, I have Swedish friends who are willing to teach and learn, an amazing host family who recently opened their home to me and make me feel at home, and a family back in the U.S. ready to greet me when I return in four months.
Emma Millis is a local high school student who decided to go to Sweden for the 2018-19 school year with AFS Intercultural Studies.
“Sweden also has something called Allemansrätt (every man’s right), which is a law that allows all residents and non-residents to the right to explore nature. In other words, it is the ‘freedom to roam.’”