pennswoods: (Sweden)
[personal profile] pennswoods
I went out last night with a bunch of expats and learned quite a few interesting new things that hadn't experienced before. But there are others that do keep coming up regularly and I thought I'd list a few of them here:

  1. I learned last night that when you give birth in Sweden, you are not allowed to leave the hospital until you pass a breastfeeding test. In other words, you have to demonstrate that you know how to breastfeed the correct way. It's apparently called the Hamburger method or something where you squeeze your breast like a hamburger.

  2. If a woman has a child in Sweden, she has to report who the father is. If she does not, a lawyer will intercede on behalf of the child because under Swedish law, it's the child's right to know who his or her father is. This is also so that the child knows he or she is eligible for a passport to another country if the father is a national of another non-EU country. It is also so the father, if he resides in Sweden, can take his government allotted paternity leave.

  3. Women who return to work soon after giving birth and don't take as much of their maternity leave as possible (I think, there are 14 months total split between the parents though I think the majority goes to the mother so it tends to be 12 months for the mother and 2 months for the father) may be considered bad and irresponsible mothers.

  4. There is a word in Swedish, 'lagom' that doesn't really have an equivalent concept in English. This is something I encounter all the time. It sort of translates into 'just right' or 'not too little or not too much' and describes the amount of something Swedes believe they should be satisfied with. This explains why there is never meant to be an oversupply of things in stores or why portions might be smaller and why people should be satisfied with what they have and not want more. This is a concept I really struggle with because it goes against the idea of 'plenty' and 'abundance' and even 'excellence' that I have been socialized to accept. This also might explain why there is always a limited supply of things in grocery stores. So instead of 20 different flavors or brands of salad dressing in the grocery store, there are only 3. You have a choice, but not a big choice. This is just right and you should learn to be satisfied with it. But when you're used to having more options to choose from, it can feel really restricting. My husband, the foodie, has really been struggling with this as it makes cooking a wide range of foods a lot harder.

  5. I tried downloading the latest episode of the [ profile] threepatcht, Kinktober, to my cellphone the other day while in the train station. But I could not because the file size was too large and was instructed that if I wanted to download I would have to find wifi or download to my laptop. I don't know if this is normal, but this was our longest episode (3.5 hours) and this is the first time I have received a message on file size limitation.

  6. 'Gone Girl' has just come out in theatres here. My husband and I wanted to go tonight, but all the tickets for all the seats are sold out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for the entire city of Malmö, which is the third largest city in Sweden. This is typical and is also possibly another example of lagom. Don't want too many theatres or too many seats or too many films showing at the same time.

Date: 2014-10-03 09:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There are a lot of similarities between Sweden and Norway, but I have never heard of Norwegian mothers having to demonstrate that they new how to breastfeed before they could leave the hospital!

Date: 2014-10-03 01:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I probably shouldn't generalized from this example, but this experience really seemed to have traumatized this Spanish woman I met. Her child is 9 and she's still not over it.

Date: 2014-10-03 04:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And I understand her!

Re: My various responses to this post

Date: 2014-10-03 01:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Christ on a cracker has he gotten better with age. Damn!

Oh wait, that wasn't the point was it. :D

Re: My various responses to this post

Date: 2014-10-03 02:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I will engage any point that references Tom Hiddleston's hotness. Not picky. Not picky at all.

Re: My various responses to this post

Date: 2014-10-05 06:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Goddamn. You know, it's the leaning out of the face that really does it for me. I don't have time anymore for baby-faced boys.

Date: 2014-10-03 12:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Learning to breastfeed was trickier than I'd thought it would be. The hospital wanted to send me home 12 hours after the baby was born. I faked symptoms of anemia so I could stay an extra 12. During that time I had a lesson in breastfeeding so I managed to be better prepared by the time I left. I prefer Sweden's policy.:-)

Date: 2014-10-03 01:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think it's good to have this training and help. But the experience seems to have really traumatized this Spanish woman who just wanted to be allowed to go home with her baby where she wasn't constantly being watched to make sure she was going to be a fit mother. I wonder if her experience was just really weird.

