Did you know that Sweden still has a royal family, along with several other European countries? I’m a shameless fan of Kate Middleton and the British royal family, but now I have discovered several other royal families that I can start following. This weekend, the youngest Swedish princess got married to Christopher O’neill, an American businessman that she met while working in New York. Princess Madeleine enjoys the city life in New York, no doubt because she is able to live a freer life there than she can in Sweden. But Swedes take her a little less seriously than her other siblings because, after living in New York for less than three years, she somehow developed an American accent when speaking Swedish. Apparently Americans pronounce the Swedish “r” very strangely and Princess Madeleine has adopted this speech pattern. Also, when she announced the marriage, she very formally announced that, “this summer, there is going to be a wedding” instead of simply saying, “I’m getting married.” She caught some flack for that in the media. Her new husband does not want to become a Swedish citizen, so he will not actually become a prince. I find that odd, but who knows what his reasoning is. The eldest of the Bernadotte children is Crown Princess Victoria: she is 35 and will inherit the throne one day. She married her small-town Swedish personal trainer, which makes her a popular figure in Sweden. It’s so interesting to me that the royal family still exists in Sweden and yet I’m pretty sure many non-Europeans have no idea. It cuts a striking contrast to the British royal family and the constant media attention they receive. It’s also interesting to me that this construct of the past still remains in several European countries: it seems that even as people become more and more modern, they still cling to certain aspects of the past that are steeped in tradition or maybe even because they bring comfort. Do we have constructs like this in the United States? It’s something that I’m pondering…
Last Thursday was Swedish National Day, which has been a national holiday since 2006. Since it is still such a new official holiday, there is not a lot of tradition that surrounds it, but everyone gets the day off and they held parades and celebrations in the city. I had a leisurely day that included lounging at a coffee shop and working out at the almost deserted gym (which rarely occurs in Sweden). I’ve really been enjoying my membership at Friskis & Svettis gym. I started going to spinning classes, but I quickly realized that out of all the classes one can successfully follow in a foreign language, spinning is not one of them. One of the things I’ve always loved about spinning is the personal nature of the workout: your bike is your territory and you get to decide how you’re going to ride. However this does not bode well for someone attempting to follow the instructor as he yells instructions in Swedish and pedals away on his own bike. Therefore I started going to a class called “Jympa Medal.” It’s such an interesting class to me because out of all the group exercise classes I’ve taken and taught, I’ve never had one quite like this. Everyone stands in a circle around the instructor as she leads a part-jazzercise, part-strength training, part-cardio class. It’s so much fun and the hour flies, which is always a good thing when exercising. If I teach again when I get back to the States, I definitely want to implement some of the techniques from this class. However there are a couple of differences I’ve noticed about Swedish group exercise. Number one, when we do floor work, no one uses mats. In my teacher trainings I’ve always been told to make sure my participants are as comfortable as possible and that they are supporting their backs with mats when on the floor, (because in the U.S. even working out should be comfortable of course). The Swedish instructors seem to assume that their participants can take the hard floor digging into their spine and hips. I’m the wimpy American who uses a mat anyway, but the rest of the participants do their crunches the hard core way.
The second difference I’ve noticed in my classes is the number of men who participate in group exercise. The Jympa Interval class I attended this evening had approximately 30 participants, 7 of which were male. Maybe it’s just where I work out in the States, but I feel like it would be rare to see 7 men in an aerobics style class. And some of these men were wearing tight exercise capri pants, which would be an even rarer sight to see in the U.S. Overall, gender equality in Sweden seems to have played out more through men embracing traditional feminine roles rather than the other way around. I didn’t notice this when I first arrived, but one of my British summer students asked me if I had noticed all the men pushing strollers in Sweden. It wasn’t something I had considered before, but it is true that when one sees a stroller on the street, the majority of the time it is being pushed by a man. Since I live on a university campus in Columbia I don’t see too many strollers, so maybe this is why I failed to notice this difference. Of course men pushing strollers occurs in the U.S. as well, but it does seem to be much more common here. Men also qualify for quite a bit of paternity leave: I’m pretty sure it’s equivalent to the time that mothers get, so the parents can choose who gets to stay home with the baby. Einav’s husband stayed home with at least one of her children while she went back to work. It’s pretty cool that men have this opportunity in Sweden.
On Monday, the Summer Program began. I was so excited to get started and the week definitely did not disappoint. The group of 40ish students is awesome–we had two cultural activities this past week that allowed me to get to know some of them and I look forward to getting to know them better throughout the next three weeks. We have many students from Mexico, several from France and Ecuador, two from the States, one from Germany, one from the Netherlands, and one from the UK. Hearing their perspectives on Sweden is great. It was fun to be able to show some of the students around Jönköping when I myself just arrived a couple of weeks ago. I’m not saying I knew that much, but being able to show them how to get a bus pass, where to eat, where to get groceries, and so on just demonstrated how simple it really can be to adjust to life in a foreign environment. We humans have a remarkable ability to adapt to wherever we are. That being said, with more knowledge comes less enthusiastic wonder. The more I learn about Sweden, the less magical it becomes. Now this might be my chronic wanderlust setting in, but it’s also part of the “culture shock” process. I still am madly in love with Jönköping, Sweden, and all of my brilliant friends here, but I do miss home a little. I could do with an American-sized sweet tea from Pal’s right now! I will be home before I know it because time moves with such reckless abandon, so I know my cravings will be abated all too soon.
This week I’m going to plan for my brother’s impending visit on June 20th–I can’t wait to show him beautiful Jönköping and take him to eat at all my favorite places. We’re also planning a long weekend to Stockholm and to Copenhagen, so I’ll be booking hotels and train tickets as well. Until next week, thanks for reading everyone! I miss you all! 🙂
1) Group photo of most of the summer students and me while touring Jönköping
2) Einav and me at “after work” (happy hour)
3) My friend Camilla in the student overalls I described in my last blog entry
4) Tennessee or Sweden? Although it could be a bucolic scene on I-26, it is actually a countryside in Huskvarna, Jönköping’s neighboring city. This city is famous for the brand Husqvarna, which produces many many tools, lawn mowers, etc.
5) Where I spend my weekends: the pier
6) A beautiful office building that I assume used to be a church–I pass it on my way to work every day.
7) Sweden at 1 a.m. — the days just keep getting longer!
8) Carrot cake from Johan’s Cafe… yum!