It’s been months since I first came to study in Gothenburg and I have to say that the process of adaptation was exactly that: a process.
The life between Sweden and Bolivia differs a lot! And there are some everyday things that I had to learn and modify in order to adjust to the Swedish culture. Don’t take me wrong, this experience of learning about other cultures is a reciprocal and dynamic relationship where you learn and also share your experience building a mixed version of your customs together with the Swedish customs.
Do you want to know 3 places where I had to learn ‘how to do it’ in Gothenburg? Check it out!
1. How to walk in the streets? (No Zebras in Sweden!)
Ok, ok. Maybe you thought that I am weird enough but what about this: What do you think if I tell you that we have Zebras in Bolivia? Yes we do! The Zebra programme is a project that help children with a difficult background to work educating people to be a better citizen concerning traffic lights, and pedestrian education, all of this inside a Zebra outfit!. The Zebra, with now more than 10 years of life, has become a Bolivian symbol that represents education in all the spheres of the daily life and they are respected by all the citizens. I have to say that this project was born also because Bolivia is really problematic and extreme in driving patterns and also in pedestrian behavior. That’s why I was surprised of not having Zebras (ok that’s A BIT extreme ;) ) or traffic police in every corner in Sweden as in Bolivia. And I found the reason why. If you come from a crowded place or with a bit of disorder then be prepared to feel the peace for the rest of your stay here in Gothenburg. The love-hate relationship that exist in some countries between the driver and pedestrian here in Gothenburg is only a love-love relationship :D
The people here respect the traffic lights and the zebra crossing as if it was a path to get a pot full of gold. And it could be translated like that if we take into account how peaceful the streets are. I remember that some time ago I heard for the very first time someone honking in the street, which is definitely not common here. Given the fact that in Bolivia we say hello, bye, and how are you with the honk this was a really huge change for me.
2. Between supermarkets and markets
In my home country is not that common to go to supermarkets. Instead we have street markets. In the street markets we develop a friendship with the people that sell the products, we do it so eagerly that we call ‘casera’ to our favorite one (there’s no translation to this but is approximately your favorite seller that is also a good person and really caring), in reward she or he calls you ‘casero’ too. Inside this relationship is really common to ask for a reduction of the price and dribble for long time until both parts reach an agreement. Also is really common to ask for a ‘yapa’ that is to request for the seller to put a bit more of the product instead of the correct weight. Over there almost everything is 100% organic, but on the other hand, in the supermarkets there’s no that much organic food and the prices are much higher than the street markets.
In Gothenburg is exactly the opposite, the supermarkets are, almost all the time, cheaper than the organic stores. Also when you go to the cashier you barely talk with them and you have only a mercantile relationship. But with the beautiful gift that is the international exchange and how the cultures mix with each other, I found a ‘casero’ in one supermarket Willys in this city J. Also, I realized that when the supermarkets are closer to student’s residences the cashiers and people working there is more willing to have a nice small chat and let me tell you that this always make my day :D .
3. The public transport: I want to get off!
The public transport is definitely something that I had to learn from cero here in Sweden. First of all in Bolivia we implement the buses like one month before I came to Sweden so I wasn’t familiarized with them when I came here. The fact that I cannot flag down, that the buses doesn’t have music and that no one talks to you in the public transport was really weird for me. In my country we flag down, we get off wherever we want just yelling ‘I want to get off!’, there’s always happy and mostly tropical music playing non-stop, and the people inside the bus is often talking with each other about whatever thing.
On the contrary in Sweden the transport is really well organized, the bus and tram stop is fixed and the people don’t talk with each other but instead prefer to preserve that time for themselves. It was a process to adjust to this but I have to say that I like it! Is so quite in the buses that is really easy even to read a book. The times for the tram and buses are fixed too, so there’s no way (ok there is many ways unfortunately ;) ) that you could miss a class or be late for an appointment given the fact that in 3 seconds you can check at what time your bus is coming. This kind of system makes your life easier and saves you from being stressed of doing small everyday things.
As you saw, there are different things from country to country, but if I enjoy doing something is indeed to convert this ‘different’ experience in an interchange of thoughts, views and customes. Try it with your friends! You’ll appreciate more this experience of being an internationall student who has the privilege of being in contact with other realities :D .