Date: 2014-10-03 12:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
2. What about if she doesn't know? Or if she was raped?

Date: 2014-10-03 01:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wondered about that too. I am sure there are also other laws in place to account for this, but I don't know.

Date: 2014-10-03 01:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I enjoyed reading your list… makes me want to try on a new country for a bit. ;D The 'lagom' philosophy was particularly interesting. It ended up being our topic of conversation at the breakfast table.

Date: 2014-10-03 01:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Lagom is an interesting policy. It's a bit frustrating though when you're looking for something (e.g. a certain type of spice for cooking) and you just cannot find it because lagom definitely influences variety. There's a kind of homogeneity here that I haven't encountered anywhere else I have lived.

Date: 2014-10-03 02:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Funny, since Ikea certainly does not subscribe to Lagom! 300 different chairs! 20 different cheese graters! :D

We were just discussing maternity leave here today, and I'm still agog that the USA doesn't have any! (or much) They were just discussing on CNN how not having it negatively affects the entire economy, and how it has contributed to the gender gap in most businesses.

What if you don't want to breast feed? Is it mandatory? Obviously, if it's viable, it's the best choice for the baby, but so is not living in a police state.

What are the abortion laws there?

Date: 2014-10-03 03:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Funny, since Ikea certainly does not subscribe to Lagom! 300 different chairs! 20 different cheese graters!

:) M.

Date: 2014-10-05 06:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So funny that you mentioned IKEA! Yes, it does have dozens of chairs, but can you imagine living in a country where IKEA is kind of like Wal-Mart and there aren't a lot of other furniture store options (except for the really expensive stuff in designer stores)? So if you're looking for something that is not in that IKEA style (e.g. a La-Z-Boy leather recliner), you're not going to find it in the whole country.

The maternity leave situation in the US is DIRE.

I don't think breastfeeding is mandated by law, but I think that Sweden wants to ensure that the mother is educated on how to breastfeed and therefore they have these people who come around and give the mother a test as a condition of discharge. On the one hand, this is good as others have pointed out. On the other hand, this poor Spanish woman was absolutely terrified and kept going on about how she was faking being happy and content even though she was just tired and exhausted and wanted to go home with her baby, so she did everything required of her to pass all the tests so she could go home. From her perspective, it seemed like the cultural conflict in how to raise a child in Sweden vs. Spain (apparently they tell mothers not to wash the baby for a little while so the nutrients from birth soak into the baby's skin or something) was a major stressor for her after giving birth.

Abortion is legal in Sweden ( I had to consult wikipedia, but I think that gives a nice overview:

Date: 2014-10-03 03:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm also fascinated by the concept of lagom. I can see where you and I, raised in North America, might have a hard time wrapping our mind around it--as you say, it's very different from the ideals of abundance we're used to. I wonder if it's also related to class? A friend and I were recently talking about the idea of optimizing and how central it is to the way that the US middle and especially upper middle classes see themselves--how we pride ourselves on learning about a variety of options or resources and making the very best possible choice among them--and how often in practice that choice turns out to hinge on a difference without a real distinction, except the fact that we made it, dammit! :) M.

(Sorry, editing for subject verb agreement. *sigh*)
Edited Date: 2014-10-03 03:38 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-10-05 06:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It might be indeed related to class and ideologies in Sweden that there should be no class distinctions. If everyone has just enough, then no one is without. You can see how this ties in well to help socialize people into a state where socialism might functioning much better than it would in a place like the US where portions of the population are socialized into feeling entitled to options and advantages and more.

Date: 2014-10-03 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Very interesting. I love cultural differences, I never get tired of learning them.

Date: 2014-10-05 06:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That's one of the cool things about living in another country. Every moment is a learning moment. There is so much I still don't know here because I work too much.

Date: 2014-10-03 07:49 pm (UTC)
woldy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] woldy
I love the idea of lagom. How does one say it?

Date: 2014-10-05 06:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<a href"">') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

This <a href"">wikipedia entry has the IPA</a> for the pronunciation and a more detailed explanation of the concept.

The way I say it in my American accent, it sounds like LAH - gum.

Date: 2014-10-04 01:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Lagom...clearly Sweden has not met Galactus, errr I mean me <.< -.- >.>
Edited Date: 2014-10-04 01:42 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-10-05 06:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I LOLed. :D

Date: 2014-10-04 03:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Although it's dreadful to think of holding a new mother and baby hostage until they jump through hoops, I concur wholeheartedly that it can be ruinous to have misinformation about how to breastfeed. Here's something funny: in Philadelphia, we are taught that it's called "the hoagie method," and it's not meant humorously at all! That's just what we call it! But yes, if you don't get enough of the breast into the infant's mouth, extreme pain can result. Argh. Argh. My mother didn't know this and quit nursing, in agony, very quickly.

There are words that mean similar things to "lagom" in Korean, but there is nothing of "lagom" about life in Korea! That would be culture shock for me, for sure.

Date: 2014-10-05 06:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh good. I think Korea would practice the very opposite of lagom! But I don't know that Sweden ever went through the same recent period of deprivation and subjugation that Korea has, so it makes sense that attitudes would be different.

Date: 2014-10-05 12:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Korea's almost never not been deprived and subjugated. ;-) You just don't want to be the peninsula between China and Japan, heh. I love talking to Italians about being a peninsula. I have often wondered if the similarities between the national characters of Italy and Korea, including the bewildering simultaneous refinement and histrionic excess, hedonism and religious extremity and turbulence, has anything to do with being shaped by geography.

Wow, that list of traits is about as anti-Swedish as I can imagine. ;-) I'm amused.

Date: 2014-10-04 03:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Here, you can't leave the hospital with your new baby unless you can produce a bright shiny new infant car seat that meets requirements that change every six months or so. :(

Date: 2014-10-05 06:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ugh! Christ. :(

That has got to be so difficult for parents.

Date: 2014-10-05 12:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh yeah, the car seat requirement. Yeah. And those car seats are no joke. I will never forget the episode of Desperate Housewives where a couple is sneaking their own baby out of the hospital, ahead of the cops, and it's all heart-pounding chase music and fast cuts until they have to take the car seat out of the box and then everything grinds to a dead halt as they pore over the instructions with blank-faced panic. Yeah. Car seats.

Date: 2014-10-04 08:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hmm. That's an interesting concept. There's some evidence that people feel better about their choices when they don't have so many--that having lots of choice tends to lead to regret about the choices not taken.

On the other hand, I wonder if this contributes to the version of tall poppy syndrome that I'm told is common in Scandinavia...

Date: 2014-10-05 06:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think both conditions are true in Sweden. When you don't have a lot of choices, you don't know what you're missing. The problem comes about when you start seeing other choices and options through the media.

And tall poppy syndrome is definitely present in Sweden, so to combat it, people are socialized into a belief in equality (the same treatment for all) so that competitiveness and excellence are not valued traits.

Date: 2014-10-04 09:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As someone who has been thinking a lot about having children, reading about the maternity leave policies of other countries makes me ill. Apparently they've introduced a bill here to try to start changing that, but I don't expect much from it. The fact that we are the ONLY developed country in the world without mandatory maternity leave is horrid. As someone said above - no wonder there's a persistent gender gap in the workplace. And now childcare is so expensive (rivaling college tuition, except in college you get scholarships), more and more women are staying home with kids. I find it so, so scary to have my options so limited.

Date: 2014-10-05 06:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The US situation is dire. There are many reasons why my husband and I are child free, but at the forefront of all of them is money. With the cost of health care and time off work and our own student loans, not to mention the cost of university for any future children, we just could not afford to have children. And so we did not.

It frustrates me to no end that the US is failing to invest in its own future by making the cost of parenting so unbelievably expensive.


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